The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Earlier this month, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program was released to the public. The hope of all who oppose torture is that the report will serve to prevent the behavior described within it from ever happening again, including the key findings that prisoners held by the U.S. or our allies on our behalf were grossly mistreated and abused. After years of opacity, we are finally able to know definitively how inhumane and ineffective “enhanced interrogation” has been.
The Reform Jewish Movement has a long history of opposing torture. Indeed, the Jewish tradition holds that every human being is entitled to k’vod habriot, the respect that is due to all of Creation. The release of the report is an important milestone in the history of the United States and the protection of our highest values of justice. Since the report’s release there have been criticisms lobbed against the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, particularly the chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and renewed promises to close Guantanamo Bay from President Obama. As Jews we see the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report as an important first step in the act of teshuva, repentance, for the wrongs committed against human dignity and respect.
The American public, and in particular the religious community, has been divided on this issue. The Washington Post found that a 69% of white evangelical Christians and 75% of white non-evangelical (Protestant and mainline) Christians believed that torture was justified and a minority (39%) saw the CIA actions as torture. A recent Pew Research Center study found that 51% of Americans say that the CIA torture was justified and 56% believe that the interrogations yielded information necessary to stopping terror attacks.
According to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report itself torture is simply not an effective means of obtaining credible information; the tortured are likely to say anything to relieve their suffering and therefore we risk gleaning false information from suspected terrorists under enhanced interrogation conditions.
The release of this report is so important because the debate is not about the efficacy of such techniques but about the ethics. As Senator John McCain stated on the floor of the Senate, “[i]n the end, torture’s failure to serve its intended purpose isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. I have often said and will always maintain that this question isn’t about our names, it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are, and who we aspire to be.”
There is still much more to be done to stop torture and indefinite detention. Take a look at the Religious Action Center’s Torture: A Jewish Perspective page to find out more.