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These are not hypothetical questions: Would you smash a man’s head into a wall? Would you threaten his wife?  Would you threaten to drill holes in him? Would you rape him with a hose? Would you, personally, with your hands, take these actions? Would you use your hands to break him? Would you do this with a cold head, as your job?


If you would not take these actions, would you hire someone to do them for you?


If you will neither torture nor hire another to do it for you, will you support those who defend torture?

The questions must be made personal. If we evade the questions, we are cowards.

Torture is wrong, a barbarism, an exhibition of mere vengeance, an absolute evil and thus a despoiler of goodness. It is an enabler of lies, a debaser of language, an inexhaustible engine for creating more enemies, a moral cancer within our nation and thus a threat to our democracy, a mortal threat to American servicemen and women who might be captured by a future enemy. Torture as a series of actions makes us guilty of techniques used by the Gestapo and the NKVD. It corrodes our integrity and thus our credibility in speaking on moral issues to an international audience. Torture did not work, and it “stained our honor.”^*

quote-for-we-must-consider-that-we-shall-be-a-city-upon-a-hill-the-eyes-of-all-people-are-upon-us-so-john-winthrop-278921Perhaps the most important and most enduring American ideal is that we are an exceptional people, that we belong to a “shining city on a hill”** and that in some misty, mythic context are a chosen nation, indispensable, a light to the world.  What becomes of this self-portrait in the presence of the stark reality of what we have done in all those stinking cells scattered across the dark world?

Have we become a people so afraid and cruel, a people so simplified by spectacle, celebrity and a trance inducing, omnipresent media that we no longer have the sustained capacity for reflection or honor?

Unless it is rejected, cruelty cannot be contained. It is not a tool to be employed and put away. It is a virus. What hubris to believe that once we endorse torture as a part of our collective character that we can control its foul and contagious effects.

We do not know their names (which have all been redacted from the CIA documents), but right now those men we have trained to torture, and the men who have supervised these programs and carried out the orders to destroy bodies and minds are reading the paper and drinking their morning coffee and waiting for the inevitable next attack. What will we choose in its aftermath? Will we sacrifice everything else just so we can be safe? Will some soft, smooth official in a suit place a phone call to those ferocious men in their sunny morning homes and tell them that yes, now, go to work in the dungeons we have said are again permissible? interrogation cell

^* John McCain, Senator and POW who suffered torture by the North Vietnamese: from the Senate Floor, December 9, 2014

**City on a Hill, 1630




© Mike Wall

8 Responses

  1. Brandy Kilroy says:

    My answer to those questions are no. I would never be able to torture and watch someone be tortured. I agree 100% with Mr. Wall in this Post. Torture is not protecting us. We are only creating more enemies and more chances for these enemies to have revenge on our children and on our loved ones. We must realize the downfalls of torture. Torture, in my opinion, is not helping anything but more so hindering us, just like fist fighting. Torture is not keeping us safe. We are killing people and someday, those countries and people will want revenge. These people will come after us for torturing. We should not be torturing to gain revenge on them. What they did to us is in the past and if we keep fighting and killing, its only going to get worse.

  2. Alicia Jamieson says:

    These are very good questions to ask. I say this because, when people say “yes I support torture”, they don’t exactly think deeply about what torture really entails. In some circumstances, yes, torture could help America gain information. But at what cost? So we stoop to other country’s levels? We become hypocrite because everyone knows that when the President of the United States comes on the TV, he’s bad mouthing other countries because of what torture tactics they use. Meanwhile, somewhere, miles underground, the same activity is happening on our soil. And it doesn’t matter what tactics we use; TORTURE IS TORTURE, plain and simple. I don’t exactly know where I stand on the whole “torture fence”, but I do know that I don’t want to live in a country run by hypocrites.

  3. Abby Pegler says:

    When it comes to torture, I believe this is the worst thing someone could do to another human being. Would you, yourself hurt another person to get a confession out of them? No? Then you believe torture is bad. If you answer no to that question and support torture then you need to think again because if you aren’t for hurting other human beings like yourself then torture shouldn’t even be a question right now. I know for a fact I would not hurt another human being to get a confession out of them. Like Mr. Wall said Torture is not protecting us, so don’t do it, and maybe we can protect ourselves.

  4. Kalie Radcliffe says:

    I answer no to those questions. I would NEVER have someone tortured to get the truth out of them. I agree with Mr. Wall that torture is not protecting us. This causing more to want revenge on other people and causing more enemies. Torture is not solving any problems, it’s creating problems and putting us in more danger.

  5. Victoria Bonenberger says:

    Would I be able to do these things myself with my own hands? No. Am I okay that this kind of thing happens? It’s certainly unsettling, but I feel that torture is something that has to be done if we are engaging in a war. I’m also not okay with the loss of lives, but If we’re going to go to war and kill the enemy and turn their country into no man’s land, then we need to be able to face that fact that torture comes along with this and it’s a useful tool in gathering information to protect not only united states citizens, but also the soldiers who are out there fighting for us.

  6. Bobby Long says:

    The answer to questions above is No. I would never be able to torture someone. Also I agree with Mr. Wall that torture does not help and does not protect us. Torture only creates enemies because we are harming other people from other countries. Torture brings our level of humanity down because we are like other countries who use torture. torturing people will only bring revenge through many and make enemies. So through it all torturing does not help and does not keep people safe and I would not be able to torture someone.

  7. Vincent Hunt says:

    I would never be able to torture somebody. I completely agree with the statements saying that torture is wrong, barbaric, and evil. It simply should not be a method of punishment. My answer to all of these questions are no, and I agree with everything that Mr. Wall is saying in the article. Torture does not only hurt the man or woman being tortured, but it hurts the families and friends to have to know what is happiening to the tortured person. Torture also causes unessassary war because of tThe other countries wanting revenge. Torture does not help with any of the world’s problems, and it is not benefiting anybody. I would never be able to take part of such an evil punishment.

  8. Matt Fields says:

    My answer to all of the questions above would be no. I agree with Mr. Wall that torture is not protecting us. Even though terrorists are killing our soldiers overseas and are torturing them, are they really to blame? These countries certainly did not invite us over to bomb their cities simply to help out other countries who are on our good side who are being attacked. These terrorists have never touched the U.S. until we barged into their country killing people. To torture the terrorists is just as cruel and imoral as it is for them torturing us. I understand that torturing them grabs information that we can use against them however we as Americans are not terrorists and should act how we would want done to us and stay out of their land.

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