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Torture for the Better

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Torture For the Better
The War on Terror began on September 11th, 2001, with the terrorist attack now simply referred to as 9/11. Not only have American soldiers captured countless Islamic terrorists since, but also a leader, Saddam Hussein. By battling with Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States (U.S.) has captured thousands of prisoners with the potential knowledge of upcoming terror attacks. These prisoners have been notoriously known for their intelligence of Al Qaeda operations, and the location of terrorist headquarters. When a capture is publicized, terrorists have the ability to quickly change locations and communication methods. Therefore, the intelligence available from the prisoners is only good for a short period of time. To gather the information while it is useful, should Americans be provided leniency in torturing these prisoners? To prevent future terrorism, should we be able to implement the torture that has been used by some terrorists themselves? In truth, America already has. Several doctors working for the U.S. Military violated the “ethical codes” of their profession. After a thorough investigation, it has been concluded that after 9/11, health professionals who worked with the military “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment and torture of detainees,” (Boseley, 1). The only question now is: were these actions justified?
Torture has been defined in U.S. courts as anything that “shocks the conscience,” (“The Debate” 4). In situations that call for justice, those convicted succumb to some sort of conscience-shocking punishment. This could range from suspension in public school to serving jail time (Michel 1). Many things can be considered torture, just by the way they alter thoughts and actions. Does this mean conscience-shocking punishments should be eliminated? John McCain, an Arizona Senator and former POW, recognizes the instances when disobeying ethical codes is warranted. McCain told Newsweek, “You do what you have to do...Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in the Civil War, and FDR violated the Neutrality Acts before World War II,” (qtd. in “The Debate” 4). The American Public agrees with McCain. 58 percent of the public supports torture if the purpose is to undermine terrorism (“The Debate” 2). On average, the people of America believe in the ‘you do what you have to do’ ideal that McCain explained and other historical figures exemplified. It is true that 73 percent of the American people think that our country’s image can be hurt by the “torture allegations,” (“The Debate” 2). Nevertheless, the legitimacy of our Security Force will be destroyed without threatening torture. Foreigners may begin to underestimate our ability to stop them. In turn, the terror will augment itself. Many others believe that by torturing possible terrorists, Americans could be hurting the wrong person and eventually gain false information. However, saving thousands of innocents is worth risking a single criminal. The U.S. government has no obligation to protect the human rights of a suspect who has harmed, or will harm American citizens. Recently, terror tragedies have provided reason to violate the U.S. Constitutional beliefs and the Geneva Convention ideals. The Geneva Convention is a “series of do’s and don'ts to apply during conflict to protect vulnerable and defenseless individuals” (“GENEVA CONVENTION” 1). Many members of society today believe that both the American Constitution and the Geneva Conventions are applicable to terrorists. What they do not know is that because terrorists are neither American nor enemy combatants, as defined by the Geneva Convention, they are not entitled to the rights that either document establishes. For example, Al Qaeda is not governed by the Geneva Conventions because the law applies only between countries that have signed it. Not only is Al Qaeda not part of the Geneva Conventions, but it also has violated the convention's core principles by targeting innocent civilians on 9/11. These terrorists violate the very nature of the American Constitution as well. If either of these documents were relevant, the terrorists would have their rights and liberties restricted in order to ensure the security of the nation, (“GENEVA CONVENTION” 2). Not only that, if any country “...signs and ratifies the Geneva Conventions, it agrees that all of those individuals under its control...are bound by the Conventions’ mandates,” ("The Geneva Convention,” 1). But, those “individuals not operating under the control of a government...are not bound by the Geneva Conventions,” (“The Geneva Convention,” 1). Because terrorists are not operating under the control of their government, the Conventions can not protect them. They are a separate organization that follows it’s own laws and rulers. Terrorists are not protected by the Geneva Conventions because they are not representing a country, they are not prisoners of war, and they do not follow the basic laws the conventions outline. The Constitution is not applicable either, as terrorists are foreigners. Therefore, when torturing these criminals, the United States continues to obey the law.
Moreover, the majority of Americans agree that the terrorists are not worthy of the same rights as those law abiding POWs discussed in the Geneva Conventions. Those who terrorize innocent civilians without out probable cause are cruel and inhumane. Why should justice not be served? The punishment should fit the crime, an “eye for an eye” ideal instituted in the Bible, (“The King James Bible” New Testament, Matthew 5:38). On November 13, 2001, President George W. Bush signed a military order addressing the “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War on Terror,” (Lepore, 1). In this order, Bush commanded that suspected terrorists that were not American citizens to be detained at a location specified by the Security of Defense. If brought to trial, a military commission would sentence them. Some argue that these ideals stray from the “traditional jurisprudence in the United States.” But, former Vice President Dick Cheney believes “...there’s a precedent for it. We think it [Bush’s order] guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve,” (Lepore, 3). Those who assisted in the creation of this order argue that “it is not practicable to apply military commissions under this order, the principles of law, or the rules of evidence generally recognized in the trial of criminal cases in the United States districts,” (Lepore, 1). The order reinforces the idea that terrorists are not worthy of the same treatment of American criminals or prisoners of war. In the final draft of Bush’s order, possible terrorists could be “imprisoned without charge, denied the knowledge of evidence against them, and, if tried, sentenced by courts following no previously established rules” (Lepore, 2). Some argue that these ideals stray from the “traditional jurisprudence