The Time Has Come for the United States to Ratify Geneva Protocol I*
At the conclusion of a diplomatic conference convened by Switzerland as depositary of the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 for the protection of war victims, which met in Geneva in four sessions from 1974 to 1977, two Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions (together with the Charter of the United Nations, the most widely ratified treaties) were adopted. The first Protocol concerned international wars;1 the second addressed civil wars.2 The U.S. delegation (in which the Department of Defense was strongly represented), under the able leadership of Ambassador George Aldrich, played an important role in the negotiations. The United States signed both Protocols. In the belief that any problems could be corrected by understandings or reservations, it proceeded to negotiate statements of understanding and reservations with its NATO allies.
However, because of fears that Protocol I would legitimize the claims of the Palestine Liberation Organization to prisoner-of-war privileges for its combatants and promote various liberation movements to state or quasi- state status, the Protocol attracted vigorous opposition in the United States and Israel. In a 1987 letter to the Senate, President Reagan censured Protocol I and asked the Senate to give its advice and consent to the ratification of Protocol II alone.3 Largely because of this perception of Protocol I as proterrorist and also because of military objections by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President concluded that the Protocol was____________________