Who Benefits From Torture?
After my first day of my internship, I carpooled back home with my aunt and listened to a radio station that's often a big bore to me: KFWB News 980. There were the usual traffic reports (a must in LA, I guess) but I found a commentary by Michael Smerconish interesting as well as frightening. Is waterboarding torture? The immediate answer is DUH but the real issue that Smerconish pondered over was whether waterboarding is necessary in preventing terrorist forces. Tragedies like 9/11 could have been avoided. His conclusion: Yes, and there is no one out there who would say otherwise. Oh, really now?
Smerconish started taking phone calls from people all over the nation. I only heard two reactions but both completely agreed the man. "Waterboarding is not torture", they said. But Smerconish said that he wasn't concerned with the torture question at the moment, focusing more on whether waterboarding is necessary. Indeed, I didn't hear a solid answer from Smerconish when he himself asked about waterboarding as a torture method. He did, however, mention that according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defined torture as "the infliction of intense pain...to...coerce." Still, Smerconish believed that waterboarding is necessary to prevent huge losses of human lives from occuring.
It's sad; the solution to injustice has been made so simple, but the easier it is, the more harm you are going to do. We ask for comprehensive immigration reform and we get discriminatory state bills like Arizona's SB1070 (no matter what you think about the bill, it's increasing hostility against all immigrants, legal and illegal). The U.S. supposedly prevented a huge loss of American casualties by instigating a mass killing of Japanese civilians. Measures and acts such as these don't relieve the world of pain and suffering. Lives and livelihoods have still been sacrificed.
Now, what if we flipped the hypothetical waterboarding situation around and instead, terrorists use this method to gain information from Americans? Remember, we're talking about the USE of waterboarding, not the circumstances surrounding it. If the callers truly believed that waterboarding is not torture, their response would stay unchanged towards ALL uses of waterboarding. But in actuality, what would their answer(s) be?
Smerconish's justification of the use of waterboarding is premised on the violence that already exists in the world. Basically, violence is the solution to violence. But are you not legitimizing harm when you yourself inflict it on another human being? How are we progressing as a society by using force against others? "But they're our enemies!" Yes, these "enemies" have hurt countless lives. Viewing anyone as the enemy and using force against them, however, will aggravate the tension that they have already created. In an attempt to cure the world of terrorism, America has only problematized it.
Being the liberal that I am, many conservatives would roll their eyes at my ideal vision of the world (recall Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention). But come ON, as naive as it sounds, violence is NOT the answer. What's the point of carrying on summits between world leaders when these leaders are not ready to end war? I believe in living in a pluralistic society, but I also believe that humanity shares a common goal (cue the eye rolls). Don't we oppose anarchy? Physical and emotional harm? Infringement of our rights?
So my answers to Smerconish's questions are as follows...
YES, waterboarding is a torture method. Why? It's capable of causing physical and emotional damage. End of story.
My answer to the million dollar question: while torture methods like waterboarding may be useful in obtaining information from terrorist groups, it will not do any good for our nation's -- our WORLD's -- future.
Guess I'm pulling a Kagan with that last answer, huh? But that's because the answer to that question is irrelevant when we're talking about bettering the world as a whole.