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1August 26, 2009What’s in a name? Torture vs. Torture Lite

Posted Aug 26 2009 12:00am


Earlier this week a detailed report of prisoner abuses in overseas CIA prisons was released. The report provides new information about the nature of the abuses inflicted on prisoners which included threatening to kill or sexually assault detainee’s family members, the use of guns or tools for intimidation, and even staged mock executions. Although some of the methods were not authorized by the Justice Department, the report claims that the methods used in interrogations yielded significant information that could be used to prevent future terrorist activity.

The moral implications of these reports is staggering, and it seems that in response some have begun to subtype the acts mentioned above in an effort to reduce the negative associations with the integrity, honesty, moral fortitude many would like to believe America represents. Journalists, military personnel, and academics have distinguished between torture, which is “violent, physically mutilating, cruel, and brutal,” and torture lite, or “interrogation methods that are more restrained and less severe” (Wolfendale, 2009). Wolfendale (2009) claims that using terms like torture lite minimizes the suffering of victims as well as the responsibility of torturers and additionally can lead to the normalization of torture in our culture. Sectioning out some forms of torture may make us feel better and allow us to retain our former representation of our country as a positive, strong, and moral force but in the end it stunts our ability to give the issue its full importance, take responsibility for our actions, and have a real debate about whether we as a country condone torture as a reasonable means for interrogation.



C.I.A. Abuse Cases Detailed in Report on Detainees



The Myth of “Torture Lite”

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