Tsarnaev and the Geneva Convention
April 27, 2015 Filed in: Government | Politics | History | Culture
‘The Geneva Conventions extensively defined the basic rights of wartime prisoners.’
According to Wikipedia, ‘The Geneva Conventions extensively defined the basic rights of wartime prisoners.’ Under Massachusetts law, where the Boston Marathon Bombings occurred, Tsarnaev could not face the death penalty. The case is being prosecuted in federal court for the specific purpose of applying the death penalty. After all, the trial opened with an admittance of guilt. The trial has only ever been about killing the prisoner.
I do not support the death penalty. I do not believe that the state can have powers that the citizens do not also share. If the state has a right to kill, then so does everyone else. The state does not have the right to kill citizens, and we as individuals do not the right to kill fellow citizens or members of the government, either. Rights always come with reciprocal responsibilities and matching standards. While an exception can be made for an extreme crisis situation by police or in self-defense, to execute a prisoner, like the beheadings by jihadists, is nothing more than wanton cruelty and mindless revenge. A prisoner does not pose a threat. Killing always involves fear and twisted logic, just like Cain slaying Abel because of his jealousy for God’s love. Not much has changed. Both sides claim that God is on their side.
The Geneva Convention states that the “convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.” In other words, our opinion of the enemies sophistication does not matter. These were politically motivated killings. It covers “members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps.” The convention states clearly that “violence to life and person” is prohibited.
While it may seem that peace is impossible with the Jihadists, the fog of war always carries with it the delusion that we have no choice. We always have a choice! In fact, the endless wars over the last two centuries each mark the failure of democracy and secular society, the Geneva conventions notwithstanding. There is no King to scapegoat for the conditions of mankind. Our nation was birthed in blood to overthrow the shackles of empires and corporate dominance, yet we are now the champions of similar dominance. Our foreign policy has long been held hostage to banking and corporate interests, which is why we have witnessed attacks on banking and industrial (oil) facilities. Attacks on random citizens is just the natural extension of a difficult strategy. As we harden our defences, the soft targets become the paths of least resistance. Outmanned and outgunned, jihadists are relying on the same tactics that Native Americans used to defend themselves, or that we used against British Regulars.
War is stupid. It always has been and always will be. There is nothing to be proud of, nothing to celebrate. It is the enduring failure of humanity and of democracy specifically. Neither side is right. Might is not right. The victor was only the most ruthless, and victory generally falls to those with the home field advantage. Look at Vietnam, for example. It was the colonial powers that drove the nation into a state of total war. A nation at war within itself is quickly exhausted. How much easier is it to negotiate? Jesus said to ‘love your enemy’ because it works. Hate and war will gain nothing but more suffering.
Bill Clinton made a huge mistake in treating the first attack on the World Trade Center (1993) as a criminal act. He washed his hands like Pontius Pilate. It was not a crime, it was an act of war. Our stunted thinking that only governments can conduct war is wrong. We are repeating the mistake with this trial. In fact, every war starts as a civil war. It is a group of individuals with a grievance that repeatedly falls on deaf ears that leads to rebellion. A policy of ‘no negotiating’ leaves only one alternative: war.
In a global economy we now have global rebellion. Governments reap what they sow, and the ’sphere of influence’ game by the two superpowers of America and the Soviet Union is reaping its own whirlwind. Two Chechnyan brothers attacking Americans has a tragic poetic balance to it. We have been silent on what Russia has been doing in that region, expecting moral quagmires to be limited by borders. The Geneva Convention is woefully inadequate, but to abandon it is worse. We either live by moral codes or suffer the consequences.
Unfortunately, our SOB’s are no better than their SOB’s, whether as heads of state, heads of industry or heads of departments. We created Saddam Hussein only to abandon him. We evicted homeowners and gave bankers bonuses. Citizens are brutalized and forced to buy insurance on minimum wages, while state workers get immunity from responsibility and pensions. Here in Massachusetts, people have been getting bills with fines reaching thousands of dollars for using toll roads. Disproportionate justice is always the mark of dull tyranny. It makes the Stamp Act look quaint. The baseline hypocrisy of the system is stark, yet people can blithely accept that government can do no wrong. We become spectators rather than participants in the battle over right and wrong. Democracy was supposed to put an end to the destructive cycle of repressive governments, but we obviously have a lot of work left to do. Two recent seedlings of rebellion in our own society have been the Occupy Wall Street movement and #BlackLivesMatter. ISIS is following our example for overthrowing the status quo and establishing a state based on a particular set of fears. We are failing domestically, and not surprisingly, are failing worse internationally because our fears continually morph. Our actions do not match our ideals. One of the main complaints against monarchy was belligerent foreign policies. The presidency has preserved wanton meddling. We abandon moral and legal standards whenever it suits us. Presidents make the choices for which the people suffer. The question is, do we have the government we deserve?
Killing Tsarnaev will just be another example of moral incompetence and the inability to find solutions to difficult problems.