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January 28, 2002 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-01-28

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, January 28, 2002

OP/ED

(ih]C atrh4r un:40atill

420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
daily.letters@umich.edu

EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STUDENTS AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
SINCE 1890

GEOFFREY GAGNON
Editor in Chief
MICHAEL GRASS
NICHOLAS WOOMER
Editorial Page Editors

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the Daily's
editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
<< An
appalling
pornographic
catalogue of
violence
- An Algerian security service investigator
who was quoted in Britain's the Guardian
newspaper on an al-Qaida recruitment video
that has been circulating in Britain's mosques.

YOU AMERIA~LA&KEEP 05
W rU4 NO FESPECT FbK

(ALL 4W A TENDENCY To i lALL
(OutSEL'ES AD ThOSE AMMD L~YOU-

IUMAj.I EIGHTS! . Wllt NO SPEC1r fo? UMU 60
}.

0

Breaking down Guantanamo
AMER G. ZAHR THE PROGRESSIVE PEN

0

s of yesterday, our
government is hold-
'mg about 160 peo-
ple at the American military
base in Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba. Their physical status
seems quite clear. They are
imprisoned, in quite ques-
tionable conditions. Many,
if not all, of their cells are
surrounded only by chain-link fences and cov-
ered atop by corrugated steel sheets. Physically,
they are prisoners. This seems quite clear.
Their legal status is, of course, in quite a
limbo. International human rights groups,
including the International Committee of the
Red Cross, have called the individuals kept at
Guantanamo Bay "prisoners of war." Our gov-
ernment, of course, continues to call them
"unlawful combatants" or "detainees." By refer-
ring to them in this terminology, they are, of
course, not recognizing that these prisoners have
any rights under international law, namely the
Geneva Conventions. The United States govern-
ment, our government, is a signatory to the
Geneva Conventions, meaning it has agreed to
abide by the rules and regulations set forth by
the international community.
When we actually take a look at the Geneva
Conventions, it helps us to narrow the debate on
the legal status of the individuals held in Cuba.
The Geneva Convention clearly states that an
individual becomes a prisoner of war if detained
while in uniform of an opposing country or a
member of a recognizable militia. This may not
make al-Qaida members prisoners of war, but
Taliban soldiers probably would qualify. But
what is even more pertinent in the Geneva Con-
vention is the clear statement of who is to deter-
mine the status of detained individuals. If there
is any question as to whether individuals

detained in combat are prisoners of war, signa-
tories to the Geneva Conventions, including our
government, are bound to treat them as if they,
were. The Geneva Convention then provides for
the creation of a council to determine the final
status of the detained persons.
This provision is extremely important. It
means that our Secretary of Defense, Donald
Rumsfeld and our president, George W. Bush
have absolutely no authority to be classifying
the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. If they
have a question, they must look to the Gene-
va Conventions to solve the problem. Inter-
national law, though, is also not having its
finest hour, as we have not yet heard of any
plans of the Geneva Convention to convene a
council to determine the status of the prison-
ers, as it is required to do. We can probably
safely assume that if there have been any
overtures by officials from the Geneva Con-
vention to create a council, our government
has been working behind the scenes to pre-
vent any such developments.
In other words, Rumsfeld has no right under
international law, which our government abides
by and helped create, to classify the prisoners
as "unlawful combatants" or "detainees." It
also seems quite silly whenever Rumsfeld or
the collection of talking heads on national
media begin to say that the prisoners we have
detained are being treated much better in our
care than they would be if they had remained in
Afghanistan. In justifying our treatment of
these prisoners, our Secretary of Defense and
many commentators have actually resorted to
comparing the way we treat prisoners to the
way forces and conditions in Afghanistan may
have treated. Comparing our practices with that
of a rag-tag militia should not be the measuring
stick with which to justify our actions to our
citizens and to the world.

In another interesting twist, it turns out that
our military presence in Cuba is quite unique in
nature. At most all of our military bases, U.S.
law applies. In other words, if you happen to be
a non-military individual at an American mili-
tary base in Germany, for instance, you have
recourse under U.S. law if your civil rights are
infringed in any way. Our base at Guantanamo
Bay, however, does not function under the same
rubric. Since we lease the land we use in Cuba
(under a lease which provides that the lease can-
not be terminated unless both parties agree,
which is why we have maintained a presence
there even during Castro's rule), the land of
Guantanamo Bay is technically Cuban. This
means that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay
cannot resort to American law if they believe
their civil rights have been abridged; and since
they have not been openly acknowledged as
prisoners of war, they also have no recourse
under international law in the event they wish to
make a case that their rights have been violated.
They effectually have no rights.
Yes, our country is still in a sensitive state
and may always be from now on. But the issues
arising in Guantanamo Bay are not a matter of
nicely treating a bunch of prisoners who are
determined to destroy America; rather, the issue
at hand is whether or not we are willing to set an
example and follow international law, even
when it is emotionally difficult to do so. We
cannot holler and scream when other countries
around the world violate human rights, when we
are not ourselves willing to lead the way. If any-
one is looking for a reason as to why much of
the international community dislikes our gov-
emnent, our handling of the Guantanamo Bay
prigoner dilemma is the prime illustration.-

