The recent polemic in the United Sates about the lack of rights of enemy combatants bring to the surface one of the most significant political debates of our time, the tension between human rights and the security of the State.
It is not a new problem. From the very irruption of modernity and its enlighted democratic creed, the western world has seen an expansion of free institutions, interrupted by periods of atavist reaction. Places like Auschwits, Dresden, Guernica and Hiroshima, among others, remind us of those moments in history that Hanna Arendt has called times of darkness.
But we have seen a process of true liberal formation, that is to say, of expanding liberties. In the United States, for example, the time of McCarthy at the start of the Cold War was followed by an impressive array of civil rights legislation that became a model to the free world.
Security versus freedom (image 01)
The events of 9-11, however, have exacerbated once again a general sense of danger and paranoia. An implacable enemy, the international terrorist, has come to life in the public mind, bringing about a policy of contention in which security considerations has come to dominate public policy. War on Terrorism, in other words, implies security by any means, taking precedence over civil rights considerations and humanist values.
Fortunately, the moral reserves of the American culture has organized an apposition to the official policy of restricting human rights, using the long tested liberal argument that real security comes from a climate of distention, not by raising barriers of exclusion or from State violence. In other words, the perceived conflict between freedom and security is not real; it merely masks justifications for imperial aggressive policies that weaken republican traditions and can only be implemented in a climate of fear and insecurity.
Security versus liberty (image 02)
Security versus liberty (image 03)
It is precisely the liberal values of peace, solidarity, human liberties and individual rights that sustain the opposition to an administration obsessed with security, global tension and implementing a war on terrorism. Therefore, we must applaud the recent decision of the Supreme Court about enemy combatants, which confirmed the basic notion that no one, not even the President, is above the law and that individual rights are indeed sacrosanct for the life of the Republic.
Author: Proyectos FPH
Published: September 24, 2010.
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