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 in 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)
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. Torture is very difficult to define, on the verge of being impossible, but for the purpose of my research, when I refer to torture
A very prevalent 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 a witch, and died for their confessions. These are all evidence that torture victims will say whatever they can to stop the torture. At a recent human rights forum 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 a statement like this by people so close to this issue, its hard to think of the other side of the argument.
People against torture ethically usually claim that it is also an ineffective method of gaining information because the tortured will confess to whatever will end the torturing. I understand why people might be thinking this, but I don’t agree them entirely. I think we’ve all heard about the ‘witch hunts’, which would be evidence for the argument that torture is useless, but I think there has to be more to torture than just that. I think Franklin really fills in the 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.
Some people might end their argument here, and don’t try to find situations where torture has helped. On my quest to be fully informed I need to look at the other side of the spectrum, where torture has helped to find credible information. James Franklin, A professor at South Wales University, had the stories I needed to provide that other side. Franklin provided a couple situations of where torture proved to be effective. One such example was the kidnapping of A Sergeant in the Israeli army by Hamas. Hamas threatened to kill the Sergeant is their demands were not met, so Israel was forced to act quickly. The Israeli military captured the driver that took the sergeant and the terrorists to their hideout. The driver was, by Israeli standards, severely tortured until he informed the Israelis of the location of the sergeant. The Israelis raided the compound, which turned out to be the right place, but unfortunately the sergeant was killed in the raid. The death of an innocent man is disappointing, but the fact that tortured yielded his whereabouts provides evidence that torture can be effective in certain circumstances. Franklin also tells a story of the interrogation of three terrorists:
“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.”
I would like to include one last 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.” 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.
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.
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 believe there is a time and place where the use of torture can be just. Torture has helped save lives, as well as destroy them. It’s hard to come up with a general guideline of when torture should be used, but I think to completely outlaw it would be foolish.
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.
"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.
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.