Friday, February 24, 2006


A comment I made over at M.M. has caused a bit of backlash, so I want to explain what I mean. The comment was
"I just found Helen Duffy's The 'War on Terror' and the Framework of International Law on a shelf next to Primo Levi's The Drowned and the Saved. The resonance between the photo of Guantanamo Bay on the cover of one, and Auschwitz on the other has turned me right off my lunch."

That unhappy coincidence comes as the library's catalogue has 'Genocide' and 'The War on Terrorism' next to each other. Make of that what you will. Some commentators thought I was equating what the American's were doing to the Holocaust. I'm not. That would be very silly.

What I am doing is pointing out (as Fi does in her swift and ample defence of my musing) that surely the lesson from the Holocaust is there are ways in which no person, no matter how low one's opinion of them may be, should be treated.

International law recognises the prohibitions on slavery and genocide as two such non-derogable norms. But I'm not arguing this from a legalist point of view, but one of humanity.

A terrorist (and suspected terrorist) is a human being. Full stop, period, end of sentence. There can be no disagreement with that statement, no qualification put upon it.

Human beings cannot be treated in certain ways. The introduction to the edition of The Drowned and the Saved that I was perusing calls Levi's work an explicit lesson in humanity. Levi's better-known work is If this is a Man.

If the detainees in Guantanamo Bay are men (or women), then there are certain things you can't do to them. Putting them in cages and treating them as existing purely for the purpose of extracting information is one such thing.


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1:58 p.m.  

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