Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Torture's Darker Purpose

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Torture's Darker Purpose

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Torture's darker purpose


An editorial from the Prince George Citizen, published Dec. 11:

Perhaps the saddest part of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on torture committed by Americans against potential terror suspects in the months and years after 9/11 is the inevitability of it, that it happened and that it will happen again.

Many Americans truly believe they are the good guys of the world and have been so for at least two-and-a-half centuries. Many citizens of the world believe Americans are the bad guys, striding across the globe like bullies and consuming the world's resources with reckless abandon.

Neither story is true.

The reality is Americans are just folks, no better or worse than anyone else. They didn't invent torture but they have shown, not just after 9/11 but constantly since before their violent birth as a nation, to be willing users of torture for their own ends.

"Torture has long been employed by well-meaning, even reasonable people armed with the sincere belief that they are preserving civilization as they know it," writes John Conroy in his book Ordinary People, Unspeakable Acts: The Dynamics of Torture.

As his book illustrates, America has a rich history of torture, from its colonial days of slavery and Native American genocide to the death penalty and the common abuses of prisoners by police officers to the present day.

In war, fresh-faced American soldiers surrender their humanity to their inner savage beast as fast as anyone else. The prisoners in Abu Ghraib and the CIA's "black sites" are simply the latest of a long line of atrocities, from My Lai and the firebombing of German and Japanese cities in the final months of the Second World War, through Wounded Knee and Fort Pillow on their own soil in the 19th century.

Too many Americans, to the peril of themselves and the world, believe themselves not only above the history of torture but also its psychology. First, it's so easy to justify, from preventing future horrors to the "we do bad things but we're not bad people like the ones we're dealing with" argument. Second, non-violent methods of interrogation and psychological manipulation are proven to be more effective, in both the short and long term, at eliciting truthful confessions and intelligence. …

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