A summary of Senate Intelligence Committee’s report about this has been released to the public, and it’s not pretty.
It’s hard to list off these things humans did to other humans. Standing sleep deprivation that lasted as long as 66 hours.
Ice baths. Rectal feeding. Waterboarding. Forcing those with broken bones to stand on them in “stress positions”. Threatening to hurt their children.
Threatening to rape and murder their mothers. Russian roulette. Mock executions. Leaving a man on a concrete floor with nothing but a sweatshirt on until he was found frozen to death.
The list goes on.
And none of it helped in the so-called war against terror.
The torture “regularly resulted in fabricated information”. Prisoners were, unsurprisingly, psychologically traumatised, leading to hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts to self-mutilate.
But deliver life-saving intelligence? That’s not something these undeniable crimes against humanity accomplished.
None of this happened during the Middle Ages. None of it happened in Westeros. This happened a few years ago in America.
In 1948, the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, amongst other things, made a clear statement against torture.
Barely over half-a-decade later and torture reports are coming from the country that theoretically should stand out as the paragon when it comes to human rights: The United States of America.
That must sound horribly naïve. Like many with grandparents who survived World War II, I was given a taste of the propaganda my grandmother would have had shoved down her throat.
The World Wars were a very 'bad thing' but the allies were the 'goodies'. After not one, but two world wars the world realised we needed to ‘do better’; so we agreed to stop doing ‘bad things’. This is the basic, simplistic version of the lesson that trickled down to me, the fifth youngest grandchild of a good-natured woman who cared deeply about always trying to be as nice and good a person as you can be, and it’s one I believed.
I always knew there were countries who didn’t subscribe to things like the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but for a long time I believed, childishly I admit, that certain major countries that represented the allies, like America, at least tried to stay mostly on the right side of ethics.
Obviously, this is a bit of a Santa Claus-styled myth. What all countries try to do, above all, is win. Of course, The United States used torture. They remain the only country to ever have used nuclear weapons. There was that business with the drones. Why would they stop at torture?
I don’t expect too much from countries. I expected a bit more from humans, though.
The period around 1948 was a tender time for humanity. Just when everyone thought we’d shown how we were so clever, that we were capable of reason and humanism and creating wonderful things through science, we’d gone and had not one, but two world wars.
During these wars we’d tried to kill as many other people as possible, ending in discovering those concentration camps, releasing those two nuclear bombs, and finding out just how much damage, death, agony and murder we humans could achieve if we really put our mind to it.
It’s no wonder that we performed some self-examination and agreed to things like “let’s all agree that we shouldn’t torture people”. We had obviously, as a species, been making some huge mistakes. The important thing was that we learned from them.
What’s frightening is how quickly we’ve sort of stopped caring about any of that.
It’s been 66 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and yet this is humanity today:
That, right there, is terrifying.
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