Monday, December 05, 2005

Is The War in Iraq a "Just War"?

By Noor M.
"No to America, No to Saddam” –Protestors in Baghdad after Friday prayers.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." —George Bush, Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

George W Bush has made some devastating mistakes in his “war against terrorism” that the Iraqi citizens are paying for with their lives. The U.S. led invasion in Iraq is far from just. In fact, I say it is UNjust because of a variety of reasons. However, some people consider war a necessary evil. Just war theorists believe there are a certain conditions that justify its occurrence. I will analyze the war in Iraq using these subjective conditions to determine whether the invasion of Iraq could be termed “just.”
The first condition to a “just war” is that the intervention’s basic intention must be just. The U.S. administration initially used the attack on the twin towers to justify the invasion to the American people. In his October 2002 speech George Bush said, “Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction. And he cannot be trusted. The risk is simply too great that he will use them, or provide them to a terror network.” This in fact was untrue, no weapons of mass destruction were or any active facilities building nuclear weapons were found in Iraq. Bush also claimed there were ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Quaida and once again this was proven untrue. A large part of the international community and certain Americans believe that the reason the U.S. invaded Iraq was because Iraq has the second largest deposits of oil in the Middle East. Could that be called a “just” intention? Or is stealth a more appropriate label? (Considering that the Iraqi Oil Ministry is heavily influenced by the American occupation to make decisions that favor U.S. policies).
The second condition to a “just war” is that the intervention be carried out by a legitimate authority. The United Nations has been given the difficult task of resolving conflicts between nations in our current system of anarchic world politics. A hegemonic power i.e. the United States is not a legitimate authority. That would be breaching the nation’s sovereignty—a consequence that must be avoided as decided by the international community since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The United Nations never sanctioned an invasion into Iraq; in fact, it was against the U.S.’s actions in Iraq. The U.S. administration set a dangerous precedent in Iraq by undermining the authority of United Nations—the solitary international organization founded to monitor relation between nations.
The third condition on just war states that intervention cannot be launched for immoral reasons under the guise of doing good. As I explained before the Bush administration falsely led the people in the United States into believing that Saddam was harboring weapons of mass destruction and that there was a direct connection between Hussein and the Al Quaida terrorists. The evidence presented that Hussein had bought Uranium from Niger to make a bomb was dismissed by the U.N. inspectors as crude forgeries. Are the people supporting the war not phased by the revelation of the absence of credible evidence? The spread of democracy and protection of the Iraqi people (questionable as these reasons are) seem to satiate the American population still supporting the war. Do those Americans not care that their president lied to them about going to war? Does the international perception of this disgusting lapse on part of the U.S. intelligence not bother them? I speculate the real reasons are in fact, money, power and credibility.
The fourth condition states that intervention must be the last resort; all peaceful alternatives must have been exhausted. I will not defend Hussein’s actions because I do believe in his philosophy. However, the United Nations did not approve the invasion of Iraq partly because the Security Council as a whole did not believe that all peaceful alternatives had been exhausted. The U.N. did not think the evidence presented by the U.S. was sufficient to breach Iraq’s sovereignty. More importantly, even if that were the case, the reasons given for invading Iraq were not true.
The fifth condition to a just war states that the intervention must have reasonable chance of success. The U.S. led invasion absolutely fulfills this one condition of a “just war.” However, simply fulfilling this condition does not justify the invasion of Iraq. On the contrary the U.S. was so much more powerful than Iraq that it makes the invasion more unjust. Iraq never really had much of a chance against the U.S. which is militarily stronger than the rest of the world combined. Does being militarily strong give a hegemonic nation the right to expect that the rest of the world will cater to its every demand?
The last condition of a just war is that the intervention’s cost must not exceed the importance of its outcome: the means & ends must be proportional. More than 2000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and the unofficial count for Iraqi civilians is between 20,000 and 30,000 people. The United States has also committed some appalling human rights abuses in the process of “combating terrorism.” Currently it holds 70,000 detainees captive all over the world! Is the spread of freedom and democracy in Iraq worth these lives? More importantly, is democracy exportable? If so, is Iraq ready for democracy? If Americans genuinely believe so, then they must now fulfill the responsibility they bestowed upon themselves by setting up the dangerous precedent of Iraq. They must protect the citizens of every nation that believes it is under the rule of an autocratic regime.
I rest my case. You can announce the verdict. Was the war in Iraq a “just war?”

Extra links:


By Iren A.
The problem with deciding if the war on Iraq is justified or not is that the proclaimed motives have changed since the beginning of the war. The decision to invade Iraq was announced when American people were wounded by the horrible events that occurred on September 11. Americans have never been more scared off Islam Fundamentalists and terrorism. So when President Bush announced that they had 'intelligence' that there might be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, suddenly there was no question about it. Eliminating Saddam would give the same satisfaction to some Americans as eliminating al Qaeda would. However, there were no weapons of mass destruction found.
One would think that after that everyone would realize that America went into Iraq for nothing. There was no proof that Saddam Hussein was connected to any of the terrorist groups that attacked/was planning to attack America. He didn't possess a threat against United States, since by now everyone knows that in the 21st century it is not possible to threaten or deter America without nuclear weapons. Then why did people still continued to support the war on Iraq? Because the Bush Administration suddenly presented a new motive for the war on Iraq. America might not have gone to Iraq for the right reasons, but they may as well stay there for the right reasons: humanitarian intervention. US is the only country that can take out Saddam, and save the Iraqi people from suffering, therefore it's the US's job to do it. It is our job to spread democracy, and give freedom to people around the world. But if that's the case, why doesn't US intervene in Sudan? When there are dictators around the world doing the same thing Saddam did, if not worse, why doesn't US invade those countries as well? Because we're already in Iraq. Then another question: was there really a genocide, a mass murder of civilians going on in Iraq that called for a humanitarian intervention?
First of all, if there was a genocide going on, it has been going on for a long time. For example, it was going on in 1988 when chemical weapons on Kurdish villages were dropped, or in 1991 when Bush supported Saddam on the war against Iran. [1] And humanitarian intervention would have been justified on those cases. However, the director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth argues that research shows in 2003 only "smaller scale killing" -torture, imprisonment, nothing more than America practices today on 'suspected' terrorists- was going on in Iraq. [1]
Even if there was a genocide going on, we know that America wouldn't intervene without trying other alternatives, or without the approval of the Security Counsel. In fact, waiting for the approval of UN is what delayed most Western countries, including US, to intervene in Rwanda. Is it just that when it's not to our own self-interest, we play with words so that we don't have to call it a genocide. But when it is to our own -self interest- we have no problem accepting it. Even Cheney highlighted the fact that one of the reasons America went to war was that Iraq was "seated atop ten percent of the world's oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies". [2] Then at least, we should show that if not the only motive-the dominant motive is humanitarian intervention, and it is in the best interest of the civilians, not dangerous to the civilians. In other words, when there is a humanitarian intervention going on, it must be done in a way that respects humanitarian laws-therefore not start fires in heavily populated areas, or when there is not enough intelligence that the target is going to be there, and other 'inexact methods' US uses. [1]
So around 30,000 Iraqi people and 2,000 US soldiers have been killed.[4] And it might even be worth it if even though the motives were all wrong, at the end Iraq would be at a better place than before. It will all be better if the democracy really works for Iraqi people. But is it really what they want? Are the American people helping by still controlling their lives? After interviewing Iraqi citizens, Nir Rosen concludes that: "As the occupation wears on, more and more Iraqis chafe at its failure to provide stability or even electricity, and they have grown to hate the explosions, gunfire, and constant war, and also the daily annoyances: having to wait the hours in traffic because the Americans have closed off half the city; having to sit in that traffic behind a U.S. military vehicle pointing its weapons at them; having to endure constant searches and arrests". [3] US is there because it wants to prevent civil war between Sunnis, Shi'ias and Kurds. But Rosen concludes that most Sunnis are fighting because of revenge: "Revenge for the destruction of their homes, for the shame they felt when Americans forced them to the ground and stepped on them, for the killing of their friends and relatives by U.S. soldiers either in combat or during raids". [3] He goes on to say that "Were America not in Iraq, Sunni leaders could negotiate and participate without fear that they themselves would be branded traitors and collaborators by their constituents". [3]
While we are criticizing the way Saddam and those other 'ignorant' people use force to get what they want, we're using the same methods. More and more terrorists see on TV the way Americans treat Islamic fundamentalists, and the more and more they think that they were right to think that America is really the enemy, they are really trying to eliminate Muslim people. And the more they want to harm that enemy, and take revenge for the way they treated other Muslims. 2001 will not be the last time America seriously suffers from terrorism. This summer will not be the last summer suicide bombers try to blow themselves up along with civilians in London.
So no, I don't think the war on Iraq is justified. Not just because the motives were wrong, a lot of people were killed, and human rights were violated. Because instead of eliminating terrorism, it is helping to spread it.
Works Consulted:
[1] Roth, Kenneth. "The War in Iraq: Justified as Humanitarian Intervention?", The Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Lectures on Ethics and Public Policy, April 20, 2004.
[2] Richard Cheney, United States Vice President, stated in his remarks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars 103rd National Convention on August 26, 2002,
[3]Rose, Nir. ""If America Left Iraq", The Atlantic Monthly, December 2005, p 42-46.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Gay rights = Special Rights?

