Thursday, December 11, 2014

The decision to torture

With the recent report on torture by the CIA by the Senate Select Committee on Intellingence the research I did on the a democratic country`s decision to torture has become relevant again. In my thesis dissertation I use the abuses at Abu Ghraib as a case study to gain insight into why a country would decide to use torture even though it is extremely ineffecient. It also touches on the lack of political will to address the issue in the Obama camp and a possible means to efficiently address the issue. I have included the abstract of the dissertation in this article. The full dissertation can be downloaded at:

This dissertation’s primary focus is why torture is used when torture is not an effective means of gathering intelligence. To answer this question the argument for the use of torture, commonly known as the ticking time bomb argument, is discussed. Due to psychological and physiological processes during torture interrogation it was found that torture cannot be relied upon to deliver truthful information.

Torture was also found to adversely affect the institutions that are needed for its establishment. After torture has been found to be of no utility in terms of the appropriation of information the question of why torture is still used is answered by means of discussing societal dynamics as well as the political process surrounding torture. On the societal front it was found that American public opinion towards torture is ambivalent. The reason for this includes a host of socio-psychological factors such as the in-group out-group bias as well the War on Terror as a political ideology in its own right.

The notion that anybody is likely to torture is also explored by means of discussing the Milgram’s Obedience Experiment as well as the Stanford Prison Experiment. On the political front the notion that the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay were the work of a few bad apples is dispelled since it formed part of a deliberative political process that tried to make torture a legitimate foreign policy measure.

The reason for the existence of this process is the failure of international and domestic checks and balances. On the international front U.S. unilateralism as foreign policy principle is cited as the reason for the ineffectiveness of international measures to stop torture. On the domestic front the permanent rally around the flag effect due to the permanent state of mobilization in the War on Terror is cited as the reason for the failure of domestic checks and balances.

The lessons learnt from the research enables the creation of measures on how to stop torture even when it is found that the necessary political will is not present within the Obama administration. In the absence of political will it must be manufactured by means of the actions of civil society, the free press and the international community. It was found that the most effective means would be the creation of a committee of inquiry to create the political memory of the use of torture and how it was established. Additionally a memorial must be erected as well seeing that inquiries create political memories but they do not sustain it.

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