0
0
0

Amer G. Zahr can be reached via
e-mail at zahrag@umich.edu

IV LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

0

WOLV censorship
insults the viewers
TO THE DAILY:
My name is Chris Fici, and I currently co-pro-
duce 3 Parking Spaces, a live comedy show that
airs on WOLV-TV (Channel 70 in all residence
halls) Thursday night at midnight. I'm writing
hopefully on behalf of all of my fellow producers
at WOLV, in the interest of our freedom of speech
and expression against recent censorship attempts
being forced upon WOLV.
University Housing, which is responsible for
funding WOLV, has recently demanded that cer-
tain shows on WOLV "tone down" their content in
order to follow a certain set of standards that the
station has set. These standards can be found at
http://www.wolv.org/Constitution.html.
In all honesty, some programs on WOLV
don't always follow these suggestions to the tee,
but it has never caused the station any harm in the
past. In essence, any "content which would offend
contemporary community standards and lacks seri-
ous educational, artistic, or scientific value" is
something that is very hard to define, and that
should't be defined by a single group like Univer-
sity Housing.
These same viewers are also free to contact
WOLV and complain about what they are seeing,
but so far, there has not been any mass attempt by
members of the viewing public to complain and
force changes in the content of certain shows on
WOLV. We like to believe that the intelligence of
our viewers should not be and is not insulted. If
they do not like what they are seeing, they are free
to either change the channel or complain.
So far, the programming at WOLV has been
met with a very positive and supportive reception
from the student community. It is the Housing
Department, which does not make up the opinion
of the student-viewing public, that dangles the
threat of pulling funding for WOLV so certain pro-
grams can be censored to their liking, without tak-
ing into consideration the opinions of the viewing
public and WOLV as a whole.
Hopefully, people can see beyond what may
be a "cut and dry" issue of rules and standards to
perceive a very real threat of unnecessary censor-
ship for the people who work very hard to create
the varied programming of WOLV. If you would
like to express your opinons on this, please e-mail
wolv@umich.edu or call (734) 763-8130.
CHRIs Fici

Transgendered bathrooms

protect 'treed
To THE DAILY:
I sat here at work this morning pondering
databases, contemplating what flavor tea to
drink, and perusing The Michigan Daily's
"Letters" section when I suddenly had to
sprint to the (gender specific) bathroom across
the hall to vomit.
This act of hurling was inspired by a
1/25/02 letter regarding gender-neutral bath-
rooms ("Transgender bathrooms make life
'uncomfortable"'). Are we so backwards as to
deny people the fundamental right of relieving
themselves? I know for a fact that several peo-
ple have complained about being physically
accosted or verbally abused in the bathroom
simply because of who they are.
I'm hoping the author missed the point of
creating these facilities and assumed that all
bathrooms would become big, open, stall-less
defecation chambers reminiscent of some
ancient Mongolian hole-in-the-earth. Otherwise,
he seems overly fearful of including one neutral
bathroom in a high-traffic building where any-
one can feel free to engage in a natural, neces-
sary, involuntary process.
I think it's not out of line to say that while
the right to urination is not included in any
law books, it's safe to assume that such rights
are guaranteed in the U.S.
In short, I encourage the young author to,
like me, continue using the gender-specific
restrooms that are already provided. No one is
going to handcuff anybody else to a uni-sex toi-
let and force him or her to use it at gunpoint.
Gender-specific restrooms will continue be
readily available for people to use. But I truly
hope that there is something less threatening
available for my transgendered friends.
EVAN HANSEN
Alumnus
To THE DAILY:
The only agenda at work in the establish-

om to urinate'
ment of gender-neutral bathrooms is that of
advancing the right of all community members
- even minority community members - to a
life free from harassment and bodily harm.
Readers should recognize this sentiment in the
Bill of Rights, as well as in the Division of
Student Affairs' principle of "human dignity
for each person." Freedom to urinate and void
one's bowels without verbal slurs or physical
attack is perhaps even more basic and essential
than one's right to free speech.
These bathrooms have nothing to do with
sexual orientation and everything to do with
the basic human rights that have been denied
to transgendered people for far too long.
There are students, lecturers, professors,
deans, and staff on this campus who do not
feel safe in gender-restricted bathrooms. For-
get comfort; this is an issue of safety. Com-
munity members have been physically
assaulted for using bathrooms where they
were perceived as not belonging. There is no
movement to convert all bathrooms to gen-
der-neutral, but having some bathrooms
available - even one per building - goes a
tremendous distance toward the University's
pledge of a safe and inclusive environment
for all community members.
If readers are uncomfortable with a per-
son of a different gender in the stall next to
them, they might consider asking themselves
why, especially since there are thousands of
gender-segregated bathrooms available for
general use. One might also consider educat-
ing one's self as to the difference between
gender and sexual orientation. Perhaps then
readers will come to recognize the need for
these bathrooms and the positive difference
they've made in the lives of many.
EuAS KAss
The letter writer is the president of
the Queer Engineers Discourse

_J 'O

health of everyone surrounding a smoker, is not
the only reason why this ban should be passed.
Smokers all too often leave disgusting cigarette
butts throughout the halls and promote safety
,risks and destruction of property. A resident of
South Quad myself, I have experienced a few too
varnv fire alarms of which T a m su r ea,,e

into this matter. In their Residence Hall Re-
Application brochures, they promote Residence
Halls as "The Perfect Choice." I, for one, am
returning to the resident halls next year, and
would like to see University Housing make the
dorms a little more "perfect" by eliminating
smoig

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