Saturday, June 25, 2005

Pygmalion in Gitmo.

Are we morally justified to imprison people at Guantanamo Bay without offering them the right to defend themselves in court? Are we morally justified to torture these people to extract information from them?

We all know that I am Muslim. Let's set that aside for now. Like everyone, I was surprised by the rash
statement made by Dick Durbin. His choice of words were nothing short of preposterous. Clearly, we are not operating in the same fashion as did the Soviets in their gulags or the Nazis in concentration camps. Still, there was some wisdom in Durbin's statement:

"I am confident, sadly confident, as I stand here, that decades from now people will look back and say: What were they thinking? America, this great, kind leader of a nation, treated people who were detained and imprisoned, interrogated people in the crudest way? I am afraid this is going to be one of the bitter legacies of the invasion of Iraq."

We know that the US has admitted to torturing inmates at Gitmo. Do the ends really justify the means? George Bernard Shaw in "Pygmalion" so wisely taught us that people are defined by how they are treated, not how they behave. Is a superpower defined by how it is treated or how it responds to crises? Are we treating Guantanamo Bay inmates in a manner that is truly indicative of our superpower status?


Blogger Moose said...

The whole thing makes me sad. I'm sorry I can't say more.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Lily said...

The events at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have spotlighted what the US has been doing for years now.

Perhaps the US goverment should read a little something called The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Raine said...

As an American, I approve of torture at Durbin's gulag and at the battlefield only as needed to extract information to prevent another terrorist attack against my family, my friends, and fellow Americans.

3:16 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

Durbin really stepped in it. When he first made his declaration, he issued a written statement standing by his claims. Foolish, to say the least. And, his Democratic colleagues also backed him up. Where were they when the Holocaust was being taught in their class?

Then, a few days later, I watched him cry as he delivered an apology. Why the sudden change in direction? Politics, not conviction.

If I were in Illinois, my vote would go to his challenger.

9:05 AM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

As someone in the legal field, it was very difficult for me to accept that these individuals could be held for 2 years without consulting with an attorney. I am happy the US Supreme Court ruled on this case.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Daniel said...

My, my.

Torture, when it occurs is both reprehensible and inefficient. Interrogators will tell you that torture is not a reliable method of extracting information. Thus, the torturers have done damage not only to the inmates, but to the cause of their nation.

That said, torture was not sanctioned by the US and is being punished when it happens. I am amazed that many of the same people who are demanding that we not paint all Muslims with a broad brush rush to generalize the acts of a few miscreants to the entire Gitmo military staff and then by extension to the nation.

The difference here is not that torture doesn't happen in democracies, but that torturers here are prosecuted, while in the dark hovels of our enemies, torturers are heroes.

As to trials: there happens to be a war on. None of those in Gitmo are entitled to appear in an American court.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

Daniel: I have not made *any* sweeping accusations. I am merely asking questions here. I only point out that the US has admitted that torture does occur in such facilities. Please read the post again and let me know where, specifically, I say that *all* Gitmo staff are torturing inmates. There are many outstanding US military personnel.

The US has admitted to the UN, so it seems, that they have tortured inmates in Gitmo, Iraq and Afghanistan. My question was, is such action justified? Are we really behaving as a benevolent superpower should?

12:51 PM  
Blogger James d. said...

Vavoom, I think he might have been referring to many of the most outspoken critics of Guantanamo and U.S. foreign policy, not your posting. At least, that's how I read it.
That they are being held there without trial is a separate issue from the torture. From what I've read and heard, there can certainly be improvements, but the situation is one that is meant to minimize inappopriate U.S. actions and punish those transgressions. Should we be concerned? Absolutely. Jumping to the word "gulag"? Absolutely not.

As far as the holding without trial, I think the tricky part is determining their status. They aren't enemy combatants in the traditional sense, because they are not fighting in the uniform of another nation, but they certainly shouldn't tried in U.S. civilian courts. They are, in a sense, rogue operatives, and international law has been slow to catch up on this third category -- it's not a definite that they can be lumped into one of the former two categories.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Daniel said...

Yes, I did not intend to imply that you, Vavoom, were making the generalizations. I should have been more precise in mu language (kind of like Karl Rove).

