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Napolean's Final Paper

When Justice Becomes a Little Sticky
Many international conflicts have occurred involving the United States of America in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Wars devastating the lives of multitudes of people ranging from World War I and World War II to the Vietnam and Korean War. During these different eras of time, life was difficult if one lived in the area of fighting, but it was even more difficult if a friend was caught in battle and became a prisoner of war. To prevent many modern-day conflicts, the United States government will incarcerate many foreign nationals suspected of terrorism without formal charges or the advice of an attorney, but is this course of action legal? It is legal for the government of the United States of America to hold foreign nationals without formal charges or the advice of an attorney for the security of the nation and the prisoner himself.
Although being a prisoner of war is usually associated with suffering many hardships, this is not true of the prisoners currently being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In the past history for a prisoner of war, the power it takes to further convince oneself that life should still be worth living becomes a harder feat daily. In the Second World War, many POW’s were victims of vicious biological testing. For example, China was taken over by the Japanese in the 1940’s and killed many ethnic Chinese by the use of biological agents, specifically botulism and anthrax. Many other tests such as cutting through vital veins or arteries and then timing how long it took the victim to die were just commonplace experiments used by the “Japanese Doctors”. Although this was a tragic set of events, Japan gave cash settlements to one thousand Chinese prisoners in the “bad working conditions” in violation of the 1907 Hague Convention. These events in Japan were mirrored in Germany by the Nazi scientists at the concentration camps. Nazi scientists’ would then choose those in the camp that were “undesirable” and perform tests on them such as testing the physical limits of the human body with pressure tests, to compare the effectiveness of different vaccines by injecting the captive with the disease, and testing how long it takes a person to die in a certain temperature water. These horrific pictures seem to embody what many view as a prisoner of war. When one remembers the atrocious conditions that so many POW’s have suffered through, being in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba does not seem that bad, for the prisoners are given food and not treated unfairly as in most other countries. Although one can argue that prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have been harassed by many soldiers, the leaders in the United States have made it clear that they do not condone these actions and have done what it takes in their power to make further harassment cease. With respect to being a prisoner of war in another country, the views and actions of the leaders in America show that the human rights of incarcerated foreign nationals are being upheld.
Also, the foreign nationals that are being held in Guantanamo Bay are incarcerated for the security of not only the United States but the world. Those that are incarcerated have been caught around the world promoting terrorism by further hindering America’s troops to carry out their duties. Many people seem to believe that the prisoners of war are being mistreated, which does have some evidence to it. One has to remember though, Al Qaeda is videotaping decapitations of United States servicemen and whatever may be happening in Guantanamo Bay is not even close to the severity of what is happening to those taken prisoner in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another prevalent argument is that these detainees at least need a speedy trial as specified by the sixth amendment. These detainees are not U.S. citizens; therefore they should not be given the rights that a United States citizen holds. For this reason, the detained cannot invoke the right to the sixth amendment (the right to a speedy public trial) the same as they cannot invoke the right to the second amendment (the right to bear arms). Let’s suppose that the United States has a mass trial of every single person that was detained and gave the full justice at the present moment, many would be given the death penalty, many would be given prison sentences, and a few would be released. Can the detainees get the justice they deserve while there is still combat occurring in Afghanistan and Iraq? The answer is simple; no they cannot get the justice they deserve. It would not be reasonable to the detainees if they were to be judged by American judges who that morning read about another beheading in Iraq. By delaying the trial, the detainees can get the justice they deserve and the world can receive the security they desire. Since the foreign nationals do not pay taxes in the United States, should they be given attorneys at the United States taxpayer’s expense? Just as in any court of law, the accused should be given the right to an attorney to ensure a fair trial. Furthermore if these prisoners were to be released at the present time, there is a good chance that these men would return and be fighting the United States troops again in Iraq. By holding the foreign nationals in confinement, the United States and the world have become a safer place as is evident in the decreased attacks against the troops of America in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In October of 1950, the Geneva Convention established one hundred forty three articles which provided a written account of how a prisoner of war is to be treated. As a quick summary, prisoners of war should be in a safe place, given food, given clothing, medical attention, granted religious activities, and physical activities. It is legal to hold prisoners of war if the articles in the Geneva Convention are fulfilled. With regards to the current situation of POW’s, they are all given these basic rights as human individuals. Although some of the workers at Guantanamo Bay have abused the prisoners, the proper punishment was given to the American serviceman or servicewoman. The current holding of detainees does not break the law that provides for their rights.
It is legal to incarcerate foreign nationals without formal charges or the advice of an attorney for security reasons and the rights of the accused to have a fair trial. Does that mean that foreign nationals can be held without limit and a trial to formally charge them with a crime? No, prisoners do deserve the right to a trial, but if the time is not right for security reasons or the trial will be biased, it is not worth having the trial at that current time. Prisoners have rights as well and those rights need to be protected as well as the rights of the people of the world. Hopefully, these conflicts in which prisoners are imprisoned will not exist in the future. The tragedies of war have led to many downsides in our current world that can only be aided through the reoccurring theme of a lasting peace. At that time, the rights of incarcerated foreign nationals will never be a question in society leading the human race to seek higher advances in more important genres of life.

Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg. 1982. Plague Wars: The Terrifying Reality of Biological Warfare. New York, NY. St Martin’s Press.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War” [web page] 1997-2002; [Accessed 17 Feb 2005].

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