Recently, President Trump nominated Gina Haspel as the new director of the CIA to replace Mike Pompeo (the new nominee for Secretary of State). This nomination has revitalized the debate on “enhanced interrogation” techniques, like waterboarding, due to Haspel’s alleged past in “enhanced interrogation.” While many conservatives refer to waterboarding as “enhanced interrogation” to make it seem less savage and immoral, I will be calling it by its actual name, torture.
During the dark chapter of the CIA’s waterboarding program, innocent people were tortured. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee, 22% of the people held in torture detention facilities were later found out to be innocent. This included two former intelligence sources who were jailed and tortured by accident.
Since the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution outlaws, “cruel and unusual punishment,” the torture programs have to be carried out in “black sites” where normal U.S. laws against torture don’t apply. Meaning those imprisoned are denied basic Due Process rights to prove their innocence in the U.S. leading to innocent people being held with impunity and being tortured for crimes they didn’t commit and for information they never had.
According to the Daily Dot, “The U.S. government has not issued a single apology for mistakenly condemning innocent people to the CIA program’s abusive conditions, even in the case of Gul Rahman, an Afghani man whose exposure to CIA torture eventually killed him.”
Our Government tortured an innocent man to death. That’s the kind of immoral behavior we see from tyrannical regimes like North Korea, not something we should see from the leader of the free world. To supporters of the torture program: Is it worth the risk of torturing innocents?
The main argument for the necessity of waterboarding and other torture programs is that they help prevent terrorist attacks. However, in December 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that the CIA’s detention and interrogation program concluded that “enhanced interrogation techniques” either produced no intelligence, or they “fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence.”
This report by the U.S. Senate is quite damning towards the supposed benefits of allowing torture. When someone is being tortured they will say what the torturer wants to hear to get the torturer to stop, even if what they are saying is untrue. This led to the U.S. getting bad intelligence, which hurt our efforts to stop terror.
Another defense for the CIA’s waterboarding program is that waterboarding isn’t really “torture.” Those that have been waterboarded beg to differ.
Remy Mauduit, who was waterboarded, described the process, “The tortured is assailed with reminders this near drowning will happen repeatedly and will eventually culminate with that promised slow and agonizing death. In spite of my frenzied fight to survive, I prayed so many times for death and the deliverance from pain. Waterboarding is a controlled death; I died multiple deaths, three times each day, for seventeen days.”
Waterboarding is torture. There is no getting around that fact.
Also, waterboarding and other torture programs are unnecessary, because they hurt our standing with the international community.
When the Senate report on the Bush-era torture programs came out, the international community condemned U.S. actions. The torture program led to the U.S. facing international backlash, thus the torture program did more harm to the U.S. than good because it hurt our standing with our peers.
The main reason the U.S. should not engage in torture is that it brings us down to our enemies’ level. If we abandon our morals, then we are no worse than the enemy.
The U.S. must display moral leadership for the rest of the world. When the leader of the free world practices torture, it signals to the rest of the world that immoral behavior is acceptable. This emboldens dictators to act in horrifying ways and use the U.S. as their cover by claiming, “If the U.S. can do it, why can’t we?”
Simply put, torture is morally and legally wrong. It does not yield the intelligence that the supporters of torture think it does and there is no possible way to justify the moral and international impact a U.S. program of torture has on the world.
* David Suslenskiy is a student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, studying political science and business. He is a staunch libertarian who enjoys movies, reading, video games, and fishing.