By Kathleen T. Rhem
WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2006 – Detainee treatment and interrogation operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are fully compliant with the Detainee Treatment Act and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions -- at least as best as U.S. military leaders understand Common Article 3, the general with overall responsibility for operations there said yesterday. Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of U.S. Southern Command, said "outrages on personal dignity" -- outlawed by Common Article 3 -- is an overly ambiguous term that could lead to trouble for U.S. servicemembers trying to understand rules for interrogations.
"In the military, we like 'tasks, conditions and standards,'" he said. "We need to know what it is we have to do, the conditions under which we do it, and we want to know the standard, the level of expertise required. What is it that we must reach?"
Craddock told a group of Pentagon reporters he'd like to see the article defined more clearly because "outrages on personal dignity" can mean different things to different people.
"I don't know what an outrage on personal dignity is. It's in the eye of the beholder," he said. "Look, I pledged a fraternity. I felt I had some outrages on personal dignity, but others didn't feel that way."
A new Army field manual on interrogations, out earlier this month, provides specific techniques that are banned. Craddock said this type of specificity is helpful. "We don't cross lines when we know where those lines are," he said of military experts conducting interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. "And we're trying to make sure the line is very clear and that we understand it."
He likened banning outrages on personal dignity to saying speeding is illegal but not setting a speed limit. "To say, 'Don't speed,' isn't good enough," Craddock said. "Give me a speed limit and tell me that under certain conditions -- rainy, wet, snow -- the speed limit's 'this.' But just to say, 'Don't speed,' ... I don't want to sign up for that."
Military interrogators need to have a clear understanding of the rules so they don't inadvertently break them and open themselves up to punishment or prosecution. "The notion that, 'We don't know how to define it, but we'll know when it's not right when we see it,' is, I think, unacceptable," Craddock said. "It puts our folks in harm's way."
U.S. Southern Command is responsible for U.S. military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Craddock is slated to hand over reigns of the command in October. He has been nominated to command U.S. European Command and also to head NATO military operations. Navy Vice Adm. James G. Stavridis has been nominated for his fourth star and to replace Craddock at Southern Command.