3,283. 1/11/2002

“In [Chief Legal Advisor to the Department of State William H.] Taft’s view, [Deputy Assistant Attorney General John] Yoo had completely misread international law [in his interpretations of how the Geneva Conventions applied to prisoners of the war on terror]. ‘Both the most important factual assumptions on which your draft is based and its legal analysis are seriously flawed,’ Taft wrote in a cover letter [on January 11, 2002] accompanying his own thirty-seven-page analysis. The concept of a ‘failed state’ had no legal basis, he noted, and the Geneva Conventions contained no provision for one signatory to unilaterally suspend the rights of another. He could not advise ‘either the president [Bush] or the Secretary of State [Colin Powell] that the obligations of the United States under the Geneva Conventions have lapsed with regard to Afghanistan or that the United States is not bound to carry out its obligations under the Conventions as a matter of international law,’ Taft wrote. Though al-Qaeda members might not qualify as prisoners of war, the conventions contained other provisions that could affect their treatment. As for Taliban captives, they had a legitimate claim to POW status, and Geneva called for any doubts to be resolved on the basis of a case-by-case determination for each individual prisoner. ‘In previous conflicts, the United States has dealt with tens of thousands of detainees without repudiating its obligations,’ he concluded. ‘I have no doubt we can do so here.’ ”

 – Karen DeYoung, Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell, Pages 367-368

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