Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Torture doesn't work, but that's not why it should be outlawed

One of the things I find most troubling about the conversation sparked by the release of the Senate’s report on CIA interrogation excesses is whether torture worked or not. Contrary to the evidence, the director of the CIA, Cheney, Bush and Congressional Republicans continue to argue that it worked and saved lives. They’re wrong, but is that point even relevant?

Let’s step back for a moment. When we go to our history books and look at the horrendous torture devices and techniques used during the Inquisition or by Nazis during WWII or even in less developed countries today, do we ever ask, “Did it work?” What abhors us about torture is the cruelty of it, and that was the basis for numerous international treaties after WWII banning the practice. From the United States’ perspective, the simple argument was that if we as a country allow torture, we have no moral authority to criticize other countries that use it, and it could be (and was) used against our soldiers.

That all got thrown out the window after 9/11. Fear trumped rationale thinking, and the Bush Administration was quick to condone anything that it thought might protect us from another terrorist attack, even torture, without thinking through the ramifications. Worse yet, the practice continued for years, even though the results were consistently unhelpful and experts in the field told the Administration it was a futile tactic.

Torture doesn’t work, and we knew that before the attacks on the Twin Towers, but that should not be the core argument against it. It is an inhuman, morally repugnant practice that debases everyone involved in it. Why fundamentalist Christians in this country seem to support it and validate its use is a topic for another posting. We as a country must strongly denounce it in word and deed if we are ever to be looked at with respect in the world community again.

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