Saturday, November 19, 2005

If You've Nothing To Hide...

...Guantanamo Bay shouldn't worry you at all.

The UN has refused to accept the conditions which the US government had wished to impose on their inspection of the detention facilities.
There are certain conditions which we feel are non-negotiable and unannounced visit to places of detention and private interviews with detainees is one of those totally non-negotiable pre-conditions.
- UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak
Again, if you've nothing to hide... Isn't that the sum total of the US administration's defence of Guantanamo? The fact that they're being so secretive is a clear sign that they're guilty of something and, as such, they should obviously be held in isolated detention facilities for a number of years. It'd probably also be a good idea to extract the urine out of their religious beliefs and rough them up a bit too. Keep them off balance and they're bound to confess eventually. So the entirely spurious theory goes anyway.

What's happening at Guantanamo Bay is wrong on so many levels, it's hard to know where to start. The justification for it is just a tiny bit familiar. These extreme circumstances mean that extreme methods are justified. Faced with this evil enemy, the normal rules of acceptable behaviour cannot be followed. These people are guilty because they were in a certain place at a certain time. I'll spell it out; that's how terrorists rationalise their actions. Now I'm not implying a direct moral equivalence but the arguments are strikingly similar. The ends justify the means, no matter if a few innocent people are caught in the crossfire.

For me, what is acceptable behaviour is not determined by circumstance but by our moral values. Allowing circumstances to blur the lines of what is acceptable is to be defeated by those circumstances. We should never adjust our values because we face a threat from terrorism (or any other threat). Real courage is to hold true to our values in the face of unprecedented dangers, to say that these values define us and are worth fighting for above all else. When we allow the circumstances created by terrorists to alter the values and beliefs which define our society, then we allow the terrorists a victory and we take a step closer to thinking the way they do. It. Is. Wrong.

Acceptable behaviour means treating suspects humanely and in accordance with the law. It means allowing them to know the charges levelled against them, and allowing them to mount a defence against those charges. It means doing this in a timely and open fashion so that justice can be seen to be done. It means treating suspects with a basic level of decency and respect, no matter what they are accused of. These values define us as a society. They are clear lines in the sand; on our side, democracy and freedom, and on the other, tyranny and the police state. Guantanamo Bay is on the wrong side of the line.

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