Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

This morning I listened to the BBC world news' latest podcast, and I heard a bit about some suicides at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Three of the detainees committed suicide a few days ago, hanging themselves from sheets. The three had previously been involved in hunger strikes. One was apparently due to be released in a few days, but hadn't been told.

Now what really truly amazes me is the comments of the guy in charge of Guantanamo Bay. Navy Rear-Admiral Harry Harris made the following statement about the deaths

"They are smart; they are creative; they are committed. They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

This is a pretty messed up statement. Few suicides are acts of violence against others (suicide bombers are the obvious exception). These most definitely aren't. These are people who have been held against will, without trial, without charge, without even the chance to talk to the red cross unsupervised. Their deaths are not an act of aggression. They were acts of desperation by men who no longer had control of their fates.

An act of war is a very specific set of actions. Acts of war are done on a nation-state level. I, personally cannot make an act of war. I, as a person, cannot declare war. No person, acting on their own behalf can commit an act of war. A prisoner committing suicide is not an act of war.

Harry Harris really needs to have a long think about the job he does and the things he says. Surely he must know that the rest of the world is not impressed with the existence of Guantanamo Bay. This sort of aggressive bullshit with no empathy with those being held by the guy in charge is not going to improve the way people think about the place. Harry's bosses should seriously think about how he's doing his job (although given who his bosses are, they may not think he has much to answer to).

Sydney Morning Herald

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Anonymous said...

A person representing a country can perpetrate an act of war. Its why you never put a soldier in a position where he could fire first when you don't want them to.

So if the guy was a taliban soldier he could of course perpetrate an act of war.

Esonlinji said...

But a soldier on the frontline is not acting on their own behalf, as you said they are representing their country. I would also point out that firing the first shot is an act against someone else.

A person held against their will for several years without charge or trial commiting suicide is firstly a private act of the individual and is also not an act against anyone else, and so should not be considered an act of war.