May. 17th, 2011

A discussion today with [ profile] darkmuffin got me thinking about torture. Torture is nasty business. i believe categorically that the US cannot tolerate nor condone torture in any way as a matter of policy and principle on several levels.

First of all, we are signatories to the Geneva Convention. This treaty has been ratified by congress and signed into law by the president of the United States. This means that the Geneva Convention IS the law of the land. We are legally required to follow the rules stated in the convention.

Second, the information gained under torture is notoriously unreliable. People being tortured will pretty much say anything to make it stop.

Finally, we don't want our citizens held as prisoners by others to be tortured. The fact is our soldiers as well as civilians who are in areas of conflict ARE going to be captured by our opponents - we have NO way of saying that those who hold our citizens cannot torture our people if we are using the same techniques on prisoners we take (whether they are members of foreign military forces or any other foreign citizens).

That being said, i can see myself using torture against another human being. If someone had kidnapped my sons i would use whatever means possible to get information that would save them. All those terrible things you read about in fiction or in history - i would do it all to save my babies. i don't think i would do it to rescue any person - or a general "someone in danger" situation, but if it gets personal... i will get personal in particularly nasty ways. And i would sleep just fine that night, too.

That being said, THIS is why i believe we need to get out of the long-term wars in which we are engaged.

First of all, military units NEED to be tightly knit groups. Every person needs to know that they can count on the behaviors of- and support of- every other member in their team. That is what keeps them safe and makes them effective military assets. These groups become de-facto families. And families take actions and situations personally.

By keeping units in active combat situations for prolonged periods of time, as we are doing on two levels - first because the conflicts have been going on for nearly decade each and secondly because of stop-loss policies and general recruiting issues - causes a unique and problematic situation. Instead of military operations staying objective, detached, and professional they become personal - both on individual levels ("This individual member of MY unit has been captured/injured/killed and I need to deal with it.") and on generalized levels ("The Enemy is personally offensive to me because this military situation has become personal to me/become my life and I will do what I need to do to deal with it."). And once it becomes personal, getting information for whatever the objective -location of a captured comrade, location of person of interest, other pieces of intelligence - at any cost becomes an acceptable option.

And once it becomes an acceptable option for military persons (whether combat troops or intelligence services) to use torture on some level then it becomes a national issue. Soldiers are not individuals. They aren't mothers or fathers or best friends. Soldiers ARE the United States of America on a literal level and they MUST be held to the highest standards at all times. When they signed up to serve their country, they agreed to uphold the constitution and the laws of the United States of America, they agreed to BE the US on a personal representative level throughout the world. And so, when they torture, the US tortures. And when the US tortures, we go against the Geneva Convention and the law of the land. And that cannot be allowed to happen (see the reasons listed above).

So... we need to get our troops and our country out these long-lasting military conflict situations - both on a short term (troop rotation) and long term (military presence at all) basis.



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