Are Gay Rights, Special Rights? Why should homosexuals be allowed to marry? Why should they be given any special treatment against discrimination (employment, housing, education etc., etc.,?) What is does the "gay rights" movement stand for? The right to wear pink, purple of fushia? Aren't there more important things to worry about, other than whether "gays" have any special rights? What does being "gay" really mean? Is it a choice, biologically determined, or just an "in" thing to be? Are gays different from other human beings? Should they be treated with the same respect if they go against the covenants of the Bible, the Koran, or any other religious text?
Below, our guest blogger, Rachel H., offers some perspectives.

The Supreme Court believes that there is a constitutional right to marry. Yet homosexuals are not included in this group who have a constitutional right to marry. A majority of US citizens believe that gay people have different rights from heterosexuals; hence the re-election of Bush in 2004. Obviously that’s not the only reason he was re-elected, but same sex marriages was a hot topic for that election; Bush’s campaign appeared to be about the moral values of citizens. During that same election, eleven states amended same sex marriages through the ballot. People seem to fear homosexuals or else they would not be treating them like unwanted outcasts. It is much like when African Americans were struggling for essential rights; then it was white v. black, now it is gay v. straight. There seems to be a constant struggle for equal rights for all.
Diane Miller argues that there is no “other group of American citizens who are currently less protected under the U.S. Constitution than are gays and lesbians.” There are general amendments that obviously apply to everyone such as freedom of speech, but there is no specific amendment those focuses on giving homosexuals more rights as a group. I would like to think that in the next 20 an amendment will exist in the constitution specifically for same sex marriages. Unfortunately, it may take that for homosexuals to gain equal rights. Right now gay couples in Michigan “who work for the state are losing their benefits because of the vote to ban same sex marriages and similar unions.” All over the country bills are being passed to inhibit the rights of homosexuals.
In 2003 Lawrence v. Texas, two men were arrested for sodomy in their own home. The Supreme Court ruled that Texas could not make sodomy illegal between consenting adults. It’s a step in the right direction, but legally a same sex couple have no rights. If they decide to adopt a child, only one is the legal guardian and the other has no rights, if something happens to the other partner or to the child. That is what homosexuals are fighting for. They are not fighting for special rights; they are fighting for rights that are inherent in any heterosexual marriage. Although, many would disagree with my argument because they believe that homosexuals are something to be feared. It’s as though being gay or lesbian is contagious, and if you give them too many rights it will spread to everyone in the country. It’s ridiculous and without support or evidence.
Another important issue surrounding gay rights is the military. Originally, the military would not allow gay people in the army. Then Clinton developed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. It allows homosexuals to be in the army as long as they “convince their superiors that they were celibate.” It is absurd that homosexuals would be allowed to participate as long as no one knows their sexual orientation. Why is sexuality something to hide and be ashamed of? It is not something that a person can choose or change. It is an inherent quality a person is born with. Gay people do not want special rights, but citizens against gay marriages and such seem to understand gay people as special; therefore, they believe that gay people should have special rights. Evan Gerstmann’s book revolves around her argument that “the Constitution has, does, and should protect everyone’s fundamental right to marry the person of his or her choice…. This does not require gays and lesbians to ask for special rights or protections.” The constitution should protect homosexuals so they would not have to fight for equal rights. By Rachel H.

Works Cited

Gerstmann, Evan. Same Sex Marriage and the Constitution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Goodman, Ellen. “Must Gay Rights Wait for Our Comfort?” The Boston Globe. December 16, 2004.
Miller, Diane Helene. Freedom to Differ. New York: New York University Press, 1998.
Toobin, Jeffrey. “Sex and the Supremes”. The New Yorker. August 1, 2005.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What's Your Beef?

What's pissing you off? leaving you sleepless at nights? What do you think needs to change?
What are your needs, desires or pet peeves?
Drop a note!
Dr. D.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Torture Lite?

The United States is at a historic time right now. Vice-President Cheney is calling for a legalization of "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" -- sometimes called "torture lite". The justification pits liberty and security issues against one another. In other words, in order to preserve the security of the United States post 9-11, the argument goes, sometimes individual liberties have to be suspended. Two guest bloggers below, Victoria R., and Francis M offer their perspectives. The comic is from: images/ustortpics.jpg.

Torture Time by Victoria R.
Torture is the new pink. Lets face it, torture is used in more that 150 countries, criminals as well as criminal suspects have been subjected to torture in more than 130 countries, people have died as a result of torture in more than 80 countries, torture has been used against political prisoners in over 70 countries, torture has been used against non-violent demonstrations in over 70 countries (1) and these are just the cases that we know about.
On January 27th 2005, President Bush said, “torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that torture.” (2) Clearly, the times are changing. Not only is President Bush’s statement incorrect, but Vice President Cheney is currently trying to pass an initiative that would authorize cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners abroad, essentially promoting the use of torture by U.S. officials. (3)
The United States has always prided itself on being the most influential and powerful country in the world. So it is no surprise that “it has become the leader in the violation of human rights . . . As a society, we haven’t figured out what the rough rules are yet . . . It’s the law of the jungle. And right now we happen to be the strongest animal.” (2) The United States faces a new military threat, unlike one that we have ever seen. The emergence of rogue states with access to nuclear weapons as well as terrorists with global aims have rivaled the existing world order and has created the need for a new foreign policy.
In 1998 Congress passed legislation that made it illegal to “expel, extradite or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believe the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture.” Though when extraordinary rendition, a secret program created during the Clinton administration was created, the legislation was overridden. After 9/11 extraordinary rendition was the clear solution to dealing with terrorists. In fact, it was originally created to “detect, disrupt, and dismantle terrorist operations” (2) so what better policy could there be to deal with suspected terrorists? The United States has perfect allies to be our torture partners.
In 2002 the U.S. State Department human rights report for Egypt detailed detainee treatment: they were “stripped and blindfolded; suspended from a ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor; beaten with fists, whips, metal rods, or other objects; and doused with cold water and sexually assaulted.” (4) The United States had the intelligence regarding Egypt’s torture tactics and Egypt owes us for the large amount of foreign aid we give them, so it was a perfect situation.
Just like politics in the United States, torture has become bureaucratized. Instead of sending terrorists to other countries for them to do our dirty work and torture people who might have intelligence, we have decided to do it ourselves abroad. As more and more suspects were apprehended the US had to expand extradition locations as well as use resources like Guantanamo Bay, because after all, “once a detainees rights have been violated you absolutely can’t reinstate him into the court system.” (2) The United States could sleep easy because rough tactics have the possibility to save hundreds of lives. And even though “nine out of 10 people can be persuaded to talk with no ‘stress methods’ at all .. . [and] true of religiously motivated fanatics . . . that the ‘batting average’ might be lower: ‘perhaps six out of ten.’ [And] If you beat up the remaining four? ‘They'll just tell you anything to get you to stop." (5) Torture tactics for that one regular person or for those four religious fanatics are surely worth it for the possibility that lives may be saved.
Now that it has become public knowledge that extraordinary rendition is used and that enemy combatants are held and tortured at Guantanamo Bay, it is the next logical step for the United States to legalize the torture. Why have hidden black sites? Why not just come out and call them torture camps? “That’s the world these folks [terrorists] operate in. And its going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.” (2) Vice President Cheney makes a very valid point here, if they’re doing it there is no reason that we shouldn’t do it. It doesn’t matter that they are a rogue, stateless Terrorists and we are a DEMOCRACY. I mean “why is it so hard for people to understand that there is a category of behavior not covered by the legal system? . . . Historically there were people so bad that they were not given protection of the laws.” (2) Terrorist fit this category so they shouldn’t be protected under the law. And if your suspected of terrorist acts you shouldn’t be protected either. And if you know something or know someone who is a terrorist you shouldn’t be protected either. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
But one must stop and ask at some point, if we continue our policy of doing whatever it takes regardless of international laws, human rights, and treaties we have signed and continue to torture as many people as it takes to win the war on terrorism that maybe, just possibly, a barrier is crossed. What makes us different from Egypt or other countries that are known to torture? That we don’t torture on our soil? Or that we don’t torture our own citizens? If the United States takes a good look at herself she might realize that she has found an enemy that has no regard for human rights and has no problem killing innocent people. And if she looks even closer she will find that she has become a state that tortures, even publicly promotes torture and that there is no difference between the ruthless enemy and us. We are own worst enemy.

