The Real Implications and Questions of Torture

Hedy Gutfreund Co-Editor-in-Chief Thursday morning: torture. No, I don’t mean I had a terrible Thursday. In fact, it was a pretty decent Thursday. But the topic of the Thursday, November 29 LIFE program was torture—namely, torture victims and the implications of torture. I spent long block watching Beneath the Blindfold, a new documentary that featured Dr. Mary Fabri. Then, we had the privilege to hear Dr. Fabri speak in an all-school assembly, and I also attended the discussions afterwards. The documentary and Dr. Fabri underscored a few major points, but there are a few stones left unturned. First, torture has long-lasting psychological effects. The movie focused on four torture survivors who had trouble living normal lives after torture that happened to them years ago. Matilde de la Sierra, who was abducted and tortured in Guatemala after receiving many death threats for being a doctor there, described how it is difficult for her to go out at night because of all the triggers of torture that haunt her. Dr. Fabri’s second major point was that torture is mostly used as an instrument of government control. So, it’s not always about getting information from a terrorist or about punishment — it’s about showing that the government is in control. And this happens to innocent people around the world under repressive regimes or regimes led by insurgencies. Along with this point came the idea that we can do something about it. Whether it’s writing letters through Amnesty International or protesting in Washington, D.C. about torture, we don’t have to stand by idly. Her final major point, though, was that nobody should ever be tortured. Donald Vance, one of the subjects of the movie and a Chicago-born Navy veteran, was tortured in an American detention center for three months in Iraq for whistleblowing to the F.B.I. about corruption in the military. Often, we like to forget that the United States participates in torture, and we like to forget that it’s not always black and white. In Vance’s words, “I really don’t care what country you’re from, I don’t care what color your skin is, I don’t care who you pray to. This shouldn’t happen to anyone. Period!” But it’s not as easy as that. What about what we see on shows like 24 and NYPD Blue? Is it necessary to use torture for information sometimes? That’s what junior Jack Gomberg wanted to hear Dr. Fabri talk more about. In his words, “We can all agree that torture as a means of controlling a population is completely wrong on basically every moral level. But she only talked about the torturing criminals/terrorists for about 2-5 minutes.” And that’s where the line gets blurry. Dr. Fabri advocates that a good cop/bad cop strategy is more effective. This caused some disagreement in the Latin community, and this discussion is far from finished. So, Forum readers, what do you think? When is torture okay? Is it ever okay? And what is our responsibility to act?]]>