Terrorism & Torture: Are We Becoming Desensitized?
By Michael Warrior Bonds
It seems as if Americans are becoming desensitized to torture. The events of September 11, 2001 have made terrorism and torture hot topics of discussion in our office lunch rooms, at the neighborhood coffee shops, and in our living rooms. The media accounts of the treatment of suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay and prisoners of war at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Irag have made terms like “Water Boarding” and “Black Sites” new American household words. Today, Americans more than ever, are willing to sacrifice their civil liberties for the sake of finding, capturing and punishing American enemy combatants.
Where Were You?
On September 11, 2001 two planes left Boston Massachusetts Logan International Airport and were hijacked and flown into the Twin Towers in Manhattan, New York. Every man, woman and child in America and around the world was affected in some way by this horrific event. I can still remember what I was doing and where I was at the time of the attack. I was parked putting a clock I purchased from Auto Zone on the dash board of my car when the news went over my radio that “this” had happened. I prayed at that moment and rushed home to see the news on every channel. It was horrible. Smoke everywhere, people running, crying. I couldn’t help but think about any children that may have been present, I kept thinking, “What about the children?”
Who Are These People?
It’s not hard to see why anyone after this terrible event, would not want to get revenge. An eye for an eye at this time seemed more than justified. But, how would we find them? And what would we do to them when we did? I mean these people are not just murderers. They didn't just kill and maim a few people. These are not simply serial killers that kill and kill again striking fear in the hearts of the community until they are found, tried and convicted. They are not serial arsonists or a gang of thugs preying on innocent victims. These people are all of these terrible things rolled up into one. These people are worse than each one of these types of criminals for they are politically and religiously motivated. They believe what they do/have done is just and righteous. These people are recruited, trained and organized. These people have military capability, chemical and biological weapons and “weapons of mass destruction” and they are prepared willing and able to use them at any giving time anywhere they wish in the world. These people are the worse most heinous type of criminal and must be stopped by any means necessary. These people are “Terrorists” and in order to fight terror, some believe we must use terror. After all they had no regard for the lives they stole in New York and the other places they have exploded bombs, and chemical and biological agents. Some have even gone so far as to strap themselves with explosives and/or fill vehicles with explosives and commit suicide for whatever political reason they believe in. No matter who is present at that time or place, women children, elders, the sick, it doesn't matter they all become martyrs. Their motive is solely to make a statement, to threaten or intimidate and to bring attention to their particular cause.
Terrorism is “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes, the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization, a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government”, the systematic use of violence and intimidation to achieve some goal, the act of terrorizing and the state of being terrorized”. The legal definition of terrorism is similar and even more defined: “the unlawful use of threats of violence especially against the state or the public as politically motivated means of attack or coercion, violent and intimidating gang activity” (Dictionary.com, The World English Dictionary, and the Legal Definition of Terrorism)
Brief History of Terrorism
The History of Terrorism can be traced back to the period known as the “Reign of Terror”. This period in France began in 1792 a lasted until 1795. Political disputes between the Girondins and the Jacobins became so violent thousands of people were terrorized by means of government intimidation, killed by the infamous Guillotine, and executed in some of the most horrible ways imaginable.
What To Do?
So what do you do to a person or group of people like this? People who, for political reasons, are not afraid to die for what they believe in? How do you make them pay for the horrible crimes they committed? How do catch them? How do you get them to talk and reveal just who they are where the rest of them can be found and more importantly, how do bring them to justice and make them stop? Torture, many would say, would be more than justified under these circumstances.
