Why Would Anyone Oppose Torture?

Swanson_David_analysisBy David Swanson

Someone recently asked if I could please explain to him why anybody would oppose torture. After all, we defend killing in wars, so why not defend torture? Wouldn’t I torture to save my kidnapped child?

Here are my top 10 reasons for opposing torture:

1. It’s illegal. If you want to legalize it, legalize it, but don’t discard the whole idea of following laws.

2. When the United States tortures, it loses the ability to tell any other nation not to torture, including nations you wouldn’t want torturing the people you wouldn’t want tortured, namely Americans.

3. U.S. torture, according to the U.S. military and the FBI, has been a major recruiting tool for anti-U.S. terrorists and a cause of the death of thousands of Americans.

4. False statements created by torture were used to take this nation into a war in Iraq that has killed over a million Iraqis and thousands of Americans at enormous cost in dollars and in safety and prospects for peace. One justification for that war was to stop Iraqi torture, but Iraq now tortures and America can say nothing against it.


5. Torture was used even after the invasion to generate more false statements purely for political purposes.

6. There is no evidence that torture has saved anyone’s life, but the United States has tortured dozens of people to death.

7. Expert interrogators do not use torture because it does not work as quickly or as reliably as other methods. So torturing someone to save your kidnapped child would be less likely to save your kidnapped child than relying on a skilled interrogator.

8. Torturing people brutalizes the torturers as well, damaging them and those they live with.

9. Torturing damages our society, brutalizing the thoughts and practices of prison guards, police, and citizens.

10. The myth that certain people cannot be spoken to and must be tortured creates deeply damaging prejudices, because those people are always defined as part of a certain racial, religious, or cultural group that comes to be seen as sub-human.

I hope this clears up the confusion. Φ

David Swanson is the author of the upcoming book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union by Seven Stories Press. You can pre-order it at a discounted price at http://tinyurl.com/daybreakbook. To receive updates from After Downing Street register at http://afterdowningstreet.org/user/register. To subscribe to other lists go to http://davidswanson.org/node/921.

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