The Damages of Enhanced Interrogation

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As American troops fade out operations in the Middle East, it is time to return to the issue of the role enhanced interrogation—what everyone else calls torture—has had and will continue to have on Americans and their foreign policy.

American’s moral standing in the world, as it should be, was and continues to be damaged by the ongoing discovery of human rights abuses in the form of enhanced interrogation techniques. This is unfortunate; most Americans have always held that each individual is born with certain rights and dignities, and that violating them is to violate nothing less than the American consciousness.

The Eighth Amendment guarantees that no individual shall be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, even as the United States tortures in the name of combating terrorism. Arguments to justify torture, by whatever name, are weak. Government-sanctioned torture is ineffective in producing results, endangers the nation, and does serious damage to core rights and freedoms of all Americans.

If the U.S. has humane interrogation methods that work, it is illogical to pursue enhanced interrogation, especially when torture has proven to be ineffective where it counts. The C.I.A. and the F.B.I. tested the effectiveness of enhanced questioning techniques in 2002 to question Abu Zubayadh, a close associate of Osama bin Laden. The C.I.A. used waterboarding, a method which simulates drowning, on Mr. Zubayadh in a failed attempt to make him disclose information. Senior F.B.I. officials who observed the interrogations said that the C.I.A. methods were “unnecessary and unwise.” Later on, using conventional and ethical interrogation methods, the F.B.I. was ultimately able to have Mr. Zubayadh reveal information of the whereabouts of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the 9/11 mastermind.
Paradoxically, enhanced interrogation also threatens the safety of Americans and reduces its moral legitimacy internationally. By practicing government-sanctioned torture, the probability that terrorists will retaliate increases. In 2002, Wall Street Journalist reporter Daniel Pearl was captured, tortured, and beheaded on camera by extremists in Pakistan. The final moments of Mr. Pearl’s life was captured on video, where he says, “Not knowing anything about my situation…not being able to communicate with anybody… only now do I think about some of the people in Guantanamo Bay in the same situation.” Mr. Pearl’s suffering at the hands of vengeful terrorists is a prime example of how American sponsored torture unnecessarily risks the lives of American citizens.

On one hand, the United States has helped establish instruments which rightfully condemn torture, such as the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. On the other hand, “enhanced interrogation,” is used as a means of national defense. Is it any wonder, then, that the U.S. encounters the level of animosity it does abroad? There is little value in ensuring the survival of the United States if founding values and basic principles of human rights do not survive with it.

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