Multi Modal Essay
To Torture or not to Torture
To start, I think it is important to understand exactly what torture is, and draw a line between torture and enhanced interrogation. This, however, can be very difficult to do as I quickly found out from the first piece of writing I found. The article explains that there is an empathy gap, or a difference between an onlooker’s opinion of the pain and the pain truly experienced by the victim:
“Individuals who are currently experiencing a state that is induced by an enhanced interrogation tactic—for example, fatigue, coldness, or social isolation—tend to evaluate that tactic as significantly more painful and unethical than participants who are not experiencing the state.”(McDonnell, 92)
|Waterboarding, a technique some consider |
torture, others enhanced interrogation
I think this issue adds to the problem of trying to define torture, as each person has a different pain tolerance, so every form of torture is different to each person. Torture is at the root, causing discomfort of pain with the hope of gaining some sort of new information from the subject. It is, though, very difficult to define, on the verge of being impossible due to the fact that some consider certain methods torture, while other consider it simply enhanced interrogation techniques. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines torture as the following, “The infliction of intense pain to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure.” I don’t think this definition entirely covers what we consider torture, so to find a better definition I’ll use what The United Nations defines torture as. I’ll use the definition of torture from The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment for the purpose of my writing, which is as follows:
Severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental; is intentionally inflicted on a person; for such purposes as:
- obtaining from him/her or a third person information or a confession
- punishing him/her for an act s/he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed
- intimidating or coercing him/her 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. I believe, contrary to what international law allows, that in some circumstance torture can be an acceptable choice, but to be fair I will discuss both sides of the argument.
|Hanging of a "witch"|
People who are ethically against torture usually claim that torture is not an effective method of gaining information because the tortured will confess to whatever is needed to end the torturing. A very well-known example of torture yielding false information can be seen in the witch hunts of our nation’s past. Obviously there were no witches, yet people confessed to being witches, and died for their confessions. These events can lead some to conclude that a person being tortured will say whatever it takes to stop the torture. This view was reinforced at a recent human rights forum when fifteen former interrogators are quoted as saying that, “The use of torture and other inhumane and abusive treatment results in false and misleading information, loss of critical intelligence, and has caused serious damage to the reputation and standing of the United States.”(Kaveny, 6) With examples more than a couple hundred years apart it becomes easy to conclude that torture is useless, and only further distorts the truth. With a statement by interrogators, people so close and familiar with this issue, it becomes hard to understand why some might still support torture.
A study I found had been completed regarding the care of formerly tortured people. The study showed that 40% of the patients had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 27% had a major depressive disorder, and around 16% suffered from another serious disorder ranging from having a panic disorder, to being delusional. This data comes after going through treatment, so these disorders represent a lifetime issue for the victims ("Rehabilitation of torture survivors in five countries: common themes and challenges" 5) .
I can understand why people might not dig further into the issue, but I believe further exploration is necessary. We have all heard about the ‘witch hunts’, but I think there has to be more to torture than just that. I think author James Franklin, a professor at South Wales University, really fills in my gap of knowledge about torture when he says, “If the interrogator ensures that the facts confessed to are checkable and the torture only stops if the confessions are found to be true when independently checked, then the evidence extracted will tend to be reliable.” Franklin’s idea here of how we can apply torture today is simple, yet effective; using torture to gain information that can be verified. I believe under the appropriate circumstances that torture to gain checkable facts can is appropriate to use.
|The Sergeant being forced to read a message of Hamas' demands|
“He asked them where the bomb was. The terrorists–highly dedicated and steeled to resist interrogation–remained silent. [He] asked the question again, advising them that if they did not tell him what he wanted to know, he would kill them. They were unmoved. So [he] took his pistol from his gun belt, pointed it at the forehead of one of them, and shot him dead. The other two, he said, talked immediately; the bomb, which had been placed in a crowded railway station and set to explode during the evening rush hour, was found and defused, and countless lives were saved.”(Franklin 288)
I would like to include one last story provided by Franklin, “Al Qaeda terrorist Jamal Beghal was arrested at the Dubai airport in October 2001. After some weeks in captivity, during which his lawyer claimed Beghal was beaten, he gave up a “wealth of information” that was said to have thwarted a planned bombing of the United States Embassy in Paris and ‘could have prevented the attacks of September 11, 2001’ if the interrogation had come earlier.” The New York Daily News recently published an article questioning whether or not Osama bin Laden was captured due to information uncovered using torture, which the article suggests is the case. I think these examples alone should be enough to convince anyone that torture can be effective, and should not simply be dismissed as being ineffective.
Torture is a very taboo topic for governments, making it hard to find large quantities of information regarding its use, which made part of my research difficult. I have found through my research that torture has helped save lives, as well as destroy them. After weighing the positives and negatives of torture, I believe there is a time and place where the use of torture can be the just action to take. It’s hard to come up with a general guideline of when torture should be used though, but I think to completely outlaw it would be foolish. I think torture is about doing what is best for the greater good. When someone is tortured they are experiencing pain, but the pain that could be caused to other members of society is much greater, so the use of torture can be justified. I think the United States stands to benefit from the use of some torture. I don’t think torture should be used all the time, but under certain circumstances I believe its use can be justified by the positives that can result from it.
Franklin, James. "EVIDENCE GAINED FROM TORTURE: WISHFUL THINKING, CHECKABILITY, AND EXTREME CIRCUMSTANCES." Cardozo Journal of International & Comparative Law 17.2 (2009): 281-290. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 4 May 2011.
Kaveny, Cathleen. "Bad Evidence." Commonweal 12 Sept. 2008: 6. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 4 May 2011.
Mcshane, Larry. "Did We Get Osama Bin Laden Using Torture? Bush, Obama Officials Have Different Opinions." New York News, Traffic, Sports, Weather, Photos, Entertainment, and Gossip - NY Daily News. 04 May 2011. Web. 09 May 2011. <http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2011/05/04/2011-05-04_obama_bush_officials_debate_whether_or_not_torture_played_role_in_osama_bin_lade.html>.
"Torture in the Eyes of the Beholder: The Psychological Difficulty of Defining Torture in Law and Policy." Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 44.1 (2011): 87-122. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 4 May 2011.
United Nations General Assembly. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. June 26, 1987.
Zeyad Awad, et al. "Rehabilitation of torture survivors in five countries: common themes and challenges." International Journal of Mental Health Systems 4.(2010): 16-25. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 4 May 2011.
Ebersole, Phil. "The Pro-torture Generation." Web log post. Phil Ebersole's Blog. Phil Ebersole, 15 Apr. 2011. Web. 7 May 2011. <http://philebersole.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/the-pro-torture-generation/>.
Madar, Chase. "All-American Torture." Web log post. LRB Blog. 24 Mar. 2011. Web. 7 May 2011. <http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2011/03/24/chespirito/all-american-torture/>.
Otterman, Michael. "George W. Bush Did Not Invent Torture." Web log post. American Torture. 26 June 2010. Web. 7 May 2011. <http://www.americantorture.com/>.
Web log post. Bloggers Against Torture. Web. 7 May 2011. <http://blogagainsttorture.blogspot.com/>.