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BG Falcon Media

Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

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BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Torture by the United States vexing

Torture is an ugly word. Most U.S. citizens do not want to hear this word associated with actions of their government.

But they are also afraid. They want answers about terrorism and many trust the president enough to allow him room to use personal discretion concerning the human rights of detainees.

President George W. Bush has pushed for a green light from Congress, permitting freedom in his interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay.

Last Thursday, a bill was passed in the House of Representatives, and in the past week, it has been undergoing some slight modifications before it moves on to the Senate.

According to National Public Radio, critics fear this will give the president unilateral authority to authorize methods that many people would consider torture.

Students at BGSU seem to be wrestling with their consciences. For many, guaranteeing human rights is priority; but for others, the desire to combat terrorism is strong enough to motivate leniency.

“I think the line is physical harm, and if the bill doesn’t allow that, I think it makes sense,” said Crystal Gee, senior. “I support the actions of the president and trust that he’s doing his best.”

Kevin Mellot, a senior political science major, believes terrorists should not fall under the protection of the convention. He explained they are not enemy combatants representing a nation in uniform, and should be interrogated with as much force as is necessary.

But the nations who signed Geneva Conventions Treaty agreed to uphold humane treatment universally, regardless of the nature of the enemy, according to Jeffrey Peake, a political science professor.

The compromise legislation has two parts. First, it sets up guidelines on military trials in Guantanamo Bay, and second, it loosens U.S. policy in regard to Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions which prohibits torture.

The legislation has several notable points that are causing human rights groups to protest. According to CNN, protests have also erupted amongst former diplomats, lawyers and a GOP committee chairman.

The bill gives the president the power to “interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions.”

Some students on campus find the legislation disturbing.

Keri Stidham, sophomore, has family members serving in Iraq.

“The issue hits closer to home when you have connections to someone serving there,” she said.

She explained that the legislation frightens her because it sends a message to the international community that treatment of prisoners of war can be flexible. She also said this type of legislation builds on the already growing resentment of the U.S.

The bill does not allow detainees held by the U.S. at any overseas location to file a lawsuit challenging their detention, or claiming a violation of their rights under the Geneva Conventions. According to NPR, this could make it difficult to hold accountable those U.S. officials who do engage in torture.

The most appropriate argument against the bill is that the allowance of more open interpretation of the treaty by Bush represents the U.S. poorly in the international community, Peake said.

Bethany Simon-Straub, freshman, who has two family members serving in Iraq said she does not think the standards set by the Geneva Conventions should be open to revisions by Bush.

“I think it’s important for such big decisions to be collective,” she said.

The compromise legislation would also lessen the number of prohibited acts under the War Crimes Act, and protect civilians [such as CIA interrogators and White House officials] from being prosecuted for committing acts that would have been considered war crimes under the old definition.

There is also debate on whether “coercive interrogation” is humane.

Rachel Williams, sophomore, said she thinks that lines need to be clearly drawn against anything violating human dignity.

“I just wonder what kind of message we’re sending to the world when it is left open,” she said.

While the bill does not endorse torture and guarantees trial to detainees, there are allowances made in the bill that generate questions about what is humane, and how the United States is representing democratic values to the world.

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