(1) "Torture Worldwide: An Affront to Human Dignity." Amnesty International USA. 18 October 2000. Amnesty International. .
(2) Jane, Mayer. "Outsourcing Torture." The New Yorker February 14 2005: 105-121.
(3) "Vice President for Torture." Washington Post 26 October 2005: A18.
(4): "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2002." U.S. Department of State. 31 March 2003. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
(5) Mark, Danner. "We Are All Torturers Now." The New York Times 6 January 2005.
Some good references:

Torture is Okay Sometimes, Francis M.

Throughout history torture has been used as a tool to get information or verbal knowledge out of an individual, and to this day we still use the same barbaric tactics. The question at hand is whether torture, torture lite, C.I.D (cruel, inhuman and degrading) H.C.I (Highly coercive interrogation) etc. are “sometimes” acceptable? The debate about torture has not been so much of a moral argument as it has been an empirical conclusion. Where to draw the line on the use of coercive force in interrogation is a pressing issue that has been endlessly debated.
The easiest solution is to band any kind of physical abuse. There are other tools and techniques that do not involve breaching our commitment to the Geneva Convention, the United National Convention Against Torture (ratified by the United States, with reservations, in 1994) and other no-torture agreements. There are other techniques that could be used that would not infringe on civil liberties, constitutional rights, and moral values. By signing agreements, we are making a statement of obligation to credence. When we sign than make our own ratification, our agreements are no longer legitimate.
The saying: “treat others the way you want to be treated” goes to show that if we are not capable of demonstrating the right way to treat people, then we should not expect it of others. Granted that this is just a notion that helps humans to harmonize and get along, but it also portrays a pretty accurate generality about human treatment. It is hard to say that if we treated every criminal or terrorist with equal liberties and rights that of a US citizen, that they would do the same. To justify this, we would be the bigger person in the end. In some senses, torture is stooping down to their level.
Even though torture has been around forever, there is still no evidence in which it has been proven to be 100% effective. If the administration is pushing for a “torture lite” resolution, at least there should be a compelling argument that it has been proven to be effective and efficient and that sufficient research has been conducted.
Public knowledge on this issue is also another major problem. If the public is not well versed on the issue, than do we just rely on the government to make these kinds of decisions for us. Mark Bowden argues
The public’s understanding of torture is too simplistic. While the ‘civilized would’ has condemned all forms of torture, Bowden explains that there are different kinds of torture- and different kinds of people who are subjected to it. There is a vast difference, Bowden writes, between using cattle prods to wring false confessions out of Chinese prisoners and using sleep deprivation and rough handling to get lifesaving information from captured terrorists. In fact, the word ‘torture’ does not even apply when interrogators employ only moderate physical and psychological pressure, Bowden argues; he and other prefer the term ‘coercion’.
This issue is tough to delineate a boundary and drawl a line through what is morally right and wrong. I do think that it is an obligation as a society as a whole to come to a conclusion and find some sort of moral honesty. The public awareness is lacking and this issue needs to be addressed more seriously.

Another problem that torture presents is that it just may be a “shortcut for a lazy or incompetent investigator.” It seems as though whenever torture is convenient, it maybe used, for example after 9-11. “The public is going to respond to the current circumstances. If Americans are angry, they’re going to favor torture. If they’re feeling comfortable and secure, they’re going to be against torture”
The easiest solution is to just ban torture or any form of it all together. If any kind of physical abuse is going to occur, than it should be at the risk of the inflictor and that should be the final ruling. Finding a balance between what is right and wrong is too complicated and there will always be violations. “If you open that door, then there’s no stopping it. Because everyone will use torture; everyone will assume that his or her circumstance is justified. As long as torture is banned, you can only employ it as your own risk.”

Zagorin, Adam (2005) “Haunted by ‘The Iceman’”,Time Madazine, 21 November, pp. 38-46.
“The Truth About Torture”, The Atlantic Monthly, September 11, 2003, pp 1-6.
Lelyveld, Joseph (2005) “Interrogating Ourselves”, The New York Times Magazine, 12 June, pp. 1-12
Beatty, Jack (2005) “Fighting Terrorism with Torture”, The Atlantic Monthly, 27 May, pp.1-2.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Face of Torture, by Susan Dicklitch

Torture is an ugly word. But what does it really look like? I recently found out when I sat through the testimony of a thirty-something Cameroonian woman who was seeking asylum in the United States.
Claudette (not her real name) clutched her hands nervously as she sat in the sterile immigration courtroom. She was surrounded by her support team, a Harvard-trained pro-bono lawyer working for a large law firm in Washington, a clinical psychologist specializing on victims of torture, a representative from C.A.i.R Coalition (Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition), and me, a country conditions expert on Cameroon.
Within two to three hours, Claudette would find out her fate – whether she would remain in the United States, or be deported back to Cameroon and possibly face more torture. It was no wonder that she was so nervous. Only one out of five asylum cases that are referred to an immigration judge are granted asylum.
It is estimated that about 5,000 asylum seekers are held in detention in the United States, awaiting their immigration court hearing. Since 1996 with the implementation of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), any asylum seeker who enters the United States without proper documentation is detained. Also, unlike criminal law, asylum seekers are not entitled to the equivalent of a public defender. If they can afford to hire a lawyer, or have pro-bono legal advice, they are lucky, if not, they have to present their case in an adversarial hearing, pro se, in front of a government trial attorney, and an Immigration Judge. Asylum seekers have to prove that they have both a subjectively and objectively credible “well-founded fear” of past persecution and/or future persecution.
Claudette had a better chance than most – she had a team of experts working for her, and she was not in detention.
But this was little consolation to Claudette who looked so frail and scared, struggling to retell her encounter with torture. She spoke of being forced to watch others being tortured, of being threatened with rape and electrocution of her private parts. She showed us scares from cigarette butts put out on her arm, and she recounted how she was forced to clean up the human feces left in the prison cells. It was the smell that still haunts her on a daily basis, so much so that she refuses to eat very much to avoid having to defecate.
She started to talk about her third and final detention in one of Cameroon’s most notorious prisons, La Gendarmerie du Lac. Because she was Francophone and required a government-issued translator, there was often a pregnant pause between questions from the Immigration Judge and the BICE (Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement) trial attorney, and the translated response. When the translator asked her to repeat herself at one point, Claudette lost it, screaming out, “du Lac”, “du Lac”, sobbing uncontrollably. Everyone in the courtroom froze, as Claudette gushed out a guttural “kkkkkk” sound, unable to stop reliving her traumatic experiences.
Thankfully, the Judge, sensing the inhumanity of making her continue with her testimony ordered everyone out of the courtroom except for Claudette’s psychologist. I sat in the waiting room with the others, avoiding their eyes, and trying to hide my tears, shocked by my own reaction to Claudette’s testimony. We tried to ignore the continuing shrieks coming from Courtroom 4.
But why would this soft-spoken, intelligent woman be subjected to torture by government security forces? Was she a terrorist, a freedom-fighter, or a threat to society?
Claudette was detained and tortured because she dared to express her political opinion. She had participated in political demonstrations in Cameroon against the government’s detention of a prominent journalist, and the murder of nine boys (the infamous Bependa 9) by a government-sponsored shady paramilitary group called the Operational Command.
I was intimately familiar with Claudette’s case, having read it many times whilst preparing my own affidavit in support of her asylum case. But I never felt her case.
All of us in that courtroom shared the anguish of having to watch Claudette relive her torture – what psychologists call secondary trauma. We shared the shame of humanity that allowed this to happen to this mother of two, but most of all, we shared an unspoken relief that we live in a country that continues to allow individuals to freely express their political opinion, and even protest in the streets without being arrested or detained.
Claudette was granted asylum that day, but she will never be free from the scars of her torture. We got off lucky that day, we just stared torture in the face.

