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The torture of suspected terrorists by the United States of America is an issue that puts into question the American values that call for democracy and freedom while not abiding by them when it comes to dealing with terrorists. Should we condone the use of torture under such conditions as war on terrorism and leave behind our democratic values, or should we stick to our values whatever happens and risk terrorist attacks? Are those the only two options that we have to fight terrorism?
Torture is one of the oldest methods used to treat convicts who show unwillingness in testifying against their crimes. This method is prohibited both by the Geneva Convention, which protects the rights of prisoners at time of war, and UNCAT (United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment). " The idea behind prohibiting torture is due to its horrible and repulsive effects on the prisoners without mentioning also its immoral standing against liberal values of democracy.
The United States condones the use of torture against suspected terrorist since it is for the best of the nation. The issue of torture is not new in America because the teachings of torture techniques like abduction; harsh interrogations and water drowning etc. are still taught in military schools such as the US Army School of the Americas in Panama and Fort Benning in Georgia. The only new element about the torture is the willingness and tolerance of such torture acts to continue to be used by the US army. Basically, the reason behind the support of the use of such atrocities by the US military stems from the idea that we cannot defeat evil without using evil. The Bush administration exploited the fear and anguish in which the Americans lived after the September 11 attacks by convincing them that America is not going to live in peace if the terrorists are at large. Of course the use of torture to interrogate them is allowed since those people are dangerous for their country and should be punished by any means.
The United States justifies its use of torture by violating the UN convention on the treatment of the war prisoners, because the detainees in such prisons as Guantánamo Bay and Abu Gharib are not deemed as prisoners of war but prisoners of an ongoing war on terrorism and the Geneva convention does not specify that the terrorist should be equal to prisoners of war. Under this loophole, the US continues torturing terrorists in very inhumane conditions. However, the problem with this argument is that most of the prisoners in the terrorist prisons are just suspects and most of them are innocent of the allegations against them; it just happened that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just like what happened in the movie The Road to Guantánamo, which makes one wonder why the American and British troops captured and mistreated the prisoners, three of whom were British Muslims who came to Afghanistan to attend the marriage of their friend and visit some relatives. However, they were unlucky to be in the wrong place (Afghanistan) at the wrong time (after September 11) and they were forced to accept, under torture, the accusation that they were with the Taliban and were detained in Guantánamo Bay for two years without any charges or a trial. Another example is what occurred to Khaled Al-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin, who was abducted on New Years Eve 2003 in Macedonia and handed to the US army who treated him torturously (beating and drugging him) while taking him to a secret prison in Afghanistan. After five months of torture he was released in the Albanian mountains because it appeared that the Americans made a mistake about him. These incidents question the justice of the United States and its credibility when it comes to matters like the treatment of terrorists and how America can be sure that the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay are really terrorists or are just victims of US paranoia that anyone whom they suspect due to his appearance is a terrorist like Khaled Al-Masri.
The problem with torture is that it consists for Americans the only available and practical choice to combat terrorism when there is a dilemma between either of respecting the international laws and liberal democracy values and thereby risking many bombing attacks or violating the conventions and liberal values for the sake of protecting the American population from any terrorist attacks. Besides, the US administration finds it more practical for its country that in the process of torturing the terrorist, which may lead to death, it may happen that some of them are innocent. Nevertheless, America justifies the killing of one innocent for the sake of saving one hundred lives. So the rule is that as long as the those people who are under torture are suspected of being terrorists, it doesn't matter if they are really terrorists or innocent since if one prisoner is a terrorist then it means that they have cleansed the world form one of them and if he is innocent it is then deemed collateral damage.
The USA should renounce its use of torture when dealing with terrorists. First, because the use of torture contradicts its values of liberal democracy, human rights and freedom, which are built upon the notion that everybody has the right to live and be treated decently. Second, the use of torture puts the US in a very embarrassing situation in the international arena as its actions seem to contradict its rhetoric therefore making its diplomatic role in the world unconvincing and questionable. Moreover, its continuous use of torture and apathy to the international voice will make America more and more isolated from the world. Last but not least, the reason behind the use of torture is a response to terrorism, but the USA seems to forget that violence begets violence, and it is only making the situation worse while blinding its eyes from treating the real causes of terrorism (its unfair treatment of the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East and the war on Iraq). Therefore using torture in dealing with the terrorists will just make people in the Islamic countries feel more hateful of America because of its inhumane treatments of the suspects who are mostly innocent.
The United States should revise its policies about the use of torture to investigate the terrorist suspects as it violates the Geneva Convention and contradicts with American democracy and begets violence and hatred from others. Torturing the terrorist is not going to stop terrorism, instead it will increase it. Therefore America should opt for a solution that is going to stop the Islamic countries from growing terrorists such as fighting ideologies that promote terrorism like Wahhabism.
- Hertzberg, Hendik. "Terror and Torture (Use of torture when dealing with terrorist suspects)." The New Yorker 79.5, (March 24, 2003).
- Roth, Kenneth. "Torture in the War on Terror: Kenneth Roth Reviews Protecting Liberty in the Age of Terror." Harvard International Review 28.2, (Summer 2006).
- Slater, Jerome. "Tragic Choices in the War on Terrorism: Should we Try to Regulate and Control Torture?" Political Science Quarterly 121.2, (Summer 2006).