What I meant to point out was that when we say something like, "The US admits they have tortured..." it is basically the same thing as saying "Muslim behead infidels." The MSM can get away with that because, well, we let them. But we should be more thoughtful.

For instance, where does Lily get the idea that the US "has been doing [this] for years?" That kind of off-handed remark does nothing but give those that we fight against encouragement.

2:50 PM  
Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

Supposedly, we are a nation of laws. IF this is true, then that means that the president and his staff should RESPECT that law, not ignore it as they see fit.

I know that the other side is not playing by all the rules. But this fact does NOT excuse the USA from being the side that sets the example. Prisioners should be treated in full accordance of the Geneva Convention. If the USA decided to toss this treaty out, who will follow it? Nobody, that is who.

This new way of thinking from the GOP is very dangerous to world stability. International treaties are not toilet paper for the president to use. Will treaties like the Geneva Convention sometimes get in the way? Yes. But what is the alternative?

If we DO NOT set the example, nobody will. And I think that America is great enough to set the example. But first we need to impeach the moron.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Daniel said...


The Geneva Conventions are only followed at all by western countries, and the US is the only country with an active interest. Did the French follow the GC in Gongo? Have the Russians, Chinese, name it ever? Outside of the "Anglophere" the GC is looked as a way to keep the west occupied while the rest of the world gets on with genocide. To suggest that suddeny a world of laws is suddenly thrown into chaos by a few--yes, very few--criminals, who, again, are being prosecuted, is naive at best.

I am not in any way excusing those who have engaged in torture. But can we please have some perspective?

As to the argument that these people should be subject to the Conventions. Please read them. None of these people qualify. They are still being, for the most part, well. It is absurd that their jailers should have to go through "sensivity training" in the face of murders.

7:33 PM  
Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

OK, so since everyone else is doing it we should too. That makes it right, the fact that everyone is doing it.

By the way, I am thinking of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Want to join me? After all, everyone will be doing it.

Yes, genocide is wrong. But so is torture. IF we do not abide by the convention - then how can we tell some other nation that they are in the wrong? I am positive that they will agree that it is OK for the USA to use torture, but not for them to do the same.

It is always harder to SET the example than it is to just do whatever you want. But if the USA does not set the example, who will? China? Saudi Arabia?

8:39 PM  
Blogger An80sNut said...

I just worry about who we release. They've recaptured 10 previous suspected terrorists that were released from Gitmo during new fights that of course risk the lives of our military. How many others went back to join the opposition? Who knows. How many more would if we closed it down like many people are asking? Good question.

As for torture, I approve of getting information without shock therapy, putting bamboo under or removal of toe and fingernails, cuttings, lashings, broken bones... and I'm sure I have more on that list. Do I believe pampering them or giving them a trial as we are trying to understand the size, capability and organizational skills of the "insurgents?" No. This is a tough time. A time when people forget that some of our own troops aren't being treated as nicely when taken by the opposition. Troops recently found a Al-Qaeda torture center with 4 Iraqi hostages that were beaten, handcuffed and chained to a wall. Also found there were nooses and electrical wire near a bathtub full of water used for electric shocks and mock drownings. Hmmm... human rights...

9:15 PM  
Blogger Camphor said...

The whole concept of "torture" sends a chill down my spine. Yes, people justify it with many many reasons, but really - why would one human want to do that to another? For a piece of land?

I do not think that even a person sentenced by trial deserves that - it does not solve the problem, only aggravates it. Torture -- just leave me out of it, and I hope to God that those who are out there realise just how horrible the whole thing is.

Rights ~ if only. If only.

I'm probably not very knowledgable, but the US of A is no longer considered a "benovelent" power by most of the world's population. Just becuase of.. Afghanistan, Iraq. Perhaps the rumours are not true, but they spread very fast.

An80sfan : you for the drip water, the killing the mother/sister/family, hanging by the thumbs, the rack, and a whole lot more.

6:01 AM  
Anonymous Daniel said...


You can't hang that argument on me. In no way did I make the "everyone does it" statement. You are arguing a point I did not make.

My point was this fixation on the GC is just that. It's an illusion that has primarily been followed by western nations.

11:32 AM  
Blogger An80sNut said...

Camphor - Thanks, I knew I'd leave a few out more on my interrogation no-no's. hahaha

6:05 PM  

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