Point/Counterpoint pt1

Erin Roof

Government too quick to change rules

We are not living in the Wild West, contrary to what President Bush would like us to believe. Long gone are the days when cowboys could lasso and pistol whip villains without fear of the law. Today, the system of international law guards people’s human rights. But, as we’ve learned from the history of this administration, when it doesn’t like the rules, it simply rewrites them.

The U.S. military actively uses illegal torture methods to obtain information from captives of the war on terror. In Abu Ghraib, formerly one of the most feared prisons in Iraq, brutality never ended — it just changed faces.

Images from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal brought the horror into our homes. Pictures of men stacked in human pyramids and Private 1st Class Lynndie England, smiling as she abused detainees, informed us of the cruel reality of prisoners’ lives. But the photos censored from the American media are even more disturbing. Bush refused the release of photographs showing guards forcing Iraqi women to bare their breasts at gunpoint, another of U.S. guards having sex with a female prisoner and groups of men forced to masturbate.

These are also familiar scenes in the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where interrogators use attacks on detainees’ Muslim faith to break their resistance. A British prisoner released last year reports that U.S. military officials repeatedly paraded naked prostitutes in front of young Muslim men, many of whom had never seen a woman unveiled. Another recent scandal involved a female interrogator who wore a “uniform” of a miniskirt and thong underwear to question a Muslim witness. She then smeared red ink, posing as menstrual fluid, on his face before ordering him back to his cell where he was unable to wash. Muslim men are not allowed contact with menstruating women because they are considered unclean.

Though the Bush administration promises the war on terror is not a religious battle, the systematic use of the Muslim religion to take detainees to the breaking point proves otherwise.

The third Geneva Convention strictly forbids torture during war. It states prisoners of war cannot be threatened, insulted, coerced or inflicted with any form of mental or physical torture.

The military bypasses these standards by redefining torture itself. According to the U.S. Justice Department, an act can be described as torture if the inflicted pain is equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily functions or death.

The administration changes the rules to fit its goals. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales even chided that the Geneva Conventions were “quaint” while he crafted policies that led to the torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Bush’s generation was sickened by Viet Cong forces torturing U.S. troops. Today, as parents, they fear reading news of Iraqi insurgents decapitating soldiers. If we want our prisoners of war to be treated with the respect the Geneva Conventions afford, then we must follow the guidelines ourselves.

As the world’s only superpower, we must be a model for other nations by upholding the Geneva Conventions to ensure a future for human rights.

Erin Roof is a junior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].