Battlepanda: Untermenschen


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I think John of Dymaxion world has put his finger on exactly what we have done with our legal gymnastics of defining "terrorists" (in quotes because, you know, most of the people we round up are nothing of the sort) as "enemy combatants".
As Gwynne Dyer has written, the fact that we're now worrying about terrorists who, on their best day, killed 3,000 people when we used to worry about total global nuclear annihilation should be cause for rejoicing. Instead, we're now undoing any number of moral, legal, and intellectual safeguards against abuse by the state. [snip]

There are too many problems with torture to identify "one" and say it's the worst. I feel dirty even having to argue against it on practical or moral grounds. But what Ignatieff is ignoring is the human ability to define people as outside the moral community. The same mentality that allowed Nazi technicians to massacre Jews as a day job and go home to their devoted wives and children at night is exactly the mentality that allows, and indeed encourages, torture.

The United States is - as we speak - torturing people in Gitmo, in Iraq, and Afghanistan. Not to mention the unfortunates like Maher Arar who are tortured by proxy. This is being done against "terrorists" (mostly innocent, it turns out) when it was not done systematically against Communists or Fascists because we have defined "terrorism" as a barbaric act, and the terrorists themselves are therefore not deserving of the same protections that we extend to other criminals or even enemy soldiers.

This isn't philosophy, of course - this is the stated policy of the US government. Terrorists are not criminals or soldiers, they are something else that is not protected by the Geneva conventions or the various domestic laws that supposedly bind the US government.

The point is that the US has, philosophically and legally, defined terrorists as subhuman, or at least non-human in the sense that they are not entitled to the same human rights that we all have.

Emphasis mine.