Image: raid on an al-Qaeda safe house in Iraq, U.S. military officials recovered an assortment of crude drawings depicting torture methods like 'blowtorch to the skin' and 'eye removal.' Along with the images. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/torture-al-qaeda-style

Part of a Broader Campaign of Terror

Torture is a deliberate act of cruelty; an act of inflicting severe physical and emotional suffering on a person or group of people as part of an overall campaign of coercion. Torture has been used as an interrogation technique, (see “Interrogation”), but this is not actually its most prominent or most effective use. Torture is usually part of a broader campaign of terror, a tactic of intimidation meant to create an overall climate of fear. It has also been used to alter behavior patterns. There is also a class of torture where the torture method is part of an overall act of execution. Image: raid on an al-Qaeda safe house in Iraq, U.S. military officials recovered an assortment of crude drawings depicting torture methods like 'blowtorch to the skin' and 'eye removal.' Along with the images. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/torture-al-qaeda-style

Targets

The target may be the individual who is being tortured, that person’s loved ones, or an entire group of people that the person may belong to. Torture is carried out both by terrorist organizations and by governments. When torture is used by governments, they often justify the act by claiming they are only using the torture to protect their citizens from terrorists, or by claiming that their acts are not “true” torture.

Historical Context

Medieval tortureTorture itself is as old as recorded human history, and perhaps older and is not the exclusive province of modern-day terrorism. In ancient and medieval times, torture was an expected institution of both State and religious bodies. Deliberately painful methods of “punishment” were in fact considered the norm until the 17th century, when the development of humanistic philosophy began to challenge such notions as right and good.[1] Indeed, during some periods of history, torturous executions have served as acceptable forms of entertainment for the masses.[2] Attitudes against torture have not prevailed in all nations, however. This is a development that has largely taken place in the Western World, and this development has not been uniform: torture has always had its advocates and practitioners. Torture has even continued to be an official policy of some regimes even in the modern era.[3]

Western Attitudes

In addition to this long and brutal history, Western attitudes towards torture may have shifted towards a greater tolerance for certain types of torture thanks to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, causing a great deal of controversy with those who advocate an avoidance of “cruel and unusual” punishment tactics.



[1] “Medieval Torture.” www.medievalwarfare.info/torture.htm, accessed 11/10/2011.

[2] George Ryley Scott, History of Torture Throughout the Ages, 2003.

[3] Ruxana Cesereanu. “An Overview of Political Torture in the Twentieth Century.” www.Jsri.ro/ojs/index.php/pri/article/viewFile/3641362, accessed 11/10/2011 

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Carmen Rane Hudson

From the time I was a small child I always had a fascination with "the what" and "the how." As I got older I realized that some of the most interesting subject to pair with these...