During a town hall event in Wisconsin, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said American troops are afraid to fight due to the Geneva Conventions.
"The problem is we have the Geneva Conventions, all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight," Trump said at the event on March 30, Politico reported. "We can’t waterboard, but they can chop off heads. I think we’ve got to make some changes, some adjustments.”
The Geneva Conventions were adopted following World War II to regulate the treatment of civilians and prisoners of war. Trump previously advocated the use of torture that is "a hell of a lot worse" on terror suspects than waterboarding, and also called for the killing of their families.
Following the controversial remarks, several retired Army officers criticized Trump for his lack of knowledge on the subject and the danger of his comments.
"Donald Trump cannot possibly understand [Geneva Conventions] because he has neither the experience, the expertise or the moral compass to grasp it," Air Force Reserve Col. Steve Kleinman told The Guardian. Geneva, Kleinman said, is "a fundamental moral and tactical construct that serves as a foundation for the law of armed conflict, because all wars, including the global war on terror, come to an end."
"We as a community of nations need to engage with one another and not be separated by horrible, immoral treatment of one side over another," he added.
Retired Army Col. Paul Yingling, who was the deputy commander of the regiment that captured the Iraqi city of Tall Afar, agreed.
"America’s military men and women swear to support and defend the constitution, including our obligations to adhere to treaties on the treatment of non-combatants," he said.
"Prisoners of war and the family members of suspected terrorists are noncombatants. Torturing and murdering noncombatants are the actions of criminals and cowards. America’s military men and women are neither."
Fellow GOP candidate Gov. John Kasich of Ohio blasted Trump for his comments in an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" on March 31.
"It’s like a panoply of mistakes and outrageous statements," he said of the Geneva Conventions comments, as well as several statements Trump made in the same time span about abortion, nuclear weapons and the Supreme Court.
"You know what it is with Donald? It’s just a stream of consciousness.”