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Brigadier General David M. Brahms (Ret. USMC) General Joseph Hoar (Ret. USMC)
Brigadier General James Cullen (Ret. USA) Rear Admiral John D. Hutson (Ret. USN)
Brigadier General Evelyn P. Foote (Ret. USA) Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy (Ret. USA)
Lieutenant General Robert Gard (Ret. USA) General Merrill McPeak (Ret. USAF)
Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn (Ret. USN) Major General Melvyn Montano (Ret. USAF Nat. Guard)
Rear Admiral Don Guter (Ret. USN) General John Shalikashvili (Ret. USA)
The Honorable Members of the Senate Judiciary
United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:
We, the undersigned, are retired professional military leaders of the U.S. Armed Forces. We write to express our deep concern about the nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales to be Attorney General, and to urge you to explore in detail his views concerning the role of the Geneva Conventions in U.S. detention and interrogation policy and practice.
During his tenure as White House Counsel, Mr. Gonzales appears to have played a significant role in shaping U.S. detention and interrogation operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo Bay, and elsewhere. Today, it is clear that these operations have fostered greater animosity toward the United States, undermined our intelligence gathering efforts, and added to the risks facing our troops serving around the world. Before Mr. Gonzales assumes the position of Attorney General, it is critical to understand whether he intends to adhere to the positions he adopted as White House Counsel, or chart a revised course more consistent with fulfilling our nation's complex security interests, and maintaining a military that operates within the rule of law.
Among his past actions that concern us most, Mr. Gonzales wrote to the President on January 25, 2002, advising him that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the conflict then underway in Afghanistan. More broadly, he wrote that the "war on terrorism" presents a "new paradigm [that] renders obsolete Geneva's" protections.
The reasoning Mr. Gonzales advanced in this memo was rejected by many military leaders at the time, including Secretary of State Colin Powell who argued that abandoning the Geneva Conventions would put our soldiers at greater risk, would "reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions," and would "undermine the protections of the rule of law for our troops, both in this specific conflict [Afghanistan] and in general." State Department adviser William H. Taft IV agreed that this decision "deprives our troops [in Afghanistan] of any claim to the protection of the Conventions in the event they are captured and weakens the protections afforded by the Conventions to our troops in future conflicts." Mr. Gonzales' recommendation also ran counter to the wisdom of former U.S. prisoners of war. As Senator John McCain has observed: "I am certain we all would have been a lot worse off if there had not been the Geneva Conventions around which an international consensus formed about some very basic standards of decency that should apply even amid the cruel excesses of war."