Human rights during War-Times The wording of the acts you can read but in effect, the administration is claiming executive rights that are quite extreme. Actually the United States in many respects is in the forefront of protecting civil rights, free speech and so on. On the other hand, it's record in the time of conflicts is quite poor. So during the first World War when there was really no threat to the country, the civil liberties were really crushed, Woodrow Wilson carried out what was called the Red Scare, in fact it was mostly after the war, which threw thousands of immigrants out of the country, put all sorts of people in jail including a leading figure in US labor history (Eugene Debs) was jailed for having raised some questions about Wilson's war. They blocked the postal services, they crushed labor and practically destroyed the free independant, the inquiry, During second war world wasn't that bad but also wasn't very pretty , and there have been other periods. So I wouldnt say the actions taken now are anywhere beyond the precedents and the other hand the arrogation of authority the claims that are being made been made for executive authority are quite extreme , so the executive has an enormous amount of surveillance and data collection, and data coordination, all done in secret of course, without any court orders or anything like that. They are also claiming the right in effect and in part, implementing that claim to put people in confinement in what amounts to military prisons without access to lawyers at no charge, and to hold them there indefinitely, no access to family, or lawyers, including American citizens. That's a very extreme measure. How far they can go with it depends on the popular reaction. But theres a definite tendency within the administration to try to impose a very rigid obedience on the population, to enforce conformity and obedience. To maintain the population under control so that they can pursue their own quite reactionary agenda, which is in fact pretty harmful to most of the population. Its not an attractive picture. I should say that George Bush supposedly has on his desk a bust of Winston Churchill that was given to him for his private collection from his friend Tony Blair, and it might not hurt if somebody in the Unites States will recall some of the Churchill comments on this matter, I don't remember the words exactly but its something like:To put a person in prison on no charge known to the law, and to keep him there without judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian societies whether Nazi or Communist.That's what the administration is claiming the right for, and it is in the highest degree odious. They claim that there is a threat, but Churchill was saying this in 1943, when the threat to Britain was vastly greater that any possible threat to the U.S., it was a threat to survival, in fact. His words were proper then, and they're far much more proper today. These are dangerous developments. I don't think they are going to get very far. But they are being applied shamelessly against vulnerable populations. But to my expectations, is that the mainstream of society will be too resilient to allow the efforts of the Ashcrofts to extend very far. Although they are already going to levels that are very hazardous. Orwellismes, Just War and Preventive War, Democracy Concepts that were often called Orwellisms, that is terms that are of a kind George Orwell discussed, phrases that are used in a sense which is different from, often oposite to their literal meaning - that's pretty standard. Maybe its more extensive today with more elaborate public relations and propaganda agencies than in the past, but the stance is familiar. So war is peace.. but Take the phrase defense department. Up until 1947, it was called the War Department, which is the correct term for it, it's the war department. As soon as it was changed to the name Defense Department, any reader of Orwell, or anyone sane, knew that US are not going to be involved in defense anymore, its going to be involved in attack. That's why you call it the defence departement. You read about defense expenditures, theyre really attack expenditures. That's a typical Orwellism. By now so deeply ingrained that people don't notice it anymore. Take the war on terror. The war on terror that was declared by the administration on Sept. 11th, was actually re-declared. That war had been declared 20 years earlier by pretty much the same people, when they came into office, in the Reagan administration. They're mostly a recycle from the Reagan administration. They came into office in 1981 declaring a war on terror, which very quickly became a major terrorist war. It left a horrible trail of bloodshed and torture and refugees and devastation throughout the main areas of their war on terror, central America and the Middle East, but also elsewhere. That shouldn't surprise us - when people announce a war on terror, you expect a terrorist war. No reason to expect much different this time. Its rather startling. The US and international commentary has not brought up or focused attention on the fact that the same people are redeclaring the war on terror, which they've already waged with horrifying consequences for their victims. Same rhetoric, same programs, even the same people. Terms like 'smart bombs', or something like that, that's a rather appropriate technical term. These are bombs that have built-in computational systems that enable them to very precisely attack specific targets. In that case, they're smarter than 'gravity bombs' that just fall wherever they fall. It doesn't mean that they're good, maybe they're terrible, but they're more intelligently designed. The notion of a 'just war' has become popular again, with the