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Issues of Tortures in the United States: Analytical Essay

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The Results of Torture

The United States has had a history on torture of foreign terrorists and suspected allies that have been received both negatively and positively domestically and internationally. After 9/11, it was easier for the United States to see foreigners as dangerous and potential threats to its society. It’s a basic human instinct to want to fight against threats to oneself, but where do we draw the line to maintain the safety and security of our country? The Foreign Affairs article “The Strategic Costs of Torture: How ‘Enhanced Interrogation’ Hurt America” by Douglas A. Johnson, Alberto Mora, and Averell Schmidt explains The United States’ affinity for torture internationally after 9/11 and how it’s affected the reputation of America and how other countries view their relations with this country. During Barrack Obama’s administration, torture was banned to “rebuke Bush administration, which had, in the years after 9/11 attacks, authorized the CIA and the U.S military to use ‘enhanced interrogation techniques in questioning suspected terrorists’” (foreign affairs 2016). The article goes further to explain how allied countries to the US have gone against the methods of interrogation the US had enacted on detainees from other countries in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, detention centers in west of Baghdad and Cube. In response to the consequences, the US has experienced with its form of torture, the US, in 2014, released reports on an investigation into the CIA’s interrogation and torture program in the early 2000s. Their aim was to show how the interrogation methods had not produced any new information from detainees and how the interrogations the CIA did could have been handled differently without torturing the detainees.

The issue of torture in the United States is important because as the 2020 presidential elections draw closer, the policy of bringing back “enhanced interrogation methods” could potentially be an aspect of the election that people would be looking for in a president. The authors of the Foreign Affairs article state that “Today, many Americans are considering electing a president who wants to bring such abuses back…majority of Americans now think that the CIA’s use of torture was justified” (foreign affairs 2016). Terrorism and attacks against the United States is still fears a lot of citizens have with the possible rise of Isis again and fear of what immigrants and refugees could do to the country. If citizens are rethinking the method of torture once again, it can change how the elections are considered and will change foreign policy/cooperation with other countries that have its own policies against torture. Many allies and relationships with countries that have aided the United States for centuries may not agree with the United States if it were to bring back torture, so cooperation could become difficult for the United States. Moreover, torture isn’t as effective as many CIA officials have claimed it to be.

Within the current Trump administration, support for bringing back torture and other means of interrogation is something Donald Trump agrees upon. Days after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, he had his first TV Interview where he stated that “he believes torture ‘absolutely’ works and that the US should ‘fight fire with fire’” (the guardian 2017). Trump’s method of gathering information relies on the fact that if you use enough force on a person, they will be able to tell the truth, but as authors, Matthew Weaver and Spencer Ackerman from “The Guardian” state, torture “undermines a source’s ability to be a reliable reporter of information” (theguardian). In Trump’s administration, there’s little thought about how their decisions would affect the US’s relationships with other countries if Trump decides to make policies that contradict a lot of the human rights laws the US and other countries maintain to keep the peace with each other. Bush’s administration, according to Harold Hongju Koh of “Foreign Policy”, “helped terrorist recruiting, devastated international standing, and damaged our alliances. It punctured the faith of so many who wanted to believe in America’s exceptional leadership” (foreign policy 2014). Torture had the opposite effect Bush planned for it to have instead of people giving accurate information, the CIA could have been given false statements for the detainees to receive less torture. Many of the terrorist groups also benefitted from the torture that the US was doing. Because it showed how dangerous the US could be and how untrustworthy they could be if they were torturing innocent citizens. The Trump administration may be bringing that back if they decide to make it legal for the military to begin torturing suspected terrorists in other countries.

Despite a lot of people recently showing interest in bringing back the methods of torture for interrogation, many organizations and groups in the United States are against the idea of policymaking for it. Other countries are opposed to it as well as it violates their own policies and laws of protecting the human rights of their citizens and people from other countries. According to Weaver and Ackerman, “Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, has been urged to by her own MPs to make Britain’s opposition to torture clear to Trump when she visits him” (the guardian 2017). Other countries need to maintain their own relationships and follow their own international laws and human rights laws they’ve established. Apart from other countries’ views on the US and its policies, Koh also states that “the [2014 Enhanced Interrogation Program] reveals that ‘the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program” (foreign policy 2014). With that report, many US citizens were able to have a better understanding of what was happening with the CIA and the military with the torture program, but not all the information was released. There was more biased information given. False information could have also given allied countries the idea that the US couldn’t handle its own problems and cause conflicts with how trustworthy or reliable the United States is to those other countries. The Obama ban to torture was a step towards gaining confidence from allied countries, but the Trump administration could potentially damage that reputation.

