Why Guantanamo shows the USA has learnt nothing from September 11

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Introduction

Do US double standards help their security? I wrote this article in the mid 2000’s. How do we look back in hindsight?

Why Guantanamo shows the USA has learnt nothing from September 11.

One key way to turn past adversity into future strength is to analyse where things went wrong. US treatment of Taliban and Al Qa’ida fighters in Guantanamo Bay shows that, in part, the US has failed to learn from September 11, and is missing an opportunity to move forward.
From the start it must be made clear that the September 11 attacks on the United States are inexcusable. Even so, we must ask why it is that so many people hate the United States so much, that people were prepared to die in spectacular suicide attacks in New York.
One answer is the US’s approach to international affairs. The US lays down one rule for themselves, and another for all else. For example:
The US is currently holding a number of former Taliban and Al Qa’ida fighters in detention at the Guantanamo Bay military base, denying these fighters the rights accorded to Prisoners of War – never mind the fact that these fighters we taken in the US styled ‘War’ on terror. Never mind the fact that the US demanded that the USSR grant POW status to Afghan prisoners during the USSR’s time in that country.
The United States claims that the fighters held by the US are ‘illegal combatants’ and not Prisoners of War. They claim that the prisoners were wearing no uniforms at the time of capture and therefore were not ‘legal combatants’.  Here the US has a technical, yet pedantic, point.
The Third Geneva Convention of 1949 specifies that POW status only applies to those who were combatant members of an organised military force, undertaking military operations, carrying weapons openly and wearing a fixed and distinctive sign recognisable at a distance. Clearly Taliban and Al Qa’ida fighters would not technically comply with this definition if they were wearing no uniform, hence the US, if all else was ignored, is correct to deny POW status on that point.
However the story is not that simple.
In 1977 the international community agreed to an Additional Protocol that altered the definition applicable to POWs. The alterations removed the necessity to wear a uniform or carry arms openly. Under the Additional Protocol the Taliban fighters would, and should, clearly be given POW status and protection.
Although over 150 countries have ratified the Protocols, the US has not. They have ‘signed’ the Protocol but not ‘ratified’ it, hence it is not law in the US – although by signing the document they indicate an acceptance of the essence of it.
It is now generally accepted practice in international affairs that people acting as part of a military force, when captured, should be treated as POWs regardless of uniforms, gaining prisoners certain rights and imposing on them certain obligations. Recently the US demanded that US prisoners held by Milosevic were to be treated as POWs, even though the US strenuously denied that a ‘war’ was taking place.
The US has chosen to ignore state practice with respect to the prisoners in Cuba, thumbing their national nose at the world, thereby pretending that state practice applies to all other countries but not themselves.
Many countries are now lining up in criticism of the US, including France, the UK and other western countries. Exception:- Australia, which again tries to act as the loyal deputy of the US.
Similarly, the US refuses to ratify the treaty setting up the proposed International Criminal Court to prosecute War Criminals. The US refuses to accept the proposition that the International Community could prosecute US citizens, while at the same time refuses to allow Taliban and Al Qa’ida fighters access to trials outside the far from neutral US.
The US also strenuously objected to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Cynics wonder whether this was due to reluctance by the US to have some of the questionable targeting decisions undertaken by the US during the Kosovo conflict tested. At the same time, the US pushed for the extension of the ICTY mandate to cover Serbian atrocities in the Kosovo conflict.
Granting POW status to those Taliban and Al Qa’ida fighters held in Cuba would not deny the chance to prosecute individuals for crimes of terrorism. It would send a signal to the world that the US was ‘practicing what it preached’ in granting universal Human Rights to people under US care, not just demanding that others do.
‘Do as I say not as I do’ does not work for parents with children, nor does it work in international relations. The US insistence on ‘Victors Law’ and a continuance of a hypocritical foreign policy approach  does not help US security, particularly in the Middle East.
Australia’s insistence on following the US does not help ours.

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