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Lifesaving Leeway

By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Monday, April 28, 2008 4:20 PM PT

War On Terror: The White House again confirms that homeland protection is its top priority. The Justice Department has told Congress it’s reasonable to conclude that tough interrogation is legal when it stops terrorism.

Read More: Global War On Terror


Nearly six decades have passed since the Third Geneva Convention, governing the treatment of prisoners of war, was adopted. Its language is that of the lofty, well-intentioned idealism of the post-World War II years that also brought us the establishment of the United Nations, NATO and the state of Israel.

The success of those endeavors has, of course, been mixed. The U.N. is a corrupt black hole of fiscal waste and international ineptitude. NATO, on the other hand, won the Cold War. Israel is the only firmly established representative government in the Middle East, though it has not yet provided the long-suffering Jewish people with the kind of peaceful homeland for which they yearn.

Read with 21st-century eyes, there is an unmistakable naivete to the language of Geneva.

“Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated . . . protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.” The agreement insists that “no physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information,” and those who refuse to answer can’t be “threatened, insulted or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.”

In the context of the global war on terror, endorsing a to-the-letter interpretation of Geneva’s language — which is undeniably vague and lacking in specifics — would be suicidal for the U.S. Keeping high-ranking terrorists who have information we can use to save hundreds, or thousands, of lives in custody and not taking steps to extract that knowledge would be a crime against Americans.

Beyond that, it would signal to the free world’s adversaries that we are not serious about fighting back — which would serve to embolden them and boost their recruitment efforts around the globe.

So while anti-war Democrats in Congress consider it shocking and damning that the Bush Justice Department would look for wiggle room in Geneva, those who see this world war with any realism understand its position as perfectly rational and honorable.

“The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski wrote to Congress.

Citing chapter and verse from the Geneva Convention over the ashes of a U.S. city will be of no solace to the dead or their loved ones.