The CIA Torture Program Has Damaged America's Image. Here is How we can Make Things Right

Tue Dec 09, 2014 14:56:39PM | Categories: Torture, Terrorism, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence & CIA

Drawing of an American soldier waterboarding a detainee with Uncle Sam in the backgroundBy: Carlos Latuff
The United States Government is responsible for torturing at least 119 individuals, many of whom were held 'wrongly' and were held for no reason at all. While many Americans were aware of the tactics our Central Intelligence Agency conducted in our name, it is still a very difficult pill to swallow now that the scathing Senate Intelligence Committee's report has been officially released. It is quite understandable to be outraged by today's release and you have every right to vent your anger, but that will only get us so far. We have an opportunity to right this terrible wrong and we must take advantage of that opportunity before it is too late.

One of the first things we can do is vent our frustration that this happened. It is absolutely unacceptable to torture people and doing so greatly damaged our national image. How can other countries take us seriously if we blatantly violate our own ideals as a country built upon the rule of law? How can we shame other countries for torturing their citizens if our country is doing the same thing? The damage done to our nation will take years to replace and will require a sustained effort by all facets of our Government. It will also require common citizens to reach out to their friends throughout the world and let them know that we are and will be better than this.

After the anger subsides then we can move on to the question of what we can do to fix this mess. It is one thing to be angry about this, but it will all be in vain if we express our anger and then do nothing to fix the problem. I think there are three things, at a minimum, that our Government can and should do to show that we are serious about correcting this mistake:

1) Congress should issue a formal apology to those who were tortured
This is a long shot, but it would go a long way towards repairing our battered image. The only apologies that really count are ones issued by Congress. While official apologies are very rare, they are not unprecedented. Congress has formally apologized for many of the wrongs done in the name of America and I firmly believe the torture of prisoners of war is something that warrants an official statement of apology from 'the peoples' representatives.

2) Reparations should be paid to the prisoners who were tortured
Sometimes you have to pay people when you harm them. The average citizen can sue for financial damages when they have been wronged and the same should go for those who have been wronged by a government. This idea is also not unprecedented. The Federal Government gave $20,000 to every Japanese individual who was held in an internment camp during World War II and states routinely give financial settlements to prisoners who were wrongly convicted. This act could go a long way in helping to rebuild our image throughout the world.

3) The Central Intelligence Agency must be held accountable for violating Federal Law
The CIA is one of those agencies that seems to stretch the law as much as they can until they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar. This is not the first scandal the CIA has dealt with, nor will it be their last, but our justice system must hold the individuals responsible for blatantly violating Federal law. Not holding the individuals responsible for this tragedy only shows the rest of the world that we are unwilling or unable to do so. It is one thing to file a report, but another thing entirely to charge those responsible and give them their day in court.

I am well aware of the unlikeliness that any of these three suggestions will come to fruition, but that doesn't mean that I don't firmly believe in them. Each of these three things can go a very long way in repairing our battered image and will show the rest of the world that we are willing to admit to our mistakes and do everything in our power to fix them.
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