Transcript of Human Rights and the War on Terror
September 11, 2001 was a day that the world stood still and was the start of the War on Terror. This ongoing security campaign is the source of multiple human rights violations. Beginning of an Era The United States sought to punish those responsible for these heinous crimes, but in the process committed many egregious human rights violations Since September 11, 2001, the United States has been charged with violating the UDHR, ICCPR, Geneva Conventions, Convention Against Torture, and ICERD The United States has engaged in the acts of unwarranted surveillance, racial profiling, extraordinary rendition and torture, the suspension of due process, extrajudicial killings, and unjust immigration detention. Security and Human Rights: A Balancing Act Security Human Rights Legal Loopholes The US passed over 40 pieces of legislation between 2001 and 2008 that were used to circumvent previous regulations and laws These new pieces of legislation not only violate domestic and international laws, but also the Constitution of the United States The checks and balances defined by the Constitution were systematically undermined by the Justice Department, granting them the power to pursue the perpetrators in every possible way. The judicial process and the wish of the majority were put aside in the name of security through the Geneva and Torture Memorandums. These legal opinions validated executive autonomy and released the US from international treaty obligations. More recently, President Obama called for the end of extraordinary rendition and the closing of CIA Black Sites, though he did not stop the process of rendition completely, still allowing for fair trial processes to be ignored. He also announced that the US would not try anyone who was thought to be involved in the rendition or torture process, perpetuating impunity and holding government officials above the law. However, this will not protect accused officials from foreign prosecution. One of the worst violations in this period was the violation of immigrants rights. Hundreds of Arab and Muslim immigrants were detained for long periods of time, often for simple offenses. Due process was suspended for many of these individuals and due to government secrecy and refusal to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act, the public was unaware of the widespread violations that were occurring. Human Rights are rooted in human dignity, making any violation of their fundamental tenets intolerable under any circumstances, including war. Human Rights are more than treaty-based obligations. They serve as moral guides for domestic and international affairs, acting as a standard for countries to follow. The Geneva and Torture Memorandums may have successfully exploited legal loopholes, but still represent grave ethical violations. The government's obligation is to protect the Human Rights of its citizens. It can only do so by pursuing those responsible for the attacks. Collective security is more important in times of public emergency and war. 9/11 made the US appear as a victim, giving it justification to defend American values. It also marked the return of "American Exceptionalism" and high levels of patriotism. The Bush administration leveraged citizens' fears in order to pass invasive legislation that placed national security concerns at the forefront of the national agenda. The US's goal during the War on Terror was to protect its citizens. In doing so it violated countless people's Human Rights. While the government admits violations took place, the lack of accountability indicates that there is not a clear consensus on whether security and human rights can coexist. Since there has been a historical pattern of security overpowering the need for rights, it is unclear whether a balance can ever truly be reached. Politics of Conflict The US has enough political clout to take advantage of this asymmetrical Human Rights enforcement system, allowing it to escape consequences and deny accountability. US government can be seen as hypocritical in its role as global leader for the advancement of Human Rights, while refusing to initiate domestic change, in the defense of "American Values." Current processes of Human Rights enforcement are politicized and often ineffective, some countries agree to participate knowing that they will not be held accountable. A strong political move for the US is to stand by its principles and rights because allowing the War on Terror to shift the US's domestic moral standards effectively lets the terrorists win and continues the image of hypocrisy. In order to restrain future behavior and close legal loopholes, changes would have to be made to the laws of armed conflict, not Human Rights. Peace and war are still very different circumstances and should continue to be governed by different sets of rules that overlap in fundamental areas. Since the violations are so widespread within the US government and involve so many leaders, several NGO's maintain that accountability can only come through independent and impartial court investigations. The failure of an intrinsic feature of constitutional governments, the checks and balances system, in a time of emergency highlights the greatest political implication of the War on Terror. The administration successfully leveraged the legal system in favor of security, allowing for human rights violations to not only occur, but remain unpunished. Even though the US has made efforts to move away from such contested policies, it is unwilling to accept the consequences of their wartime policies; it has given all government officials impunity, despite the results of in absentia trials occurring in other countries. "Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." Full transcript
-President George Bush "Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts"
-President George Bush “[Human Rights are] universal moral rights that increasingly inform our moral evaluations and proposed reforms of existing legal orders and political relations, both international and domestic”
-David Reidy “The open defiance—and gratuitous flouting—of international law and human rights by the United States has without doubt weakened the international norm-setting processes and undermined efforts at the enforcement of human rights”
-Makau Mutua "Any effort by Congress to regulate the interrogation of battlefield combatants would violate the Constitution’s sole vesting of the Commander-in-Chief authority in the President. . . . [Also unconstitutional] are laws that seek to prevent the President from gaining the intelligence he believes necessary to prevent attacks upon the United States"
-Justice Department Memorandum on Torture We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice... so we went to war against Al-Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.
-President Barack Obama