Is Torture a Patriotic Act?

Abu Gharib, Guantanamo Bay, "black sites", "extradordinary rendition". Is this America? Is this the new post-9-11 reality that Americans have to become accustomed to? Is torture sometimes okay? -- Is it sometimes necessary, even, a "patriotic act"? Two guest bloggers this week, Rachel W., and Anthony P., offer their perspectives below.

Guantánamo Bay is NOT a disgrace to the United States.
Rachel W.

Since 2001, over 500 foreign citizens have been unlawfully detained at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. Dubbed “enemy combatants” by the U.S. government, these detainees have been imprisoned without undergoing due process of law. Only recently have military tribunals established by the U.S. government have begun to try prisoners. For the past three years, Guantánamo Bay has been an area of concern for human rights organizations because of reported poor treatment of detainees, allegations of torture, and violations of international law. However, these allegations have seemed to escape the minds of the American public, leaving Guantánamo Bay to the sideline in the War on Terror.
Guantánamo Bay is NOT an embarrassment to the United States. Generally speaking, the American government and American public do not seem to be disgraced by what has been referred to as the American “gulag.” As a result, is not the torture or illegal detainment that makes Guantánamo an embarrassment to Americans; it is rather the fact that Americans are seemingly unconcerned by the torture and illegal detainment that have been taking place at Guantánamo Bay. Simply stated, Guantánamo Bay is a disgrace because we do not consider it a disgrace.
Yet, we should be embarrassed, upset, and angry about the present issues relating to Guantánamo Bay. Issues such as the legality of detainment, the conditions of detainment, allegations of torture, and the U.S. attitude towards Guantanamo demonstrate the pressing importance of human rights at Guantánamo Bay and illustrate why Guantánamo Bay should be (and is) a disgrace to the United States.
First, is the legality of detainment. The detention of suspected “terrorists” at Guantánamo Bay is a violation of the Amendment V of the United States Constitution which states: “No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” As of January 2005, only four of the nearly 550 people detained at Guantánamo Bay had been charged of crimes.
[1] The U.S. Government presently argues that because the base is located in Cuba it is outside of U.S. Constitutional law. However, this practice is also a violation of international law.[2] The article V of the Geneva Convention also prohibits this:
Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

In 2004, in response to international scrutiny, the U.S. established a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT), which consist of panels of three military officers who determine each detainee’s status. International human rights organizations however, consider these tribunals incompetent and unacceptable as they are not proper courts of law.
[4] Furthermore, in November of 2004, a U.S. judge determined that the military commissions did violate the U.S. obligations under the Geneva Convention. A higher court later overturned this decision. Regardless of this, the detention of prisoners without due process of law continues to violate U.S. and International law. Amnesty International reports that:
In its more than 1,000 days of executive detentions, Guantánamo has become a
symbol of a government’s attempt to put itself above the law. The example it sets
is of a world where basic human rights are negotiable rather than universal. Such
a world, although built in the name of national security, is dangerous to us all.
The United States is putting itself above its own Constitution, but also above International Law and Conventions that it has promised to uphold. This presents a huge threat to the security of international human rights.
Perhaps more pressing than the legal issues of Guantánamo Bay are the human rights issues. Prisoners have been held in horrible conditions. Reports of poor conditions have surfaced from the Red Cross, human rights agencies, lawyers of detainees, and even from recently declassified FBI documents. The following statement was taken from an FBI e-mail correspondence:
Here is a brief summary of what I observed at GTMO. On a couple of occasions (sic), I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated (sic) on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more. On one occasion (sic), the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. When I asked the [military police guards] what was going on, I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment, and the detainee was not to be moved. On another occasion (sic), the A/C had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room probably well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night. ..”

In addition to dismal living conditions such as the ones described above, there have been several allegations of physical and mental torture. In March 2004, British citizens Tarek Dergoul was released from Guantánamo Bay. In an interview with a British newspaper, The Observer, Dergoul stated that the conditions of his detainment “included humiliation, prolonged exposure to intense heat and cold, sleep deprivation, being kept chained in painful positions, and the threat of 'rendition.'
[7] Other prisoners and human rights agencies support these claims. Detainees have begun to rebel against the conditions of their detainment by participating in a hunger strike. As of October 27, 2005, ABC news reported that the Pentagon estimated that 26 prisoners were on hunger strike, while the Centre for Constitutional rights estimated the number to be approximately 210 prisoners.[8] Many other sources point out that the number is higher than what the military reports. Another issue of abuse that has arisen from the hunger strike is force-feeding. Many of the strikers are being force-fed incorrectly and without care:
The repeated removal and insertion of the tubes has caused striking prisoners to vomit blood and experience intense pain they have equated with torture, the lawyers reported to a U.S. federal judge after visiting their clients at the base in eastern Cuba.

This has increased the very abuses the prisoners are protesting. From poor conditions to torture, human rights are being violated in Guantánamo Bay.
Yes--illegal detainment, horrible conditions, allegations of torture— Guantánamo Bay is atrocious. However, the real problem does not lie behind the barbed wire of the prison camp. It lies in the American people who continue to allow their government to continue mistreating people and worse, to justify poor treatment. It is a disgrace precisely because we do not feel disgraced by it. Why are we not in uproar? Why aren’t people protesting, writing letters, speaking out? Why do we sit complacently as our government passes legislative that prevents prisoners from appealing their detainment? Why do we sit quietly as our leaders try to pass an act to justify the use of torture by the CIA? Or more importantly, how do we justify to ourselves that all of these things are acceptable?
When we allow our government to justify torturous interrogation techniques in the name of national security, when we allow our government to call for a legalization of torture and to deny people their human rights---Guantánamo Bay becomes part of a larger human rights problem. It is representative of U.S. disrespect for international law and treaties, and subsequently, disrespect for international universal human rights.
If we do not hold our government responsible for upholding our own Constitution, who will? If we do not hold our government responsible for adhering to International Law, who will? If we do not stand up for human rights, who will? Whose fight is this?
Ours. This fight is our fight, as citizens of the U.S. We are the guardians of our own democracy, and it is our responsibility, our duty, as citizens of the United States and citizens of humanity, to ensure the protection of human rights for all, and to hold accountable those who continue to abuse them. We should not allow ourselves and our democracy to continue to be disgraced by the presence of places such as Guantánamo Bay. It is time we take democracy into our own hands, and stand up for what we believe in. Because until then we will continue to be disgraced not only by Guantánamo Bay, but also by our own inaction.

Anthony P.
“President Bush regards the defense and advancement of human rights as America’s special calling.” – former Secretary of State Colin Powell, February 25, 20041

