Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Neocon chickenhawk says Geneva is the enemy

I was just watching Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC. His guests for the "Hardball Debate" segment were Jon Soltz from and Frank Gaffney, who was Richard Perle's aide and then acting Assistant Secretary of Defense under Reagan — although his confirmation was blocked by the Senate. He was a pioneer in the neoconservative movement, a founding member of PNAC, and the founder of the Center for Security Policy, which advocates world peace through unbridled U.S. military power. After 9/11, he switched his focus from the Soviet Union — as late as 1990 he still saw it as the chief threat to U.S. security — and China to Islamofascist Terrorism. Reading through his biography on the Center's own web site, it is clear that he never served a single day in uniform, much less in combat. He made some jaw-dropping remarks about the role of the Geneva Conventions in the Global War on Terror™.

I'll link to the transcript and video clip if and when they become available, but for now, I'll pull out a couple of the most egregious statements. Chris Matthews introduced the segment with the question, "Who's to blame for the Abu Ghraib scandal, and was the Abu Ghraib scandal a result of the Bush Administration's policy?" Jon Soltz argued that the United States didn't have enough troops on the ground, and the troops had inadequate training, specifically in the area of detainee operations; he also argued that adherence to the Geneva Conventions is essential to our military's efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, and that it serves as a "force multiplier" for U.S. troops by making adversaries more willing to consider surrender. Gaffney replied,

This notion that only by giving [people determined to destroy the United States] all of the protections of the Geneva Convention will we be conducting ourselves in a moral fashion, I think is ridiculous.
Yes, adhering to treaties — in particular treaties that have protected our troops for 143 years last week — is irrelevant to our moral authority in wartime. It gets worse, though: Gaffney argues that it isn't so much Abu Ghraib itself that was a problem, but rather the excessive publicity about Abu Ghraib, and particularly the effort to determine how far up the chain of command the problem ran.
The fact that we persist in trying to find somebody like that [Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney, etc.] to blame for [Abu Ghraib], is an abomination.
I've saved the best for last, though. Giving Geneva Conventions protections to detainees in Iraq will undermine the Geneva Conventions — thereby endangering our troops! Say what??
Every one of those soldiers understands, I think, that if you start giving protections to people who don't wear uniforms, who hide themselves among civilian populations, who don't have chains of command — you are in effect actually making civilians more at risk. ... [M]ore to the point, it would be actually corrosive to our position vis-à-vis these terrorists, to give them the treatment that [Jon Soltz] apparently thinks they ought to have.
To sum it all up, not only do we not need to adhere to the Geneva Conventions, we need to not adhere.

A bit more about Gaffney, though, to give some perspective on his comments. He holds degrees in international studies from Georgetown and Johns Hopkins. He worked as an aide to Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (D–WA), who was in a sense the godfather of neoconservatism. He established the Center for Security Policy in 1988, and was a founding member of PNAC. He managed to piss off a sizable chunk of the neocons, though, with statements like this about President Bush:
He doesn't in fact seem to be a man of principle who's steadfastly pursuing what he thinks is the right course. He talks about it, but the policy doesn't track with the rhetoric, and that's what creates the incoherence that causes us problems around the world and at home. — Vanity Fair, January 2007, interview by David Rose
Back in 2003, Grover Norquist even went so far as to lump Gaffney into the same category as Osama bin Laden. And yet Tweety doesn't challenge his take on what "every one of those soldiers understands." I've never been in combat, either, but I'll take Jon Soltz's word over Frank Gaffney's any day.

[The first three blockquotes are from the 2007-08-29 broadcast of Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC; go here and select "No accountability for Abu Ghraib?"]

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