“Even in Washington, D.C.?” I ask.
“Yes. I feel like they’re after me again.”
Perpetrators of torture share a common rationale: national security. “They tell you torture keeps your families safe and secure,” says Miguel.
What about the Israeli argument – that torture can thwart a suicide bomber, or the American version: “What if Islamic terrorists planted a suitcase-sized nuclear bomb in New York City?”
I put that question to torture survivors. One asked, “Why torture anyone? Wouldn’t you be better off finding an imam ... to sit with the prisoner and let him persuade a suspect it’s morally wrong to take innocent lives?”
Of the dozen survivors I interviewed, people from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, each said torture doesn’t work. In 2008, Mary from Uganda was beaten, gang raped, and terrorized in prison. Her crime? Being a member of the opposition party. “When they torture you, two things happen,” she says. “First they make you crazy. Next, you believe you’re going to die, so there’s no point in confessing.”
Given the harshness of the interrogation techniques his administration authorized, former President George W. Bush was disingenuous when he insisted in 2006 that the US doesn’t torture. He should first have consulted his father, a former CIA director, about the effectiveness of torturing an enemy.
An Ethiopian named Thomas spoke to that. “Instead of breaking you, it [torture] hardens you,” he says. Security forces threatened to shoot him, saying, “We’re just going to kill you. No one can save you. We’ll say we shot you trying to escape.”