Sunday, October 12, 2003

"These individuals are terrorists"

The above claim is a central plank of the White House's defence of Guantanamo. The implication behind it is that terrorists are not deserving of human rights, and that whatever we do to them is acceptable. I utterly reject that position, but even if we were to grant it, the American Gulag would still not be acceptable, because not everyone detained is a terrorist. So far, those released from Guantanamo have included taxi drivers, old men, and ordinary, random people. These people - innocent people, not terrorists - were detained for up to nine months before the American authorities decided that they really were harmless and let them go.

In other words, Guantanamo's arbitrary detention punishes the innocent and guilty alike. It punishes non-terrorists as well as terrorists, without trial, without any defence, and without even an apology if they get it wrong. Even those who think that terrorists have no rights ought to be ashamed of that.