To show how immoral and despicable it was for Bush to decide to ignore the Geneva Convention, it is enough to look at William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Hitler did not make a conscious decision to ignore the Geneva Convention until the very end of World War II, when it was clear that he was going to lose as the Allies advanced across Europe, although there were certainly earlier examples of his ignoring the Convention without making a formal decision to do so. Describing Hitler in early 1945, Shirer says:

Hitler was in a fine fury. He sacked Rundstedt for the last time on March 10, replacing him with Field Marshall Kesselring, who had held out so stubbornly and long in Italy. Already in February the Fuehrer, in a fit of rage, had considered denouncing the Geneva Convention in order, he said at a conference on the nineteenth, “to make the enemy realize that we are determined to fight for our existence with all the means at our disposal.” He had been urged to take his step by Dr. Goebbels, the bloodthirsty noncombatant, who suggested that all captured airmen be shot summarily in reprisal for their terrible bombing of the German cities. When some of the officers present raised legal objections Hitler retorted angrily:

To hell with that!… If I make it clear that I show no consideration for prisoners but that I treat enemy prisoners without any consideration for their rights, regardless of reprisals, then quite a few [Germans] will think twice before they desert.”

This was one of the first indications to his followers that Hitler, his mission as a world conqueror having failed, was determined to go down, like Wotan at Valhalla, in a holocaust of blood — not only the enemy’s but that of his own people. At the close of the discussion he asked Admiral Doenitz “to consider the pros and cons of this step and to report as soon as possible.”

Doenitz cam back with his answer on the following day and it was typical of the man.

The disadvantages would outweigh the advantages . . . It would be better in any case to keep up outside appearances and carry out the measures believed necessary without announcing them beforehand.

Shirer says that in the end, “there was no general massacre of captured flyers or other prisoners of war (except the Russians),” but “several were done to death and the civil population was incited to lynch Allied air crews who parachuted to the ground.”

It appears that Hitler’s officer corps had more moral integrity than the American officer corps has. The Germans officers sort of stood up to Hitler on this issue. They said even if you violate the Convention, don’t admit it. American officers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Cuba just rolled over and spit on the Geneva Convention, regardless of what that might mean for the future treatment of American soldiers who become prisoners.

Who was the American Goebbels in the Administration arguing for disregarding the Geneva Convention? It sounds as if it was future Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. However, this Administration is full of people, who like Goebbels, are bloodthirsty noncombatants.

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