You can support torture or the Constitution — not both.


What is torture, if not punishment? The legal definition of torture is (basically) “severe mental pain or suffering.” When torture is used as an interrogation tactic, many people seem to forget the basis of our justice system: The principle that it is better to let a guilty man go free than to punish an innocent one. This idea dates back to our founding and can even be found in the Bible.

The U.S. Constitution cites rights for the accused and for the convicted, and torture is not on the menu. That is, for American citizens.

Since torture has been used as a form of “enhanced” interrogation on non-Americans, however, the discussion is more than the rule of law. Our very morality is in question.

We must ask ourselves if it is moral to set aside the Bill of Rights in certain situations. These amendments to the Constitution were ratified in order to document the most basic of all human rights that shall not be infringed under any circumstances. The law doesn’t explicitly say “under any circumstances” because it doesn’t have to. People who were born somewhere else are no less deserving of humane treatment, even if, and especially if they have been accused of a crime. Too many government actions are taken with the good intention of saving lives, and rarely are the unintended consequences considered.

Democrats and Republicans alike have been complicit in punishing people who have not been found guilty of a crime. Politicians in Congress need to quit blaming eachother and take a look at themselves in the mirror. However, the philosophy of liberty and justice transcends party politics. Liberty and justice go hand in hand. While many politicians pay lip service to these proud American principles, as Edmund Burke once wrote:  “Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither […] is safe.”

A society that values life must first value liberty, human rights, and self-ownership, without which life is meaningless. Protecting the inherent human right of presumed innocence until proven guilty should be important to all of us.

Our justice system may be flawed, but if you believe that presumed innocence until proven guilty is an inherent human right, and support the premise that “it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,” then you cannot support punishing people as though they had been convicted.

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