Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Q Scott, I'd like to ask a question on a different subject. The New York Times says that the prison abuses have been much more widespread than acknowledged by this government -- 37 deaths of inmates. I want to know why the President doesn't give a worldwide order to all of our military prisons that we should abide by the Geneva Accords. And I have a follow-up.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, the President made it very clear that the Geneva Conventions do apply in Iraq --
Q To all prisons? Guantanamo?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- we made that very clear. And in terms of Guantanamo Bay and the al Qaeda detainees there, we're talking about the threats that we face right now --
Q You call it a war. They're prisoners of war. Why do you make a distinction, which has led to so many abuses by not abiding by the rule of law.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't know, when you say "so many," what exactly you're referring to. General Taguba looked into the reports of abuses at Abu Ghraib and he talked about how it indicated that there were a small number of individuals involved in those incidents we saw in these appalling photos. And at the same time, the military is taking a comprehensive look at matters. They're looking to see if there is a bigger problem there just to make sure, and they'll continue to investigate this.
Q My follow-up is, how could he say Rumsfeld did a superb job, Sanchez did a fabulous job? You mean only the MPs are to blame for this horror?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, there are ongoing investigations right now, Helen, and it's important that we show the world that when these kind of abuses come to light, that we take them seriously, we act by pursuing those responsible and bringing them to justice, and we act by making sure we put steps in place to prevent something like this from ever happening again. That's exactly what we are doing. And we want anyone who was involved in these kind of abuses to be brought to justice. And that's what the President expects.
Q Why don't you say the law applies to all the prisons run by the military?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has made it very clear that the Geneva Conventions do apply in Iraq, and that when it comes to al Qaeda and the Taliban, that they should be treated humanely and consistent with the Geneva Accords.
Did scott just say taliban and al qaeda should be treated humanely and consistent with the geneva accords or am i reading the sentence incorrectly? what is the distinction exactly?
Q Scott, could I ask about the Amnesty report, which we talked about in the briefing earlier, and its contention that the U.S.-led war on terror has resulted in the worst attack on human rights and the rule of law in 50 years? Helen talked about Guantanamo and the decision not to apply the Geneva Accords there, but let me just specifically quote from the report. They blame this administration for "picking and choosing which bits of international law it will apply and where." What is your response to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, my response is that the war on terrorism has resulted in the liberation of 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the protection of their rights. People in those countries did not have the kinds of protections that we're used to in the United States. And now they do. So the war on terror has helped protect human rights for some 50 million people.
Uh, is he serious? Afgahnistan is a mess. Taliban continue to regroup and fight, warlords have taken over their previous positions of power throughout the country, poppy farming has increased, and karzai's people only have control of a small swathe of the country. Meanwhile Iraqis hear rumors of torture for months and then see the pictures of it -- many say at least they knew what to expect from saddam and are starting to equate us with them -- i understand the need for spin, but sheesh.
Q So does that justify -- does that end, protecting those people, and obviously the American people, as well, justify the means of picking and choosing which bits of international law it will apply and where?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has been very clear in terms of applying international law to detainees -- if that's what you're referring to, which I suspect it is. He's made it very clear that whether or not the Geneva Conventions apply, that those detainees should be treated humanely. And you have to keep in mind that al Qaeda is not -- does not represent a nation. It is not a party to the Geneva Conventions. The United States is.
Q They're human beings, aren't they?
MR. McCLELLAN: And certainly Iraq was. And the Geneva Convention applies in the Iraq. And in terms of the al Qaeda and Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the President has made it very clear that he expects our military to treat them humanely and consistent with the Geneva Accords. But we also have to remember, as we're talking about today, that we are at war on terrorism, and that it's important to talk to these individuals and gather as much information as we can to try to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. These are individual at Guantanamo Bay who were involved, or want to help carry out attacks against the American people.
Q So why don't you charge them and try them?
MR. McCLELLAN: And these are dangerous people. And despite that, the President has made it clear that he expects our military to treat them humanely and consistent with the Geneva Accords.
Q They also, by the way, accuse the administration of, in effect, giving a green light to places like Uzbekistan and elsewhere to basically shield under the war on terror for some pretty awful human rights abuses.
MR. McCLELLAN: The United States of America is a leading advocate of protecting human rights, and we will continue to be.