War on Terror & Human Rights the Essay

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War on Terror & Human Rights

The so-called "war on terror" -- initiated by former president George W. Bush after 9/11 -- has not succeeded in ending terrorism but it opened the door to numerous violations of human rights. A survey of verifiable, peer-reviewed sources in the literature show clearly that the Bush Administration and members of the military under Bush's command carried out human rights violations in the name of the "war on terror." In this paper instances of human rights violations by the United States -- based on the war on terror -- will be presented.

Violations of Human Rights by the U.S. In the "War on Terror"

The United States of America has stood for democracy and human rights in countless situations through the years. The U.S. has intervened in myriad international conflicts, especially when a tyrant was snuffing out a democratic movement, or an ally of the U.S. was being attacked or occupied by a foreign intruder. Outstanding examples of how American came to the aid of democracies in Europe -- in the face of enormous human rights violations -- are to be noted during World War I and in particular during World War II vis-a-vis Hitler's demonic death camps and other hideously inhumane tactics against Jews and others.

Meanwhile the issues to be addressed in this paper are the U.S. behavior vis-a-vis human rights after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States by al Qaeda. President George W. Bush could discern how angry -- and eager for retribution -- that Americans were at the brazen attack that killed thousands of people in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., and he pushed the "Patriot Act" through Congress. That was a legal way for Bush to attempt to find terrorists if they were lurking in the United States ready to attack again, and he used the Patriot Act to spy on Americans by intercepting phone messages through communication companies like Verizon and AT&T.

But the real issues as far as violating human rights in the war on terror are linked to covert actions Bush undertook, and actions taken by U.S. military personnel in Iraq who apparently believed it was okay to brutalize prisoners in the name of punishing terrorists or those suspected of terrorism in Iraq. Bush used controversial professor and attorney John C. Yoo to justify his actions that violated the U.S. Constitution. Yoo wrote a number of legal briefs for Bush that clearly are out of bounds in terms of democratic / constitutional values. For example, Yoo (with Bush attorney Robert J. Delahunty) wrote the following memo: "First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully" (Russomanno, Joseph, 2011, p. 19).

The Bush Administration asserted "…extraordinary post-9/11 powers" which led to "…such controversial policies as allowing the waterboarding [torturing] of terror suspects and permitting warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens" (Michael Isikoff, NBC News investigative reporter) (Russomanno, 19). A New York Times' editorial commented on memos that Yoo and other Bush attorneys wrote that "…make it chillingly clear how quickly [the Dept. Of Justice] was rededicated to finding ways for Mr. Bush to evade, twist, or ignore both…" the U.S. Constitution and the law (Russomanno, 20).

As the top lawyer in the Bush Administration's Office of Legal Council, Yoo wrote memos to Bush that apparently Bush accepted each time as his backup for actions that clearly violated the U.S. Constitution. A few of Yoo's assertions include: a) any statute attempting to "interfere with" the president's use of military force would be "unconstitutional"; b) "torture" is limited to those acts causing pain "…equivalent to the pain that would be associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting…will likely result"; c) waterboarding [torture] and "walling" [pushing an individual into a "flexible wall made of plywood] or "confinement with insects, sleep deprivation for up to eleven days… as well as combinations of these methods, do not constitute torture…"; and d) "the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the Taliban or al Qaeda operatives" (Alexander, p. 335).

When President Barack Obama released several memos that Yoo and other lawyers had prepared for Bush he said he did so because it was "…a time for reflection, not retribution" (MacAskill, 2009). The memos outlined ten techniques used by the CIA and other American operatives as the U.S. attempted…[continue]

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