ballast of the history of the church and so on. There are many articles, profound articles on the principles of the just war, and so on and so forth. These articles have a number of interesting aspects to them. One is this: there is a very elementary principle to the just war, so elementary that no one even bothers to mention it. And that's the principle of universality. So if some resort to violence as legitimate for us, its also legitimate for everyone else. And if its wrong for them , its wrong for us. Unless you accept that principle, you cant have any talk about 'just war', or justice or good and evil, its just a bad joke. So we can ask ourselves to submit this substantial literature to investigation, see how it stands up when one applies the principle of universality. So for example, theres no question, we take for granted that the US bombing of Afganistan was a paradigm example of a just war. The bombing was undertaken officially in order to compel the government to turn over to the US people who the US suspected of participation in a criminal atrocity. Actually, 8 months later, the FBI inform the senate that they still only suspect them, they don't know. If the Taliban did not hand over to the US those whom the US suspected of a major crime, then the US would bomb the people of Afganistan. And that's taken to be a paridigm example of a just war. Well, try the principle of universality.. by that principle, the followers of the people of Nicaragua, and Cuba and Haiti, and I could give a long list of others, have every right to set off terrorist bombs in Washington and New York, where they can easily find people whom they not only suspect of carrying out terrorism against them, but they openly boast about it, up to the top leadership. Well, does anybody believe that that's right? Would it be a just war if they carried out these actions when in fact they'd be nuked, destroyed in 3 seconds, and certainly nobody including me would regard that as anything but outrageous. But then it follows that when the US does it to others, its also outrageous. Unless you can at least face that issue, maybe I'll think to a counter-argument.. but unless you can at least face that issue, talking about just war doesn't even rise to the level of hipocracy, it's just comical. And this is across the spectrum. Theres now talk about the right of the US about whether the US can carry out a pre-emptive, or what is sometimes called preventive war against Iraq, because Iraq poses, its claimed, a potential threat to the US. Well, first of all, the term 'preventive', the more serious people don't like 'pre-emptive', they want it to be called 'preventive', the doves call it a 'preventive war'. What it is preventing? Is Iraq about to attack the US, or for that matter, anyone else? Are the people in the region afraid that Iraq is going to attack them? Do you see for example that Kuwait and Iran, two countries that were invaded by Saddam Hussein, are they calling for an attack on Iraq, for preventive war? The people of the region, they hate him and revile him, but they don't fear him. They've been trying for several years now to mend fences, to reintegrate the Iraq back to the region, to improve relations between Iran and the neighboring states. Because they don't fear them. What they fear is the US, and with good reason. And what gives the right to the US to be proclaiming preventive war? That's what the doves claim, but they're not preventing anything. In fact, if you look at the military expenditures, of say, Iraq, or the neighboring countries, what you find is that Iraq is one of the weakest states in the region. Its military expenditures are about 1/3 those of Kuwait, which has 10% of its population, and far less than the other states, its surrounded by really dangerous countries. Turkey is a very powerful military force, Israel is one of the most powerful military forces in the world. Isreal claims, probably correctly, to have air and armed forces that are larger and technologically more advanced than any NATO power, outside the US. They undoubtedly have hundreds of nuclear weapons, probably chemical and biological weapons. Other states in the region, are not exactly benign. In fact, if the US does take over Iraq again, its very likely that its military expenditures will all go up, that its weapons of mass destruction may increase. The country has been devastated by sanctions. Most of the population is on a semi-starvation diet. Hundreds of thousands were killed, there's no doubt that Hussein is a horrible monster, he's just as horrible now as he was when the people in Washington were happily supporting him, and providing him with the means to develop weapons of mass destruction, well after he'd commited his worst atrocities, well after the war with Iran was over, just because he was their friend and ally. They don't really care about the atrocities. They certainly don't care about the dangers. He was more dangerous then. So where does the notion of 'preventive war' come from ? Even to just talk about it as the doves do is another Orwellism. Does the US have the right to attack a country that its leaders believe on whatever grounds, that it may someday be a threat to it? Well, if that principle stands, we might as well say goodbye to the human species, its going to wipe itself out in 3 minutes. Just about everyone in the world has the right to attack and destroy everyone else, who might be, someday, a potential threat to it. Actually, if you look at public opinion around the world, which is never, virtually never reported here, but known, I mean they are gallup poles, internationally and so on, the poles in Italy for example, and everywhere. Most of the world, apparently regards the US as the greatest threat to world peace. Even in