Another Perspective on Torture

I am writing regarding an article in the fall 2012 issue of Longwood magazine about research done by Longwood professor Dr. Larissa Tracy.

Although I am sure Dr. Tracy is an expert in her field of medieval studies, I am concerned about her comparison between medieval torture and Abu Ghraib, and the morality of torture. Abu Ghraib was not our military’s finest hour. The Army, however, admitted that it occurred and punished the soldiers responsible for the abuse. The headlines screamed about the abuse for days and fueled the passions of pacifists all across the nation. Regretfully, it is still being referenced today in articles such as this one.

Dr. Tracy maintains that torture was ineffective in the Middle Ages, and, consequently, it will be ineffective for “us” as well. By “us,” I assume she means military forces of the United States. Her article left me somewhat frustrated.

As the mother of a captain in the United States Army who has been deployed twice to the Middle East, I have a somewhat different opinion of the torture-or-not-to-torture de- bate. Yes, torture is sometimes used as a means of gaining information from Middle Eastern soldiers. This information is used by special forces and other military units to safeguard our freedom. Do you ever wonder how our military came into possession of Osama bin Laden’s location? How did we obtain the intel- ligence? Did we use torture? I assume this information is a closely guarded secret.

Homeland Security, the CIA and other clandestine organizations have thwarted many attacks that were planned to kill our citizens. How many? We will never know how many because our successes are not headlines in the Washington Post. Our successes cannot become headlines because of the very nature of clandestine operations. To reveal such information could very well reveal the source, thus endan- gering many lives. For the most part, the mili- tary’s successes are kept secret — no publicity.

My point in writing is to simply suggest that, although torture is not a desirable factor of war — and this is a war — it nevertheless exists.

And it exists to enhance the safeguarding of our freedoms. Ask the survivors of 9/11 what their opinion of torture is. And make no mistake about it, if my son had been captured, I would have moved heaven and earth to find him. And I would have tortured anyone in my way.

Hopefully, I am not sounding like a war- mongering lunatic. I did not want my son to go to the Middle East. What mother would knowingly wish her child to be in harm’s way? He was 12 when September 11 became part of our history. He decided then that he wanted to serve in the military. He did not go there to torture or kill. He went there to win the peace. And I am so very proud of his service as well as the other military volunteers who have and are giving their time to defend our country.

Betty  King Guilliams ’70