10/6/14

Denial of Human Rights as Weapons of War

I recently read an important Op-Ed piece by in the New York times on human rights for prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay. I encourage everyone to read it and give thought to what is done in our name. Read the article here.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt talks about human rights not having meaning unless someone is there to secure those rights. She uses as an example, Jewish prisoners during the Holocaust. Because the German state did not deem them worthy of protection, they in essence had no rights. Furthermore, because no other state claimed them, no one was fighting for them, acknowledging that their rights were being violated and thus protecting them. Taking this idea back to Guantanamo Bay, if we want to take human rights seriously, we have to ask serious questions about how we treat those in our custody. Is holding these prisoners legal? Are we not critically asking this question because these prisoners aren’t deemed worthy of having human rights? Because we are holding them as enemies in the war on terror, we view them as combatants and thus not as individuals with human rights. However, it is because we do not view them as having human rights that we continue to hold them indefinitely. If the United States wants to be the type of country it imagines itself to be, it needs to work to ensure the protection of human rights for all individuals, regardless of what we may or may not think about them.