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.