In the rush to prevent the “the dismemberment of living, distinct human beings” (said Tom DeLay in a fit of melodrama, equating cell division to real, live people) the United States has conveniently redefined a culture of life to disregard or outright deny human rights to, you know, humans.
Amnesty International has branded Guantanamo prison as “the gulag of our time” in addition to other scathing assertions about American detention centers around the world.
the US government has gone to great lengths to restrict the application of the Geneva Conventions and to “re-define” torture. It has sought to justify the use of coercive interrogation techniques, the practice of holding “ghost detainees” (people in unacknowledged incommunicado detention) and the “rendering” or handing over of prisoners to third countries known to practise torture. The detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law. Trials by military commissions have made a mockery of justice and due process.
The USA, as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide. When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity. From Israel to Uzbekistan, Egypt to Nepal, governments have openly defied human rights and international humanitarian law in the name of national security and “counter-terrorism”.
The report offers a radical solution to at least some of the inhumanity done in the names of American citizens: close Guantanamo Bay. My knee-jerk reaction is total agreement. If one doesn’t believe this will have some sort of positive consequence on a micro level, one only has to look at the anti-American sentiments, and the rioting, and the bombings, and the overall general violence generated by American military presence in the Middle East over the last year. Closing Guantanamo, or even Abu Ghraib, would send a message that we are serious about the rhetoric of peace and common humanity that so often flows out of Washington, and begin a renewal of commitment to these values of human dignity that most American citizens openly endorse.
Brief international goodwill, a la the Indian tsunami, is not enough to cultivate a true global community no matter our intentions.
Economic interests, political hypocrisy and socially orchestrated discrimination continued to fan the flames of conflict around the world. The so-called “war on terror” appeared more effective in eroding the international framework of human rights principles than in countering the threat of international “terrorism”. The security of women facing gender-based violence in the home, in the community or in situations of conflict barely received attention. The economic, social and cultural rights of marginalized communities continued to be largely ignored.
A true culture of life is one that does not perpetuate a rule of law that says human rights only matter in times without conflict. One cannot fight terrorism as it is currently defined with bombs, tanks, guns, and prisons. If one wants to reduce terrorist acts, state-sponsored or not, one must first look to the root causes: racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, misogyny, invisibility, strict fundamentalism, limited resources, lack of educational opportunity, economic hardship, the spirit of revenge, and the desire for complete consolidation of power.
The solutions to these do not lie in gunpowder.
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