President Bush insists he needs a new law denying basic rights to terrorism suspects and granting American torturers a "get out of jail free" card because the Geneva Conventions are "vague". Really? Let's take a look at the section in question, Common Article 3. This is common to all the Conventions, and the core of it states:
1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of the armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all cases be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth of wealth, or any other similar criteria.
I think that's fairly clear: people taking no part in combat - which means those rotting in places like Guantanamo Bay or in the US's secret gulags - must be treated humanely. The only possible point of "vagueness" is what constitutes humane treatment - but given that the Bush administration has repeatedly promised humane treatment despite its assertions that its prisoners are not covered by Geneva, you'd think they have some idea. But just as a baseline, you can be sure that it rules out starving, baking or freezing people.
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
No stripping people, forcing them to wear women's underwear, or sticking them on a leash and forcing them to do dog tricks...
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
No kangaroo courts...
2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
And no denying medical care (in particular, painkillers) in an effort to get them to talk.
There is no "vagueness" here. To the contrary, it is perfectly clear: the way the US has been treating prisoners is contrary to its international obligations under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, and to its domestic obligations under US law. And those who have set this policy or ordered or participated in this treatment should be held to account.