9/11 Unleashed a Global Storm of Human Rights...
“A post 9/11 world should cause us to ask some hard questions of ourselves and our world. We must ask: has the War on Terror really ended? If each of us reflects on our own society and also looks towards the rest of the world, it becomes clear that the architecture built from the ashes of 9/11 is all encompassing. Guantanamo is still open. The 39 remaining detainees exist there, waiting for justice.” Said Dr Adnan Siddiqui, a general practitioner in England and tutor at King’s College and director of the advocacy organisation CAGE.
“On a more prosaic level, Muslims must encounter the constant soundtrack of suspicion in our lives when we travel, or in the UK, when we must live under the slogan of suspicion and aggression. The Prevent program has spawned a multi-million pound cottage industry which has been foisted by the least trustworthy members of society on those society trusts the most: teachers, doctors and social workers. Also, whistle-blowers like Craig Murray and Julian Assange are imprisoned but those who led the War on Terror, Bush and Blair, remain walking free.” He continued.
Globally, Muslims are the primary victims of terrorism. Yet from the Bush to the Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations, Muslims as a whole were treated with varying degrees of suspicion, subjected to police surveillance, profiled for interrogation, targeted for entrapment, locked up as “material witnesses.”
The horror of the 9/11 attacks spawned an abusive reaction that reverberates to this day. Instead of reaffirming the human rights standards that prohibit such instrumental cruelty, the administration of President George W. Bush shredded them. The American people, appalled and frightened by the magnitude of the attacks, didn’t adequately push back. Often, because so much was done in secret, they didn’t even know, at least until much later.
White House lawyer John Yoo wrote the notorious torture memos to justify the unjustifiable. The brutal mistreatment of suspects, such as by waterboarding, was papered over with the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Bush’s Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, dismissed the Geneva Conventions as “quaint” and “obsolete.”
Beyond the abuses themselves, was the conceptual damage. Rather than using law enforcement means to address the horrible crimes of September 11, the Bush administration declared a “global war on terror” that extended to every corner of the earth, far beyond the borders of Afghanistan, where the Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, was believed to be hiding. That purportedly allowed detaining suspects found anywhere as “enemy combatants” without charge or trial until the “war” ended, meaning, potentially, forever. That laid the groundwork for indefinite detentions at Guantanamo Bay.
In the nearly 20 years since 9/11, the notorious military prison at Guantanamo has become a symbol of US human rights abuses. Many detainees – mostly Muslim men – were tortured or held for years and even decades without charges, trials or basic legal rights. One of a few dozen remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Moath al-Alwi who is a Yemeni national and was captured by Pakistani forces, has never been charged with any crime, and yet remains in prison. The US Supreme Court in 2019 turned down his petition without comment. “The fact that the prison remains open 20 years later is because of US partisan politics and, unfortunately, the prisoners there are hostages to that politics,” said Ramzi Kassem, a professor at the City University of New York School of Law who represents al-Alwi and another detainee still being held without charge at Guantanamo.
The “war” paradigm was also used to justify killing suspects wherever they were found, often on the flimsiest of evidence. By treating presumed terrorists as “combatants,” the US government justified killing them summarily, usually in strikes by drones or other aircraft, the way a combatant on a real battlefield could be attacked, even when they were far from any battlefield involving US forces, in places such as Yemen and Somalia.