To President Barack Obama, radical Islamic terrorists have more rights than U.S. Navy sailors.
Earlier this week, the administration freed ten Guantánamo Bay terror detainees–the largest release ever–in an attempt to close the prison that it believes violates the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war.
On Friday, the Obama White House claimed that Iran had not violated the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war when it humiliated U.S. Navy sailors it arrested in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday,because “we are not at war with Iran.”
So to Obama, the Geneva Convention applies to stateless terrorists–who are not parties to the convention, and are not lawful combatants–but not to U.S. sailors captured and detained by Iran at gunpoint in a hostile “rescue.” There are at least five reasons that the Obama administration is wrong to defend Iran, and wrong about the Convention.
1. The Geneva Convention applies even if there is no formal war. Article 2 of the Geneva Convention states that at least some of its provisions apply in peacetime, and that they apply in armed conflicts falling short of war, even if one side of the conflict does not recognize that a state of war exists between the two countries in question.
2. Iran’s arrest of the sailors and seizure of the boats was hostile. As former POW Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) noted, “Under international law, sovereign immune naval vessels are exempt from detention, boarding, or search. Their crews are not subject to detention or arrest.” Iran’s actions were hostile and fall under the Convention.
3. Britain insisted the Geneva Convention applied in a similar case in 2007. As PBS reported at the time.
4. The Geneva Convention gives captured prisoners the benefit of the doubt. Article 5 of the Convention states that prisoners that fall into the hands of the enemy enjoy its protections until “a competent tribunal” rules otherwise.
5. Obama claimed the Geneva Convention applies broadly, even to non-parties not officially at war. In a seminal foreign policy speech in 2007, candidate Obama made it clear that he considered terror detainees protected by the Geneva Conventions: “As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions.” Yet terrorists are not parties to the Convention, or “officially” at war with us.
6. Obama committed to uphold the Geneva Conventions in all circumstances. In his Nobel Peace Prize speech, Obama made a point of his support for the Conventions, adding: “we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it’s easy, but when it is hard.” In this case, we must defend the Conventions even if confronting Iran is “hard.”
7. Obama is required by his Oath of Office to defend our troops abroad. By that oath, Obama should be arguing that our troops are protected by the Geneva Convention–not looking for loopholes that allow them to be abused. In arguing that Iran did nothing wrong by parading U.S. sailors in front of the cameras, and forcing a female sailor to wear a hijab (head covering), Obama is inviting more abuses of American troops’ rights and dignity in the future.
This article has been updated.