Using Torture to Save Lives: Do the Ends Justify the Means?

CNN posted a story about an ex-C.I.A. agent who claimed that information received after waterboarding al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubayda saved lives. While former C.I.A. operative John Kiriakou does eventually condemn waterboarding as a practice that he doesn’t support, this is an argument that I hear frequently to justify the use of torture. I guess the real question comes down to whether or not there is anything more valuable than human life.

I think historically speaking, this nation has affirmed that there is one thing worth dying for: liberty. Throughout our nation’s history, we fought and died to preserve human rights and civil liberties. The Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C. reads: “Freedom isn’t free.” We’ve shown time and time again that a life without human rights is not a life that we are willing to live. It’s what makes this country great.

However, we seem to be forgetting this. Our government and media have us in a death-grip of fear. Our commander-in-chief warns about the World War III that can only be prevented by attacking a country that shut down their nuclear weapons program four years ago. The news is scarier than any horror movie I’ve seen in years. In this culture of fear, it’s easy to slowly give up our rights and liberties in the name of security. We let Congress take away habeas corpus because our fearless leader says it’s in our best interest. We let the President have his Patriot Act and let him illegally listen to our phone calls. After all, if we don’t, the terrorists will get us.

Now we’re violating some of the most basic of human rights that have been formally established since the Geneva Conventions after World War II. We’re using torture methods used during the Spanish Inquisition. While the information we obtain from this may or may not allow us to save a few lives, at what cost does it come? We’ve violated the core principles of human rights and international law.

I’m not against saving lives, I’m really not. But if we allow the ends to justify the means, where are we going to draw the line? If waterboarding is allowed because it saves lives, how about other forms of torture? Would dismemberment be fine if it saved lives? How about raping children? It may have happened at Abu Ghraib:

The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror.

Hey, it’s okay though. I mean, it was all in the name of getting information!

The boy and the girl were then used to terrify their also arrested parents who were willing to cooperate after seeing their children terrified by the guards/military personnel.

I don’t know about all of you, but I’d rather die than be a part of an institution that rapes children. We need to remember that our country has always stood for something greater than simply life. For over two centuries, Americans have fought and died to preserve human rights. To me, that’s more important than life itself.

Ex-CIA agent: Waterboarding ‘saved lives’ – [CNN.com]

Hersh: children raped at Abu Ghraib, Pentagon has videos – [BoingBoing.net] (Thanks to Peter for the link)

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2 Responses

  1. i remember one of my professors doing a lecture and he brought up torture. he mentioned something that I think a lot of people do not consider- how reliable is torture? according to him and his colleagues, not very. i mean what incentive does the person being tortured have to tell the truth? the best way to maintain their safety is by telling the torturers what they want to hear.

  2. that is a great point to bring up. if someone was tearing off my fingernails, electrocuting me, and waterboarding me, i sure as shit would say whatever they wanted me to.

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