Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Personal Opinion on the Torture Debate

The question on how prisoners of war and unlawful enemy combatants are treated has been a debate that seems to have no end. On the one side there are the people who believe that torture is affective and on the other side there are people who feel that torture is inhumane and cruel and should be outlawed. A 2005 article in the Washington Post that I found while surfing the internet spiced up my desire to discuss this issue. Many people feel that torture is justified when there is an impending danger. I agree with this statement but only if certain conditions are met. Before I go into my views and reasons for supporting torture I will first discuss the policy issues behind the debate. In 1984 the United Nations passed the U.N Convention Against Torture in 1984 which had a bunch of provisions. This act recognizes that all persons are entitled to select human rights and that protection from torture is such a right. The convention defines 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, 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 pubic official or other person acting in an official capacity. It requires that each state that ratifies the convention must take legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. It requires that no state will send a person to a foreign country where it is suspected that the person will be tortured. It also requires that there be a Committee Against Torture created to monitor torture in the world and to review torture claims that are presented to them. they members of the committee are elected to 4 yr terms and can be re-elected. The United States ratified the convention in 1994. in times of crisis, the United States started implying methods known as CID (cruel, inhuman, and degrading) treatment, or “torture light.” These are methods that are still effective to an extent, but are not constituted as direct physical torture. Some of these methods include blasting prisoners with strobe lights and ear pounding rock music for hours upon hours, threatening them with snarling dogs, threatening to hurt their mothers, walking them around the detention center on a leash and making them do dog tricks, having female interrogators ride on their backs or contacting them in ways that their religion prohibits, stripping them naked in front of women, whispering to them that they have killed their comrades, placing a smelly hoof on their head and making detainees squat naked in a cold room for hours. These methods are considered CID treatment since no actual physical torture is being inflicted. Other tactics such as waterboarding (making a person feel like they are drowning), Palestinian Hanging (handcuffing a person’s hands behind their back and hanging them from the ceiling 5 feet above the ground for hours), and withholding pain medication for bullet wounds were classified as direct torture and were prohibited from being used. In October 2005, Senator John McCain proposed and had passed a bill that banned all methods of torture including CID treatment. This bill is known as the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and it states that “Cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of anyone in U.S Government custody is prohibited, regardless of where they are held. It also requires that service members follow procedures in the Army Field Manual during interrogations. The Amendment also says that there will be no immunity rewarded to anyone subject of violating the law. McCain says that with this law “We have sent a message to the world that the United States is not like terrorists. This legislation will help America repair an image that has been tarnished by prisoner abuse scandal. Even after the law was passed, interrogators at Guantanamo Bay still were using methods of torture in what they felt was an exception to the law, so in 2007 the House passed a bill that banned Waterboarding specifically from being used, one of the most effective tactics according to officials who wish to remain nameless. After all the legislation that has been passed, it is clear that the United States does not want to torture detainees, except Dick Cheney who argued against McCain’s bill furiously and pleaded President Bush to Veto the bill, with no avail. I myself am a firm believer in torture, but ONLY if the appropriate conditions are met. I do not agree with torturing a man who we just picked up off the street with no insights, but I do agree with the torture of proven leaders of a terrorist regime or proven suspects implicit in attacks on our country. This is the ticking time bomb argument, where torture is justified when an attack is imminent. Maybe I am brainwashed from FOX’s “24” where rogue agent Jack Bauer saves the country many times, but resorting to torture of suspects is a key in his success. Every official wants the suspects to be treated fairly but Jack Bauer knows that there is no time so he works out a way where he gets to interrogate the suspects and he tortures them and gets the information needed. He has shot suspects in the leg, broken a suspects fingers one by one, injected a solution that makes every muscle and inch of a person’s body feel like it is on fire, he has maid leaders of terrorists organizations believe that there sons have been killed by setting up a live feed and telling his team members to execute the children, even though the children were not executed, it looked like they were to the suspects. These tactics are obvious forms of torture but in the instance of the show, the ticking time bomb scenario is always the case. He justifies his action in the show by saying that “When are you going to learn that these people are not living by your rules! They do not care about our laws because they know that we have to abide by them and they can not be stopped! I don’t care about these laws, when the survival of this nation is at stake. I will do whatever means are necessary to get the job done!” I have to say that I agree with him. In the situation where we know that there is an immediate and impending attack on our country, than officers should do anything and everything that they can to try and stop the attack. If we have a person in custody that is complicit in an impending attack within an hour or a few, taking the proper procedures and treating them lawfully is only going to condemn the country. in the amount of time it would take just to draw up the paperwork on the suspect, the attack will have taken place. Also, in such instances, yelling at the suspect, blasting loud music, threatening the suspect with snarling dogs, these tactics will not make a terrorist tell you their plot. On the other hand, if you shoot him in the leg or you shoot his wife in the leg, it provides much more incentive for the suspect to give up what he is hiding for the fear that the interrogation might only get worse. John McCain has been tortured in Vietnam for 5 and a half years and fought this country for a ban on ALL forms of torture, and even he says that “”If Al Qaeda had hidden a nuclear bomb in New York City and a suspect involved is in custody, you do what you have to in order to stop it, but the key is that you take responsibility for it.” The people who are capturing our soldiers over seas are not treating our soldiers with dignity or respect or even human treatment, so why should we show any to them. there have been American soldiers who have been be-headed on film as prisoners of another country and we are worried about humiliating the prisoners that we have?! It makes no sense to me. There is no motivation to cooperate with us and there is no fear of consequence for anyone thinking of plotting against the United States by treating prisoners lawfully. It says that if you are planning to attack the United States and you get caught, keep your mouth shut because you will not be physically harmed or abused and eventually if they do not have enough evidence to try you, you will be released into America or back to your native country. In my opinion, that is not much motivation to not attack the U.S. the laws have been emplaced so there is not a whole lot that I can do about it, I just have to hope that when the situation arises, that the Jack Bauer figure in our government will step up and do what is needed in order to aver a catastrophe. The question is about morals and I say that when nation security is in jeopardy, safety trumps morals



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