The United States will recognize captured Afghan and Taliban detainees under the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of prisoners of war, but that distinction will not apply to al Qaida members, the White House said Thursday.
"Consistent with American values and principles of the Geneva Convention, America has treated and will continue to treat all Taliban and al Qaida detainees in Guantanamo Bay (Naval Base) humanely and consistent with the principles of the Geneva Convention," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "They will continue to receive three meals a day, excellent medical care, clothing, shelter, showers and the opportunity to worship."
President Bush has been opposed to giving any of the detainees prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Convention. Instead, the Department of Defense designated the detainees as "unlawful combatants." Senior Bush administration officials maintained that the fighters represented a terrorist organization, not a formal government, thereby removing their protections and rights under the Convention.
Fleischer said there would be no difference in how the two groups of prisoners were treated, however. "It will not change their material life on a day to day basis," he said. "They will continue to be treated well, because that's what the United States does."
The Geneva Convention would cover the Taliban fighters because Afghanistan is party to it. Al Qaida fighters are not because they were not part of a military hierarchy, did not have official uniforms, carry military weapons openly, or conduct their military operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war, the White House said.
The detention area on the Cuban base is known as Camp X-Ray. Twenty-eight new arrivals from Afghanistan on Thursday joined the 158 detainees already in the camp.
Human-rights groups such as Amnesty International have criticized the U.S. treatment of the detainees -- saying that transporting them in full restraints, restricting their movement during the 20-hour flight and shaving their heads could be prohibited by international law.
-- Do you agree with the decision to treat Taliban detainees as prisoners of war but not al Qaida captives? Why or why not?
In a January broadcast of "The 700 Club" that has received scant attention, the Rev. Pat Robertson said that because America has not repented and turned away from sin since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, more are on the way -- and that San Francisco and Detroit are likely targets.
The Virginia-based televangelist cited several Biblical passages that suggested heavenly punishment and destruction would fall on people who turned away from God. "People think their lives have changed," Robertson said, according to the broadcast, which UPI transcribed. "The truth is people are right back where they were before. And although there's a small remnant who are really praying and seeking God and turning from sin, there hasn't been a sense of national repentance. We just haven't had that. We had a day of reconciliation, whatever that means, but we didn't have a day of repentance."
He did not give a reason for citing San Francisco and Detroit as targets but added, "I think something through ship" would be the way terrorists attack. And he told viewers that "certain perversions -- sexual perversions for an example -- are being touted as a privileged activity, and those who oppose it are being called evil."
Robertson also accused abortion rights advocates of having "reversed the equation" by making those who oppose abortion seem "bad." He said that "America will survive what is coming, but it won't survive in its present form. The proud will be humbled and then the time will come that they turn to the Lord. In this country, God will lift us up. So, that's the good news."
Robertson was criticized following the Sept. 11 terror attacks for his apparent endorsement of remarks on The 700 Club by the Rev. Jerry Falwell blaming gays, abortion rights advocates and feminists, among others, for having brought on the strikes that caused more than 3,000 deaths. Falwell later apologized, and Robertson said he had not understood what Falwell had actually said.
In a New Year's prayer message to staff that aired on The 700 Club, Robertson said, "People will forget the (Sept. 11) tragedy -- it will be life as usual, business as usual. Then the terrorists will begin. There will be panic and screaming, cries of the dying. What is coming will be too horrible for you to contemplate. Know that the Day of Judgment is very near."
-- What's your reaction to Robertson's comments?
BILL COSBY COMPLIES WITH CINCINNATI BOYCOTT
Bill Cosby has decided to cancel two scheduled shows in Cincinnati to comply with a boycott of the city because of racial tensions.
"I still stand by the fact that I feel very uncomfortable playing the concerts at this time in this climate," Cosby said in a statement issued Wednesday. More than 3,000 tickets had been sold for the comedian's March 15 appearances.
The Coalition for a Just Cincinnati praised Cosby's decision "We're very happy and elated over the situation and the fact that a man of Bill Cosby's stature and valued personality would back the cause that we are fighting for here in Cincinnati," the Rev. J.W. Jones, a spokesman for the group, said.
The Cincinnati Black United Front has contacted the Progressive National Baptists, urging that group to cancel is scheduled August convention in Cincinnati. The Baptist group had planned to bring 8,000 delegates to the city and convention organizers said they planned to discuss the situation later this week.
Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken called the boycott ill-advised. "I think people who are encouraging the boycott are actually hurting themselves because that means some waiter won't get their paycheck that night," he told the Cincinnati Post.
The coalition, however, believes the city has not done enough to address racism. "All it would take is for people of power to set a table to discuss our grievances," Jones said.
The Queen City was rocked by riots in April after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black youth.
-- What do you think?