We all know what us guys do when we get a bad rash. We scratch and pick at it and hope that it goes away. After all, us men will not see a doctor unless we are on our deathbed (even then that is debatable). Eventually, the rash does go away only to have it come back later.
Torture is our bad rash and the recently released Senate report is another case of it. Like a guy, we will talk about it, pick over it, and in the end we will just hope it goes away. As one would expect of our media, the talking heads are trying to turn it into another partisan circus.
First, any technique used during the Spanish Inquisition is generally considered as torture. It is known that some of those techniques (for example water boarding) were used. Terms such as “enhanced interrogation technique” are weasel words designed primarily to hide that fact.
Secondly, of the people who were tortured, most of these individuals are those who would have one of us decapitated (most likely in a video) than to observe the Geneva Accords along with some of those who would support such actions. For the most part, they are not people that one would consider sympathetic.
Finally, this country is party to a number of treaties concerning torture. We, as a nation, have promised to the world that we will not torture prisoners of war. When we use these techniques, we are breaking that promise and effectively telling the world that we have no honor. Additionally, it makes it more likely that our service men and women will not be given their rights as prisoners of war.
Like a real rash, healing is not going to begin until there is treatment. On this issue, healing is not going to happen until we have a discussion on what role, if any, will torture be given and for those responsible to be held accountable for their actions.
One of the topics that we need to discuss is whether or not torture should be practised by the intelligence organizations. I would suggest that it should not for two main reasons. One reason is torture is not an effective means of gathering intelligence. As John McCain has stated…
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturer want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering.”
Additional evidence supports McCain’s claim. The techniques used by the intelligence organizations produced little reliable intelligence. One should also note that some of those who were tortured were falsely accused. Given these facts, it seems that there is little use for these techniques.
The second reason is that this country is still party to treaties that forbid the use of torture. It is possible that these treaties are obsolete as our enemies operate differently now than they did when the treaties were first drafted. If so, maybe it is time to withdraw from them or to amend them to account for the realities that we face today. Until we withdraw or amend those treaties, we should honor our obligations.
Finally, we need to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. Regardless of how we want to conduct ourselves in the future, there is evidence that crimes were committed at the time. Accountability should not be just for the low-level personnel who become the typical scapegoats. It should also be for those who gave the order and for those who approved of its use. If the stench rises to the top, so be it.
Unfortunately, the actions that are necessary to be done are ones that need to be performed by Congress. Given the nature of Congress at this time, one should expect this thing to be swept under the rug and for us to be scratching at this thing again at a later date.