Canada, right next door. A poll a couple of weeks ago found that well over a third of the population regarded the US as the greatest threat to world peace. Over twice as high as Iraq, North Korea, much higher than Al Qaida. Does that give Canada the right to attack the US? Should they set off explosions in NY hotel rooms because they regard US as a greatest threat to world peace? Something that is very common in Europe and substantial elsewhere. Of course not. The fact that people regard a country as a major threat to world peace doesn't give it a right to attack it. That's not a small threat. A threat to world peace on the part of a super power means a threat to human survival. We should not forget that, its not a small threat, it's a huge threat. But nobody believes that that provides a right of preventive war. So in what sense it is provided to the US? These are such gross violations to the principle of universality that's difficult to even talk about. Lets take a last example. Take the concept democracy. The US claims, not officially, but the line handed out to editorial writers, intellectuals is that we're going to bring about a wonderful democracy in Iraq. But what is the attitude of the leadership of the US towards democracy? For example, how are they showing that interest in democracy right now? at this minute? The last few days, the secretary of the defense, so called, Donald Rumsfeld, dismissed France and Germany to the ashcan of history, because they're just 'the old Europe'. What makes them the old Europe is that their leadership is paying some attention to the overwhelming will of their own population, and isn't following orders from Washington. That makes them the 'old Europe.' So we can get rid of them, because we love democracy. There's also a new Europe. 8 countries that offered some sort of support to the US. They showed much enthusiasm for that: that's the 'new Europe' supporting the US. Lets run through those countries one after the other, take Italy: Berlusconi would be delighted to be invited to be the third of the 3 B's. You know, Bush, Blair, Berlusconi, it may keep him out of jail for awhile. But what about the population of italy? I don't have to tell you - overwhelmingly, they opposed to the war. So that's the new Europe, because its Prime Minister is willing to dismiss with contempt the will of the population. How about Spain, yes, Aznar is willing to go along. Polls in Spain show that about 75% opposition to take part in a war even if the UN authorizes it and they find weapons of mass destruction. You run through the list, it's the same. There isn't a country on the list with the population supports that even comes close to supporting the position of the leaders who are cozying up to Washington. And that's supposed to demonstrate our love for democracy. Actually the most striking example is Turkey, Turkey is a very important country for this war, it's a Muslim state, its right on the border, it's a major US ally. The population, about 90% opposed to the war, according to the latest polls. Here there putting an enormous pressure, US are putting enormous pressure on Turkey, economic pressure, and other forms of coercion, to compel the government to violate the overwhelming will of the electorate. They just voted it in, to support the US war. And if the government goes along, they'll be praised as a wonderful democracy. What does this tell you about their conception of democracy? Tells you the same, and its very clear and simple. And its by no means the only exemple, it just happens to be very dramatic at this moment. Now try to find the editorials, or commentary by intellectual journals, that explain to you that these people have such profound hatred and contempt for democracy that theyre praising as democratic leaders who completely reject the overwhelming will of their own population. If those things aren't headlines, front page articles everywhere, it tells us something about the moral and intellectual culture of educated sectors. But I don't want to suggest this is the only example, it goes on and on. I mean these are the things that we ought to be paying attention to. What We can do You know it just happens that I have returned recently from Turkey and before that, Columbia, which happen to be the two leading recipients of US military aid apart from Israel and Egypt and both have horrible records of the repression, violence and terror, some of the worst of the current period. There what you find is great numbers of people, peasants, working people others leading, writers, journalists, you now, priest, academics, and others, who are not only protesting repression and harsh laws much worses than the patriot act and they are suffering for it, like years in prison or in Colombia asassinations. They are not only protesting it, they carry out regular civil disobedience against it and they put themselves at great risk. But they are not asking what to do about it, they are doing it. And in fact, we are lucky, we live in countries which are relatively free, the state has very limited capacity for recourse, the western industrial democracies, and not because they are nice people, but because there have been popular struggles over the centuries, which were simply about wanted a lot of freedom and now enjoy the results of those struggles, we have that freedom, and we now enjoy the results of those struggles with near impunity. So a huge range of actions are open to the people in the west and even a dictatorship has got to pay some attention to the will of the population if its actually articulated not only in words but in an actions. And that's surely true of more democratic societies so it's no reason to allow any violence and atrocities or repression to continue if we want to stop it.