The world needs a new champion of Liberty. This role was abdicated by the US under the Bush administration. And, while President Obama has the potential to revive it, even he seems hesitant to fully embrace what must be done.
Guantanamo Bay is a case in point. Scant week goes by without some controversy linked to the Guantanamo Bay prisons. Guantanamo Bay arises as an embarrassment because of a desire within the former administration, and no doubt still within various factions of the military and intelligence communities, to not necessarily treat detainees as prisoners of war subject to the Geneva conventions, nor even grant them the full protections of US law.
It is further perpetrated through a legal fiction that Guantanamo Bay, which is fully in US control and de facto within their sole and complete jurisdiction, is not “US soil,” and therefore, somehow, they can legally do things there that they couldn’t do “at home.”
The fact that they want to do things there that they couldn’t do at home is the problem.
A strict respect for human rights, and the fair, honourable, and decent treatment that was supposed to be the US hallmark, or at least granting all detainees all the bare protections of the Geneva conventions for prisoners of war would largely resolve this dilemma. The dilemma arises primarily because they want to have it both ways – to be seen as champions of human rights, without being constrained by them. It will vanish when they in fact live up to who they claim to be.
If the Guantanamo Bay prison was simply a straight-up prisoner-of-war camp pertaining to a declared alleged “War on Terror,” with no abuse, no draconian interrogations, and no equivocation about what is or is not torture, it would not be a major issue. They can’t have it both ways – they either stand for human rights or they don’t. Guantanamo Bay is an object lesson in how things can go awry when you lose track of who you are.
The world needs a new champion, a new symbol, of Liberty. The job is open, and there’s not much competition. This is a right and proper role for Canada, and, at the heart, fully on track with with who we are.
This will never happen under our current Conservative government but could be achieved under a Liberal government truly connecting with its own core values of fairness and openness and an abiding respect for human rights and dignity. These values, I contend, are indeed shared by Canadians as a whole, regardless of partisan boundaries.