Freedom is an ideal. Freedom is an American ideal. But in order to uphold this ideal for Americans, is it right to withhold it from others?
Definitely not. One cannot be hypocritical in this endeavor. Like the oft repeated slogan of war opponents, “Having a war for peace is like screwing for virginity.” We cannot take away freedoms of one to uphold freedoms for another.
Unfortunately, this has happened — at least twice.
The first time, the American government took away the freedoms of the Japanese-Americans and threw them into internment camps because they could all potentially be spies.
Seventy years later, the government has learned one important lesson — don’t take away the rights of your citizens. But people outside the country? They are okay.
The great freedom-loving nation of America has held around 600 Afghans in Guantanamo Bay for one year without charges because they may have information about people that could potentially be linked to terrorist activities.
There is no hard evidence to keep the prisoners, they have not been allowed to seek legal counsel and frankly, the American government does not yet have any plan to release them.
However, as the days drag on, more and more stories have risen to the surface — about prisoners who were mistakenly arrested, either because there were just unlucky bystanders or because Afghani militia leaders in charge of arrests had some sort of personal vendetta against them. The American government’s response? A shrug. After all, they aren’t American. Who cares, right?
Regardless of the reasons for their captivity, the main problem still exists. 600 men are held and their freedoms taken without a fair trial.
Wait, forget fair trial. These men have not even had any kind of trial.
Under the Geneva Convention, any prisoners of war must be afforded certain rights such as legal counsel and basic human rights. However, King — I mean President — George Bush has found a semantic loophole. Rather than calling these prisoners captured in a war, prisoners of war, he calls them “unlawful combatants.” These “unlawful combatants” do not fall under the Geneva Convention.
This is laughable at best. But if you want to get technical, the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928, ratified by the United States, bans war from being used to solve any conflict. So theoretically, everyone who fought in Afghanistan is an “unlawful combatant.” Which means if the Taliban ever catch any American soldiers they can do whatever they want to them without fear of reprisal.
But let us not kid ourselves. We know the real reason they are being held. Everyone in the Bush administration is just trying to cover their butts. Not a single one of them wants to be responsible for releasing anyone that could later perform a terrorist act. Rather, they are willing to keep 600 people down in order to save their own skins.
How can any American be proud of their country when the rights afforded to them are not given to these men? They are under the control of the American government. We should be showing them the merits of our system. Instead, we give them new reasons to hate us. Instead, we show the world that Uncle Sam represents the country with the big stick and if you are holding the big stick, you can make up whatever rules you want.
In a time where we need the support of other nations, our actions in Guantanamo Bay have alienated many. Critics ranging from Amnesty International to formal British Appellate Court judges have condemned the American government for its recent actions.
Why does the American government do nothing?
It is because not enough of the population has begun to care. We should. These rights are our rights.
If the government can remove rights guaranteed through international consent, how much quicker can they remove our rights, guaranteed by only one flimsy document?