Who-Given Rights?

I was listening to a podcast of Penn Jillette's radio show from a few days ago today and it sparked some thoughts.

Penn announced that last night, he had seen Dennis Miller pronounce "Guantanamo Bay" as "Gitmo" and that Mr. Miller had sounded pretty cool saying it. Wanting to sound cool as well, Penn decided to talk about "Gitmo" on his show. But then he was disappointed to realize that he knows a lot about monkeys and juggling but not much at all about detention camps. So he did something I respect a lot–he admitted he had minimal knowledge of anything at all about the place. He just allowed his listeners to call in to express their knowledge and opinions about the place.

I'm not sure I have a very strong opinion about "Gitmo" except that the prisoners are still people and should be treated like people. Other than that, I just don't know enough to make any kind of judgement. So don't expect this post to express my opinion. It's just a thought that is running around in my head while I try to corner it. Pardon me if I go in circles at some points.

It seems strange to me that an early justification for the war in Iraq was that everyone in every nation has the God-given right to democracy and freedom. Because these rights are for all humanity, it was justifiable to stop people like Saddam Hussein who were denying people those rights.

But now we have these detainees (I'm not sure how many of them are from Iraq and how many from Afghanistan, but for the purpose of this post it doesn't matter). There are arguments about how we should deal with those people. Some argue that they aren't American citizens so the due process clause of the Constitution doesn't apply to them. Others say that they are not actually prisoners of war because they don't wear a uniform or fight for a regular army.

Here's where I have to make an assumption (God made three, but He's three Persons. I think one is fair for me.) I assume the the many of the same people are making both of those arguments. I don't think the opponents of the war are the ones clamoring to keep people locked up in Cuba.

So how does this work? Do human beings have God-given universal rights to freedom and democracy? If they do, how do we justify locking them up indefinitely without being at least allowed some kind of "innocent until proven guilty"?

Or are these Founding Father-given rights guaranteed only to the people under the jursidiction of the Constitution? If so, how does that justify starting a war to bring those non-existent rights to people who aren't affected by the Constitution?

I guess I have kind of an opinion on this. I think all humans have a God-given right to a just society and the best government possible. But I'm not sure that is necessarily American, First Amendment-type rights. It would be awfully hard to argue that every government before the Constitution was absolutely immoral.

Other than that, I'm more interested in hearing people discuss this than in proving myself right. I could be wrong. Let's hear from the people.

1 comments on this foolish article:

Ryan said...

I completely agree with you on that. I think that the war was an eggregious misplacement of attention of a superpower, an act that simply made more people in the middle east angrier and angrier. And now we have Israel and Lebanon...

I really don't know that much about the intricacies of middle east foreign policy and I don't want to come off as a complete jackass but I just don't really understand what it has to do with us. We have incredible amounts of problems right here at home and I just think we should take care of our own before we take care of others, especially if the others don't even want our help especially much.