Synthesis: Torture during the Bush Administration

It was a big shock to the people of America and the whole world when three previously classified memos from the Bush Administration regarding the justification of torture during the war against terrorism surfaced. It was the talk of the town, and it stirred public opinion on the idea of torture and the actions the then-President George W. Bush. But through it all, the public has a solid stand: torture should never, under any circumstances, be allowed. It is a violation of the rights of a human being, be it a patriot, a religious extremist, or even a terrorist.

Torture is something that goes against every principle that our country stood for, and permitting and justifying such an act is like turning our backs on our country. In order to further understand this issue, we should first understand why some people, including then-President Bush and his administration, saw a need for torture. In the article A Torture Paper Trail, author Eugene Robinson stated that the torture memos didn’t actually call it torture; instead, it is euphemized as the “enhanced techniques” of interrogation (Robinson).

Its main purpose is to extract information from a captured enemy, and in the context of the Bush administrations war against terrorism, a captured terrorist (Kay). Robinson mentioned some techniques viewed by the administration as an acceptable way to extract information, despite the fact that it clearly violates human rights, and goes beyond the actions allowed in war time, as outline by the Geneva Convention. However, torture doesn’t always lead to a successful extraction of information from the enemy.

In the article Torture’s Terrible Toll, author John McCain stated that “abuse of prisoners often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear” thus resulting to unreliable evidence, as it would surely relieve his suffering (McCain). The author then recalled an actual experience, wherein he was coerced to reveal information about his squadron, and to avoid further physical harm, he gave false information.

Basing on this, we can see that torture may or may not provide the actual information we are looking for, and it would just affect our actions and decisions if we rely on this wrongly acquired intelligence. Aside from the physical pain that torture is causing to the captured enemies, it could also put us in danger because of the unreliable information we have extracted (Klein). No matter how we call it, torture will always be torture, and it will always be a violation to other people’s rights.

The Bush administration memos may refer to torture as the “enhanced techniques” of interrogation, but still it doesn’t change the fact that it is torture. One example of these “enhanced techniques” that Robinson mentioned in his article is the “waterboarding”. This is a technique of simulated drowning, which according to him is “considered torture virtually everywhere on Earth except in the Bush administration's archive of self-exculpatory memos, directives and opinions” (Robinson). This technique is also mentioned in Paul Greenberg’s article On the Care and Feeding of Terrorists.

Greenberg directly points out that torture should be outlawed, and that we shouldn’t waste much more time in effort in defining it, just like what the Bush memos did (Greenberg). Instead of overly justifying and covering up for the abuses and violations just to acquire terrorist intelligence, we should firmly treat torture as a violation, and not deal with the trivial purpose or technique employed. If torture would be the key to our victory against terrorism, then that victory would just be pointless. McCain points out that in this war, winning should not be the only concern.

He asserts that this is a war of ideas, and we are on the side that urges and advances freedom in the face of terror. If we are to resort to torture and other forms of prisoner abuses, then we are clearly losing this war of ideas. This means that as long as we rely on torture as a means of acquiring information, then we are no more than our terrorist enemies (Schapiro). Torture undermines our moral standing, much like the killing of innocent people by these terrorists. To win this war of ideas, we should go beyond what our enemies are capable of doing.

We should give importance to the values that we hold dear as Americans, as free men. In this war against terror, torture should be out of the picture. However, there are those who still see torture as a valuable means in winning this war against terror. Greenberg asserts that we should see torture on a case to case basis. He agrees that torture should be outlawed, but if it is the only way to save, say, the whole country, then so be it. He insists that such act would merit him “his reprimand, medal and pardon all at the same time” (Greenberg).

If he wrongly tortures an innocent man, then that’s the time he’d be punished. I have to disagree with Greenberg, because for me, the end does not justify the means. Torture should not be allowed under any circumstance. As a great nation, I believe that the United States wouldn’t have to rely on torture to win the war. Going back to what McCain said, this is indeed a war of ideas. If we would resort to torture to win, then it is clear that we lost. Torture should not be allowed in our country or in any other place in the world.

It should be outlawed because it goes against every principle that our country stood for. If we hate terrorism that much, then we should also condemn torture because it is clearly a violation of everything we believe in.

Works Cited

Greenberg, Paul. "On the Care and Feeding of Terrorists". 2007. July 20 2009. <http://townhall. com/Columnists/PaulGreenberg/2007/11/07/on_the_care_and_feeding_of_terrorists? page=1>. Kay, Joe. "Bush Administration Acknowledges and Defends Use of Torture Technique". 2008. July 20 2009. <http://www. wsws. org/articles/2008/feb2008/tort-f07. shtml>. Klein, Joe.

"The Bush Administration's Most Despicable Act". 2009. TIME. July 20 2009. <http://www. time. com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1870319,00. html>. McCain, John. "Torture's Terrible Toll". 2005. Newsweek. July 20 2009. <http://www. newsweek. com/id/51200>. Robinson, Eugene. "A Torture Paper Trail". 2008. The Washington Post. July 20 2009. <http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/28/AR2008072802465. html>. Schapiro, Rich. "Bush Administration Torture Policy May Face Probe from A. G. Holder". 2009. July 20 2009. <http://www. commondreams. org/headline/2009/07/12-0>.ф