On Monday, Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Peace Studies Nancy Ries led a “Torture Teach-In” to gain student support for ending torture committed by the United States and its allies in the War on Terror.
The images Ries used in her presentation generated a response of dismay and shock from attendees. One picture in particular showed detainees sitting uncomfortably on a plane with bags over their heads.
Ries discussed their sensory deprivation and said that torture “dehumanizes, humiliates and, more than anything, terrifies” its victims.
“Some of the images do not look like torture to people,” Ries said. “We can see through the pictures that the acts being committed are inhumane. It may not look like torture but, in fact, it is.”
Ries also brought up some common misconceptions about torture. Some of her assertions were based on research from Amnesty International, the main organization in the initiative against torture, which argues that torture is immoral, illegal and an ineffective way to gain sensitive information.
Ries cited the belief that prisoners will speak the truth if inflicted with pain despite evidence that such tactics do not provide good intelligence and, moreover, can encourage detainees to give unreliable information out of fear and pain of torture.
“If torture doesn’t provide good information, why do they continue?” Ries asked. “What does this accomplish?”
Ries believes that with the “charismatic and dedicated leadership on campus,” Colgate students can make a difference in the anti-torture initiative, a particularly pertinent message for the thirty students and faculty who attended the lecture.
Some students, such as first-year Marguerite Burkham, attended the teach-in as part of a requirement for a Peace and Conflict Studies class.
“I chose the Torture Teach-In over other events because I feel that torture practiced by the US Military…is a prevalent issue that needs to be immediately tackled,” Burkham said. “It is hypocritical to preach that ‘all men are created equal’ and possess the rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ while simultaneously committing crimes against those same rights on the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”
“It is important that everyone let their congressmen know if they are concerned about the use of torture by the Military,” Burkham continued. “The endeavors of Amnesty in raising awareness on the issue and encouraging more active involvement are an excellent beginning. If you care, speak up; we need to take a stance, take action against what we believe is wrong.”