in the United States.” But, former Vice President Dick Cheney believes “...there’s a precedent for it. We think it [Bush’s order] guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve,” (Lepore, 3). Terrorist organizations would not feel guilt or remorse in torturing those who opposed their plans. There are multiple instances in which terrorists have captured, tortured, and even beheaded their captives (Nichols 1). White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, ‘"They have no regard for the lives of innocent men, women and children. We will pursue those who are responsible and bring them to justice”’ (qtd. in Nichols 2). The organizations that have terrorized our nation must be punished. In turn, it is justifiable if America enacts punishment through torture. Using “cruel, inhumane” treatment on terrorists is justified because of their cruel and inhumane treatment towards U.S. civilians (Boseley 1). Furthermore, torturing possible terrorists is a legal action that should be permitted in order to maintain safety in our country. Several argue that by harming alleged terrorists, America becomes a target. In actuality, it provides information that contributes to the security of our nation. Torture is an essential tool in gaining intelligence, especially concerning the Al Qaeda terrorists. A senior aide to President Bush argues that using torture has provided America with ‘“the most successful intelligence gained in the war on terror”’ (qtd. in “The Debate” 1). The intelligence gained, according to this government official, has saved the lives of the Americans terrorists seek to destroy. Additionally, Senator Kit Bond, who is a member of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, told Newsweek that “enhanced interrogation techniques” have worked with “at least one high-level Qaeda operative, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, to thwart a [terrorist] plot,” (qtd. in “The Debate” 1). This man was believed to have planned 9/11, and is blamed for other attacks that have killed at least 3,478 people over ten years. He also is thought to have planned the bombings of the USS Cole in Yemen, two U.S. embassies in Africa, a synagogue in Tunisia, and a disco in Bali. His nephew planned the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, (“Can U.S. Officials” 1). By capturing this terrorist, and others like him, former Vice President Dick Cheney estimated that “intelligence officers...prevented the violent death of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people,” (“Cheney Slams Obama” 1). In consequence, American officials have come to agree that torture is necessary to thwart terrorist attacks. The White House aides have stated that because of “the [torture] program,” America has a “much better idea how Al Qaeda operates around the world,” (“The Debate” 1). If the nation is aware of Al Qaeda, its plans, obligations, and locations, then we can and will be prepared. As a result, this information will save the lives of the innocent citizens of the United States of America.
In addition, torture acts as a deterrent to others. Some citizens believe deterrence theories are improper because they treat people “as brutes, not rational agents capable of responding to moral reasons,” (Brownlee 14). However, torture used as punishment is allowable because it has the ability to prevent and discourage the offender and others from committing a crime. Also, deterrence is criticized for justifying punishments, however broad, as long as they deter people from breaching the law. But, if terrorism decreases as a result of the theory, then our country will increase in security. Physical pain resulting from one’s actions is a superior deterrent over imprisonment (Brownlee 14). In prison, captives feel relatively secure. In comparison, criminals are fearful during the torture process, mainly because of the pain inflicted. This fear can be used as a rewarding motivator. For instance, after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the American people decided to accept the Patriot Act. This act “gives controversial new powers to the Justice Department in terms of domestic and international surveillance of American citizens and others within its jurisdiction” (Rouse 1). This act restricts the civil rights of the American people. This means that the Patriot Act passed because the public was afraid, not because of the content. America felt threatened by Iraq, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, and Al Qaeda (Rouse 1). Consequently, the fear produced as a result of terrorism deterred Americans from protecting their Civil Rights. If this fear is used to threaten terrorists, the U.S. can hinder their crimes. If this fear has the ability to be so effective, it can be used equally as a deterrent. Therefore, the human rights of these inhumane criminals dissipate when they commit an act of terror. It would be a horrible precedent to criminalize the torture of suspected terrorists because in reality, it follows the laws, ensures justice, deters criminals, and saves lives. Terrorists originating from a foreign country do not and should not receive the benefits of the American Constitution. In addition, these men or women do not act in representation of their country, meaning the Geneva Conventions can not apply. Also, criminals that terrorize innocents deserve the same pain they inflicted on others. Justice can be served through treating terrorists as they have treated our country, with a lack of respect. Lastly, men, women, and children will be spared by the intelligence that torture can provide. Torture has been used on at least three top Al Qaeda figures. In turn, the interrogation technique has prevented devastating incidents, that had the potential to be like 9/11. The program continues to prohibit acts of terror in our country regularly. A total ban on these interrogation techniques, Cheney claims, is ‘“recklessness cloaked in righteousness,”’ (qtd. in “Cheney Slams Obama” 1). If Americans do not combat Al Qaeda and other extremists, we will meet our downfall. We will be plagued by attack after attack, with no information to eliminate the criminals. We will lose the image of power America has stood for since the very beginning. We will allow extremists to cripple our nation, ultimately giving them what they want. The United States of America must fight terrorism with all available resources, including torture.

Works Cited

Boseley, Sarah. "CIA Made Doctors Torture Suspected Terrorists after 9/11, Taskforce Finds." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 04 Nov. 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
Brownlee, Kimberley. "Civil Disobedience." Stanford University. Stanford University, 04 Jan. 2007. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.
"Cheney Slams Obama in Speech." CNN. Cable News Network, 21 May 2009. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.
"GENEVA CONVENTION." GENEVA CONVENTION. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

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