Why the U.S. Cannot Torture

This is something I wrote sophomore year of high school just after Obama’s election. Torture became a big issue for me and still is, and I figure that with the election tomorrow and the prospect of torture coming back as official U.S. policy, there is no better time for this.

Ever since the atrocities of the Second World War, and every war after, there has been international laws and treaties signed by the United States and supporters of the United Nations in attempt to ban the acts of torture and crimes against humanity. These are defined by the United Nations Convention Against Torture as,“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions.” To be blunt, anyone who approves or commits torture under this treaty is subject to international court and heavy penalty through incarceration or death.  In the years after World War II, Japanese officers were put on trial and sentenced to death for water boarding American and Chinese prisoners. Yet in the past eight years, the bush administration and Justice Department have knowingly and willfully disobeyed international law and lied directly to the world about doing so, since 2003. It is my sincere hope that we the United States not only ban torture to an entirety, but investigate the crimes and direct opposition to international law done by anyone in our government, Republican or Democrat.

In 2001, the terrorist group Al Qaeda launched an attack against various points within the United States, prompting frenzy within the Bush White house to invade Afghanistan to root out the bases and training camp of this group, within full American support. Then in 2003, the bush administration concluded that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It is important for bystanders to take note of several things here. After the terrorists attacks of 2001, the United States and its citizens were in a fear stricken state that consumed them and allowed the Bush administration to do almost anything it wanted to with simple accusations with implications of another attack, saying things like if we did not do as their intelligence suggested, we could be attacked again. Next, it is clear from political decisions by both Bush administrations of intense dislike and hatred of Saddam Hussein and his regime, giving a pretense for tensions. Iraq had a military that is severely weakened and under armed due to events such as Desert Storm. Put this factor with the fact that vice president Dick Cheney left an oil company that did business with Saddam, walking away after leaving the company with thirty million dollars of oil company money in his pocket. Think of it as a good gesture of business. With all of this combined and taken into account, a weak military with unpopularity among the U.S., heavy oil reserves, and preliminary intelligence says that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, and an inevitable connection or base link of Al Qaeda in Iraq with American citizens terrified of anyone who might attack them chemically or nuclear. It is the perfect stage in which to bring nationalistic and economic benefit to your political party and country, getting rid of an evil dictator in the process. In the opinion and analysis of many scholars, The War in Iraq was a deliberate manipulation of fear to bring political benefit to the Republican Party. And in the 2004 elections, it was the foremost concern on voters’ minds, with an apparent dominate grip of the situation by the Republican Party. It is only later that we learned Intelligence was faulty, Saddam was bluffing about weapons to maintain control over his country, and Al Qaeda did not have major operations in Iraq. Being told we would be greeted as liberators, we sent force to quickly subdue the Iraqi army. Within a few weeks all resistance from Saddam’s armies were eliminated, and the dictating government was dismantled. Over the next year, Guerilla warfare ensued, shocking American generals and showing immense failure to pre war intelligence to predict the same kind of fighting shown in Vietnam just years earlier which proved disastrous to American morale and success. It is this same kind of morale destroying combat which incited soldiers to do acts of horror in Vietnam like fragging their comrades, or in Iraq’s case, torturing prisoners and killing civilians. Being under equipped with proper supplies such as armor and sufficient water at times, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is expected to be prevalent and rampant within this generation of soldiers. Therefore it’s no wonder that massacres of torture and civilian killings in Iraq such as Abu Gharab. So to bring this back to theme, what does this have to do with torture? Well to think in a war where so much had backfired, so many killed, so much money wasted, you by chance happen to capture men linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban. What do you do with such high level detainees? In the bush administration’s case, you interrogate to get any information you can, and you begin to torture them using techniques such as sleep deprivation, starvation, water boarding, electrocution, and others to get anything, even if by lie. Similar to the Salem witch trials, or the witch crusade in Europe, the bush administration sought to connect al Qaeda to Saddam’s regime and prove that there were weapons of destruction, or to uncover any hint of plans to attack, realistic or imaginary. In return, no one would dare question the search to defend American lives, in an at a cost pursuit to win the “war on terror”. Whether in noble pursuit or not, it was an illegal one, and a deeply acknowledged one that required mass conspiracy with the justice department and its lawyers to approve such plans.

