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the torture question

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Discussion Questions
  • Student Handout: Excerpt from the Geneva Conventions
  • Student Handout: What is Torture?

  • Featured Lesson Plan
  • Getting Away with Torture?
  • Student Handout: The Facts and Issues of the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal
  • Student Handout: Tracing the History of Interrogation Policy

  • Additional Lesson Ideas
  • What Would You Do?
  • Unlawful Combatants or Prisoners of War?
  • Responding to World Opinion

  • Additional Resources

    Printable .pdf of Entire Guide
    (Adobe Acrobat required)

    » Lesson Plan: "Getting Away with Torture?"

    » Lesson Objectives:

    Students will

    • Understand the basic facts surrounding the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib

    • Review the policy memos written to establish procedures for interrogation of prisoners of war and unlawful combatants and assess their influence on military personnel's interrogation practices

    • Analyze the limits of interrogation techniques in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and international law.

    » Materials Needed:

    Internet access
    A copy of the FRONTLINE documentary "The Torture Question"
    Student handouts

    » Time Needed:

      PART I

    • 35-45 minutes to review the interrogation techniques and complete the activity

    • 30-35 minutes to review the facts of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse incident and the controversy surrounding it (This can be done as a homework assignment)

    • 90 minutes to watch the documentary "The Torture Question" (This can be done as a homework assignment.) The program can be viewed via video stream from the FRONTLINE Web site

      PART II

    • 35-45 minutes to research "Tracing the History of the Interrogation Policy" chart in class (or as homework)

      PART III

    • 45-50 minutes to review and report on the "Chart Review" questions

    • 45-50 minutes to conduct the "Fishbowl" activity

    » Procedure:

      PART I

    1. Before viewing the film, have students review the facts of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse incident using the following Web sites. Have students take notes on the questions from the student handout "The Facts and Issues of the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal."

    2. Show the documentary, "The Torture Question", to the class.

    3. PART II

    4. Divide students into six groups and distribute the handout "Tracing the History of Interrogation Policy" to all students.

    5. Review the instructions with students and assign each group one of the Chart Review questions listed after the chart on their handout. Note that all students are to research all the memos in the handout, and each group will answer one of the questions. In addition, all groups will answer question 7. If necessary, students can fill out the chart and answer the question as a homework assignment.

    6. Have students go to the Web site "What is Torture?" at http://slate.msn.com/features/whatistorture/introduction.html to do their research on the memos listed in the chart and help them answer their assigned question.

    7. After completing their research, give students some time to review their question in their group before they present their findings to the class.

    8. Conduct the "Fishbowl" activity below.

      PART III
      "Fishbowl" Activity

    1. Explain to students the class will conduct a "fishbowl" activity (also called "inside-outside" discussion session). (Now might be a good time to review your rules for class discussions.) Using the groups from the discussion activity above, begin with the "1's" sitting in the middle of the class facing each other and the rest of the class sitting in a circle around them.

    2. The teacher or a student can moderate the discussion using the suggested questions on the student handout (also found below) or ones of your own. Only the students in the inner group are allowed to respond to the questions you ask. If a student from the outer circle wants to join the discussion, he or she moves to the middle of the circle, taps only a participant who has already spoken to move to the outer circle, and takes that student's place. After ample time is spent on the first question, call up the second group to the center and follow the same procedure with a second question. Switch discussion questions enough times to allow for all students to participate.

    » "Fishbowl" Activity: Discussion Questions

    1. Do you feel that responsibility for the actions at Abu Ghraib lies solely with a rogue group of convicted military personnel or that people of higher rank (both military and civilian) should also be held responsible for the abuses? If so, who else should be held responsible? Why or why not?

    2. On September 11, 2001 the United States was attacked in New York and Washington, D.C. by a group known as Al Qaeda. This group had no direct ties to another country and in the view of the Justice Department and President Bush, did not fall under Geneva Conventions protections. Considering this, should the U.S. military, in order to obtain crucially needed information, be allowed to treat people associated with such groups and responsible for terror actions differently than Geneva Conventions rules require? Why or why not?

    3. Did the policies for interrogation of detainees at Guantanamo, established prior to the invasion of Iraq, lead to the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib? Why or why not?

    4. How do you gauge the reliability of information obtained by methods of torture?

    5. If foreign countries believe the United States committed acts of torture on Abu Ghraib prisoners, what do you think their reaction might be? Would this reaction be justified? Why or why not?

    6. What should United States policy be for interrogating prisoners of war and detainees? Should this policy be different for members of groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban at Guantanamo than for the insurgency prisoners in Iraq at Abu Ghraib? Explain your answer.

    7. Do you feel further investigations are needed to determine the answers to many of these questions? Why or why not?

    » Methods of Assessment:

    • Completion of note-taking assignments

    • Participation in discussion

    • Write an executive summary of the torture incidents at Abu Ghraib and other facilities focusing on the development of U.S. interrogation policy, its implementation at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and recommendations you would make to prevent further occurrences of abuse

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