Remove All Doubt
Saturday, January 10
Put down the party hat, Kofi. Saddam's goose is still cooked.

There's been some flap about how Pentagon lawyers are classifying Saddam as a prisoner of war because "the Geneva Conventions say POWs can be tried only for crimes against humanity by an international tribunal or the occupying power which for the time being is the United States." The same is reportedly true for war crimes.

First, here's the primary document: the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

Further, a note on usage. While "POW" is generically used to describe a prisoner of war, technically, my Desert Storm vet brother told me that our military uses "POW" to mean our guys taken prisoner by the enemy. Bad guys who have fallen into our hands are "EPWs" -- enemy prisoners of war. For your edification.

More importantly, as much as the Associated Press is tripping over itself to portray this as a stab in the back of the Iraqi people and their right to try Saddam, POW status isn't necessarily inconsistent with trial by the Iraqis. Now, I'm no expert (there are very few problems concerning the taxation of POWs), but:

1. Notwithstanding the limitations on the trial of POWs, if the Coalition releases him (whereupon he's arrested by the Iraqis), he should cease to be an POW.

2. Even if the Iraqis couldn't try him for "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity," that's not necessarily what the Iraqis will try him for. The Iraqis are understandably less concerned with "humanity" than with the 300,000 Iraqis, their own people, in mass graves. The Geneva Conventions have nothing to say about Saddam's trial domestic crimes -- the mass murder and torture of his own people.

3. Similarly, even if you try to read "crimes against humanity" broadly (e.g., so as to cover the gassing of the Kurds), the Geneva Conventions should not limit punishment for crimes committed outside the course of hostilities.

So, fine. The Iraqis can't try the bastard for the gassing of Iranian troops, the invasion Kuwait, or the false surrenders and non-uniformed combat of the Fedayeen. The man is still going to swing.

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