Eye For An Eye, A Political Twist
Torture is a Latin word meaning to “Twist”. Advocates of “Torture” would say yes, an “eye for an eye” in this case and in all cases of terrorism for that matter, is indeed justified. After 9/11 you would have been hard pressed to find anyone in America who didn’t want revenge. When Republican presidential candidates were asked about torture even the then Presidential candidate John McCain who was once a prisoner of war found it difficult under the then current circumstances to fully object to using torture. When asked how aggressively would he interrogate Senator McCain replied: “that in that extreme and most unlikely situation, I, as the president of the United States, would take that responsibility" for determining interrogation methods”. But, senator McCain, aware of the moral implications of using torture also added, "We could never gain as much from that torture as we lose in world opinion." At that time the then president Bush authorized the CIA to use what he termed "enhanced interrogation techniques" on captured members of Al-Qaeda. Soon after, these same “techniques” were used by the military on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and later in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those “techniques” included an ancient torture technique unknown to civilians that ‘simulates drowning”. The technique was known as “Water-Boarding". Every U.S. government before the Bush administration considered “Water-Boarding” illegal and immoral. (Amnesty International)
Under the Bush administration, prisoners of war and suspected terrorists detained at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay and Iraq’s Abu Ghraib were tortured to obtain information for the capture of known so called “enemy combatants” of America. Then New York Governor Rudy Giuliani said he would tell interrogators to use “"every method they could think of," including water-boarding. In response to a call to close Guantanamo Bay, presidential candidate Mitt Romney once said, "we ought to double Guantanamo”. He further added that he liked having suspects in Guantanamo because "they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil." We all now know that Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison are but two publically known places that detain terrorist suspects and prisoners of war. Today, it is common knowledge that America has “Black Sites” or CIA secret prisons. These secret locations are supposedly located in American occupied or foreign countries that are not subject to American laws. Therefore, the “detainees” are not privileged to receive U.S. constitutional protections afforded to U.S. citizens.
There Is a Terrorist Attack Almost Everyday
According to Professor Simone Branham “there is a terrorist attack almost every day around the world”. In places like Yemen, Pakistan, Israel it seems as if they happen so often they have unfortunately built up immunity to the seemingly common place attacks.
Are We All “Would Be” Torturers?
Popular culture has glamorized torture. TV shows like “24” and the recently released movie “Unthinkable” starring Samuel L. Jackson playing an extreme torturer, and the widespread justification and support for the torture of prisoners of war in the Middle East have put torture on our the table figuratively and literally.
In April of 2004, the world first saw American soldier’s abusing prisoners of war in Iraq. These images on TV and in the New York Times and the New Yorker stained our imaginations and shocked us into the reality that is war. We saw and read of men in hoods standing on boxes, their hands and genitals wrapped with wires. We saw them naked and humiliated piled and stacked pyramid style on top of each other and, to add insult to injury, the detainees were forced to simulate sex acts on each other in front of laughing, gawking male and female soldiers.
Days later President George W. Bush apologized, the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, took full responsibility promising that “the offenders would be brought to justice”. But hardcore conservatives such as radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh made light of the situation and attributed the treatment of the detainees to being, "no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation" One republican from Oklahoma claimed to be "more outraged by the outrage than by the treatment.”
April of 2009, President Barack Obama released four government memos written in 2002 and 2005. The report he released allegedly laid out legal justifications for prisoner abuse much more shocking and appalling than any of the images of the Abu Ghraib detainees. Among According to the memos, U.S. prisoners could be legally be thrown into walls, water-boarded, shackled to the ceiling for hours, deprived of sleep for up to 11 days, and locked in boxes similar to “coffins”. Reaction to the release of these presidential memos was indifferent to say the least. Former CIA Directors Michael Hayden and Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s reaction was swift and immediate. They wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal condemning the release of the “Presidential memos” and defending the interrogation techniques. Even former Vice President Dick Cheney had something to say. The report states that Mr. Cheney insisted that the Obama administration needed to "put out the memos that showed the success of the effort.” Some conservatives have even claimed that anyone who opposes the prisoner abuse must “simply hates America”. Much of America wanted to see the allegations of torture investigated. It has been ignored and dismissed by conservatives. According to reports, even President Obama would like to see (Americans) “move on”. The Abu Ghraib pictures gave the world a close personal look at torture and, as it seems, America’s method for dealing with its prisoners of war. Abu Ghraib was apparently the abuse of low-level prisoners, but the torture memos released by the president of the United States of America were of reportedly “high-level terrorists” who supposedly had critical information.