Torture dates back thousands of years to the Egyptians and Romans. They tortured their prisoners to death usually in the pursuit of any confession. In the past century of war, torture has been evident in world wars, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Russian afghan war, desert storm, and various other crisises and rebel army conflicts. In the past we have signed a handful of treaties, signed into action laws, and publically condemned torture. And until this war, it has never been publically acceptable or known that the United States government has approved of torture. Never before has any official in our government openly admitted and denied law as the bush administration has. The defense of the administrations lawyers up until recently has been not only do we not torture. Then after they admitted that they did, they said water boarding is not torture. There are several problems with this defense. The first and most obvious is that in the past we have prosecuted Japanese soldiers and put them to death for using this technique. And it’s curious to think that when using the excuse it’s for our country’s defense, is it not the same kind of logic that the Japanese used? And then the second thing to note is that not only do we water board, but we use sleep deprivation, starvation, and other death inciting scenarios that would classify as torture. We cannot use our power to abuse law to our convenience, or bypass any rule in a conquest for good intentions or not. It is a hypocritical state which we will not leave as long as the world depends on us.

It is only recently that all of the details have come into public eye. Within these documents we understand at least two high level people are tortured on a regular basis. It is estimated by CIA records that they were each tortured a maximum of almost 270 times per month, a staggering number. It begs to question the quality of information that was received after doing this, because if we can all recall things like the witch crusades in Europe, under extreme stress and pain, a suspect would admit to being a witch and plaguing all of Europe. Tainted information is the biggest flaw within torture. If used for intelligence, it is more than likely false or inaccurate due to this. In a court of law, any evidence obtained through torture is completely useless, which is why police officers never use it, and intelligence officials aren’t supposed to use it. But in desperation for any information, it is the dream of any bush official to hear a confession to 9/11 or future attacks, real or not. Under oath, CIA officials have testified that the most information detained from people such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Abu Zubaydah was obtained before enhanced interrogation was used. Thanks to the Bush administration, if we choose to prosecute any detainee at Guantanamo, any information gained through torture will be invalid due to law and taint. One begs to question if detainees are water boarded over 200 times per month, then how effective can they really be. The bottom line is, torture does not work and it is illegal. There is no evidence given by the CIA or Bush administration saying otherwise, mostly because they destroy their evidence likely to its inability to yield good information.

This new administration, and the world for that matter, must investigate and prosecute those responsible for approving of torture. It doesn’t matter what their political affiliation is or what their excuse is. The second we allow international laws to be broken; we are appeasers setting a standard for any enemy or friend of ours. When we torture, we are spitting in the face of countless laws that took millions upon millions of lives to forge in blood. We show the world that we have forgotten what has happened in our past when we stood by and watched. It is estimated that nearly 1.7 million people are tortured in the world each year being held captive in our arms as well as our allies and foes, without taking account for fatalities. The message we send to the world when we participate in this statistic, is in its truest form, un-American. We must prosecute Bush officials not because of what they intended to do, but for what they did do. No excuse can cover for their mess that they have created in this scandal. Their actions echo a fascist past which justifies slaughter and torture for national safety. We are above that, and we have always been. Winston Churchill, at the mercy of German bombs, refused to torture. George Washington, on his knees in defeat against the hessians, refused to torture. Abraham Lincoln, facing a divided union, refused to torture. They would die for their cause in which they were fighting for, without bending their morals and stooping to dishonor and cruelty. As Americans it is our duty to fight for the laws which our fathers signed. We must remain the shining beacon of justice and hope to the world when times fall hard, which they inevitably will. We cannot be seen as those who will not interfere with those committing war crimes, which we have done, they will seek us as preservers of those laws. If we are to reinstate our image to the world and regain our diplomatic integrity, then we cannot torture. We cannot lead the world into wars based on terrible pretense. And most importantly, we must get involved in cases where others are committing crimes, like in Rwanda and Sudan. When we dedicate ourselves to that purpose we will again be the power that gave its blood to preserve democracy and decency in an indecent time. And we will stand united against those who seek to dismantle it once more.

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