Current Affairs Military Politics

Donald Trump Questions The Geneva Conventions

Political commentators have been speculating for months that the Donald Trump campaign for the GOP’s presidential nomination would eventually, inevitably, go off the rails, and this seems to be the moment when the gold-plated train has well and truly gone tumbling. A series of flip-flop statements on abortion rights, and his apparent belief that 1) it should be made illegal, and 2) that women who avail of the procedure should be “punished” (in some undefined manner), has sent his more moderate sneaking regarders scurrying back into the media long grass. Grudging admiration for his populist political acumen is one thing, like being entranced by the destructive consequences of several sticks of dynamite in a quarry, but you wouldn’t want to see the same effect in the middle of a city. Trump seems to believe that the American people need to burn the political system to save the political system, though one strongly suspects that for all his bluster the Donald would be quite happy to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and settle into a comfortably inept, if possibly rather kleptomaniac, presidency. The real problem is the damage he is doing to his country in the meantime, both domestically and abroad. While the people of the United States are rightly agog at his latest foot-in-mouth pandering to the extreme Christian Right, a dwindling constituency in any case, overseas it is his contempt for international law that is making the real headlines.

At a rally in Wisconsin the businessman regaled his supporters with these folksy thoughts on the Geneva Conventions and the Islamic State:

“They’re not smart. They’re just dirty players, really dirty players.

We can’t waterboard, but they can chop off heads, right? You saw that where I took some heat? We can’t waterboard, y’know…?

We can’t waterboard but they can chop off heads, they can drown people, fifty people in a cage, a big steel cage, right?

And we can’t waterboard.

I think we gotta make some change, some adjustments, because, y’know what? If we’re not gonna play… See the problem is. Y’know we have the Geneva Convention, we have all sorts of rules and regulations, our soldiers are afraid to fight. They don’t wanna go to jail because they’re killing enemy, they were too tough. So we have all sorts of… of really restrictions and regulations.

They have none. They have none.

They don’t have any regulations. The bigger the weapon they get the faster they are gonna use it. They have no regulations. So we’re not playing on an even football pitch… Not gonna be so good, not gonna be so good.

Well, we have to go back and we have to start thinking about military instead of having politicians making these decisions because we’re not gonna win this way.”

Thankfully the reaction within the United States Armed Forces has largely been one of disgust, as described by the UK’s Guardian newspaper (though note that his reported words below don’t match what he said above, which is a serious problem with press articles on his campaign):

“Retired senior military officers and human rights advocates are reacting with disgust at Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s description of the Geneva Conventions as a “problem” for the conduct of US wars.

At an appearance in Wisconsin on Wednesday that was obscured by his suggestion that women who choose abortion should face punishment, Donald Trump was also quoted as saying: “The problem is we have the Geneva Conventions, all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight.”

Trump has previously advocated killing the families of terror suspects; torture “a hell of a lot worse” than waterboarding; and widespread bombing campaigns against Islamic State, which operates in civilian-packed areas. The Geneva Conventions provide the basis for protections against war crimes, privileging the status of civilians and detainees during wartime.

Several retired officers said the comments called into question Trump’s fitness to serve as commander-in-chief, saying that service members operating in line with his predilections would be tasked with behaviour ranging from the disgraceful to the illegal.”

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