Colin Powell never thought terrorists should get POW status

I’ve written before about Trump following the law. There’s never been any doubt in my mind. And, as we’ve seen, the U.S. military would not follow an illegal order.

Rosa Brooks thinks they would. She’s a former Pentagon official under the Obama administration with a full assortment of left-wing credentials before that.

Among other things, Brooks uses as her rationale that we didn’t give full rights to our detainees. She writes:

Think back to the first few years after the 9/11 attacks. The Pentagon initially planned to treat Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners in accordance with the rules laid out in the Geneva Conventions, but the White House considered this inconvenient. (Under those rules, prisoners can’t be detained secretly and with no review process, and they most definitely can’t be waterboarded.) So the White House found some unusually compliant Justice Department lawyers, and by January 2002, the department’s office of legal counsel was instructing the Defense Department that Geneva Convention protections did not apply to Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters.

Colin Powell, the George W. Bush administration’s secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, objected immediately, as did several top active-duty military officials. The Justice Department’s position would “reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva conventions,” Powell argued, making the United States “vulnerable to domestic and international legal challenges” and creating a risk of criminal prosecution for American officials and troops.

Well, those were Colin Powell’s words, but he wasn’t talking about giving the detainees Prisoner Of War status. Or much of anything beyond what they received at Guantanamo.

As I explained in my book, This is War! Quit Sniveling, it’s true that Powell wanted the U.S. to apply the full Geneva Conventions to the War on Terror. But he never believed that terrorists should then be entitled to POW status. He doubted that any of them would qualify for it.

On that review process she talks about, Powell only concedes that “some” Taliban soldiers “might” be entitled to that. Most weren’t even entitled to that review. None of the al Qaeda detainees were.

Powell then said, “This would not, however, affect their treatment as a practical matter.” And ultimately, it didn’t for the Taliban. Of the Taliban detainees that Powell is talking about, Bush had already determined they would get Common Article 3 status anyway. It’s the al Qaeda detainees that didn’t get it until later.

Colin Powell’s January 26, 2002 memo has been added to the latest edition of my book. It’s also in my documents page here.

Rosa Brooks is a lawyer with a history of working for left-wing activist groups, George Soros’s Open Society Institute among others. Expect more like her in the Pentagon if Hillary Clinton is elected.

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