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McChrystal’s Full Letter to Levin on Detainees

Earlier this morning I referred to a written statement given to Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) from Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal

Elisa Mueller
News
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Jun 02, 2009

Earlier this morning I referred to a written statement given to Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) from Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal clarifying his position on detainees after he initially wrote in answer to pre-hearing questions that he believed in treating detainees according to the “principles of international law and Common Article 3″ of the Geneva Conventions “to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity.” That raised the eyebrows of some committee members — it’s reminiscent of the language used by President George W. Bush in 2001 to get around the Geneva Conventions for terrorism detainees — and so McChrystal wrote to then yesterday for the record.

Here’s the substance of McChrystal’s clarification. The letter isn’t yet up on the committee’s website, and I’ll update with a link when it is. [Update: Voila. PDF.]

We must at all times adhere to our obligation to treat detainees humanely. Military necessity, along with humanity, are principles underlying the law of war. Military necessity does not permit us to derogate from these imperatives. However, the principle of military necessity recognizes that under certain battlefield conditions it is infeasible to render certain benefits to detained individuals. For example, at the point of capture while still engaged in an uncertain situation it may be impossible for a temporary period to make provisions for the exercise of religious beliefs by detained persons. Once a detainee is processed into a controlled detention facility; such provisions are made readily available to detained persons.

The full text of the letter is after the jump.

Dear Mr. Chairman,

It was brought to my attention that the committee expressed concerns related to my language “…to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity …” in response to an advanced policy question on treatment of detainees.

Let me be clear–It is my duty to ensure that all detainees are held in conformity with all applicable laws governing the conditions of confinement, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. We must at all times adhere to our obligation to treat detainees humanely. Military necessity, along with humanity, are principles underlying the law of war. Military necessity does not permit us to derogate from these imperatives. However, the principle of military necessity recognizes that under certain battlefield conditions it is

infeasible to render certain benefits to detained individuals. For example, at the point of capture while still engaged in an uncertain situation it may be impossible for a temporary period to make provisions for the exercise of religious beliefs by detained persons. Once a detainee is processed into a controlled detention facility; such provisions are made readily available to detained persons.

Finally, I will ensure our Soldiers continue to provide custody with dignity and respect for every detainee with a dedication to modeling and maintaining world class standards.

Very respectfully,

STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL

Lieutenant General, USA

Director, Joint Staff

Elisa Mueller | Elisa Mueller was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother who taught reading and a father who taught film. As a result, she spent an excessive amount of her childhood reading books and watching movies. She went to the University of Kansas for college, where she earned bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. She moved to New York City and worked for Entertainment Weekly magazine for ten years, visiting film sets all over the world.

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