The reason the rules of warfare exist is not merely to protect nation states, or soldiers under formal military arms. Non-state actors have long been a part of warfare. The armed citizens who confronted the military on Boston Commons, were not state actors. General Washington insisted that even Hessian mercenaries, thought guilty of extreme brutality in battle were to be treated with respect, and not harmed, when held as prisoners. General Washington was a civilized soldier, which is more than can be said of America's last commander in chief.
The purpose of the civilizing laws of war, is an attempt however limited, to extend basic human rights and dignity to all under arms. These rules represent an important part of the compact of civilization and the rule of law. Laws to make war even slightly more humane however partial, remain an important step in the right direction. The banning of the use of poisonous gas after World War I (originally marketed to reluctant participants, as the War to End All Wars.)
That there are those who act outside civilized law is a reality. We Americans, must act according to the highest standard of humanity, not sink to the level of any lawless group, religious or not.
Regarding the discredited Bush policies, again and again, evidence has been brought to light revealing that torture policies, emanated directly from meetings in the White House. Former President of the Senate and Vice President, Richard Cheney took personal credit for those policies on more than one occasion. Decisions reached by the Bush Cheney administration, in the White House guided the official torture policies, not the actions (as Rumsfeld's Defense Department tried to suggest) of out of control random actors. Despite President Bushes repeated denials of torture. What was the Bush regimes definition of torture? They had an opinion from their attorney Mr. Yoo.
[Mr. Yoo's 40-page, January 9, 2002, memo advised the Defense Department that neither the Geneva Convention nor the War Crimes Act applied to the treatment of Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters captured in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, he said, was a "failed state" and so not a party to the Geneva Convention, which protects prisoners of war from "physical or mental torture or any other form of coercion" to secure information, as well as from humiliating or degrading treatment. Members of the Taliban militia were not POW's but simply illegal combatants, he said.]
National Guardsmen from West Virginia did not bring leashes, and dog collars from home. The policies used in Guantanamo, were specifically imported to prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. "Black Sites" and Extraordinary Rendition are not the policies of a civilized nation. They do not represent the American tradition of "rule of law".
The duplicity of the Bush Administration that simultaneously proclaimed that they did not torture, based on their own spinning of the definitions of "Torture" have been discredited again and again. History will reveal, that the destroyed CIA tapes of "enhanced interrogation" are not the only evidence of the inhumane policies of the Bush Administration.
We are a nation of laws, and Bush's signing statements notwithstanding the law has survived the misdeeds of the Bush Administration. We are wiser for it. Support the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Rule of Law!
solidarity & peace