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The WEB

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The student newspaper of, by, and for Ames High School.

The WEB

The student newspaper of, by, and for Ames High School.

The WEB

New Detainee Bill Violates Bill of Rights

“Nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Those are the last 6 words of the 8th Amendment of the Bill of Rights. It means, “No torture.” Or at least, it did- until Sept. 28, when the Senate approved the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The Detainee bill, as it has come to be called, is the result of a compromise primarily between Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and President Bush. From the Republican spin on it, it is painted as a picture that prevents torture while allowing interrogators to use effective methods of extracting information from prisoners. In reality, the Detainee bill is a violation of the Geneva Conventions and should be condemned. At first glance, the Detainee bill looks like it will improve human rights standards and prevent torture. However, this is not true at all. The WEB believes that the Detainee bill is a big step in the wrong direction, and an outrage on human dignity in and of itself. The first major problem with the Detainee bill is that it denies enemy combatants the right of Habeas Corpus (the right not to be imprisoned without charge). It is not at all unreasonable to allow “enemy combatants” to publicly question their imprisonment. What is unreasonable is holding detainees indefinitely without charge, and without the opportunity to bring their case to court. The term “enemy combatants” is a problem of its own. There is no definition of an “enemy combatant” anywhere. Neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has made any decision regarding who is an “enemy combatant” and who isn’t. With the current Detainee bill, it is up to the President to make this decision. It could be foreign civilians in their own countries, or it could even be citizens of the United States here at home. The Detainee bill also has a very limited definition of torture. There are countless loopholes that can and will be exploited, because our president claims not to understand the definition of torture. When referring to the Geneva Conventions, Bush said, “Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It’s very vague. What does that mean, ‘outrages upon human dignity’? That’s a statement that is wide open to interpretation.” The WEB does not believe that “outrages upon human dignity” is too vague at all. What happened at Abu Ghraib was an outrage upon human dignity that horrified the world. Somehow, we have forgotten about the man being walked like a dog, the human pyramid of naked prisoners, and the man standing on the box with electrodes attached to his testicles and hands in case he falls. There are countless other problems with the Detainee bill, but a larger issue is the fact that it passed 65-34. That means that nearly 2/3 of our senators decided it would be okay to allow human rights violations in the case of “enemy combatants.” We want to know why this is. The most common excuse for allowing torture is the scenario of some sort of imminent terrorist attack that only torture can prevent. What if there was a bomb about to go off that would kill millions of Americans? Would we allow torture then, if it could save all of those lives? We don’t know. What if that happened? Maybe we should just deal with it when the situation arises. What if a construction worker on a tall building accidentally dropped a brick, and a person walking by below was killed? Should we pass legislation outlawing construction? What if some bizarre situation arose where it would be beneficial to have anarchy? Should we legislate anarchy now, just in case that ever happens? The main reason people fall for the imminent terrorist attack scenario is because it seems so plausible… in entertainment media. The Siege, 24, The Sum of all Fears, all of these portray some terrorist plot that could be prevented with torture. In the real world, things are different. Torture is not an effective means for gaining information, nor is it necessary. 9/11 could have been prevented, yes, but we didn’t need torture to prevent it. We needed competent government officials who would realize the warning signs and act on the threat, rather than ignoring it.

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