Poll Reveals Half of US Respondents See Utility in Torture

Poll reveals that employing torture against enemies may not be as taboo as previously thought

The Case Against Torture | Op-Docs | The New York Times from New York Times

Half of American respondents polled in a global survey by the United Nations revealed that they believed an enemy fighter could be tortured to extract information from that person. International law prohibits torture under all circumstances and foreign respondents to the same poll differed sharply from US respondents.

The poll was conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross and involved 17,000 people from 16 countries and aimed to ascertain public awareness or knowledge of the laws of war. Among American respondents, 46 percent said torture could be used to obtain information from an enemy combatant, while 30 percent disagreed with that statement. As part of a more general scope question, one in three said torture was “part of war,” and marginally over half called torture “wrong.” The rest did not know or preferred not to answer the question.

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Torture is a war crime defined by the International Criminal Court which has recently said that some statements against American military forces in Iraq warrant investigation. US President-elect Donald Trump has signaled a change in course in this regard, endorsing the practice of waterboarding on the campaign trail but has recently backtracked on this position with his appointment of General James N. Mattis as his Defense Secretary, claiming there are better methods to extracte information from enemy combatants. Where US policy will finally land on this question remains to develop.

In this survey, enthusiasm for torture was shared with Nigerians, Israelis, and Palestinians, while 83 percent of respondents in Afghanistan said torture was wrong and 85 percent of Colombians surveyed believed it was wrong. Another interesting poll question involved hospitals and aid workers, with members of the United Nations Security Council more likely to view such casualties and deaths as part of the routine process of modern warfare while nations like Syria and Yemen that have experienced violent conflict recently do not believe attacking hospitals or killing aid workers is a normal part of warfare.

[NY Times]

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