Mary Mostert
November 19, 2004
The Geneva Convention does not apply to terrorists
By Mary Mostert

MSNBC reported on Wednesday in the Fallujah fighting that "a U.S. Marine was killed and five others were wounded when the booby-trapped body of a dead insurgent exploded." That happened the same day that NBC's Kevin Sites reported that a US Marine killed "a wounded an apparently unarmed Iraqi prisoner inside a mosque." Sites observed that "the Iraqi was a wounded prisoner and did not pose a threat."

Sites said the incident unfolded this way:

"The Marine battalion stormed an unidentified mosque Saturday in southern Fallujah after taking casualties from heavy sniper fire and attacks with rocket-propelled grenades. Ten insurgents were killed and five others were wounded in the mosque and an adjacent building."

While the first incident does not seem to have gotten much attention, the second one has become worldwide news. Al Jazeera, which broadcast the pictures and Sites' story, said the second incident "shocked Arab television audiences and the pictures dealt a major blow to the image of the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq."

Al Jazeera also stated "The United Nations senior human rights official condemned the killing of civilians and wounded people in Fallujah, saying that violators of international humanitarian law should be brought to justice."

Neither Al Jazeera nor Kevin Sites tells their readers why the Marines attacked the mosque. According to the US Marine website report of the incident, written by written by Sgt. Robert E. Jones,

"Marines of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, assaulted a mosque recently, in Fallujah during Operation Al Fajr; by a tactical assault with air strikes and artillery fire. The Mosque was one storage facility for weapons used by insurgents to assault United States forces."

This story is of considerable interest to me since my son, Dr. Guy Grooms of Muskogee, Oklahoma, was the battalion surgeon for the same Marine unit involved in this story and was with those Marines when they liberated Kuwait City in 1991. In similar battles with the Iraqis, prisoners were taken and taken to him for medical treatment after they had been searched for weapons. However, sometimes the rules were not followed.

He was preparing one Iraqi prisoner for treatment when, in cutting off his shirt, he spotted booby trap wires. Fortunately, the explosives did not detonate before my son and his medics bolted out of the tent.

We are being told that the Iraqi in the mosque was a prisoner of War and therefore should have been treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Actually, he was not a prisoner of war since he had not been under the control of nor guarded by the Marines. While it was Sites' opinion that the Iraqi was unarmed, from the account Sites' gave, the Marine had a different opinion. The Marine Commander's goal in battle is bringing his men home, not playing guessing games with reporters.

According to Article IV of the Geneva Convention,( prisoners of war are: "Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria."

It also states it applies to:

"Persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

  1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

  2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following conditions:

    1. That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

    2. That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

    3. That of carrying arms openly;

    4. That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

The Iraqi wired to explosives that was brought to my son for treatment did not fit those criteria. And, certainly the Iraqi in the Fallujah Mosque did not fit the criteria inasmuch as he was not in uniform, his leader is not conducting operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war and many of his ilk do not carry their weapons openly.

The government of Iraq and by far most of the people of Fallujah are on the same side as the US Marines. When the Iraq government urged the people of Fullujah to leave the city, most of them did so. Those assaulting the US and Iraqi forces in Fullujah are not Iraq's military or an opposing political party. They are Iraq's criminals.

It would be helpful if reporters like Kevin Sites could manage to get that straight.

© Mary Mostert


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Mary Mostert

Mary Mostert is a nationally-respected political writer. She was one of the first female political commentators to be published in a major metropolitan newspaper in the 1960s... (more)

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