Today's Highlights

The Missing Iraqi POWs and the Geneva Convention
by Eric Garris
March 23, 2003 (updated 4:30 pm EST)

Yesterday's news was filled with reports and films of the "thousands" of Iraqi troops who eagerly surrendered. The Pentagon announced that an entire division of 8,000 troops surrendered. Other reports about the problems of projected numbers of POWs also filled the papers. The Pentagon projects that as many as 270,000 Iraqi soldiers are expected to give up.

At the Pentagon briefing on Saturday afternoon, a reporter asked General Stanley McChrystal and Pentagon Spokesperson Victoria Clark about a report by General Franks that the US was currently holding 1,000-2,000 Iraqi prisoners. "What happened to the other Iraqis who surrendered?" General McChrystal mumbled, and then said "They must have run off." No follow-up question was asked.

What, indeed, happened to the others? Hopefully, they did not suffer the fate of the Iraqi soldiers who tried to surrender (on our front page today). Perhaps the mass surrender never happened (the commander of Iraq's 51st Mechanized Division, who the US reported as surrendering on Friday, continues to fight on).

Yesterday, Saddam Hussein issued a statement that all Geneva Convention rights of POWs taken by Iraq will be respected. However, he has already broken this by showing films of allied POWs on Iraqi TV (horribly, these also include shots of dead allied soldiers, also a violation of the same article). They have also been shown on al-Jazeera. Donald Rumsfeld says that this violation will be prosecuted. In a news conference, he also said that the US would never show Iraqi POWs on TV.

However, Fox News filled the airwaves on Saturday showing Iraqi POWs, up close and looking humiliated. Military handlers guided the camera crew through the groups of POWs. This story was shown at least 5 times on Saturday on Fox, and there was a news story on their Website, but the story has been pulled. Fox has quickly moved to airbrush any evidence of their "violation."

Geneva Convention article 13 forbids the displaying of POWs for the purposes of "public curiosity," exactly what Fox News did on Saturday. One wonders whether there will be equal prosecution of this violation for both sides.

All morning, Fox News has been parading commentators who are outraged by this "war crime." Centcom has issued a statement condemning the actions of al-Jazeera TV for showing the footage of American POWs. One after another, the Fox News anchors and correspondents are talking about how upset they are and how the US would never do such a thing, ignoring the fact that they did exactly the same thing 24 hours earlier.

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