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The case against torture
The case against torture
Douglas Todd
June 4, 2005
The case against torture: First, it bears no relationship to the scenarios presented in TV shows; in reality, it degrades civilized society, it lowers the morale of a country's own soldiers and allies -- and often it doesn't work, anyway

If you were convinced a terrorist knew how to defuse a ticking nuclear bomb programmed to blow up Greater Vancouver in the next few hours, would you feel justified in torturing him? ... ... In the 1990s, University of B.C. international affairs specialist Michael Byers worked for eight months with an Oxford University team to try to ensure that former Chilean dictator Auguste Pinochet would be kept in Spain to face charges of torturing tens of thousands of opponents. The torture-ridden regime of Pinochet, a devout Catholic supported by the Central Intelligence Agency, is a prime example of why Byers believes there should be an "absolute" ban on torture. Byers is convinced any kind of torture, similar to capital punishment, represents an ethical "slippery slope" that degrades civilized society. Countries that permit torture have lost the moral high ground, he says. People underestimate, he says, how important it's been for the U.S., the world's only superpower, to champion global human rights since achieving independence in 1776. "But the U.S. is not a beacon any more," says Byers, who taught at Duke University in North Carolina. The fours years since Sept. 11, 2001, have been "incredibly tragic," he says, since the evidence shows people high up in the U.S. chain of command have approved torture. By breaking international law, the U.S. is losing the war for hearts and minds, Byers says. It's not only giving strength to its enemies, but lowering the morale of its own soldiers and allies. The damage caused by torture, both physical and psychological, is often underestimated, he adds. The TV show, 24, makes it look as if torture victims don't suffer lasting consequences. But Byers, who has interviewed the survivors of Chilean torture, knows that's a lie...

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