Sunday, July 03, 2005

Torture at the Dawn of the 21st Century

"Our medical code of ethics requires us to oppose
torture wherever it is inflicted, for any reason.
Guided by this ethic, I served as a volunteer
with the international group MEDICO in 1963,
taking care of people who had been tortured by
the French during Algeria's civil war. I remain
deeply affected by that experience today -- by
the people I tried to help and could not, and by
their families, which suffered the most terrible grief.
I heard the victims' stories, examined their
permanently broken bodies and looked into faces
that could not see me because of the irreparable
damage done not only to their senses but also to
their brains. As I have studied reports of torture
throughout our troubled world since then, I have
always found comfort in knowing that at least
it did not occur here, not among Americans.

Now that comfort is shattered. Reports of torture
by U.S. forces have been accompanied by evidence
that military medical personnel have played a role
in this abuse and by new military ethical guidelines
that in effect authorize complicity by health
professionals in ill-treatment of detainees.
These new guidelines distort traditional ethical
rules beyond recognition to serve the interests
of interrogators, not doctors and detainees.

I urge my fellow health professionals to join
me and many others in reaffirming our ethical
commitment to prevent torture; to clearly state
that systematic torture, sanctioned by the
government and aided and abetted by our
own profession, is not acceptable. As health
professionals, we should support the growing
calls for an independent, bipartisan commission
to investigate torture in Iraq, Afghanistan,
Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, and demand
restoration of ethical standards that protect
physicians, nurses, medics and psychologists
from becoming facilitators of abuse.

America cannot continue down this road.
Torture demonstrates weakness, not strength.
It does not show understanding, power or
magnanimity. It is not leadership. It is a reaction
of government officials overwhelmed by fear
who succumb to conduct unworthy of them
and of the citizens of the United States."

-- Burton J. Lee III, former physician to the
president to George H.W. Bush and a board member
of Physicians for Human Rights,
writing in the Washington Post, July 1, 2005.


Blogger Abe said...

In addition to the ethical ramifications of torture, the practice of torture is an albatross to the torturers ultimate goals. For instance, when Americans toruture a foreign soldier, then foreign soldiers will have little to deter them in breaking the codes of the Geneva Convention, and our soldiers will be tortured. If a person is tortured long enough, they will eventually tell you whatever you want. This potentially imprisons the innocent, while ceasing the search for the guilty. In the end, torture is inhumane and ineffective.

Additionally, Americans now lose the moral superiority we had. Only an American President could have stood up at the wall in Berlin and proclaimed it evil; we were the land of rightousness. This hampers that view.

10:48 AM  

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