Thursday, November 29, 2007

Human rights? We've got your rights, now where's the human?

While breaking my fast today, I idly scanned the latest headlines, and was both amused and saddened (though hardly surprised) to find the State Department tap-dancing around whether the Geneva convention applies to those interned in Guantanamo Bay, our very own latter-day Hanoi Hilton.

The Administration's stance remains that because the prisoners are "non-state actors", that is, they were alleged to be fighting with a guerrilla group at the time of their capture, that we needn't trouble ourselves with the Geneva Convention, not to mention the Constitution, the Magna Carta, or the Ten Commandments.

Consider the reverse implications; we've bewailed the treatment of US servicemen captured in Vietnam, but by our own interpretation of the "rules", there should have been two very different standards applied to US prisoners during the Vietnam War; those captured by the NVA, the military branch of a recognized state, should in fact have received their rights under the Geneva Convention (including between 8 to 75 Swiss francs monthly, depending on their ranks) - while those prisoners captured by the Viet Cong, an unrecognized insurgent group, could have been tortured, errr, I mean of course, questioned with no regard to any pesky "rights"...

Let's decipher the State Department's pontificating. What they're really trying to say is "When is a human not a human?" When kidnapping becomes "extraordinary rendition", when torture becomes "robust interrogation", when politicians and state-sponsored lawyers begin rewriting the lexicon; when Nationalist sentiment is on the rise, when you're a Jew in Berlin in the 1930s, when you're a Muslim in Iraq just after the turn of the millenium, it makes you wonder.

To paraphrase the Bard; "If you prick me, do I not bleed? If you tickle me, do I not laugh? If you torture me, do I not scream?"

Apparently, there are no screams in Guantanamo, just the hearty exclamations of "robust answers".

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