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Torture Support Rising

Thomas Whitley

In a disheartening article The Daily Beast talks about the recent uptick in support of torture among American teens.

Why 60 Percent of Young People Support Torture: A new study by the American Red Cross obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast found that a surprising majority—almost 60 percent—of American teenagers thought things like water-boarding or sleep deprivation are sometimes acceptable. More than half also approved of killing captured enemies in cases where the enemy had killed Americans.

The article cites various reasons why teens may support torture more than their elders including being rather removed from the ongoing wars. I was surprised, though, that nothing was said about the increase in movies and television shows depicting torture in a positive light, the most popular being "24." I fully believe that consistently seeing "enemies" tortured and it leading to the (American) "hero" narrowly saving the day has offered Americans an extremely unrealistic picture of 1) the horrors of torture, and 2) the unreliability of information garnered through torture (or as the Bush Administration benignly called it, "enhanced interrogation techniques").

That torture is extremely ineffective in producing reliable information has been proven time and time again.

One irony was revealed in a striking study earlier this year from Brown University showing that enhanced interrogations may not even be an effective way to gather intelligence. Compared with traditional police questioning techniques like building rapport or offering positive reinforcement, the study found that torture more frequently alienates the subject, or produces unreliable information. The marquee example researchers point to is the Libyan detainee in 2002 who, under torture, claimed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, a major premise in launching the war in Iraq.

Let us also not forget that the Geneva Conventions expressly forbid torture of enemy combatants. Why many Americans think America should be held to a different standard than the rest of the world is beyond me.

I do not support torture at all firmly on humanitarian grounds, yet I know many still do. If you do, why?