Leadership: March 9, 2002


The hasty 7 February announcement that the Geneva Conventions would apply to Taliban prisoners (while still not declaring them prisoners of war) reflected a furious battle within the Administration. The White House resisted the move (and had in fact decided on 18 Jan to deny the status of the convention to all detainees) because Britain and other allies said they could not turn over any prisoners they captured without a minimal guarantee of Geneva Convention protections. Secretary of State Powell fought for the decision (to accept the convention) to keep the alliance together; the White House had resisted it because their policy is to avoid being automatically trapped into the restrictions of international treaties. The current US policy still allows rigorous interrogations and the US has said that al Qaeda terrorists cannot be released (as prisoners of war must be) at the end of the Afghan Campaign as they are prisoners of a larger and longer conflict.--Stephen V Cole




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