Talking About Torture


BY MAXIME VILLENEUVE

I've been posting quotes, pictures and articles on torture weekly on the Life Matters Journal Facebook page. Thanks for liking, commenting on, and sharing the links I’ve posted! It’s a challenge because torture can seem to be so open-ended: exactly what forms of torture should I be highlighting at LMJ in our quest to "build a culture of life" specifically through holding our elected representatives accountable?

Torture is a means of punishment or coercion designed to dehumanize and inflict severe pain and/or humiliation upon its victim. As such it can take on an infinite amount of forms with some being less recognizable than others. Most people wouldn't qualify one night of sleep deprivation as torture, but what if you were forcibly sleep-deprived for months on end, as Pvt. Bradley Manning was while in US military custody? Defenders would say, "Oh, come on, it’s just a lack of sleep!" Would CIA guards staging a mock execution in front of a prisoner to break him down, as occurred at Guantanamo Bay, be considered torture? "Oh, come on, he never got hurt -- just scared straight so he would talk!" And, more relevant to our international readers: what about the policies of nations that aid and abet torturous practices, such as harboring CIA black sites or allowing rendition flights over sovereign airspace? Many legislators have feared upsetting the United States by refusing CIA missions in their territory and facing economic reprisals if they had done so. But is it worth turning a blind eye to a torture program to save a free trade deal?

When I am looking at stories to share and highlight for you, dear reader, I am looking for instances of torture that are motivated by political ends especially in the name of "anti-terrorism" (ironic phrase when you think about it), with the hope that with more knowledge you will be able to challenge and hold your elected representatives accountable to say "no" to torture in all its forms. This is because Life Matters! We cannot deny the humanity of others no matter what crimes they are accused of, how much it may advance national security, or what information we assume they might know. We must uphold the dignity of every human being, especially when the temptation to succumb to torture is seen as politically popular. Many politicians don't respond to moral arguments, but they will respond to a lack of political support for a position. By continuing to sound the alarm on the evils of torture, and sharing with our friends and neighbors how torture backfires far more often than it "succeeds," we will triumph in ending the practice of torture in our society.

#torture

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