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tough words on the Taliban video

July 22, 2009

The US military recently condemned a Taliban video released on Saturday of a captured US soldier since “the public humiliation of prisoners is against international law.”

However, Juan Cole has some difficult words in response:

I fear that the argument that the public humiliation of prisoners is against international law won’t take the US very far after 8 years of Bush-Cheney.

After the evidence surfaced that the US military took all those humiliating pictures of prisoners at Abu Ghraib to blackmail them by threatening to make them public, the US assertion of support for this principle of the Geneva Conventions will be met with, well, let us say substantial skepticism.

In fact, as I was reminded by a former ambassador, the Bush-Cheney-Yoo-Armitage gutting of US conformance with the Geneva Conventions really makes it difficult for Washington credibly to complain about the treatment of any of our captured soldiers. The Taliban could hold the soldier hostage forever if they follow the principle put forward by Sen. Lindsey Graham. They could (God forbid) put him in stress positions naked and threaten to release the pictures to his family, and they would have done nothing that Rumsfeld’s Pentagon had not done routinely and on a vast scale.

The Taliban are masterfully exploiting this solider and the video for maximum propaganda purposes – after all, how many other Taliban videos are played on BBC?

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