America was founded on the idea that at least in this country justice would be served. Natural and inalienable rights and liberties for all are engrained in the United Stats Constitution.
So we must ask ourselves – are we a country that will grant our Prisoners of War (POWs) even half of the humanitarian rights we grant our citizens?
The way that America treats its POWs is not only morally disgraceful, but illegal under the terms set by the Geneva Convention of 1949. If we ever want American morale to improve, we need to stop covering up the wounds and stare the injustices in the face.
Instead of honoring our Constitution and using it as it was made to be used, we simply take POWs out of the country to torture them by means that, in the US, would be declared unconstitutional. The International Committee of the Red Cross has charged that the U.S. treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is “tantamount to torture” The US has received similar condemnation from Human Rights Watch for its abuse of Al Queda prisoners in Poland and Romania. According to the November 2 Washington Post, the CIA has secret facilities for “captured war suspects” in eight countries “outside the reach of the US justice system”
We really need to ask ourselves how far are we willing to go? Just because the torture doesn’t take place here in this country doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t represent what we stand for. Taking prisoners out of the country to torture them is inhumane and sends the message out that we’re not willing to abide by the laws of our own land.
Some people believe that this is all for the best, that it is necessary in order to maintain “homeland security.” By torturing POWs, the CIA hopes to get much vied for information about political scams and terrorist attacks. They feel that these people are truly vicious and all measures must be used to keep them in check.
Others feel that because it’s an armed conflict issue of immediate importance instead of a law-enforcement matter, it should be treated differently. The effort required by all parties involved to try every offender before a judge and jury would be over-kill of the system.
Justice shouldn’t be such a foggy concept. It’s not right to use torture to beat information out of defenseless POWs. Interrogating them without force is fine but if we use force, who’s to say that American POWs are safe if they are captured overseas. Can American POWs be tortured by Al Queda for inside information? I’m sure that some people in their country would find that to be just as acceptable as we find it to torture them.
The standard is lost. Nobody would be safe, if every country was left to its own devices in all cases of international security. America needs to realize that the harms in torturing POWs outweighs the good of interrogating them. Until we do, we cannot hold our heads up high in the international community.
In fact, what we are doing as Americans to our prisoners really isn’t something we should even have any say over. After horrible treatment of POWs in World War II, many nations gathered together at the Geneva Convention in 1949 to make regulations about the treatment of POWs in all future wars.
The US was part of a world community that decided that, for the sake of all human beings, there would be limits as to how captives in times of war would be treated. By abusing and torturing POWS, we are violating those rules and lowering America’s status as a world citizen. If we’re the only ones who think that this is okay, then it probably isn’t. There are reasons why international restrictions were put into place and it’s not the job of the US to break them.
In 1998, the UN General Assembly wanted to create a permanent international court for war crimes. The USA, China, and five other countries oppose it. Eventually, in 2002, the US did sign it, along with 129 other nations, but, later that year, George W. Bush removed the U.S. signature and refused to cooperate with the court, on the grounds that the court refused to be biased and support the US in its all its endeavors. In effect, we are using our powers as the biggest super powers in the world to harm instead of help international unity and international peace.
The Senate passed a bill last October on military spending that included a ban on POW torture. The ban was supported and passed by majorities in both houses of Congress, but now the White House wants to rewrite it. exempting the CIA from the ban, and give it absolute power to do whatever it wishes to do to prisoners.
The secret nature of its “investigations” that requires such drastic POW treatment is so high that often the government can play it off as not being the people’s business.
So the American public sits still and is kept ignorant. Bush doesn’t tell them what’s going on because he knows it would shock them. A shocked America might become enraged and petition for change, whereas an ignorant one will stay quiet. But we, as cautious American citizens, cannot turn out backs on this issue.
The torture is disturbing but the fact that the government is deliberately hiding the atrocities is worse. It’s only a matter of time before all the humanitarian organizations and other governments catch up with us and when they do, we’re in trouble.
Why do we run away from humane laws if we aren’t doing anything wrong? And if we’re doing something wrong, than why does it take vast amounts of interference to change that? It just isn’t right. We can do better. America can do better. And it shouldn’t need the pressure of other world leaders to do it. If good people do nothing, do not rally for change, the very principles of our judicial system will be in jeopardy. America should be the leader in keeping the world free and fair and honorable, not the primary violator.
Analee Abbott is a junior at Santa Monica High School.