Thursday, July 17, 2008

Open Season on Afghanis

Yesterday's ATC featured one baby step forward, followed by a huge stride backwards. Robert Siegel was talking with Globe and Mail correspondent Colin Freeze discussing the released video of Omar Khadar.

Siegel deserves credit for asking the obvious -but rarely asked - question. Discussing the capture of the teen fighter Khadar in Afghanistan he says:
"....a story about a firefight...he allegedly throws a hand grenade...that sounds to be as close to the capture of a POW and as different from capturing somebody who's hatching a plot to bomb an airplanes let's say as I can imagine. I just wonder if that's a point of contention that his lawyers have raised?"
It's a well stated question, and his guest, Freeze, responds:
"Oh certainly and it's also something we got to ask John Bellinger of the US State Department - a legal adviser there; he gave a briefing to Canadian media on that one. Bellinger's answer was by our laws, al-Qaeda, Taliban were illegal enemy fighters. By UN resolutions we were okay to fire at them, but because they were by nature illegal fighters, anything they fired back was illegal. So therefore what Omar Kadar did was a war crime."
When I heard this stunning response, I thought. Please follow up, please... No chance. Here's just a few possible follow-ups that any journalist might have made:

  • Doesn't John Bellinger represent the Bush Administration anyway? Why would his interpretation be decisive? [Bellinger is a complete Bush tool. As his bio notes, "From February 2001 to January 2005, ....he provided legal advice to the President, the National Security Adviser, NSC Principals, and NSC and White House staff on a broad range of national security and international legal matters."]
  • What UN resolutions are you referring to?
  • Are you suggesting that a UN resolution backed the US military attack on Afghanistan in 2001, and also prohibited any military response by the Afghanis?
Seriously, the UN had plenty of condemnation and sanctions against the Taliban, but nothing like Bellinger and Freeze claim. I came across one coherent argument for denying Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters POW status here, but it's conclusion is interpretive at best.

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