The book Oath Betrayed by Steven H. Miles is proof of how horrifically humans treat each other. The author follows acts of torture by the United States and gives details of places where torture was used to obtain information. In this case the book describes torture in Baghdad (Iraq), Kabul (Afghanistan) and Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) by U.S. forces. In the introduction to the book Miles makes the following statement, “The United States is a torturing society.” I agree with this statement for several reasons. Torture is anti-humanitarian; torture never guarantees the truth; and torture is not the best way to obtain information. Nonetheless, the U.S. uses this method.
First, to the point that torture is anti-humanitarian: Nobody deserves to be harmed and nobody should be compelled to inflict pain on others. The United States, however, does not follow these principles. The United Nations, with its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, condemns torture and requires member countries to prohibit it by law. According to the book, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights became the cornerstone of international and national covenants, laws, and regulations banning torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” (Miles 2006, p.32). This declaration helps to stop legalized torture and to protect human rights. Yet what is considered torture? Miles explains that torture is defined as “…stress positions, sleep deprivation, isolation, dietary, manipulation, threats, isolation and so on” (Miles 2006, p. 53). These are all tactics that are used by U.S. forces in order to obtain information. These forms of torture were condemned by the U.N., which admonished the U.S. to stop torturing prisoners and find another way to obtain information.
Second, the U.S. used torture in the Guantanamo Bay prison, as the book explains, to obtain information from the prisoners. Yet Miles explains, “The only thing that torture guarantees is pain, it never guarantee the truth” (Miles 2006, p. 15 para. 3). This citation reflects the fact that torture is not a reliable way to obtain information, uncover criminal conspiracies or thwart terrorist attacks. The U.S. started the war in Afghanistan, arresting many Muslims with the intention of torturing them to obtain information. But this tactic did not work. It brought only human rights violations and pain to many Muslims. This type of humanitarian situation also exists in countries that are not at war. Miler says, “…many of the 130 governments that practice torture do so while they are at peace” (Miles 2006, p.5 para. 5). So this situation is not only attributed to U.S. society. It is unthinkable that the U.S., the modern society, is torturing.
Third, torturing to obtain information is unforgivable. Torturing causes pain and harm, but also it causes psychological problems for those who engage in it. According to Miler, “Torture psychologically traumatizes the soldiers who perform it” (Miles 2006, p.18 para. 3). This situation creates a circle of pain. No only do those who are tortured suffer, but so do those who inflict it. For example, frequently on NPR (National Public Radio) broadcasts, Americans call to complain that the anguish felt by U.S. soldiers compelled to commit acts of torture in Afghanistan, Iraq or Cuba has risen to the level of post-traumatic stress disorder. American soldiers have complained that they have difficulty concentrating because of flashbacks and memories of the pain of prisoners. Their lives were changed.
In conclusion, the U.S. is a society predicated upon torture. The U.S. disingenuously claims not to engage in torture domestically—all the while torturing “enemies of the state” abroad in pursuit of its own “interests.” The U.S. use of torture to obtain information in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Cuba, even while condemned by the U.N., is immoral and barbarian; modern societies need to think about the pain and harm that it causes—the circle of pain that it causes. To address this issue it is important that the U.N. have the authority to punish societies that use torture. International rules can help and support the importance of human rights.