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December 15, 2003
NYT: Wong's Wrong

Power Line directs its readers to this odd article in the New York Times, a question-and-answer section with Edward Wong, a reporter in Baghdad, I believe; its introduction is poorly written:

This week, the Times reporter will answer readers' questions from Baghdad.

Are the readers from Baghdad, the questions from Baghdad, or the reporter from Baghdad? In basic English, they teach you to be clear about modifiers. But beyond that, the Times can only scare up two questions for Wong, the second of which is answered so poorly it defies belief:

Q. I wonder if the filming and publication of the videos and stillshots of Saddam Hussein during his medical checkup (being investigated for headlice, having a light shone back onto his tonsils) violates international law for war prisoners. Is Saddam considered a POW? Do the Geneva Conventions apply to him, especially with regard to treating POW's in ways that humiliate them and turn them into “public curiosities.” -- Jim Herriott, Nashville, Tenn.

A. Some Iraqis have expressed anger over the display of the humiliating video footage of Saddam Hussein, while others have found it to be a fittingly ignominious document of the end of a much-hated ruler. Those upset by the video are especially incensed at the images of a doctor prodding at Mr. Hussein’s face and examining his mouth. American officials undoubtedly showed this video to demonstrate the powerlessness of Mr. Hussein. But one could argue that the American government is violating its own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions. Last spring, during the American invasion of Iraq, officials in Washington objected to videos that the Iraqi government had turned over to Al Jazeera showing American prisoners of war. The Pentagon said the videos were humiliating and violated the Geneva Conventions. To stay consistent with that definition, one would have to say that releasing the video of Mr. Hussein also violates the Geneva Conventions.

You would think that a reporter on the Baghdad beat would understand the Geneva Convention and the rules of war, especially if he's arrogating to himself the position of expert in one of the nation's most prestigious broadsheets, but it appears that knowledge isn't a necessary prerequisite for reporters at the Gray Lady. Salient points:

1. In order for the Geneva Convention to apply, captured prisoners have to be in uniform bearing the recognized insignia of a nation-state. Saddam was wearing civilian clothes, according to the information at the time of his capture, probably in order to keep from being caught. If he was wearing civilian clothes, then not only is he not a POW, he could be shot on sight as a spy.

2. We are no longer in a war with the Iraqi Army, which is why we disbanded them and allowed them to go home. We are an occupying power, and what attacks have occurred have been perpetrated by irregulars out of uniform (see above). People arrested under these conditions are not POWs, they are criminals.

Our soldiers were captured in uniform during battle and were therefore POWs and entitled to Geneva Convention protections. Actually, if you saw the video of the Iranian POWs and their treatment by the Iraqis while the cameras were rolling, the Americans got off pretty easily; the Iraqis habitually kicked and punched the Iranian POWs and filmed it all. Saddam was captured in a hole, miles and months from any battle, out of uniform. In other words, no soup for you, Saddam.

But I also share Power Line's incredulity at the NY Times for even entertaining this question, let alone the unbelievably biased and insipid answer they provided.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 15, 2003 11:20 PM

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