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4 Regent J. Intl' L. 223 (2006)


Safeguarding human rights in our "war" against terrorism is both the right and the smart thing to do. It is right because human rights embody our fundamental values as Americans and as Christians. Our Constitution stands for freedom; our Creator teaches us to respect the God-given dignity of each human soul. Christians are called to cherish human dignity, not only of innocents, and not only of captives in war whose status as combatant or civilian may be uncertain, but also of cardinal sinners, the terrorists themselves. Christ Jesus teaches us to hate the sin, but somehow to bring ourselves to love the sinner. Living up to this counter-intuitive teaching is not easy for mere mortals.

Fortunately, even if we may find it difficult to love terrorists in our hearts, experience teaches that respecting their human rights in our practice is the smart thing to do. Experience teaches that what little advantage we gain from brutality and lawlessness is not worth losing the moral high ground that alienates friend, foe, and neutral bystander alike.

The moral high ground is a front that matters in the "war" against terrorism. A1-Qaeda's main targets are not buildings and bodies, but hearts and minds. They toppled the World Trade Center and murdered three thousand people, not to put Wall Street out of business, but to send a message to millions worldwide. 9/11 had the effect of terrorizing some populations while rousing an indignant spirit in others. To win this "war," we must be at least as smart as our foes. The terrain we must seek to conquer is not mainly on the ground, but in the human mind. When Americans humiliate Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, they not only commit crimes, they also hand the terrorists a propaganda victory of immense proportion. We must be smarter. We must understand that only by showing a determined respect for human rights can we convince the world to stand with us. Moreover, by so doing, we will confirm that we see the soul of every child of God, friend or foe, as no less sacred than our own.


Reprinted with permission of Regent Journal of International Law.



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