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Excerpt of a key Gonzales memo

WASHINGTON—On Jan. 25, 2002, Alberto Gonzales reaffirmed in a memo to President Bush that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners.

In it, he responds to objections of Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had asked Bush to reconsider that policy, saying it would be widely condemned, might prompt other countries to look for loopholes to conclude they were not bound by the treaty either, and could undermine the military's high standards of conduct.

Excerpts from Gonzales' rebuttal of these points:

"This is a new type of warfare—one not contemplated in 1949 when Geneva was framed—and requires a new approach in our actions toward captured terrorists.

"Your policy of providing humane treatment to enemy detainees gives us the credibility to insist on like treatment for our soldiers.

"Terrorists will not follow Geneva rules in any event.

"We can facilitate cooperation with other nations by reassuring them that we fully support Geneva where it is applicable and by acknowledging that in this conflict the U.S. continues to respect other recognized standards.

"The argument based on military culture fails to recognize that our military remain bound to apply the principles of Geneva because that is what you have directed them to do."

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(Compiled by Frank Davies.)

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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