After Abu Ghraib and because of the attack on United States on 9/11, American’s are becoming desensitized and are seemingly losing its capacity to be shocked by anything. No matter how shocking, chilling or brutal the act or images may be, Americans by and large are losing its ability to feel. As expressed in a prior paragraph, television images, Hollywood drama and shocking internet videos have made us unmoved by the boring reality of the “War on Terror”.
When we first saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib, we never believed that our government would do such terrible things. Even though we were attacked and in the middle of a war with the element who attacked us, we American’s have always held ourselves to a higher standard. We had no clue. America was already in violation of domestic and international laws. The U.S. government had already been using these tactics. According to reports the U.S. Government had already been water-boarding since (as far as we know) 2003 when suspected terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was reportedly water-boarded 183 times in ‘one month” in 2003.
Congress “Softens The Blow’
But if you are still not convinced that we are becoming desensitized consider this. Even after knowing of the immoral and illegal treatment of the prisoners or at Abu Ghraib, Congress passes legislation legalizing "alternative interrogation tactics" two years later. Now the military is legally justified in using “stress positions” Even sexual humiliations is now legal and justified..
The soldiers that abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib said they were “following orders from superiors”. They said they were “ordered” to "soften up" the detainees so they would be “more amenable to interrogation”. (Newsweek)
Torture Is Nothing New
Torture is not new. We have been torturing one another for centuries. The CIA are experts and s have perfected the art of torture. Torture, electrocuting, beating, lacerating, even raping and breaking individuals in cells or dungeons/hell holes, creating genocidal situations and letting genocide takes place, all this has been going on for longer than we know. This unfortunately is nothing new. Torture has always been practiced and taught. Americans wrote the book on torturing and training in torture. The CIA personnel are experts. The best interrogators, it is said, prefer what is called the "Scharff method" named after the NAZI interrogator Hans Joachim Scharff, who showed how “empathy, understanding, and patience often turned the most recalcitrant captives into a good source of information”.
America is not the only country that uses torture. America just happens to be the only one who has kept it a secret from its citizens. Countries like El Salvador, Cambodia, Chile, Iran, South Vietnam, Guatemala, Argentina, Israel, and Egypt have always openly used torture. The Monroe Doctrine allows America and European countries to go unchecked or interfered while in “pursuit of happiness”. The Monroe Doctrine, believe it or not, even applies up, up and away into outer-space literally.
Torture In Your Community
Torture is not limited to the military. Torture happens in police stations, in prisons, and in schools. Any place that has nearly total control over prisoners, inmates, and students is subject to fall victim to torture. Torture unfortunately, has been routinely practiced in your community in most if not all of these places. Torture in these places has become clear and the general public has been desensitized to these types of tortures for years. Torture may happen in your home as well. Anywhere that is governed by disciplinary procedures is subject to torture tactics.
Social media is as much to blame for the victims of torture and the continued desensitization of human beings to torture. With the advent of FaceBook, Twitter, texting and other social networks, between conference calls, emails, Skype and Ovoo, we rarely talk our meet anymore. It is easy to be disconnected from reality and/or lose concern for one another when you don’t have to see the person you are talking to or that may need help. Many of us would rather text then talk, converse on FaceBook then meet and have conversation. It’s easy to say no when you don’t have to face the one in need or say yes to a decision or “discipline”.
In conclusion, America and the world is becoming desensitized to not only torture, we are becoming somewhat anti social and this, in my opinion, is recipe for the destruction of civilization as we know it. Stop texting and call and leave a message/check your voice mail. Get off FaceBook and Twitter from time to time and visit a friend today, have brunch and dinner, visit a friend’s home without special occasion. Call your Congressman, Mayor and/or local political leaders and voice your opinion. Write a snail mail love letter to your mother or girlfriend, wife or husband. It only makes good sense to stay connected. “Feel Me?”
The World English Dictionary
Wall Street Journal
Richard Thieme Peace,
By Richard Thieme, Sunday, January 15, 2006