Torture | Teen Ink


January 30, 2010
By Sri Palanisamy SILVER, Sewickely, Pennsylvania
Sri Palanisamy SILVER, Sewickely, Pennsylvania
6 articles 0 photos 14 comments

A man’s gurgled scream reverberates through the room. An official stands impassively while he pours water onto the face of the man. He screams and screams, his brain receiving thousands of impulses, all conveying the feeling of drowning and death. This man has experienced torture, in the name of intelligence and war. His dignity, rights and basic humanity are gone. The US should not use torture as a form of intelligence gathering

Torture violates human rights and international law, both ideas deserving of the US’s full backing. After the atrocities of World War II, a large number of documents came into existence, banning torture both domestically and internationally, such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
and the Geneva Conventions. The aforementioned declaration, passed by the UN in 1948, clearly states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” International common law also prohibits torture as shown during the Nuremberg Trials. We, as a nation, have always acted as a role model and as an example to the rest of the world. By violating international law, the US perpetuates that any nation can ignore the UN and can blatantly disregard human rights. Human rights act as one of the only bulwarks against state-sponsored terrorism, genocide, and oppression. By undermining crucial efforts to create a standard of behavior for the world, the US only encourages these actions. After the unspeakable slaughter of millions in the Holocaust, did we not promise “never again”? The US must act accountable to the acts set forth by the international community and the UN if America expects others to follow as well.

In addition, torture promotes a means to an end mentality that inevitably promotes future violence. The use of this dissipated technique endorses the idea that anything is justified in war, legitimatizing the further justification of war crimes. Torture by definition lends itself to the use of immoral practices all in the name of ending a conflict. Using this logic, counties can justify crimes like war rape and other forms of civilian targeting, all in the name of demoralizing the enemy and winning the war. The ends in this situation can never justify the means. Utilizing dangerous tactics like torture only increases the grievances of the opponent and pushes others to the same. The US sanction of torture will only lead to its widespread use as a legitimate interrogation technique. Torture takes the world a huge a step back, towards inhumanity and away from peace.

Furthermore, information gathered under torture is rarely reliable or effective. Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence Agency once stated that the gathering of “timely, accurate, objective and relevant intelligence” maintained top importance in national security. However, data gained from torture rarely fits the above definition. Such intelligence often lacks relevance and accuracy. Dr. Vincent Iacopino, the Senior Medical Advisor to Physicians for Human Rights and Adjunct Professor of Medicine in University of Minnesota Medical School, agrees that “there is little reliable information to be gotten from someone who is screaming in agony.” Ironically, torture also works least effectively on those with the most information: leaders of causes or other zealots. Scott Silliman, director of the Center for Law, Ethics and National Security at the Duke University law school further corroborates: “It's very hard to break people when they passionately believe in a cause. So what you get when you torture them, even severely, often turns out to be false information.” Inaccurate intelligence often has disastrous results, ranging from wastage of millions of dollars to catastrophic breaches in national security. Faulty information gathered under such dubious circumstances must not endanger the integrity and safety of our nation.

Many counter that with President Obama’s presidential orders involving a blanket ban on torture and with closing of the Guantanamo Bay detainment facility, the US no longer practices questionable torture procedures. However, these motions act only as the first step in a sea of needed legislation. Obama’s presidential orders, wrought with loopholes, establish the Army Field Manual as the benchmark for interrogation protocol; still, this document clearly allows the use of torture methods such as “perceptual or sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, and the likely use of sensory overload, temperature or environmental manipulation." Others use the “ticking time bomb scenario” to justify their actions, stating that protecting the public outweighs the human rights of one. But good effective intelligence negates the need to torture. Those individuals who employ this defense employ a logical fallacy of false dilemma. Torture need not exist as the only course of action to save lives. The aforesaid set-up acts as an abstract fantasy, intended to clear the conscience of those responsible. Still more offer the argument that torture can be permissible within a “humane limit.” The government cannot establish a limit unless officials monitor every interaction between detainee and interrogator. But according to David Masci’s April 2003 report Torture, interrogators practicing torturous means do not allow such observance. Therefore, this idea has no practicality.

In this day and age, such practices take away our humanity. We have employed a tactic, embraced by many authoritarian states and flawed democracies. The time has come to enter an age of accountability. A process that violates human rights and international law, promotes a means to end mentality and delivers flawed information should not have your support. Write to your politicians to support zero tolerance for torture and support political candidates committed to ending this dissolute system.

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This article has 2 comments.

on Sep. 18 2011 at 6:31 am
Rocinante SILVER, Wexford, Pennsylvania
7 articles 1 photo 386 comments
I absolutely agree.

on Feb. 6 2010 at 8:43 am
bass_rockrgrl13 PLATINUM, Burlington, Massachusetts
21 articles 0 photos 73 comments
Very well written piece of persuassive writing. I agree that torture is, well, torturous. It should be completely illegal. =)