Should the US Military Be Allowed to Torture People?

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As
you know, the Bush administration has been under fire for its use
of torture – and it has become apparent that torture has pervaded
the U.S. military’s activities not just at
Abu Ghraib
, but also in
other parts of Iraq
, in Afghanistan,
at Guantanamo,
and
elsewhere
.

Unfortunately,
too many of the arguments about the use of torture are focused on
whether the War on Terror justifies the use of torture. That is,
the question at hand is: Isn’t it okay to use torture against terrorists
who might be able to provide information that could prevent another
terrorist attack?

Opponents
of torture answer "no" – but they do it on the grounds
that this is contrary to international law (and breaking that law
will open the door to a wider use of torture by our enemies) and
that it is inhumane to use torture – even if the person being tortured
is a terrorist.

In
all the arguing over the presumed rights of a terrorist, one thing
is being overlooked: no one knows for sure whether the person
being tortured really is a terrorist.

There
is a very good reason we have a 6th amendment in the Bill of Rights:
Until the accused has had his day in court, until he has had the
benefit of an attorney who can call attention to weaknesses in the
case against him, until he has had the opportunity to confront and
cross-examine those who have accused him, until his case can be
judged by people who don’t have a vested interest in convicting
him, no one can be sure the accused is guilty.

We
already have narratives from people who make a pretty good case
that
they are entirely innocent
, but were captured
and arrested by the U.S. military
, put in jail, denied all contact
with counsel or family, and tortured.

Second,
if the Bill of Rights isn’t adhered to, if the accused isn’t given
the privileges accorded therein, it’s too easy to convict the
wrong person – thus allowing the guilty party to go free and
continue to commit crimes. So the Bill of Rights doesn’t just protect
the rights of the innocent, it is also enhances the security of
the community.

Third,
using torture on prisoners is a poor way to gain information. The
moment anyone started to torture me, I’d tell him anything he wanted
to know – even if I didn’t know anything. I would confess immediately
– even if I had done nothing wrong. I would say anything the torturer
wanted to hear. But of what value is that to him?

Absolutely
no value at all. In fact, if my statements were believed and people
acted on what they "learned" from torturing me, they would
waste valuable resources by pursuing false leads.

The
problem, as so often is the case, comes back to government schools.
Because there is virtually no education covering the reasons
for the Bill of Rights, very few people in America have an understanding
of
why we have a Bill of Rights
and why it must be enforced
without exception – in both civilian courts and in military
justice.

P.S.
To those who say that the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to non-Americans,
I say: read the Bill of Rights. Nowhere does it refer to the citizenship
of the people affected. The 1st amendment refers to "Congress,"
the 2nd to "people," the third to "soldiers,"
the 4th to "people," the 5th to "person," the
6th to "accused," the 9th to "people," the 10th
to the "States" and to the "people," while the
7th and 8th don’t refer to any specific entities. The word "American"
or "citizen" appears nowhere in the Bill of Rights.

If
the government is allowed to suspend the Bill of Rights for anyone,
the security of all of us is diminished.

P.P.S.
What is truly amazing is that after the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted,
George W. Bush was still tsk, tsking about
Hussein’s alleged use of torture
.

January
12, 2005

Harry Browne [send
him mail
], the author of Why
Government Doesn’t Work

and many other books, was the Libertarian presidential candidate
in 1996 and 2000. See his website.

Harry
Browne Archives

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