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Obama Ignores Geneva Convention, Puts USA at Risk

Unlawful Combatant Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

DETROIT: President Obama addressed the nation on January 5th in response to criticism of his handling of the Christmas day terrorist attack. Early in his speech he tried to squelch criticism of his initial 4 day delay by asserting now it was a matter “of the utmost urgency.” He found fault with screeners and every agency he could think of. He announced tightened restrictions on all US citizen passengers as a fix for the problem, as well as his assurance that “We will close Guantanomo prison.”

For all his fault-finding he glaringly failed to address his own failure. Obama is trying Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a mere criminal defendant in the courts of Detroit. If Abdulmutallab were charged as the unlawful combatant he is, the military would be able to gain intelligence that would be invaluable in fighting the war on terror.

Is the United States at war? President Obama claimed that we are. In his remarks Obama reaffirmed the fact that the country is at war with al-Qaeda. Yet, as we are now all aware, this is not a traditional war involving an enemy state and uniformed soldiers. Rather al-Qaeda members pose as airline passengers placing bombs in their underwear and shoes, hardly conventional tactics. So in kind, President Obama has adopted an unconventional policy in dealing with al-Qaeda that is mudding the waters in the fight against jihadism.

Under the Bush administration, al-Qaeda members were declared unlawful combatants. The term enemy combatant consistent with the United States Supreme Court, refers to “Citizens who associate themselves with the military arm of the enemy government, and with its aid, guidance and direction enter this country bent on hostile acts are enemy belligerents within the meaning of the Hague Convention and the law of war.”

The 1864 treaty of the First Geneva Convention

1864 Geneva Treaty

Enemy combatants are further separated into two subclasses, lawful and unlawful. Uniformed soldiers are considered lawful combatants and receive prisoner of war status among other protections under the Geneva Convention. Unlawful combatants consist of citizens, not soldiers, who directly engage in armed conflict and are not recognized under the Geneva Convention. The Bush administration determined that al-Qaeda members are unlawful combatants. They did so because al-Qaeda is a non-state terrorist organization and therefore does not receive protections under the Geneva Convention.

Whomever happens to be the President of the United States in a time of war has complete authority to detain enemy combatants during wartime and has done so in every major conflict in the Nation’s history. The purpose of the enemy combatant designation is to gather intelligence and to ensure that enemy combatants do not return to assist the enemy. Sadly, this is exactly what occurred last year when President Obama allowed several enemy combatants to be set free. The Pentagon reported that a number of these released Guantanamo prisoners had rejoined militant organizations and carried out attacks. The unlawful combatant designation provides the U.S. military an important tool in gathering information and protects soldiers and citizens alike from subsequent attacks by released detainees. So why isn’t the unlawful combatant designation being applied to al-Qaeda lunatics that attempt to blow up airplanes?

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Gets NYC Show Trial

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

The policy that the Obama administration has espoused is to charge al-Qaeda operatives in U.S. criminal court, affording them rights not available to someone classified as an unlawful combatant (as did President Bush in the case of Richard Reid, the shoe bomber). The impending NYC trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a fine example of the Obama policy. But consequently this practice of charging enemy combatants as criminals is changing the landscape of the war on terrorism. In November of last year, Senator Lindsey Graham questioned Attorney General Eric Holder asking him that if Bin Laden were captured tomorrow, would he be entitled to Miranda warnings. The Attorney General was unable to provide an unambiguous answer, to which Senator Graham followed up with “The big problem…is that you’re criminalizing the war. We’ve mixed (legal) theories and we couldn’t turn (Bin Laden) over to the CIA, or the FBI or military intelligence, for an interrogation on the battlefield, because now we’re saying that he is subject to criminal court in the United States and you are confusing the people fighting this war.”

In addition to confusing those fighting this war, the administrations criminalization of the war will cost the U.S. dearly in missed intelligence. Charging al-Qaeda operatives like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in criminal court gives the terrorist the opportunity to lawyer up and makes for a missed opportunity to interrogate him. The White House claims that although Adbulmutallab was charged under criminal law, the FBI was able to glean usable, actionable intelligence. But ultimately, Abdulmutallab stopped talking a few hours later and refused further cooperation.

In reaffirming the war, President Obama stated “As President I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people”. If the President intends to hold true to this responsibility, then he ought to make use of the options available to him. By placing an al-Qaeda operative in law enforcement hands rather than military custody, the President has shown either that he does not fully comprehend the scope of the battlefield, or he intends to replace our frontline with lawyers and judges. If this is a war, then the President must fight it as a war, not in the courtroom, but upon the battlefield.

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