Torture – some other perspectives.

31 Mar

Now that Bush has vetoed congress on torture (he wants to keep the option open), we now have a situation where the CIA is still permitted to use torture. Harpers magazine recently had an article with Darius Rejali, who is a professor at Reed College in the US and has written extensively on torture. He makes an interesting point on the effectiveness of torture when used for intelligence rather that confession:

In police work, the crime is already known; all one wants is the confession. In intelligence, one must gather information about things that one does not know.

Forgetting the cruel and inhumane nature of torture, this highlights the problem that exist with torture. How does the torturer know when the information gleaned is truthful? Rejali recounts a story that John McCain tells of his time in Vietnam being tortured:

My favourite is when Senator John McCain tried to explain the concept of Easter to his North Vietnamese torturer. “We believe there was a guy who walked the earth, did great things, was killed and three days later, he rose from the dead and went up to heaven.” His interrogator was puzzled and asked him to explain it again and again. He left, and when he came back, he was angry and threatened to beat him. Americans couldn’t possibly believe in “Easter” since no one lives again; McCain had to be making this up.

And to think that this possible US president supports the use of torture?

We concentrate on the inhumanity of torture, and the effects that it has on the victims. The article in Harpers casts light on the effect that torture has on the perpetrators of torture:

In the 1970s, the Brazilian military had a similar system, and the state had to turn on and kill its torturers in order to preserve itself. As the Brazilian journalist Elio Gaspari observed at the time, “Unless everyone in the army participates in torture, you very quickly develop two kinds of soldiers.” He call them “the combatants,” who fight the terrorists with torture, and the “bureaucrats,” who are committed to preserving the military’s everyday functioning and discipline… The generals reluctantly concluded that the “torturers were going to have to be isolated, marginalized, and eliminated, so as to save the Army.”

Torture is wrong in all cases and must be outlawed.


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