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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Retroactively Humane 

The Supreme Court's recent Hamdan decision and the remote but nonetheless real possibility of war-crime prosecutions -- there is, you may recall, no statute of limitations for war crimes -- have plainly left certain parties at the Pentagon feeling a wee bit hinky. The evidence? A new and no doubt hastily-composed memo mandating strict compliance with Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions in all dealings with so-called "enemy combatants." The ass-covering language of the directive exposes a couple of amusing paradoxes, as Timothy Noah of Slate here documents:
The catch is that the Bush administration, against all evidence, maintains that it has been adhering to the Geneva conventions in practice even as it's been arguing in court that doing so would make hunting down terrorists impossible. The logic seems to run something like this: 1.) The United States is inherently good; 2.) Inherently good countries don't violate the Geneva conventions; 3.) Ergo, the United States can do anything it wants to suspected terrorists and it still won't be violating the Geneva conventions.
Mr. Noah reproduces the entire memo with pop-up annotations, which we should warn you we were unable to read in Firefox; they display properly in IE.

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