Forsythe Lecture Speaks to Realities of Post-9/11 Torture Practices

By Annah Freudenburg, Staff Writer

Post-9/11’s questionable interrogation practices were the topic of Dr. David Forsythe’s brief lecture last Tuesday. The lecture, entitled “US Foreign Policy: Torture as Public Policy,” focused predominantly on the United State’s interrogation procedures following the shock of 9/11 terrorist attacks, but also gave grounds to the history of torture in the US.

Dr. Forsythe played a leading role in establishing the study of human rights as part of the field of political science, earning the title of Distinguished Scholar of the Human Rights Organization.

Dr. Forshthe’s lecture explained that although it was practiced against Native Americans, British captives, and throughout the Civil War, it was not until the Korean War that torture became of critical, scientific interest to the US.

The discovery that soldiers could be broken through isolation and abuse led to the establishment of confidential initiatives, such as the Phoenix Program, which was established during the conflict in Vietnam, after a band of assassins and torturers sought out those who might be aiding the North.

Humanitarian Law, such as Common Article Three of the Geneva Articles, prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading (CID) treatment. This provided a web of legal framework that the Bush Administration had to actively work around following 9/11 to begin illegal interrogation procedures.

This was dubiously accomplished using civilian lawyers in the Office of Legal Council to define the meaning of torture and the laws against torture. Led by Vice President Cheney, these lawyers could then say that an action may be abusive, but falls short of torture.

Following this rerouting of legal framework, now-infamous establishments arose. In Bagram, Afghanistan, prisoners were beaten and frozen to death. In Guantanamo, Cuba, treatment of detainees was intended to be harsh. These were not rogue soldiers carrying out these torturous actions; it was policy, and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was informed day-by-day of the events.

After the atrocities of Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, where the US military violated the human rights of detainees by committing acts of sodomy rape, and other forms of torture upon them, things began to change. The Supreme Court was forced to say that all detainees in the Global War on Terrorism are covered by the Geneva Conventions.

Torture and the practice of cruel methods did not cease after the Bush Administration left office. President Obama has tried to reduce the nature of abuse while still trying to obtain information, but Congress refuses to shut down facilities such as Abu Ghraib. CIA Black Sites in which the use of “military commissions” are employed are scattered across the globe, including areas like Thailand, Poland, and Romania, as well as Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and aboard naval ships.

Dr. Forsythe concluded by saying that the US will almost certainly not recognize torture as being wrong, will not apologize, or pay reparations for a long time, but he ended on a note of hope. Hopefully, in our time as Kalamazoo College students, we will learn to accept responsibility for our actions on this matter and react accordingly.