On Sept. 26 students, faculty, and community members gathered to hear Harvard University Professor David Little give his perspective on these questions in a lecture titled "Religion, Terrorism, and National Security."
Little focused his talk on how the Bush administration has responded to post-Sept. 11 national security issues. Little was particularly critical of the current administrations handling of human rights and foreign policy in Iraq. Little noted the seriousness and possibly harmful consequences of the administrations willingness to act independently of the United Nations (UN).
"There has been no U.S. report to the UN justifying its suspension of human rights laws to certain détentes," Little said. "In all of Bushs speeches on the war on terrorism, he never once mentions an obligation to UN human rights laws."
Little cited concerns over the U.S. Patriot Act that President Bush signed last fall, allowing for broader powers to both domestic law enforcement and international intelligence agencies, saying that the act used arbitrary detention methods, a guilt by association rule, and unwarranted surveillance of potential persons of interest.
"There has been an array of complaints of how Guatanamo Bay prisoners are being treated," Little said. "The U.S. government will only half-heartedly apply the Geneva Accords after an outcry from human rights lobbyists and then there is only a selective application of these."
Little also made the statement that the U.Ss relaxation of human rights laws, as well as their overall interaction with the international community, could set a poor example for other nations. He noted Israel and their current dealings with the Palestinians as one instance.
As far as the Bush administrations handling of the Iraqi situation, Little suggested that the government was wrongly labeling Iraq as an imminent threat that necessitates military action.
"For the United States to abandon the UN and act outside its authorization would be a huge blow," Little said. "I think it is a grave concern as to how light-hearted the Bush administration seems to be in defying the UN. It displays an appalling lack of historical understanding as to the severity of such actions."
Questions were also raised by Little over what alternative motives the government might have for going into the Middle East, saying that a restructuring of the whole region could be a possible outcome.
Littles pessimistic assessment of the Bush administrations policy of national security resonated with students.
"He made several key points," Ashley Wallace 05 said. "His statements of concern over the United States acting outside of the United Nations were very valid."
Religion Professor Edmund Santurri, introduced Little to the audience, citing his experience in the field of religion and international relations.
"He is a dynamic thinker and speaker whom few scholars can match in his combination of theoretical sophistication and experience," Santurri said.