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Though the White House reached a much-ballyhooed compromise on Sept. 21 with the Senate Armed Services Committee by agreeing to leave the Geneva Conventions’ human rights standards unchanged in the military-commission bill, there were numerous other disagreements that still remained. Over the weekend of Sept. 23-24, the bill that President George W. Bush is now ready to sign into law changed in several key areas, including the definition of who would be subject to a military commission. Added over that weekend, after serious pressure from House Republicans and the White House, was an expanded version of “unlawful enemy combatant,” the definition of which now includes anyone who has “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” Says Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch, “They are effectively rewriting the fundamental pillars of [the] Geneva [Conventions] that distinguishes a combatant as someone who engages in hostilities — and can be shot on sight — from those who support the hostilities — like cooks, medics, and drivers — but don’t take part in combat.” But the intention of the three renegade Republicans who fought the White House most strongly on the bill — Committee Chairman John Warner (Va.) and Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) — was not to trap the cook as much as to include the nuclear scientist, for example, who worked for the Taliban, says a staffer who helped write the legislation. And the insertion of “purposefully” into the language was designed to protect people who inadvertently supported a combatant through a donation to a religious charity.
T.R. Goldman can be contacted at [email protected].

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