Is the U.S. President a combatant?

Say a country with which the U.S. is at war stages an operation to kidnap the President. Let’s assume that country is a signatory to the Geneve Convention; is the President considered a combatant or a civilian?

Heads of state are not considered combatants under the generally accepted polite rules of warfare.

I think the point being made is that the President is the Commander in Chief of the US Army. As such he could be considered as military.

Actually, not: the CONUS and USC carefully mandate civilian control of the Military: POTUS, SECDEF, as well as the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force are all civilians.

The President is not in the military. Commander-in-Chief is not a military rank, it is a civillian position.

Ah, ok. I thought CinC was a military rank. Never mind, then.

As an addendum therefore, I wonder if “unlawful combatant” would stick…

Only if he shoots someone, I suspect.

Or being shopped by Cheney for $25. (I’d better stop now coz this is GQ. Sorry mods.)

If I was commanding an opposing army, I’d consider the CINC a legitimate target. Seems like I recall something about this particular President either suspending or amending the existing Executive Order that forbids targeting Heads of State so he could try to drop bombs on Saddam Hussein. His dad snatched Noriega from Panama, and tossed him in the hoosegow.

That said, it may well be impratical to make a serious attempt at hitting that particular target, and the necessary resources may well be better used elsewhere.

Noriega wasn’t tossed in jail for being a combatant in a war. IIRC, he was apprehended and tried for drug crimes.

Yeah, drug crimes that were a crime in a country he was not in. I do not want east of nowhere africa snatching me because I spit on the sidewalk here and it is illegal there.

But it’s ok for the US to pursue the capture and assassination of foreign heads of state anyway because they’re exempted from those rules? :rolleyes:

The USA is rather unusual among nations. The president is the head of state, he’s the head of government, he’s the head of his own party (he outranks the titular leader of the party,) and he’s the commander in chief of the military and the federal marshals. In most other nations, these titles are spread over several people.

Because of this arcane distinction, a visiting dignitary who is the apparent top dog in his own country may not get a 21-gun salute when he or she visits the US.

I feel I’ve stuck my neck out on this. I sense a premonition of a flock of corrections. Oh, well. If I’m wrong, I will have triggered a flow of good information. I’m OK with that.

I side with Oakminster. I’d consider the other side’s head of state, and in fact their entire National Command Authority structure, legitimate targets for military operations. Depending on the situation, I’d try to capture them alive – or disrupt the other side’s line of command.

There’s a difference between “legitimate target” and “combatant” as defined by various international treaties like the Geneva Conventions.

As you may recall, at the very beginning of the Iraq war, the US launched a missile strike with the intent of blowing up Saddam. A combatant is a person who participates directly in the fighting of a war and who would qualify for prisoner-of-war status if captured. Heads of state do not generally mount their steeds and lead cavalry charges any more, and in any case, they have been immune from capture as a matter of etiquette for quite some time.

That doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to kill non-combatant targets if you so choose. You shouldn’t make a habit of it though.

Noriega is a case in point – he claimed he was a General captured in War, and therefore according to Geneva a POW. The U.S., as the Convention requires it to do, asked the judge to rule on the question and he found Noriega to indeed be a POW:

Meaning Noriega was allowed to wear his uniform during his trila on drug trafficing charges and that, post conviction, he is being held in a special section of the Miami jail and not in the federal prision the U.S. Government had orginally intended for him.

Is this the same Geneva Convention that the President specifically ordered should not apply to the “War on Terror,” that he feels free to ignore when it comes to lawful incarceration and interrogation of foreign nationals, and that he has actively circumvented by using terms such as “enemy combatant” in place of “prisoner of war?” If those parts of the Geneva Convention don’t apply to others, why should the world at large follow the rules in regard to the US? That’s the danger when one party treats an agreement as if it isn’t binding; the other party also feels free to disregard it.

Well, you’re simply wrong. So what it isn’t a military rank? Facts clearly show that the commander-in-chief of an armed forces is unabiguously entitled to protection by Geneva III. As has been stated before in this thread, a Federal Court judge found that Noriega was a POW subject to all protections. The judge in the case stated: “Geneva III’s definition of a POW is easily broad enough to encompass General Noriega. It is not disputed that he was the head of the PDF, and that he has ‘fallen into the power of the enemy.’ Subsection 3 of Article 4 states that captured military personnel are POWs even if they ‘profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.’”

Saddam Hussein was found to be protected with POW status due to his position of chief of the Iraqi armed forces. This determination was made by the lawyers at the Pentagon, and the International Committee of the Red Cross found the decision “judicially acceptable.” Cite. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know lawyer-speak.

What’s more, you are wrong if you are trying to say that one must be a combatant to qualify for POW status. Geneva III requires a rather broad array of civilians to be treated as POWs, so that is simply not right.

Finally, even if Geneva III did not apply, Geneva IV provides that any individual who is a national of a country which is a party to that convention is entitled to protected status, which includes humane treatment, respect for one’s honor, etc. There is no question whatsoever that an American President is entitled to protection under the Geneva Conventions.

I think you captured the gist of it:
The rules say one thing, and anyone with the juice to make the rules is free to bend them to his needs.
In the end, the rules don’t matter, it’s what has happenned and what WILL happen.
In a sense, the matter of whether or not you could call GWB a combatant per applicable treaties and laws is one question, while what that means as to his treatment by foreign agents or powers is another.
These distinctions basically mean that there’s one question, which may be a settled matter of law, and another question, so hard to handicap the answer to that it in fact is ineligible for GQ.