Human-rights advocates, for example, claim that the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners is of a piece with President Bush's 2002 decision to deny al Qaeda and Taliban fighters the legal status of prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
In light of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, critics are arguing that abuses of Iraqi prisoners are being produced by a climate of disregard for the laws of war.
It is also worth asking whether the strict limitations of Geneva make sense in a war against terrorists.
It is important to recognize the differences between the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism. The treatment of those detained at Abu Ghraib is governed by the Geneva Conventions, which have been signed by both the U.S. and Iraq.
The effort to blur the lines between Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib reflects a deep misunderstanding about the different legal regimes that apply to Iraq and the war against al Qaeda.
We can guess that the unacceptable conduct of the soldiers at Abu Ghraib resulted in part from the dangerous state of affairs on the ground in a theater of war.
While Taliban fighters had an initial claim to protection under the conventions, they lost POW status by failing to obey the standards of conduct for legal combatants: wearing uniforms, a responsible command structure, and obeying the laws of war.
It urges policy makers and the Supreme Court to make the mistake of curing what could prove to be an isolated problem by disarming the government of its principal weapon to stop future terrorist attacks.
Once the attacks occur, as we learned on Sept. 11, it is too late. It makes little sense to deprive ourselves of an important, and legal, means to detect and prevent terrorist attacks while we are still in the middle of a fight to the death with al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda operates by launching surprise attacks on civilian targets with the goal of massive casualties. Our only means for preventing future attacks, which could use WMDs, is by acquiring information that allows for pre-emptive action.
If the Court were to extend its reach to the base, judges could begin managing conditions of confinement, interrogation methods, and the use of information.
Congress's definition of torture in those laws - the infliction of severe mental or physical pain - leaves room for interrogation methods that go beyond polite conversation.
Nonetheless, Article 5 makes clear that if an Iraqi civilian who is not a member of the armed forces, has engaged in attacks on Coalition forces, the Geneva Convention permits the use of more coercive interrogation approaches to prevent future attacks.
Under the Geneva Convention, for example, a POW is required only to provide name, rank, and serial number and cannot receive any benefits for cooperating.
Punishing abuse in Iraq should not return the U.S. to Sept. 10, 2001, in the way it fights al Qaeda, while Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants remain at large and continue to plan attacks.