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Cheney criticizes the Geneva Conventions in Military Academy commencement address
Michael Roston
Published: Saturday May 26, 2007
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Vice President Dick Cheney criticized the notion of applying the Geneva Conventions to individuals captured in the course of the war on terrorism in a Saturday commencement address at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.

"Capture one of these killers, and he'll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States," the Vice President said in the Saturday morning speech. "Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away."

Cheney delivered the remarks in the context of moral and ethical lessons that the graduating cadets at West Point had learned in the course of their study.

"You have lived by a code of honor, and internalized that code as West Point men and women always do," he said. "As Army officers on duty in the war on terror, you will now face enemies who oppose and despise everything you know to be right, every notion of upright conduct and character, and every belief you consider worth fighting for and living for."

Recently, West Point instructors have complained of the difficulty of persuading Army cadets to adhere to the principles of the Geneva Conventions in the war on terrorism. A February article in the New Yorker highlighted a dialog on the problem between West Point's dean and Joel Surnow, producer of the hit Fox television program '24.'

"This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind '24,'" wrote Jane Mayer in the magazine. "Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors - cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by '24,' which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, 'The kids see it, and say, ''If torture is wrong, what about '24?''"

The excerpt of Cheney's remarks is presented below, and can be accessed in full at the White House website.

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The standards of this Academy only highlight the deepest and most fundamental difference between the United States and our sworn enemies. A month ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Pace, spoke to this class about each officer's duty to follow a moral compass in all of his or her actions. In these four years you have learned the rules of warfare and professional military ethics. You've studied the tenets of morality. You've reflected on the seven Army values: of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. You have lived by a code of honor, and internalized that code as West Point men and women always do.

As Army officers on duty in the war on terror, you will now face enemies who oppose and despise everything you know to be right, every notion of upright conduct and character, and every belief you consider worth fighting for and living for. Capture one of these killers, and he'll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States. Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away. These are men who glorify murder and suicide. Their cruelty is not rebuked by human suffering, only fed by it. They have given themselves to an ideology that rejects tolerance, denies freedom of conscience, and demands that women be pushed to the margins of society. The terrorists are defined entirely by their hatreds, and they hate nothing more than the country you have volunteered to defend.

The terrorists know what they want and they will stop at nothing to get it. By force and intimidation, they seek to impose a dictatorship of fear, under which every man, woman, and child lives in total obedience to their ideology. Their ultimate goal is to establish a totalitarian empire, a caliphate, with Baghdad as its capital. They view the world as a battlefield and they yearn to hit us again. And now they have chosen to make Iraq the central front in their war against civilization.