Volume 22, 2006
Science, Technology, and Social Justice
The Definition of Torture
The conventional dictionary definition of a term is important to the citizen and soldier obeying laws and judging actions that might fall under the term. The “Convention Against Torture” is both binding U.S. law and gives a clear, conventional definition of torture. But the Bush Administration’s standards for interrogating foreign detainees, originating from the Attorney General’s office, failed to respect the prohibitions of torture in the Convention and two other important international human rights documents. I criticize these standards on seven grounds. The directives from President Bush and his Administration thus ordered or allowed most of the terrible recent tortures of Afghanis and Iraqis at Bagram Air Force Base, Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons.