Monday, February 13, 2006

Well, even if the U.S. doesn't define the treatment of prisoners (ahem... detainees) at Guantanamo Bay as torture, it continues to appear that the rest of the world sees things differently. A draft report of a U.N. investigation came to light Monday which concluded that the U.S. has engaged in acts of torture at Gunatanamo Bay. The report included accusations that the U.S. had denied Gunatanamo prisoners their rights to fair trial, freedom of religion, and health. The report recommend the closing of the Guantanamo base and a revocation of all "special interrogation techniques" currently authorized by the Department of Defense.
The U.S. rejected the report, claiming that the primary flaw with its logic was that it failed to recognize the fact that Guantanamo Bay is a wartime facility, subject to wartime laws and rules rather than peacetime human rights laws.
Steanso has expressed this opinion before, but he thinks that it bears repeating. The so-called War on Terror is not a war in the traditional sense of the word. It didn't have a discernible beginning, and it isn't going to have a discernible end. The War on Terror isn't like Vietnam or World War II. It's more like the War on Drugs or the War on Crime. The War on Terror is a campaing meant to bring about the abatement of a certain type of behavior. Americans seem to have forgotten that Muslims aren't the only ones capable of committing acts of terror (remember Timothy McVeigh and Oklahoma City? The guy considered himself a patriot, for crying out loud...).
Anyway, are we supposed to accept the fact that our government is going to run prisons that are devoid of civil rights so long as there are people in the world who are willing to employ terrorism? I don't get it.


JMD said...

You are certainly correct that the war on terror is very different than the wars we have fought in the past. The chief difference, of course, is that we, a nation, are not fighting another nation or nations, but rather, a group of organizations which have dedicated themselves to destruction (of us, our forces, civilians, et cetera).

Because of this, you seem to recoil at the thought of calling it a true "war." Maybe it is not a "war" in the same sense that World War II was. However, the fact that a terrorist can take a briefcase into Manhattan or Chicago or wherever or blow up subways or trains concerns me enough to treat this as more than a police action.

Do you believe that there is some middle ground between police action and war that is going on here? Do you think that if this were a war against another nation that what is going on would be more permissible in your eyes? Philosophically, how far do you think an interrogator should be allowed to go, either in a "war" or the "war on terror"?

J.S. said...

I like how Jim's comments always end in questions.
Anyway, I'm not going to say that terrorism isn't a serious problem or that live can't be lost because of it, but, yes, I would treat it differently than a conventional war, mostly because the so-called war on terror is a war without end. I DO think there has to be more middle ground (safeguarding civil rights while still finding ways to effectively combat terrorism). I find it odd that the U.S. is acting as if we're the only country to have ever suffered a terrorist attack (we're acting as if no one has dealt with these problems before and as if the solutions that we've chosen are the only possible solutions available). Britain dealt with the NRA for decades without endorsing policies that openly abandoned civil rights (once again, it's the use of torture and the failure to afford prisoners a right to trial which concern me the most). Israel may have resorted to harsher methods- I'm not sure (I think the blurring of the line between terrorist and soldier/patriot in Israel is largely what the film Munich is meant to explore).
I'm not sure how far interrogators should be "allowed to go" in any given situation, but I would at least hope that their actions would be restricted to methods which are reasonably necessary to stop an immediate, discernible threat (meaning, I would definitely rule out anything resembling torture in the case of "fishing expeditions" in which interrogators are trying to get potential information about unspecified, hypothetical future threats).
I'm still of the opinion that the use of torture not only takes away America's position of moral leadership in the world community, but that it puts our own soldiers at greater risk (as our enemies justify the torture of our soldiers by way of America's own use of torture). Also, I just hate the thought that the government (which we would probably all agree can be deeply flawed and is often flat out wrong) can resort to inflicting pain, injury, and possibly death on people in order to pursue its own ends.