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The area of torture and methods of interrogations deal a lot more with Security Studies than with International Political Economy, although international relations with other countries can also impact the economy of the US if the US is to revert back to using torturous methods to interrogate detainees outside of United States territory. The US has acted in different ways to keep national and international security in its own way. Their focus was then on keeping the debate on torture as low as it could be while brushing off what many officials did overseas. In the “Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture on the Review of the Periodic Report of the United States of America” by Harvard Law professors and alumni, it’s stated that “President Obama admitted that U.S. officials tortured people, using techniques that, in his estimation, ‘any fair-minded person would believe were torture’…the United States has yet to impartially and thoroughly investigate and prosecute senior officials” (Harvard 2014). They explain how the United States has decided to leave those problems in the past and instead look towards the future to what could be done about it, so it won’t happen again. The lack of law-abiding from the United States could potentially give countries the idea that the US is fine with torture and other intense interrogation methods that those countries are against.

The United States has taken the approach of realism in international relations studies due to the fact that the US is primarily concerned with how effective “enhanced interrogation methods” are when it comes to obtaining information instead of the moralistic idea of the whole situation. There’s a lot of international interest for the United States on the line when considering torture abroad which is similar to Obama’s counteraction towards Bush’s administration enacting torture to interrogate suspected terrorists. Karen DeYoung from The Washington Post writes about how “’ The U.S. government has a chance to reassert U.S. global leadership on human rights by making it unambiguously clear that [it] doesn’t condone torture anywhere’” (washingtonpost 2014)). The retired marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar who stood next to Obama when Obama banned torture at the Geneva meeting was also thinking realistically and had in mind what many others had in mind: the US needed to maintain great relations with democratic countries. The United States, before the Obama administration, wanted to find the most effective way of asserting their dominance over the terrorist group and other groups that didn’t operate in a democratically western way, and enhanced interrogation methods was what the untrained CIA thought of doing in time of crisis and desperation for results. Scott Shane of the New York Times paints it in a simple way: “the bitter infighting in the CIA interrogation program was only one symptom of the dysfunction, disorganization, impotence, greed, and deception…[the agency] was ill-equipped to take on the task” in his article “Report Portrays a Broken CIA Devoted to a Failed Approach” (NYTimes 2014). There’s evidence in the 2014 report of the CIA that demonstrates why their torture method lead to less than what could have been received through non-violent methods. Torture was a failed approach on the CIA’s part, but the United States can’t revert back to torturous methods unless they want to lose cooperation and ties with other countries.

The United States should take a liberalist approach to the torture topic instead of a solely realistic approach. While other countries are also thinking about their national interests, their moral concerns are the main consideration when it comes to torture. In Matt Apuzzo, Sheri Fink, and James Risen’s words in “How U.S. Torture Left a Legacy of Damaged Minds”, “[government lawyers and intelligence officials] knew that the methods inflicted on terrorism suspects would be painful, shocking, and far beyond what the country had ever accepted. But none of it, they concluded, would cause long-lasting psychological harm. Fifteen years later, it is clear they were wrong” (NYTimes 2016). The authors describe how many of the tortured suspected terrorists may have physically recovered, but a majority of those who were tortured never mentally recovered from the trauma the CIA put them through. The torture methods that they experienced were brutal to the point where they haven’t “felt normal” in a long time or where their conditions are similar to American prisoners of war. They went home and didn’t feel the same as they did before the brutality they went through. Much developed post-traumatic-stress disorder or anxiety attacks whenever there was mention of where they were held or when they had to talk about the torture. It would benefit the United States to take a stronger liberalist approach to the consideration of bringing back militaristic torture because it would not only be a moralistic approach that follows the Human Rights laws the US has, but it would also provide other countries with an example of how the United States can still be an international superpower that democratic countries can follow. It would show leadership and responsibility to those countries that doubt the leadership of the US with the Trump administration in power.

Torture in modern times isn’t received as positively as it was a long time ago. Despite the Trump administration is in favor of bringing it back, there’s a lot more opposition towards it domestically and internationally. When it comes to torture for the United States, the country needs to have both liberalistic and realistic perspectives in international relations. Torture has had a negative past in the United States that resulted in problems with citizens, foreigners, and trust within countries. It has caused psychological and political problems that have the potential to come back after it has been banned by the Obama administration and the Trump administration wants to dig it back out if there are more threats to international democratic security. “Enhanced Interrogation” has hurt America before, it would benefit the US if this form of aggressivity weren’t repeated again because it will “alter the relationship between the United States and its allies” (foreign affairs 2016).


  1. Apuzzo, Matt, et al. “How U.S. Torture Left a Legacy of Damaged Minds.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Oct. 2016,
  2. Bond, Trudy, et al. “Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecution.” Harvard Law, 29 Sept. 2014,
  3. DeYoung, Karen. “United Nations Asks the United States to Clarify Its Position on Torture.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 12 Nov. 2014,
  4. Johnson, Douglas A., et al. “The Strategic Costs of Torture.” Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs Magazine, 26 Jan. 2017,
  5. Koh, Harold Hongju. “The Torture Report Is Only the First Step.” Foreign Policy, 12 Dec. 2014,
  6. Shane, Scott. “Report Portrays a Broken C.I.A. Devoted to a Failed Approach.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Dec. 2014,
  7. Weaver, Matthew, and Spencer Ackerman. “Trump Claims Torture Works but Experts Warn of Its ‘Potentially Existential’ Costs.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Jan. 2017,

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