What can happen to torturers

Unless one has been subjected to torture oneself, it is impossible to get an accurate sense of what it must be like to be subjected to it, which is why one can dismiss out of hand the excuses given by torture apologists that it is little more than fraternity hazing, although that is bad enough. Torture is evil and those who committed it, provided the authorization for it, and gave the orders for it should all be prosecuted.

This article by someone who actually committed torture shows that being up close to it also has a deeply negative effect even if one was not at the receiving end, and of his struggle to find ways to atone. One has to be a thoroughgoing sociopath to not have some negative effect on one’s psyche for so harshly abusing another human being.

Late in the summer of 2005, I returned from Iraq for the second time. My conscience was poisoned, my moral code shattered. I resigned my position with the National Security Agency the following year and returned home to Pennsylvania in an effort to address the consequences of my actions. Eight years later, the struggle continues.

I’m dealing with my own burdens now. My marriage is struggling. My effectiveness as a parent is deteriorating. My son is suffering. I am no longer the person I once was. I try to repent. I work to confess. I hope for atonement.

He says that the US must ‘open the book’ on torture and openly and honestly look at what was done, however hard the truth may be to take. But the struggle over releasing even a summary of the Senate’s torture report suggests that we are far from doing that.

Other countries may go through a process of ‘truth and reconciliation’ where people who commit atrocities come forward and confess their crimes in return for being accepted back into the fold of society. But the US is above all that. It’s leaders and many of its people are so convinced that they are ‘the shining light on the hill’ that can do no wrong and others should emulate, and that whatever they do is for the greater good, that the thought of confessing to wrongdoing and asking forgiveness would never even occur to them.


  1. anat says

    Why is this categorized as ‘Humor, Politics’?

    Yes, this is very important and should be an important part of any discussion of policy regarding authorization of torture.

  2. colnago80 says

    For those who claim that waterboarding is not torture, I would point out that after WW2, Japanese officials who engaged in it were tried and sentenced to death on the grounds that it was torture. I’m looking at Sean Hannity for one.

  3. countryboy says

    Anyone who still believes the US is the Shining City on the Hill and can do no wrong is under the age of 3 or at least borderline sociopath.

  4. njuhgnya says

    it’s too embarrassing to reveal that the self serving (i.e satanic) hypocrisy of our leaders goes to the top, we can’t have people believe Americans torture people for no reason besides their own hubris! That would be terrible.

  5. khms says

    Other countries may go through a process of ‘truth and reconciliation’ where people who commit atrocities come forward and confess their crimes in return for being accepted back into the fold of society.

    [citation required]

    (Especially where atrocities are concerned.)

    I can think of no examples of this. Countries as a whole, yes; individuals, no.

  6. Donnie says

    The writer of the article can turn himself over to the UN War Tribunal in The Hague and confess his crimes and name his accomplisses and open the book him/herself.

  7. Pen says

    It’s extremely well known that a tortured person will admit to attending training camps in fairy land if they think it will make the torture stop. People become this vulnerable even if they are only questioned for long periods until they are exhausted and hungry.

    Interrogation under torture really is the ultimate evil – causing someone suffering for no purpose other than to hear them try to figure out what your fantasies are. And in this day and age, there’s no excuse for not knowing that.

  8. AsqJames says

    khms (#5),

    You could try google, I hear it’s a useful first port of call for this sort of thing.

    Oh looky! One cut and paste of “truth and reconciliation” takes me here.

    I find it hard to believe anyone who lived through the reporting of Nelson Mandela’s death can be ignorant of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but here’s a list of other countries which have also had some version of a truth and reconciliation commission:
    Czech Republic
    El Salvador
    Sierra Leone
    Solomon Islands
    South Korea
    Sri Lanka
    East Timor

  9. Mano Singham says


    Thanks for this exhaustive reply.


    I had not bothered to give a citation because I had assumed that the existence of these were well known. The South African one especially garnered a huge amount of world attention.

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