President Bush was faced with the decision on how to handle the War on Terror and had to make decisions specifically about how to classify those who fall into American hands during the war. There were basically two options; they were official prisoner’s of war or they were not and simply detainees. He chose to not grant them prisoner of war(POW) status. In the opinion of many, this was the wrong choice.(part 1 article 4 specifically talks about this issue) Bush has two main arguments for his logic. First, the detainees were not wearing clearly marked uniforms. Second the Taliban, which must be distinguished from al Qaeda, were lacking a state. Click here to read a little more in depth about his logic and decision. This logic must be questioned in order to more clearly understand the War on Terror.
The most arguable of the two points is the one concerning the lack of a state. The Taliban were the official governing body of Afghanistan, therefore, that should constitute that the Taliban have a legitimate state. Just for this simple reason, many disagree with the Bush decision. However, authorities feel since the government of Afghanistan is not ideal, or like the US government, is is not eligible to be considered a government in the POW instance.
At the same time, some think that Bush’s logic regarding the withholding of POW status from members of al Qaeda is logical and reasonable. This organization is transnational and its members reside in a wide array of nations, therefore, it can not be said that al Qaeda has a specific nation-state. The reluctance to give these terrorists POW status is widely accepted, mainly because they clearly fall short of the criteria stated in article four of the Geneva Convention.
After acknowledging, not necessarily accepting, Bush’s decisions, one is brought to the question as to why he chose to classify them in this way? One could even ask why he had a choice when classifying them?After all, there are guidelines to prevent personal opinion from entering national policy. And why should one person be charged with making such an important decision?
The first thing that comes to everyone’s mind is that he must have planned on torturing them. While this is a quite hasty and thoughtless conclusion, many Americans believe it. After thoughtful consideration, many other reasons present themselves. The Geneva Convention states that POWs must be given paying jobs, housed, clothed, fed, and given any medical care they needed. Bush could have been trying to avoid some of these, such as giving them jobs, because it would have been an extra expense to the nation.
He could have also been trying to build America’s reputation internationally. By not considering prisoners POWs and still treating them well, he could have portrayed that America was a humane and thoughtful nation. Now, if this were a reason, the photos that surfaced of the tortures at Abu Gharaib, would have definitely crushed this hope.
In the end, nobody will every know the logic behind Bush’s reasoning other than himself, but we as Americans can analyze his decisions and formulate our own opinions. Many feel that withholding POW status from al Qaeda members was appropriate while holding it from the Taliban is unlawful and incorrect.