Is torture justified to protect national security?geneva convention

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Given the recent discussions that have been taking place in the American national and political dialogue over the last eight years, this question is highly relevant. This will be where my post will be directed, and not international uses of torture. There is little way that this answer will be fully articulated in this post and there will be other views on it.  Thus, you will have to assess from what you have what you think is the best way to approach this.  In terms of the United States, the 8th Amendment speaks loudly to its position on torture as it strictly forbids "cruel and unusual punishment" to those who are held in captivity by the state.  Since the September 11th attacks, however, the view of torture and "enhanced interrogation techniques" have been revisited.  The belief at the time, and still held to a large extent, is that since that fateful day, America has been at "war" with those who wish to do harm to the nation, the terrorists.  It has been argued that the most valuable commodity in this war is intelligence and information because this war, as it has been articulated, is not a traditional war fought on traditional battlefields and domains.  Rather, it is a war where preemption and proactivity will determine victory or defeat.  Accordingly, there has been a high price placed on information and the vital nature of achieving it.  Since this is the fundamental premise of success, the argument has been that sacrificing of comfort, some level of rights, and redefining the old paradigm into which the Geneva Convention would fall is critical.  The belief was that in the demand for intelligence, enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding can be used and not deemed as torture because such initiatives are not designed for a gaudy or obscene demonstration of power as much as the need for intelligence.

The flip side to this coin is quite obvious.  The first is that the Constitution, under the 8th amendment, does not finely distinguish between "enhanced interrogation" and "torture."  Any "cruel and unusual punishment" is strictly forbidden.  This would mean sleep deprivation, waterboarding, humiliation and degradation or any of the other extreme measures taken in the name of "gaining intelligence" is unconstitutional.  Additionally, over the last half decade, Americans have become aware to how torture has actually led to misinformation.  The dilemma with enhanced interrogation techniques is that the information received has been gained under duress and is not reliable.  The subject is only relaying information, any information, that will stop the abuse.  The veracity of this data is unreliable, as a result.  Further analysis has also revealed that much of the information gained through enhanced interrogation or torture was data that would have been inevitably discovered with competent intelligence fieldwork.  Finally, there is a compelling argument that argues that the national identity of a nation that has represented freedom and justice such as America is debased and vulgarized when it stoops to a degrading level such as torture (Seen in the poem attached below).  Regardless of the consequences, it is suggested that any time American forces or law enforcement engages in torture, the enemy has already "won" for there has been a political and moral abandonment of principles and Constitutionality.