John Yoo Wrong on Geneva Conventions Again

In a remarkable op-ed in the LA Times, John Yoo and Robert Delahunty offer a defense of the Administration's refusal to apply the Geneva Conventions in two cases (1) the war against Al Queda; and (2) the Taliban.

Despite assuring us that future Attorney General Gonzales did not declare the Geneva Conventions obsolete, Yoo and Delahunty do exactly that--for a certain set of cases. Does not this language sound like folks who believe that the Conventions are obsolete--at least for a particular (and "new") type of enemy:

To believe that the Geneva Convention should apply jot-and-tittle to such enemies reminds us of the first generals of the Civil War, who thought that the niceties that were ideals of Napoleonic warfare could be applied to battles fought by massive armies, armed with ever more advanced weapons and aided by civilian-run mass-production factories and industry. War changes, and the laws of war must change with them.

Let me assure you: I am not some kind of diehard originalist (the kind, for example, who will soon be Chief Justice of the United States, and whom Yoo knows very well) who believes that the law should not be changed to meet the demands of new centuries.

The striking fact is that nowhere do Yoo and Delahunty tell us why the Geneva Conventions hamper the war on terror, a war which (I fell compelled to remind readers) all of us in the civilized world want to win--as badly as anyone in the Administration. They do not explain how the Geneva Conventions interfere with waging the war on terror.

Do they believe that torturing people elicits useful, actionable intelligence that will save us from further evil? No, they don't seem to approve of torture, because they agree that we should offer "humanitarian" treatment of detainees (what we formerly called "prisoners of war"). But even if they approved of torture, the evidence seems to be exactly the opposite--that torturing folks does not get you actionable but rather faulty intelligence, while fueling our enemies' opposition.

What is it exactly about the Geneva Conventions that prevents us from doing what we should (and repeatedly fail to do): waging the strongest war on terror the world has ever known?

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