Remember the Geneva Conventions? The one that our now-Attorney General Abu Gonzales dismissed as "quaint"?
Among other things, the Geneva Convetions - which is legally a term encompassing all the generally-binding international laws of war - are aimed at protecting prisoners of war. In the Iraq War, we've had very few Americans captured alive by the enemy. That situation is illustrated by the fact that it's international front-page news that two Americans are missing and possibly prisoners of war. See:
EEUU busca a dos de sus soldados desaparecidos el viernes tras un ataque de la insurgencia El Mundo 18.06.06
Desperate search under way for two US soldiers kidnapped by Iraqi rebels by Michael Howard Guardian 06/19/06
U.S. Troops Taken by Masked Gunmen, Says Witness Los Angeles Times/AP 06/18/06
I want to be clear in what I'm saying here. Mistreating prisoners of war is a war crime. The international laws of war apply to all combatants. They apply whether the combatants are a government or a guerrilla force. They apply even if the other side is not obeying the laws of war on POWs. So any mistreatment of American POWs is a war crime and should be regarded as such by all parties involved. Full stop.
That does not mean that we should ignore the effects of American torture practices and massive, open violations of the Geneva Conventions in dealings with prisoners on what happens to American prisoners. When the United States, the world's "hyperpower", the one who's President constantly proclaims that our values should be the model of the world, ignores the Geneva Conventions with the Bush policy of widespread torture, "special rendition" (sending prisoners to other countries to be tortured, i.e., outsourcing the torture) and refusal to follow even the minimal procedural requirements of Geneva in many cases (especially the gruesome gulag in Guantanamo), that is likely to have nasty consequences. It undermines the laws of war in general. And it makes American prisoners more likely to be subject to the kinds of tortures delivered in Guantanamo, Abu Ghuraib, Bagram and the other stations of the "Bush Gulag" (Al Gore's phrase).
Let me also say this clearly. If those two soldiers are being held by enemy forces, I hope those enemies have more humanity and more respect for the laws of war than our President, our Vice President, our Secretary of Defense and our Attorney General. That the kind of government we have now.
Again, I want to emphasize because their is such a pitifully low lelel of knowledge among the general public - do I need to mention the level of knowledge displayed by our "press corps"? - about the laws of war. Any mistreatment of prisoners is illegal. Those two soldiers presumably captured are protected by the laws of war.
The tragedy is that so are the human guinea pigs for torture in Guantanamo and the rest of the Bush Gulag.