I’m not an American citizen. I have never lived in the USA and I probably never will. I wasn’t going to write anything about 9/11 because I wasn’t there, it didn’t affect me personally. When it happened I was in my teens, I had just gotten home from my piano lesson and was sitting in my room, ignoring my homework and watching tv. Almost every tv channel was airing something about the World Trade Center. I watched in silence as the second plane hit. I watched as the towers fell. All around the world, the catastrophe was being aired live. I was young and couldn’t quite grasp the enormity of the situation, but regardless I knew that from that day on the world would be a different place.
And it was.
The Bush administration launched a war on terror. The target wasn’t the one group of truly evil people who had done this, but instead an entire country, full of civilians and innocents. Security was upgraded until the mere thought of people’s right to privacy was a joke. Suddenly everyone with Middle Eastern looks was a terrorist and treated as one. Airports installed full body scanners that produce an image of your naked body, and if you weren’t comfortable with someone looking at your naked form, you were forced to agree to a strip search. By a UN Resolution the entire world was cast into a permanent state of emergency where human rights could be derogated from, and was so in an arbitrary and wrongful way.
A horrendous event that should have united people, instead worked exactly as Al-Qaida wanted. Americans united, and while many wanted to leave it at that, many many more turned their united rage towards anyone who was male, young and had a beard. Terrorist suspects lost every right to be treated as human beings. While every person in the entire world has had their right to privacy violated in some way or other due to the security upgrades since 9/11, terrorist suspects have had their right to fair trial and right to life violated. They have been tortured and thrown into prison to rot without trial, with their right to representation completely ignored.
I’m not defending terrorists. They should be punished for their acts. I’m speaking for those people who are suspected of being a terrorist. That could be you or me. Anyone could be a terrorist suspect without actually having done anything. Just because a man is Muslim, young, of Middle Eastern descent and has a beard doesn’t make him any more terrorist than you or I. But he will without doubt be treated as one.
In the UK a “stop and search” technique was implemented after 9/11 where police officers stopped random people on the street if they seemed suspect, and searched them. Asian people were 3.6 times more likely to be stopped than white people. Black people where 4.3 times more likely to be stopped. In 2003 the 8.120 stops of pedestrians led to only 5 arrests. Incidentally, all of those arrested were white.
Terrorist suspects are being tortured right now. When the general public is asked for their opinion, a majority will think this is okay. What went wrong when it became okay to torture people? No matter how I look at it is torture morally or legally sane. Imagine a ticking bomb scenario. A person has admitted to having placed a time bomb somewhere. It is armed and ticking. Someone you love might be in danger. But the suspect won’t tell the authorities where the bomb is. Should the authorities use torture to make the suspect tell them where the bomb is?
If you said yes you probably referred to one of these arguments:
-the life of one person is less important than the lives of several people who might be in danger
-it’s the only way the suspect will tell authorities where the bomb is
-it’s okay as long as the authorities are doing it
However, there is no perfect knowledge. There is no way of knowing if there really is a bomb somewhere. Who should be allowed to asses the losses and benefits? How many lives justify a broken bone? How many lives for a torn out nail? How many women and children should be saved before the axe makes an appearance? In very rare occasions does torture produce truthful information, and if the person is innocent they will most likely start making up information just to get a break. Torture breaches the human dignity of the victim, as well as the torturer and everyone involved. Torture not only erodes professional ethics, it weighs on the minds of anyone who is forced to do it. And finally, torture is always prohibited; in national law, in human rights law and in humanitarian law.
My heart goes out to the victims of the events on 9/11 and their families. I hope that everyone responsible is brought to justice and punished. And I hope that everyone’s human rights are respected in the process. *