The debate over the United States policy of torture
has been triggered once again, this time when the New
York Times published a front-page story regarding the
issue last month.
The New York Times piece titled "Secret U.S. Endorsement
of Severe Interrogations," revealed secret State
Department memos from 2005 approving interrogation measures
such as head slapping, simulated drowning and freezing
The article should really be in the opinion section,
considering the document is filled with biased remarks
regarding the Bush administration.
The article also failed to include the real problem
regarding torture. The real problem is that recent lenient
use of the term is contributing to its dilution.
In this report, the Justice Department is accused of using
secret legal "severe interrogations even after the
administration had renounced such methods."
President Bush quickly responded to the report and
insisted, "This government does not torture people."
In order to sort the two sides out, one must ask with
an unbiased, open mind: What is the difference between
torture and harsh, but humane, interrogation techniques?
How far can we go? Are there any extreme circumstances
in which we can bend the rules in order to save other
lives? And most importantly, what is at stake if we
discontinue coercive interrogation techniques?
There is a difference, and not a fine line, but a vast
differentiation between "torture" and "inhuman
or degrading treatment."
The New York Times qualifies "slaps to the head,"
as among one of the Bush Administration's "brutal"
methods. Notice that they are "slaps to the head"
rather than "beatings" or even "punches"
to the head. This does not fall under the definition
While other examples can more easily be considered
as torture, such as being placed in a 50 degree Fahrenheit
room, being "battered by thundering rock music"
is frankly, not one of them. Since when does listening
to any genre of music qualify as torture?
Deprivation of sleep is also pushing it a bit too far.
To say such methods qualify as torture is insulting
to victims of real torture methods, such as those held
by Iraqi insurgents, those of the Holocaust or World
War II Japanese internment camps.
Being starved to near death, pushing bamboo under one's
fingernails, beating someone forcefully-those are torturous
methods. Those methods cause permanent and extreme physical
pain. The accepted interrogation methods by the Bush
Administration are simply not.
Torture is categorized by very cruel and grave methods
of inflicting pain on someone. Such interrogation techniques
as waterboarding, lies far from that. If waterboarding
is torture, then why do CIA agents subject themselves
to the method?
The high stakes
The adjective "harsh" is not equivalent to the
word "torture." Waterboarding can be argued
as a harsh technique, but are we supposed to be kind while
interrogating confirmed or highly suspected terrorists?
America hasn't suffered any more terrorist attacks
since September 11, 2001, and there are many instances
of when U.S. CIA officials have saved lives, but why
would our left-wing mass media publish that? Those reports
certainly don't help the anti-war movement, and thus
are not publicized as much as they should be.
The landmark 1978 decision laid down by the European
Court of Human Rights set a benchmark regarding torture
in the care of Ireland v. the United Kingdom, (which
dealt with Britain's treatment of members of the Irish
Republican Army). By maintaining the "distinction
between 'torture' and 'inhuman or degrading treatment,'"
the European Court sought to preserve the "special
stigma [attached] to deliberate inhuman treatment causing
very serious and cruel suffering."
Once we loosen and broaden the definition of torture,
we allow for any interrogation technique to be rendered
illicit. When our interrogators are severely limited
in their techniques, they won't gain the life-saving
information essential in a time of war.
Personally, I believe even one human life lost by a
terrorist attack is more than America can afford in
the War on Terror.
I wholeheartedly believe the potential threat to innocent
lives is more than a sufficient reason to use coercive
interrogation techniques against confirmed or suspected
terrorists. If the clock could be turned back to the
morning of September 11, and US officials had Mohamed
Atta in possession, would the use of coercive interrogation
techniques be worth it? I believe the rescue of 2,974
lives qualifies as worth it.