Editorials History

Evolution of torture


Punishment and interrogation has been a part of society since the first forms of civilization in Babylon dated back to 1754 BC. Babylon used a rule set called the Code of Hammurabi or better known as Hammurabi’s Code. This code brought into place the saying, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” This phrase explains the code perfectly as the rule revolved around taking something from another, and as punishment, having the same taken from you. This was tame compared to the horrors that would be produced in the future for punishments of varying crimes and the unwilling extraction of information.


Some of the first accounts of real torture was found in Ancient Rome where the Romans would torture their adversaries or criminals in the pursuit of truth. Although they may have seen this as effective, torture has known to be weak when it comes down to actually finding the truth. A man might as well give false information or push the blame on another to be relieved from the hot tongs so to speak rather than endure the pain. This throwing the blame to others has often lead to misinformation and mass crises such as the Salem Witch Trials. During these trials people were tortured through many different ways such as repeatedly dunking the accused into frigid water or even having stones stacked onto their chests in a process named Pressing.


Over the eras of time, torture has evolved for the worst. Back in the medieval times, things were a bit simpler, but still horrendous. They used hundreds of different forms of torture. Some of the best known would include The Iron Maiden, The Rack, and Dismemberment. The Iron Maiden was a metallic coffin lined with spikes on the inside where the victim was placed and the coffin was closed with them inside. The Rack was a table where a person was attached and their limbs were tied to wheels and cranks that when turned would stretch their body to the point of tearing. Dismemberment was one of the more common punishments as it was simple and easy to carry out. The victim would simply have a limb, may it be a finger or a full arm, lopped off.


In our modern society, torture has not completely been eradicated, and is occasionally used in extreme situations, legally or not. The CIA, or Central Intelligence Agency, has been known to have implemented advanced interrogation techniques which border on the line of torture. One of the 6 extreme cases they are permitted to use is called the Cold Cell. In this exercise, the prisoner is put in front of a AC unit for hours, days, or even years in some cases. Another known as Waterboarding, best known for its illegal use in the Bush Administration, is an exercise where a person is put in a seat with a cloth placed over their face. Water would be poured over the cloth to give the detainee the feeling of drowning without actually dying. An example of this is when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured by the CIA and waterboarded 183 times.


The monstrosities of the past we have tried to eliminate over the years are still surrounding us today. If anything, the extraction of information through force has just gotten more cruel as time has passed. These exercises show us that if anything, we are left with moral dilemmas. It leaves us the question of which is worse? Is it worse letting a criminal run free or punishing them so they will never commit the crime again? Should we leave someone with vital information alone or should we apply the techniques of the past to acquire this information? These questions are not black and white, right and wrong but they are decisions that have to be made and are not made lightly.


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