Cognitive Dissonance: the uncomfortable feeling one experiences when forced to consider two conflicting ideas at the same time. The theory behind this feeling is that a person will do whatever possible to quell that discomfort, including changing beliefs, values, and ultimately actions. Consider the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, the Stanford Prison Experiment, Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Simply put, those two conflicting ideas present during these horrific times were torturing and killing versus treating a person as though they deserved humane treatment. We can look at other factors, such as the environment imprinting discriminatory attitudes and anger. The motivation behind these frightening happenings and atrocities is not simple by any means. However, the knowledge that acting for the protection of human life, and rights, is necessary, and simple. The United States has recently come under pressure from the United Nations expert on torture for an investigation into the torture allegations concerning detainees under the George W. Bush administration. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The United States faced some cognitive dissonance-to torture or not to torture, but that is no excuse. Accountability is the next step.
“Let there be no doubt, the United States does not torture, and it will not torture”, claimed Harold Koh, a U.S. state department legal advisor to the United Nations Human Rights Council, on November 5. The United States has tortured. The appalling acts at Abu Ghraib were documented with witness statements and photographs. The soldiers who committed these acts are being punished, but these soldiers were members of the United States Army. A portion of a report by the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed that the “interrogation techniques” were approved. Waterboarding was employed by the United States at Guantanamo Bay. The CIA destroyed tapes of interrogations of “terrorism” suspects; some thought to include footage of waterboarding.
The proof exists. The United States should be held accountable for human rights violations. Destroying terrorism is key, but involving terror itself in that process will lead to anger, disgust, and hatred. The actions motivated by such feelings will never equate to the end of terrorism, but dangerous possibilities. We are a world leader, but no matter our standing, the desecration of human rights will never be acceptable.