Thursday, February 8, 2007

A threat/warning from Iran

The Iran hawks like to demonize Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not least because he makes it so easy to do. But the Iranian president actually has limited authority over foreign policy.

But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has a lot of power over foreign policy, which is controlled by the clerical elite that he heads. That makes this more worth paying attention to than the latest batty pronouncements from Ahmadinejad:
Iran Warns U.S. It Will Retaliate if Hit by Nasser Kasrimi AP 02/08/07. Kasrimi reports:

Speaking to Iranian air force commanders, Khamenei said: "The enemy knows well that any invasion would be followed by a comprehensive reaction to the invaders and their interests all over the world." His words were carried on state-run TV. ...

Khamenei's words are not that unusual - Iranian leaders often speak of a crushing response to any attack as a way to drum up domestic support.

But the rhetoric overall has escalated: two weeks ago, the official publication of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards, Sobh-e-Sadegh, noted it would be easy to kidnap Americans and transfer them to "any location of choice" in retaliation for any attack. (my emphasis)
That means prisoners-of-war, and it's probably time for people to start thinking about what that means. American POW's are entitled to full protection under the Geneva Convention. I certainly hope the Cheney-Bush administration will insist on that, but this bunch is unpredictable. The rights of POW's in international law are not dependent on what kind of misconduct the other side is pursuing.

And yet in the real world, the Cheney-Bush administration's conscious decision to throw the Geneva Conventions to the winds and engage in sadistic torture on a wide scale makes it less likely that American POW's will be treated properly. It's already pretty much a given that the militias in Iraq will not treat them that way, as we've already seen in a few cases. Prior to the Cheney-Bush administration, the United States had been the main defender of international law. Not with an unblemished record, but still.

The treatment of POW's can and does leave intense bitterness after a war. Americans will have every right to be angry if our soldiers are mistreated as POW's.

Yet the grim fact is if we start having larger numbers taken prisoner, especially if they are moved into Iran, the captured soldiers are likely to pay the price for the administration's misconduct, including the torture policy. The purpose of the Geneva Conventions was to limit the carnage that war inflicts by, among other things, protecting prisoners. It was reckless and foolish as well as criminal for Cheney and Bush to toss away the Geneva Conventions for an S&M manual.

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