Ever since 9/11, Americans seem to have a heart filled with anger and resentment. They have worked so hard in order to gather information, protect the United States, and provide justice to our country. Yet, at times it seems like they are trying to bring us justice by causing them pain. Although many people believe that torture is an effective method to obtain useful information, I believe that torture is a useless method when trying to retrieve information.
The United Nations Convention against Torture defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession… when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity,” (Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment).
An article in our Humanities Core Reader titled “The Depositions: The Prisoners Speak” gives testimonies from some of the prisoners of war kept at the prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. The prison site was outside of the country due to the fact that torture is illegal in the United States. Some countries outside of the United States do allow it. The guards in the Guantanamo prison were allowed to treat the prisoners any way they wished. They captured prisoners form the Middle East and extradited them to Cuba. All of the prisoner’s testimonies start off with a bag over their head. The guards then humiliate them in different ways. For example, one man was completely naked, until the guards gave him women’s underwear. He had to wear them and the guards would make fun of him. The Islamic culture found sex to be a very uncomfortable subject. For this reason, the prisoners of war found it disgracing to themselves and their god to be around girls while they were naked. So, in order to bring them disgust, both female and male guards would make them feel uncomfortable by touching their penis, getting naked in front of them, or having sex with them.
In the various scenarios of torture mentioned in the book, none of them mention the actual interrogation. All the testimonies say that the guards tried to humiliate them and that is exactly what they did. The guards enjoyed watching the prisoners in pain. It was a joke to them.
Why where these individuals in this prison? Why were they being tortured? In seminar during our torture debate, the fact that torture was inefficient was brought up. Sometimes while torturing someone who is not the right person, they will tell you what you want to hear, and therefore lead you to the wrong conclusion. Yet, other times you do have the right person, but no matter what you do, they are not willing to give up that information. Both these scenarios would be a waste of time. I believe that Elaine Scarry would agree to this. In her article, “Five Errors in the Reasoning of Alan Dershowitz” she argues that during 9/11 the government was sure that the second hijacked plane was going to hit somewhere in Washington. She believes that in this situation torture would be less helpful than evacuating people out of these buildings to ensure their safety. Even though the government was interrogating someone to get useful information out of him or her, it is not certain that they will actually help you. Interrogation is a good method to try to get information, but it is not always the safest.
In my opinion, torture is not so much for the good of a society during an interrogation, but rather an act of revenge covered up by warrant. If it came down to those last few minutes, pushing someone to his or her limit will not do much. Ensuring security in another way is best.
“Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.” United Nations. General Assembly, 10 Dec. 1984. Web. 5 Feb. 2015. <http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/39/a39r046.htm>.
Scarry, Elaine. Five Errors in the Reasoning of Alan Dershowitz. Print.