March 11, 2003 | Press Release

White Paper: “The Geneva Convention Is Not a Suicide Pact”

White Paper: “The Geneva Convention Is Not a Suicide Pact”
Terrorists do not qualify for POW status according to historical or legal precedents

Washington, D.C. – As President Bush prepares to render a decision on the status of the al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees in Guantánamo Bay, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies today released a White Paper demonstrating that under any reasonable interpretation of the Geneva Convention, these detainees should be regarded as “unlawful combatants” rather than as Prisoners of War.

Examining historical precedents and key legal issues, two distinguished scholars, one British and one American, conclude that to award POW status to these detainees would not only be a mistake – it would jeopardize the very protections the Geneva Convention was designed to provide to legitimate soldiers and civilians.

“The Geneva Convention Is Not a Suicide Pact” discusses how, in the current debate, the purposes and origin of the 1949 Geneva Convention have been largely forgotten. The true threat to the integrity of the Convention comes not from the U.S. Government, but from a misguided campaign by human rights activists and European elites to blur the distinction between “lawful” and “unlawful” combatants.

“The Geneva Convention Is Not a Suicide Pact” was co-written by Andrew Apostolou, a historian at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and Fredric Smoler, a professor of history at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

“This thorough examination of the historical and legal record clearly demonstrates that terrorists are not legitimate soldiers using different weapons and pursuing different strategies,” said Clifford D. May, president of The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Professors Apostolou and Smoler make a persuasive case that those who violate the ‘laws of war’ by engaging in acts of terrorism – the intentional killing of innocent civilians for political purposes — forfeit the respect and privileges due to legitimate soldiers fighting for legitimate governments.”