If Mr. Powell is correct, the President is failing miserably to fulfill “America’s special calling.” The United States – under the guidance of President Bush – continues to detain, interrogate, and torture hundreds of so-called “enemy combatants” without charge, trial, or access to legal counsel at its naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in strict violation of international law. The egregious abuses of human rights and breaches of international law occurring at Guantánamo constitute yet another stain on America’s sullied human rights record.
The United States began holding Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists and enemy combatants at the temporary Camp X-ray at Guantánamo Bay in January of 2002, two weeks after a memo from the Justice Department advised the Department of Defense that foreigners held in Guantánamo would not be able to access US courts. By the end of April 2002, the more than 500 detainees representing 35 nations were moved to more permanent facilities at Camp Delta. Allegedly, to be detained at Camp Delta, an enemy prisoner must be deemed a threat to US security or believed to possess valuable intelligence and must meet only one of the following criteria: be a foreign national, have received training from al Qaeda, or have commanded 300 or more people.2 In May 2003, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer announced that President Bush decided that the Taliban detainees (but not the al Qaeda detainees) would be considered prisoners of war and treated in accordance with the tenets of the Geneva Convention; according to the Bush administration, detention standards for all Guantánamo detainees comply with the Geneva Convention,3 but reports on the conditions suggest otherwise.
In addition to being denied charge, access to legal counsel, and access to US courts, the prisoners are placed in solitary confinement in tiny cells (only about 50 square feet, which, to put it in perspective, is about 1/3 to 1/4 of the size of an F&M freshman dorm room), are denied visits from their families, have their mail heavily censored, and are subjected to brutal interrogation sessions and other practices amounting to torture. Until recently, the US has also prevented all non-governmental agencies – besides the International Community of the Red Cross – from visiting Guantánamo; just two weeks ago, the US finally invited five experts from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to do a study of Guantánamo but has denied them the ability to conduct private interviews with the detainees.4
In June 2004, the Supreme Court ruled in Rasul v. Bush that foreign nationals held at Guantánamo could challenge the legality of their detention in US courts but failed to spell out how this would occur. Amnesty International relates,
The administration responded to the Rasul decision by setting up Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs), panels of three military officers, to determine if each detainee was an “enemy combatant” as labeled. The detainee has no access to secret evidence used against him in this process or to legal counsel to assist him. The CSRT, meanwhile, can draw on evidence extracted under torture or other ill-treatment in making its determinations.5
These extrajudicial tribunals found in favor of only 38 of the 558 detainees they reviewed. Worse yet, the US has been avoiding any further attempts to get Guantánamo prisoners before US courts by releasing them to their home governments. To the chagrin of human rights experts, approximately 250 enemy combatants have already been returned to places with poor human rights records like Russia, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, and hundreds more Afghanis, Saudi Arabians, and Yemenis will be repatriated soon.6
The US must certainly stop repatriating the Guantánamo detainees for several reasons. First, America cannot consider advancing human rights its “special calling” if it is setting such a horrid, hypocritical example by “outsourcing” the detention of its prisoners to other countries with such awful human rights records. Amnesty International condemns this practice because it amounts to the US allowing “countries it annually criticizes in its State Department human rights reports [to] do its dirty work for it.”7 Moreover, America must halt the repatriations not only because it subjects the prisoners to worse conditions than they faced in Guantánamo but also because it presents a greater security threat to the US and the rest of the world. Deroy Murdock points out that at least 12 former Guantánamo detainees have committed terrorist acts after returning home, and several terrorists have already escaped from Yemeni prisons.8
More importantly, America must stop using Guantánamo as a decoy to divert attention from the other human rights abuses it is committing in the name of the “war on terror” (Guantánamo accounts for less than 1% of the total number of “war on terror” detainees that the US is holding at home and abroad9) and must bring the detention facilities there into compliance with international law. First of all, the US should allow the Guantánamo detainees to challenge the legality of their detention in the US District Courts (much like it does for the illegal aliens in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security) in order to truly comply with Article 9(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Supreme Court’s Rasul decision. Additionally, the US should pursue more than just a (false) rhetorical commitment to upholding the Convention Against Torture and actually end the use of torture and other cruel practices at Guantánamo, as well as formally charge any US soldiers responsible for such human rights abuses. Better yet, the US should formally charge and allocate for judicial trial all of its Guantánamo prisoners, and anyone who is acquitted must be allowed to return home (only a handful of the detainees have been charged and allocated for trial before special military commissions; acquittal does not guarantee release, and there is no appeal process10). Until the US takes these steps and stops violating human rights and international law, Guantánamo Bay will remain a huge disgrace to America and continue to erode our nation’s credibility in the domain of human rights.

1 Qtd. in “Despite Releases, Guantánamo Remains an Affront to the Rule of Law,” Amnesty
International, 27 Feb. 2004, 8 Nov. 2005 , 1.
2 Paraphrased from “Guantánamo Bay – Camp Delta,”, 12 Nov. 2005 .
3 Paraphrased from Fleischer, Ari, “Statement by the Press Secretary on the Geneva
Convention,” The White House 7 May 2003, 12 Nov. 2005 .
4 Paraphrased from “UN Human Rights Experts Welcome US Invitation to Guantánamo Bay but
Seek More Access,” UN News Centre 31 Oct. 2005, 12 Nov. 2005 .
5 “Guantánamo and Beyond: The Continuing Pursuit of Unchecked Executive Power,” Amnesty
International 13 May 2005, 8 Nov. 2005 , 2.
6 Paraphrased from “Empty Beds, Empty Stomachs,” The Economist 24 Sep. 2005, Lexis-Nexis,
11 Nov. 2005 .
7 “Guantánamo and Beyond,” 6.
8 Paraphrased from Murdock, Deroy, “Let Gitmo Be Gitmo,” National Review 30 Aug. 2005,
Lexis-Nexis, 11 Nov. 2005 .
9 See “Guantánamo and Beyond,” 4.
10 See “Despite Releases,” 2, and “Empty Beds.”

[1] Human Rights Watch. “Guantánamo: Three Years of Lawlessness. Detainees Still Held Indefinitely Without Basic Rights (Washington D.C., January 11, 2005)”
[2] Amnesty International. “Guantánamo Bay—a human rights scandal.
[3] Geneva Convention.
[4] Amnesty International. “Guantánamo: An Icon of Lawlessness.” January 6th, 2005.
[5] Amnesty International. “Guantánamo: An Icon of Lawlessness.” January 6th, 2005.
[6] Ibid.
[7] David Rose, “They tied me up like a beast and began kicking me.” The Observer, London, May 16, 2004.,6903,1217969,00.html
[8] (Reuters, Oct. 27th
[9] “Guantanamo Hunger Strikers Say Feeding Tubes Employed as Torture.” Associated Press, October 20, 2005. bin/print.cgi?file=/headlines05/1020-07.htm

Monday, November 07, 2005

American Democracy: R.I.P?

What has happened to American democracy and moral values? Since the terror attacks on 9/11, the media, congress, and the average American has turned its back on what once made this country so great. Accountability, transparency, and truth have fallen to the wayside.
The Bush Administration was able to engage the U.S. in a war based on fiction rather than fact. They spun a tale of weapons of mass destruction to a Congress that was shamefully more concerned about being perceived as unpatriotic rather than judicious. Over 2,000 American servicemen and women and over 26,000 Iraqi civilians have paid the price for the lies. Billions of dollars have been spent on building Iraqi democracy why American democracy slowly implodes at home from one scandal after another.
From torture in Abu Gharib, to the burning of Taliban bodies in Afghanistan, to CIA covert prisons, to Dick Cheney actively campaigning for the legalization of the use of torture by the CIA (even though we ratified the Convention Against Torture in 1994), our moral high ground is quickly eroding. If we continue down this route, we will be no better than the terrorists that we are supposed to be protecting America from. This is simply un-American.
As much as the Bush administration would like to spin the current scandals regarding the outing of the CIA agent into a partisan-motivated witch-hunt, it has nothing to do with being a Democrat or a Republican. It has to do with being American and being fed up with being lied to.
The media has also failed the American population. The press is supposed to serve as a gadfly to ensure that governments cannot pull the proverbial wool over the eyes of the public. But unfortunately, the American media has catered more to missing teenagers in Aruba, and the pathways of hurricanes than it has to the erosion of American civil liberties through the Patriot Act, and the injustices occurring in America’s name abroad.
But it would be too simple to put all the blame on the government or the media. After all, we are a democracy, not a dictatorship. Americans did vote Bush into the Presidency a second time. Perhaps Americans are too comfortable with the notion that things always work themselves out – our forefathers created as perfect a democracy as possible. But unfortunately, democracy does not work very well when apathy and ignorance are the defining characteristics of a population, and when Americans are too trusting of their leaders. Americans have to become more engaged in their democracy.
American democracy did not happen by accident, nor will it be destroyed by accident. Unless our Congress stops acting as a rubberstamp to the White House’s directives, unless the media becomes more courageous in questioning our lawmakers and the motives of the Bush administration, and unless the average American becomes more of a citizen than a subject, the things that we as Americans hold dear to our hearts: liberty, equality and justice for all, will be a mere epithet on the tombstone of American democracy.
Perhaps there still is hope for our system of checks and balances -- a form of government that has endured multiple challenges in its 229 years. The Senate sent a clear message to the President on Tuesday that they plan to get to the bottom of the White House use of pre-war intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. Additionally, a recent Zogby International poll found that 53 percent of Americans support an impeachment of President Bush if he lied about Iraq.
As Edmund Burke so famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing”.

