As more and more reports about the torture
of foreign prisoners held by the United States come out, the
explanations about it being caused by a "few bad apples"
become less and less credible. We hear now that it was official US
policy to apply extreme measures to extract information from al-Qaeda
and Taliban prisoners as part of the War Against Terrorism. Those
extreme measures have been applied somewhat indiscrimently to Iraqi
prisoners who are suspected of resistance to the occupation of that
country. We also hear mixed reports about the usefulness of that
This raises a difficult question, were the
reasons for this torture more than for collecting intelligence?
Was perhaps torture its own end? Maybe for vengeance, for
intimidation, for making an example? Certainly after 9/11 the call
for vengeance was very strong in this country. We hear from many
officials and intellectuals that the only thing Arabs understand is
force, and that we need to make them fear us. While there is probably no
written document that states this policy directly, the implicit message
in official words and attitudes has been quite strong.
To say that this torture was an end to
itself is to say the unthinkable. But outside of this country, people
are starting to think and to say it.
If it is true that a large part of the
motivation behind these tortures is vengeance and intimidation, what
does that imply about the actions of this government and our
responsibilities as citizens. Do we deny and rationalize, or do we
confront and change it?