KANE: Torture: it really hurts



Jonas Kane

Certain puzzle pieces might be starting to fit together, but the brutality of the final image remains unclear.

Seemingly stored in a filing cabinet under the broader category of the infinite wars overseas lies the issue of torture, which recently has been resurrected as an issue in the mostly muted debate of freedom versus security.

In an eerie coincidence, Eric Fair, a former contractor for the U.S. Army in Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, came to Villanova to speak on torture on April 9, the same night an ABC News report revealed the direct involvement of high-level governmental officials – including the president and vice president – in authorizing its usage.

Fair’s role as a contracted interrogator in Iraq led to his involvement in the use of sleep deprivation to interrogate suspects.

While sleep deprivation might not seem like torture at first glance – especially to college students forced to binge on double shot espressos in attempts to finish papers and cram for exams at the cost of sleep – its dehumanizing effects can only be described under the umbrella of torture.

Sleep deprivation, as Fair described it, strips away the suspect’s hope through the deprivation of a sense of time and the creation of a feeling of interminable despair.

Use of sleep deprivation, though, serves as only the tip of the iceberg, as anyone who has seen the horrific photos from Abu Ghraib knows.

Worse still, the crimes committed there at least reflect a clear violation of army rules (in addition to violations of federal and international laws). The tactics being debated now, however, reach into techniques granted to the CIA, which Bush and his subsidiaries argue needs powers beyond those granted to the Army.

The original report presented last Wednesday by ABC News describes how senior administration officials “repeatedly discussed and approved specific details” relating to methods for questioning members of al-Qaeda. And don’t believe these were cursory discussions; they involved specific mention of available “enhanced interrogation techniques” (such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation), how often these methods could be applied by interrogators and the potential of combining methods for difficult suspects.

Last Friday Bush admitted to being aware of the discussions and claimed he “approved” of them.

Then National Security Adviser (and rumored vice presidential candidate) Condoleezza Rice led the talks, and, in one of the report’s most alarming revelations, allegedly told the CIA – despite reservations by some members – “This is your baby. Go do it.”

The brazen manner through which the administration has admitted to and defended the use of these measures raises the question of why so little attention has been given to the matter.

Bush’s recent veto of a bill that would have outlawed the CIA’s ability to perform waterboarding exemplifies his belief that, in certain circumstances, it is acceptable to destroy basic human freedoms in order to protect them. His openness in defending the methods further exemplifies his belief that, despite everything Western values promote (as defined in national law and in international law through the Geneva Conventions in particular), people won’t care as long as they harbor the belief that the conveniently detached deeds will keep them safe.

The manipulative phrasing of torture as “enhanced interrogation” does not cloak the truth of its reality and horrors. Labeling it as such merely leaves the administration with the necessary wiggle room to claim that its actions do not fit under the definition of torture.

At the end of the haunting Irish novel “The Book of Evidence,” the chief inspector asks convicted murderer Freddie Montgomery whether or not Montgomery’s personal confession is in fact accurate, to which Montgomery ambiguously replies, “All of it. None of it. Only the shame.”

Despite all of the uncertainties and ambiguities surrounding our foreign policy, it continues to grow clearer that the Bush administration has been and still is responsible for authorizing the use of torture on suspected criminals. And what are we to feel but shame from this?

The United States cannot continue to violate federal and international law through the use of torture if it hopes to maintain a credible voice as the world’s moral leader.


Jonas Kane is a sophomore English major from Harrisburg, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].