FGM: A Human Right or a Human Wrong?

Female Circumcision, Female Genital Mutilation, Excision, Infibulation, Female Cutting: There are many different names for it, but like the labels, there is no agreement on whether it is "right" or "wrong". Is it too culturally sensitive to talk about? Does it fall within the purvue of "cultural relativism" -- does that make it okay? The idea that culture defines rights and dignity. Is it a Western feminist imposed onslaught against cultural relativism? Below, two guest bloggers Zahra W., and Lyndsey T offer up their opinions. The picture credit:

By Lyndsey T:

“No ethical defense can be made for preserving a cultural practice that damages women’s health and interferes with their sexuality.” –Nahld Toubia (qtd. in Althaus 133).

Ten-year old Hannah Koroma was led down to a river in a rural area of Sierra Leone to take part in what her grandmother described as a festive ceremony. Once she got to the river, two strong women dragged her into a nearby cave, stripped, bound, and shaved her. The drunken women sang as they diligently cut Hannah’s genitals with a dull knife, gagging her with cloth to prevent screaming. Warm cow dung was spread over the raw incisions and her legs were bound (Koroma 6). In the years that followed she suffered from chronic urinary tract infections, kidney complications, and hemorrhaging. Beforehand, Hannah knew little of the horrors that she would endure, yet she admits to having wanted to be circumcised because such women were more feminine, clean, and marriageable; a woman’s acceptance into her tribe depended on it (Koroma 7). Although female genital mutilation (FGM) has been an ingrained cultural practice for over 2000 years, the associated damages to the health and sexuality of women and their children make FGM an overt violation of human rights, which should no longer persist in any culture.
The physical and psychological effects of FGM are extremely grave and can result in death. FGM is the term used to describe the total (infibulation) or partial removal of the clitoris and labia minora (clitoridectomy or the lesser form, Sunni). This practice has been documented in all parts of the world, but is mostly prevalent in the Middle East and Africa. During the operation, typically performed on girls between the ages of 4-9, the genitals are cut with blunt instruments including scissors, broken glass, and tin lids by the village midwife or in rare cases a trained physician (Slack 442). Patients are almost never given a local anesthetic. During mutilation, excessive shock, hemorrhaging, the development of HIV, and damage to surrounding organs can occur due to the immense pain and the lack of sterilization. If the girl survives into adulthood, she is continually faced with risks: the long-term effects of bladder inflections, depression, sexual dysfunction, and sterility.
FGM compromises the sexuality and reproductive ability of a woman. Once a female is finished “healing” from her operation, some or most of the labia majora have been sewn together to conceal the incisions and only a pea-sized hole is left for the passage of menstrual blood and urine. For this reason first time intercourse can be an excruciating ordeal; husbands sometimes have to make incisions in order for intercourse and childbirth to be possible. Following either event the female often has to be restitched (Amnesty International 4). Continuous unskilled cutting and the lack of a clitoris serve to lower sexual desire. If sexual intercourse does occur, the infections resulting from female circumcision complicate initial fertilization, pregnancy, and birth. The fetus is often subjected “to a range of infectious diseases as well as facing the risk of having his or her head crushed in the damaged birth canal” (Althaus 132). The false but widespread belief that female circumcision actually results in increased fertility is just one of the many examples of misleading evidence that help perpetuate this gruesome process.
Proponents of FGM often cite culture and tradition in defense of the practice. While there are no apparent religious origins, FGM is believed to make a girl more docile and submissive, traits which most religions regard highly and associate with a marriageable female. “Circumcision makes women clean, promotes virginity and chastity, and guards young girls from sexual frustration by deadening their sexual appetite” (Amnesty International 5). In FGM societies there is a perception that the clitoris is repulsive and manly. A woman is to have it removed in order to obtain ultimate feminine beauty. Removal of the clitoris is also claimed to make the woman more clean and able to touch food, her husband, and give birth to a baby without pricking its fragile head. Along with clitoridectomy, infibulation, the circumcision of all external genitalia, is crucial in some cultures to ensure first and foremost that a woman is faithful prior to and during a marriage (Slack 445). These claims lack any supporting evidence. As is well known, the clitoris is a natural, harmless part of a female; contrary to widely circulated opinion, its pleasure increases sex drive, which therefore increases procreation. There is absolutely no evidence of the clitoris being the culprit of food contamination, manslaughter, or any of the other unsubstantiated claims. Furthermore, sewing the vagina closed does not guarantee marital fidelity, as a woman can be opened and closed again.
Yet, due to these cultural traditions, many women actually voluntarily choose to undergo the procedure. Subliminally, these practices are not voluntary, but rather mandatory actions which define the group and represent the gateway for a girl to gain full acceptance in her society. Many claim that Western views of FGM, including those stated by Amnesty International, the United Nations, and the World Health Organization, are ethnocentric and could destroy entire tribes. Despite that claim, I side with Nahld Toubi, a Sudanese physician, who believes that if women are to be equal and productive members in society, “no aspects of their physical, psychological, or sexual integrity can be compromised” (Althaus 133). To help save the two million girls at risk of circumcision every year, more than the lack of policy and enforcement need to be addressed; attitudes regarding economic and social injustice towards women needs to be challenged. There is something very wrong with allowing a society to take a girl, like young Hannah, and brutally cut her genitals. An eight year old does not have the capacity to understand that such a procedure, although a gateway to social acceptance, could in fact end her life.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Blah, Blah. Blah: General Comments

After several requests, I have finally decided to post a post for general comments. When making general comments unrelated to the blog entries from our guest bloggers, you can use this positing. This will enable a more concise extention of class room discussions & current events discussions unrelated to specific weekly blog entries!
Blog away my friends!
Dr. D.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The International Criminal Court is a Waste of Time & Money

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first ever permanent, treaty-based international criminal court, established to promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished -- at least that is what it is supposed to do according to the ICC homepage But can the ICC ever be successful with the United States clearing objecting to its existence? The ICC entered into force on July 1, 2002. Anyone who commits any of the crimes under the statute after July 1, 2002 will be liable for prosecution by the Court. What about those who commited crimes against humanity before July 1, 2002? These crimes include the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Our guest bloggers this week are Bryan S., and Rory R. Their opinons are expressed below:

