Torture, American Style


Study concludes that US torture after 9/11 had “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation.”

President Obama used slick wording when he first spoke in the aftermath of the Boston bombing, “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups, will feel the full weight of justice.”

“Justice” could mean something about the proper administration of law, but it doesn’t. The word has taken on new meaning in the US, and those who live outside of the US often have enough distance to see clearly what the word usually means when it rolls off American tongues: Revenge. Violent revenge.

On Tuesday the Constitution Project released the results of their study – a 577-page report which concludes that although brutality has occurred in every American war, “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody” was unprecedented.

Waterboarding, chaining people to walls and keeping them awake for days on end is torture by the standards of most, but what most believe doesn’t stand in the eyes of law. It all comes back to slick wording and how the US had the power to essentially redefine “torture” into nonexistence after 9/11. According to this piece in The New York Times:

“The core of the report, however, may be an appendix: a detailed 22-page legal and historical analysis that explains why the task force concluded that what the United States did was torture. It offers dozens of legal cases in which similar treatment was prosecuted in the United States or denounced as torture by American officials when used by other countries.”

Any violent conflict in the world can be linked to revenge. The ongoing and often violent struggle between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple? Revenge. The same can be said for most violent crime. One person upsets another and then…revenge. It’s the same philosophy as the little boy who pulls his sister’s hair because she took his toy and she took his toy because he wouldn’t share and he wouldn’t share because she never does and she never does because….

Human biology often makes revenge our first response. Numerous studies, for example, prove how…

“…watching/contemplating an act of vengeance triggers the brain’s reward center (not unlike the reward response for ingesting an addictive drug, or eating sugar).”

But if the violence of history proves anything it’s that violence as an answer to itself only ensures its continuation.

What can be said when the only thing that truly matters when it comes to torture isn’t the proof but the status of the country that tortured?

–Photo: Lall/Flickr

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