To uphold freedom the U.S. has to play by the rules

At this moment 10,000 men are being held in Cuba at Camp Delta, formerly known as Camp X-Ray. They were captured during military actions in Afghanistan but are not given the rights international law requires.

For the United States, it is much more convenient to ignore this international agreement signed in 1949.

The United States has coined its very own phrase of “unlawful combatant” to justify the detainment of enemy soldiers from Afghanistan and nationals from Iraq without having to grant them the rights they would otherwise have. But how can any type of enemy combatant be deemed unlawful? This thinking would create a very dangerous precedent as other countries might try the same.

And as Article 2, paragraph 2, of the Geneva Convention states, “The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance,” which should include any prisoners taken in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Yet, the Department of Defense has resisted pressure to change the status of the detainees to “prisoner of war.” As it stands now, the prisoners are being kept with no clear list of rights.

“It’s not that they don’t have rights, it’s that they have fewer rights,” said Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who is in charge of Camp Delta. He then went on to define the “unlawful combatants” as “those who have attacked coalition forces or were planning such attacks.” A vague definition leave people wondering what the difference is between “unlawful combatant” and prisoners of war, and why are they not being designated as such.

These detainees are being held without a trial, and are denied access to an attorney. In fact, eight of the detainees are claiming that they are U.S. or British citizens. Several of these detainees had accents that would confirm this assertion, but in closed interviews the military interrogators said their stories lacked credibility.

But how can the United States claim that it is fighting for international freedom and rights, if those reasons are thrown out when they are inconvenient?

Of course, it is easier to simply deny the prisoners their rights even though they fought for a government that was recognized by the United States and with which we even had business ties. This also makes it easier to interrogate them as prisoners of war, which means they do not have to disclose any more information than their rank, name and serial number.

It seems each day more questions surface that question the legitimacy of this war with Iraq. As U.S. sympathy has already waned in the international community, the least it can do is afford its prisoners in Cuba the same rights it would expect its POWs to be granted.