Bryan S.:
Genocide: acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group. Crimes against humanity: acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack. War crimes: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health. Crimes of aggression: the use of force of one State against another, not justified by self-defense or other legally recognized exceptions. These atrocities are an affront to the international community; they violate the letter and the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When these grievous violations occur, the international community has a moral obligation to intervene to prevent more human rights violations, and they have an obligation to punish the violators and the conspirators who aided in the commission of those acts. The violation of international law requires adjudication in a competent international criminal tribunal to ensure that all guilty parties are brought to justice and to serve as a deterrent to future human rights violations. The International Criminal Court can serve this purpose, and contrary to the beliefs of its opponents and detractors, is in the best interest of the international community.
The International Criminal Court is a necessity for protecting the international values to which all nations ascribe. According to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “in the prospect of an international criminal court lies the promise of universal justice…. No state, no junta and no army anywhere can abuse human rights with impunity. Only then will the innocents of distant wars and conflicts know that they, too, may sleep under the cover of justice; that they too, have rights, and they those who violate those rights will be prosecuted (Driscoll 25).” Modern history has been marred by unspeakable violence, and there are cases in which the violators and the leaders of nations have fled to havens to live out the rest of their life. According to Douglass Cassel of Northwestern School of Law, there have been “no legal redress whatsoever for gross violations of human rights in 133 of 182 internal conflicts, including both civil wars and state terror and repression (Driscoll 111).” It is a mockery to the thousands of people of innocents who have lost their lives; it is a mockery to the thousands who have their lives destroyed, and it is a mockery to the international community that this is the case. A person who violates the rights and immunities that are granted to every person because he is a human being, he must be punished.
The protection of these rights is the responsibility of every United Nations member State; in the Preamble of the UN Charter, “the peoples of the United Nations…reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, [and] in the dignity and worth of the human person.” The value of the words that have been adopted in the Charter and other treaties of the United Nations have no value unless all persons, regardless of status or positions, recognize that their egregious actions will have consequences. Further, the international community must work to prevent further human rights violations. A functioning International Criminal Court can only serve as a deterrent to future atrocities, and as a means of closure for the victims of human rights violations. According to Cassel, the former head of the Civil Affairs of UNPROFOR, the UN mission in Yugoslavia during the 1990s stated, “Had their been, from the start in Yugoslavia, a high probability of judicial punishment for those who committed crimes against humanity, there would have been less barbarism … those who tried to mitigate some of the horrors …would have found their hands greatly strengthened (Driscoll 114).” The worse violators and persons who abetted their murderous policies will be brought to justice, and it will serve as a reminder that the international community will not for violations of rights of international citizens.
I am troubled by the unwillingness of the United States to accede to the jurisdiction of the ICC. The US policy is borne more out of protecting current and former policy makers who have enacted policies that constitute crimes against humanity. The US government opposed ICC jurisdiction in the Darfur crisis because, according to Undersecretary of State Pierre-Richard Prosper, “we don’t want to be party to legitimizing the ICC.” The US government has called for the creation of an ad hoc war crimes tribunal based in Tanzania. The Bush Administration fails to realize that the ICC would be the best avenue for prosecuting the atrocities that have occurred in Darfur, and an ad hoc tribunal would only work to continue to delay justice for the victims of Khartoum’s policy of trying to create an Islamic republic. An ad hoc tribunal would bring legitimacy to the proceedings, but why create another court when a competent court already exists? Further, the time that it creates an ad hoc tribunal is valuable time that will be wasted that could have been used in the pursuit of justice. There is no question that genocide and crimes against humanity have occurred and are still occurring in Darfur; both the United Nations and the United States have concluded that fact. The only remaining question now is punishing the actors. The crimes that the Janjaweed has committed, at the behest of the Sudanese government, against innocent civilians simply because of the color of their skin, and the leaders in the government who conspired to put this plan into action deserve to be brought to justice. However, there is no way that the Sudanese judicial system is competent enough to ensure a fair and impartial trial, so any trial held in Sudan would be a farce. It is for that reason that the International Criminal Court should have jurisdiction; the Court was created with the intention “to prosecute the most serious crimes of international concern, in cases where national authorities are unable or unwilling to do so (Driscoll 115).” The entire world recognizes the crisis in Darfur, and the only sure end to it will be an international solution.

Rory R.
“Is the ICC a waste of time and money?”

Can a permanent international court which deals with heinous crimes such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity be a waste of time and money? The International Criminal Court was established in 2002 with the aim to create a permanent court that would have the power to investigate severe acts against human rights, and prosecute the people found responsible for those acts. The creation of the ICC allows for the possibility of quicker investigations and actions than its predecessors, which were tribunals that were created after crimes against humanity were committed, such as the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It also allows for a formal international judicial law, which members of states must be accountable by.
While the ICC may be far from perfect, I feel that it is unreasonable to claim that the international court does not hold any importance, or is a waste of time and money. While the number of countries who have ratified the ICC and are members under its court is over 100, some very influential nations such as China, Israel, and the United States have declined to ratify the court. The reasons the U.S. gives for opposing the court range from the language of the court’s powers being to strong or vague in definition, to political beliefs and influence wrongfully determining which cases are chosen, and the loss of sovereignty by the state. While some of the issues that the U.S. and other countries are concerned about are valid points, it is important to note that this court has been in existence only since 2002. The ICC has yet to reach the time period where amendments could be made, and just this past month handed out its first warrants as a result of an investigation. It seems as if the U.S. and other nations are using excuses such as political influence to hide from the real reason we are not fully supporting the ICC. It is apparent that the U.S. does not want its own citizens or politicians tried or accused on any type of judicial court besides our own, even if the rest of the world is subjected to the international laws protecting human rights under the ICC. This stance by the U.S. seems hypocritical in the sense that the U.S. has shown in numerous conflicts in the 20th and 21st century that it has no problem imposing its beliefs and wills on other nations, if it meets our national interest.
Does that fact that powerful countries such as the U.S. aren’t members of the ICC make it unimportant and a waste? I think that while it would have made a strong impact having the U.S. join, I do not believe it takes away from any of the importance or power the ICC has. An international court such as the ICC can still become a strong deterrent to human injustices and help to punish those who commit the crimes.
Why is the ICC needed? Why is it so important? The creation of the ICC was a huge step towards protecting human rights, because of the ICC there is now a body of justice which will specifically investigate and prosecute the most heinous crimes, which in many cases in the past have gone without repercussion. Genocide and other acts against mankind are the worst possible crimes that can be committed, but in the past they were some of the hardest and most drawn out affairs to prosecute. Hopefully now as the ICC has been investigating crimes that have been brought to their attention, such as the Congo and Darfur, a sufficient case will be made and the ICC will prove that it can function as a strong judicial protector of human rights. Because while the ICC doesn’t have the right to prosecute until after a crime has been committed, if it can set a precedent of strong justice in protecting human rights, then the judicial body could eventually become a strong deterrent to crimes such as genocide. That is where I feel the biggest power of the ICC can eventually be, in not only punishing these crimes, but also helping to stop them from happening. That is why the ICC is important, and is not a waste of time and money.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Humanitarian Intervention is Overhyped

The Holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and now Darfur....Where are the blue helmets? What happened to legally binding international covenents like the Genocide convention? What happened to the importance of human rights, irrespective of where a human being lives? The UN has become useless because of politics within the security council (as if it ever was useful) and humanitarian intervention-- at least from the UN has been less than useful. We won't even get into the sexual abuse scandal of the blue helmets in the DRC. So what do we do with humanitarian intervention? Do we just let non-governmental organizations (NGOs) step in and pick up the pieces after a conflict, genocide, ethnic cleansing? Robyn Z., and Laura S., this week's guest bloggers have some ideas below.
(The above comic is from the Guardian ONline, Steve Bell, 2005)

