In our current socio-political climate, we’re dealing with difficult times. Despite the United States’ longstanding bipartisan opposition to torture and strengthening of the U.S. torture ban, recent rhetoric and public opinion have demonstrated a disturbing rise in the tolerance and even support of the use of torture. Polls have shown an alarming fact: Over half of Americans feel torture is justified in cases of suspected terrorism (Pew Research Center). Television shows and movies glorify the practice of torture as if it were an effective practice for gathering information.
This is unacceptable. The purpose of torture is often less about interrogation or saving lives than it is about intimidation, control, breaking an individual’s will, instilling fear and silencing dissent. The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) recently launched its Call to Reject Torture campaign, including a declaration with signatures from more than 100 military members, public officials and faith leaders, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Former Secretaries of Defense William S. Cohen and Chuck Hagel. It’s part of our moral obligation never to accept the use of torture — unequivocally and without exception. We declare that:
- Torture violates the inherent dignity of human beings.
- Torture undermines respect for the rule of law, domestically and internationally.
- Torture creates barriers to military and intelligence cooperation with allies.
- Torture damages the United States’ reputation in the world and is not in the interest of our national security.
The highly credible, well respected and influential signatories of this declaration are diverse in many of their political views, but all agree that the United States should never use torture again. Together, we’re sending a clear message to fellow Americans that torture is against our values; it has and will always be a human rights violation; and it should never be part of our national security agenda.
The facts are simple: Torture is illegal, immoral, ineffective and makes America less safe.
We know this because for more than 30 years, CVT has been extending rehabilitative care to survivors of torture. We have spoken out about this horrific practice by continuing to educate the public on the truths about torture, working on policy advocacy in Washington, D.C., to end torture, and speaking out about the physical and psychological impact of torture on the thousands of survivors that we see every day in our healing work.
On Oct. 4, more than 500 individuals who support CVT will gather for our annual Restoring Hope Breakfast. In addition to the opportunity this event presents for like-minded people to gather and buoy one another for a common cause, it is also a solemn experience: It is the day when many of our supporters and friends will hear heartbreaking yet hopeful stories from survivors themselves. While I have the privilege to meet and get to know many of CVT’s clients in my role, I know that our yearly gathering can be a once-in-a-lifetime and deeply moving moment in the lives of CVT’s allies. Our guests will also be invited to take action — to add their names to the Call to Reject Torture campaign. But for those unable to attend, you can still participate in this effort and join us in taking a stand.
Today, we are at a critical crossroads as a society. I ask you to not be silent in your opposition to torture. Please join me: Reject torture and ask your family, friends and colleagues to do the same. You can take action by engaging with us on social media, signing our letter and downloading our CVT ally toolkit. Learn more here.
Curt Goering is executive director of the Minnesota-based Center for Victims of Torture, where he oversees an international staff with offices in Atlanta, St. Paul and Washington, D.C., and healing projects in Africa and the Middle East.
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