The Tragedy And Uselessness Of Torture [Opinion]

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Peter Honigsberg, a law professor at the University of San Francisco, went to the doctor because of an injury to his foot. The doctor was unfazed by Honigsberg’s Achilles tendon rupture, an unpleasant but common injury; he must have treated hundreds of those throughout his career. He was more interested in what would eventually be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Honigsberg developed PTSD by speaking with men who had been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, some for years. Honigsberg shared his story last year, at a Duke University event.

If merely talking to torture victims can psychologically break someone, what is being subjected to torture like?

A victim of torture, utterly broken, will say anything to make the agony stop. Shane O’Marra, professor of experimental brain research at the Irish Trinity College, authored Why Torture Doesn’t Work. In the book, O’Mara quotes an intelligence officer’s story about a Cambodian torture survivor.

“In torture, he confessed to being everything from a hermaphrodite, and a CIA spy to a Catholic bishop and the King of Cambodia’s son. He was actually just a school teacher whose crime was that he once spoke French.”

Countless similar studies, research papers, and reports were released over the years. The science is clear: torture doesn’t work. Empirical evidence shows that torture doesn’t work. And lastly, even the CIA agrees: torture does not work.

Yet, on March 13, 2018, President Donald Trump fired Rex Tillerson, nominating Mike Pompeo as the new U.S. Secretary of State. The void Pompeo left at the CIA will, if President Trump’s nomination is confirmed by the Senate, be filled by Gina Haspel.

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Gina Haspel ran a black site for torture. The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald wrote an extensive report about Haspel’s intelligence career, with an emphasis on the “central, aggressive, sustained role she played in many of the most grotesque and shameful abuses of the war on terror.”

Not only was Gina Haspel directly involved in what is perhaps the darkest stain on America’s national honor, she had an extensive role in torturing detainees, and a vital role in the destruction of interrogation videotapes. Likewise, Mike Pompeo, the new Secretary of State candidate, is open to resurrecting torture techniques. In a 2016 C-SPAN interview, he called for the execution of Edward Snowden, so this is hardly out of character for Mr. Pompeo.

Futile Sadism

In December, 2010, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 500-page CIA torture report, which was partially summarized by Bustle. Here are some of the most dreadful abuses detailed in the report:

  • The CIA used excessive force to conduct “rectal exams”
  • Interrogators threatened to physically and sexually assault a detainee’s mother
  • Prisoners were often subjected to standing sleep deprivation
  • Some prisoners were waterboarded
  • CIA medical personnel surgically removed a prisoner’s eye
  • Another detainee froze to death, chained naked to a concrete floor

Was torture worth it? As the L.A. Times wrote at the time, the report clearly states that torture methods yielded no useful intelligence. Even President Donald Trump’s Defense Secretary, James Mattis, agrees. Mattis once told President Trump that he found beer and cigarettes more useful in interrogation than torture, the Washington Examiner reported.

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Torture For The Sake Of Torture

Donald Trump, although his supporters might disagree, is the furthest thing from a Constitutionalist. A man who contradicts himself on a daily basis, the president has been consistent on a few things, and one of them is torture. Torture “absolutely works,” he said. America needs to be even “tougher,” Trump told ABC News.

President Trump is, therefore, consistently anti-Consitution. The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states the following.

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

“The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” is an international human rights treaty that aims “to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.”

Evidently, torture is not only unconstitutional, but also illegal under international law.

In the words of Jamil Dakwar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program, “Torture is a federal and international crime and is categorically prohibited under the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions which were ratified by United States and thus considered the supreme law of the land under the U.S. Constitution.”

Torture is wrong. Torture is inhumane, barbaric, unconstitutional, immoral, illegal under international law, and it does not work. To hire and promote individuals such as Pompeo and Haspel is to ignore scientific studies, empirical evidence, CIA reports, human rights, morality, and basic ethical principles. To do so is to glorify torture for the sake of torture. What is that, if not pure sadism?