Humanitarian Intervention, a purely laughing matter (By Robyn Z.)
Genocide in Rwanda, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, another genocide in Darfur, these are all terms and places that we are familiar with. There have been countless stories in our nightly news or our daily newspapers, but even if the world has been aware of these atrocities, what has been done to stop them? The answer to this question brings up another term that we are familiar with, humanitarian intervention. There’s a problem, so let’s deal with it through humanitarian intervention, right? Wrong. Humanitarian intervention is over-hyped and in many ways a complete joke. The true is. If humanitarian intervention worked so effectively, then why would stories of genocides or ethnic cleansing, or any other kind of mass slaughter continue to grace our headlines on a regular basis?
Before we can call humanitarian intervention a laughing matter, it’s best that we define it, and yet defining such a thing is often quite problematic. After the NATO intervention in Kosovo, humanitarian intervention has become a new justification for military action. Nations have agreed to obligations to protect human rights, which is stated so eloquently in many covenants written and signed by members of the United Nations. So a broad definition of humanitarian intervention is an armed intervention in another state, without the agreement of that state, to address a humanitarian disaster, or the threat thereof, in particular caused by grave and large scale violations of fundamental human rights.1 In this definition there are two main components. Number one, the sovereignty of the state that is being intervened in must be breached. And number two. the desire to address human rights violations must be the driving force in the intervention.
Ok, so we’ve defined humanitarian intervention. Now let’s look at some cases where humanitarian intervention was supposedly used. First up is Rwanda. Many of us know that between 500,000 and one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were hacked to death by machetes during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The international community was shocked by what happened in Rwanda, but what did they do about it? Since the nation gained its independence, tension in Rwanda has always run high between the Hutus and the Tutsis. So in 1994 when tension in the government continued to build, after peace agreements were signed, it was excused due to ethnic disagreements. Government officials of opposition parties were being assassinated on almost a routinely basis, but, “The UNAMIR force in Rwanda did nothing, it became clear to those in the Habyarimana regime planning the liquidation of opponents that they could act with impunity.”2 But according to our definition of humanitarian intervention there was no need to intervene, there was no large-scale violations of human rights. “But even after the slaughter began the actions of the west seemed to almost acquiesce in-and perhaps even further- the killings: western governments sent in troops only to save whites, then they withdrew.”3 So, in the case of Rwanda there was humanitarian intervention. Nations intervened long enough to get their people out, and then withdrew before anything bad could happen. Because let’s not forget, Rwanda portrayed Africa, and Africa was Somalia, and no one wanted to repeat the events of Somalia.
So, humanitarian intervention didn’t go so smoothly in the case of Rwanda, but we all swore never again. “Not on my watch, wrote President Bush in early September 2001, in the margin of a report on President Clinton’s limp response to the 1994 genocide…”4 And still irony strikes, because unfolding on Bush’s watch is another genocide that the west has turned their back on. Ok, maybe that isn’t entirely fair to say. President Bush has actually done more than any other world leader. The Bush administration has been instrumental in bringing about the December 31st permanent cease-fire. So there has been some helpful humanitarian intervention going on in Africa. However, if the humanitarian intervention is so effective, why does the body count in Darfur continue to rise every month?
The International Criminal Court has not completely stood idly by either. They created, with permission of the omnipotent Security Council, a commission to investigate war crimes in Darfur. The commission, however, “…stopped short of finding, ‘genocide’, an especially uncomfortable word for European leaders who-for all their human-rights rhetoric- have not lifted a finger to stop the atrocities.”5 The truth is that China and France are more interested in protecting their Sudan oil investments, and Russia rather protect its Sudan arms sales, than the Sudanese people. Even neighboring African states have refused to intervention. But that’s ok; it’s better to have self-interests in mind than to save the lives of thousands of innocent people.
So looking at these two cases, it doesn’t seem that this lofty idea of humanitarian intervention really works. But maybe it does, when we look at a country outside of Africa. In 1995, there was a humanitarian intervention in Bosnia. Although the intervention saved thousands of lives, it still begs the question of if it was the right thing to do. According to journalist Richard Holbrooke the answer is yes, “But even in Srebrenica, there has been progress since my last visit five years ago. Then only 10 brave-one might say recklessly brave- Muslim families had returned to their homes…Today 4,000 Muslims have returned...”6 So things have improved thanks to humanitarian intervention. There is peace in Bosnia, not just a cease-fire, so perhaps sending troops was the right thing to do. But sending the troops, even as part of NATO, took a great deal of political courage since there was a widespread feeling that the mission would fail. The mission worked though and proved everyone wrong, and without that intervention Bosnia might not have been able to survive.
So let’s give a big cheer because humanitarian intervention worked! Why then are two wanted war criminals still free to live their lives in public? Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic live their lives and remain free of any sort of punishment for their crimes in Bosnia. Yet, if these men are not brought to justice the international security force that is stationed in Bosnia may never be able to leave, and Bosnia’s goal of returning to a multi-ethnic society may be delayed or permanently prevented. Perhaps it’s a better idea to hold back that cheer for now.
So, humanitarian intervention, it’s a great thought, but obviously not a practical idea. It may have worked in Bosnia, but wanted war criminals still roam free. And it was a complete joke in Rwanda, where humanitarian intervention meant save the white people and then get out. The lives of thousands could have been saved if the UN had provided sufficient forces during the Rwandan genocide. So, we said never again, but what about Darfur? Doesn’t that fall into the category of never again? Everyone recognizes that there is thousands of innocent people being killed and in some cases have gone so far to label it genocide, but no one has actually done something to stop it. True, there is a cease-fire agreement, but people are still being slaughtered and raped in Darfur, so really nothing has changed. So, in summary humanitarian intervention is completely overrated and over-hyped. Perhaps it’s a better idea to call it what it actually is: humanitarian NON-intervention.

CSS Strategic Briefing Papers. Volume 5, Part 1, June 2000. ISSN 11757432.
Newbury, Catherine. Background to Genocide: Rwanda. A Journal of Opinion. Vol. 23 No.2, Rwanda, 1995. P. 16
Ibid., p.16
Taylor Jr., Stuart. Genocide in Darfur: A Crime Without Punishment. The Atlantic Online. February 22, 2005. P.1
Ibid., p. 1-2
Holbrooke, Richard. Forum: Was Bosnia Worth It? A service of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. July 24, 2005. P. 1

"Humanitarian intervention is over-hyped" (By Laura S.)

Darfur. Rwanda. Somalia. The call for humanitarian intervention is thrown out often in discussion of world crises. However, what people consider humanitarian intervention varies widely. For example, some considered the war in Iraq a humanitarian intervention, a statement I think many in our class would disagree with. The official definition, adopted by NATO in 1999, is "an armed intervention in another state, without the agreement of that state, to address (the threat of) a humanitarian disaster, in particular caused by grave and large-scale violations of fundamental human rights" (CSS). But the components of this definition, in my opinion, are what make humanitarian interventions so problematic (I think over-hyped is too strong an adjective). Too often, people talk of the need to "do something" without fully thinking about what needs to be done or the difficulty in doing so. I do not believe all humanitarian intervention is a waste of time, nor do I think that the United States should become isolationist and ignore the world's problems. But people forget the difficulties of humanitarian intervention, many of which the official definition hints at, in their calls for our government to take action.The first part of the definition says "armed intervention." This implies that any intervention needs some sort of power behind it. After all, compromise between two sides in a war, for example, happens "when both sides believe that they have more to lose than to gain from fighting.if compromise was not tolerable enough to avert war in the first place, it becomes even less attractive once large amounts of blood and treasure have been invested in a cause" (Betts 2). This is why some sort of force is usually necessary to achieve a desired goal. If one side or both sides felt the need to resort to arms in the first place, they are probably not going to be quick to lay them down. But even then, force behind an intervention is no guarantee of success. In Somalia, after the deaths of U.S. soldiers, Washington pulled out and left U.N. troops from other countries to finish the job (Betts 4). Even the might of the United States military does not guarantee success in another country's conflict or disaster.The next part of the definition says "without the agreement of that state." This brings up the question of sovereignty, always a touchy subject among nations. Most states recognize that "Without sovereignty as a fundamental principle, only international norms, balances-of-power, or domestic constraints would limit intervention in other states.preservation of sovereignty has been held up as an important component of a rules-based framework for international relations" (CSS). Because of the importance that is placed on sovereignty in world relations, states become much more hesitant to intervene in other state's affairs. This was one of the excuses given for lack of action in Rwanda (Lobel and Ratner).The third part of the definition is, "to address (the threat of) a humanitarian disaster." The threat of? This implies action should be taken before human rights violations have started or a disaster has occurred. Nations are reluctant to act even when violations have started, continued, and become genocide, such as in Rwanda. So nations are extremely unlikely to commit time, money, and manpower to the prevention of such a disaster. This unwillingness to practice disaster prevention is not just on the world level, as the failure of the levies in New Orleans in the face of Katrina illustrates. If we do not practice prevention in our own country, it is certainly unlikely we will be willing to practice it in other countries.Finally, the last part of the definition: "caused by grave and large-scale violations of fundamental human rights." What about China, North Korea, Iran, even Russia? All of these countries have participated in some degree of human rights violations. The State Department recognizes that Turkey has committed "flagrant" human rights violations against its Kurdish minority, yet the United States considers Turkey an ally in the Middle East (Lobel and Ratner). Yes, some violations of human rights are more grievous than others, such as genocide or torture. But arguments could be made for large-scale violations of human rights in these countries as well-are we willing to intervene?As I said above, I do not believe that the United States should become isolationist and ignore the world's problems. But a lot of careful thought needs to go into any action taken. According to Betts, the United States does not have a good track record in intervention because Washington has responded to the calls for intervention "by remaining mired in indecision and hamstrung by half-measures (Bosnia), facing failure and bailing out (Somalia), acting only after a long period of limited and misdirected pressure (Haiti), or holding back from action where more awesome disaster than anywhere else called for it (Rwanda)" (Betts 5-6). This is a rather harsh characterization of United States intervention, but it does illustrate the problems that can come about during prolonged involvement in other countries and the necessity of careful planning.

Betts, Richard. "The Delusion of Impartial Intervention." Foreign Affairs. Nov. 1994.

Heindenrich, John R. How to Prevent Genocide: A Guide for Policymakers, Scholars,and the Concerned Citizen. Praegar: Connecticut. 131-146.

"Humanitarian Intervention: Definitions and Criteria." CSS Strategic Briefing Papers.Volume 3; Part 1; June 2000.

Lobel, Jules and Michael Ratner. "Humanitarian Military Intervention."

Smith, Tony. "In Defense of Intervention." Foreign Affairs. Dec. 1994.