THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 157, January 21, 2002
by Caleb Paul
Call me what you like, but does anyone else find this latest Orwellian doublespeak profoundly disturbing?
Basically, the deal is that captured Taliban fighters aren't prisoners of war, but "unlawful combatants". Thus, the U.S. government sees itself as exempt from the Geneva Convention when dealing with them. It's carte blanche, do whatever the fuck you like to them.
I find this to be such a terrible thing, and I can only hope history condemns it as such. Unfortunately, I think Dubya will go down as one of the U.S.'s greatest presidents.
I have three inter-related problems with this.
The first problem is that two wrongs don't make a right. Whatever you think of these guys, they were soldiers. They surrendered. The Geneva Convention exists to make sure everyone obeys an established set of rules. I know that people are going to say that these guys didn't play fair, so all bets are off. There are two counter-arguments to that. Firstly, these guys were soldiers, not necessarily terrorists. The second is that the U.S. accepts a certain amount of "collateral damage" (in other words, the killing of innocent civilians) as unavoidable in this war, and also in its imperialistic foreign policies. Bear in mind that there has been no declaration of war from either side in this war. To then point the finger of righteousness and call one side a terrorist is a bit rich. Basically, I don't see that the U.S. is going to showcase its righteousness and the righteousness of its cause by acting in an unrighteous manner. Two wrongs don't make a right. If the U.S. were so righteous, it would have declared war, but I think it left that loophole open so that it could conduct not only a war on terror, but a war for (petty) revenge.
The second problem relates to the hypocrisy of this whole situation in another way. Whenever some two-bit dictatorship or fanatical organisation mistreats an American, the phrase "human rights abuse" is trumpeted loudly and clearly from D.C. Rightly so too. However, the U.S. obviously doesn't expect to be held accountable to the same standards it demands of others.
The third problem is this. Even if the U.S. doesn't give a fuck about any of that, in purely pragmatic terms of self-interest, it's a bad move. Firstly, the U.S. is likely to lose a lot of respect, if not support, from the rest of the west, especially Europe. As I mentioned above, you can't fight a righteous war (an oxymoron I know) by being unrighteous. "So who cares what Europe thinks?" I hear the average American say. Well, whether you care to admit it, we're all in this together. It's in America's interests to have European governments support it by providing intelligence, freezing assets of terrorists, and so on. If Europe is offside, they may refuse to help, or more likely, may be less enthusiastic, meaning they will take longer, and do less. That's not a beneficial relationship.
Secondly, in terms of other countries, particularly those sympathetic to, or harbouring, terrorists, this is a bad move also. They're going to hear my second problem above loud and clear, and this is going to antagonise and polarise them even more, which is not a great move for the U.S., in much the same as what I mentioned for Europe, only worse. It's also going perhaps inspire more fanatics in those countries, which may in turn lead to more terrorism. Following on from that, it's likely to make the hardliners even more hardline, and surrender would be even less likely in the future, since they know that won't be such a great way out. That has to be bad.
Still though, I love the term "unlawful combatants" it's really such a great way to say "Untermensch" in the new millennium, and justify treating others as sub-human. See, if only Hitler and Stalin had had terms like "unlawful combatants" or "human rights challenged" we'd all be recognising them as the fun lovin' guys and righteous dudes that they were!
Maybe it's about time the U.S.A. changed its name to the Fourth Reich or U.S.S.A.