President Donald J. Trump continues to insist torture “absolutely works,” a jagged departure from fact, law, and morality. Within days of his inauguration, the White House was already circulating a draft executive order to reopen CIA “black sites” and review currently approved interrogation practices, presumably with a view to fulfilling Trump’s campaign promises to bring back waterboarding and a “hell of a lot worse.”
I’m a Muslim woman of color living in diverse New York City, but the part of the city I live in is predominantly conservative. As a visible minority, I have never felt particularly welcomed by some of my neighbors. But up until recently, I was comforted by the fact that if the hostility expressed toward me escalated, I could at least take refuge in the law — that no matter my religion or my skin color or my choice of dress, the protections afforded by the rule of law would provide some measure of safety, or at least accountability.
What has swiftly become clear is that President Trump intends to carry out all of his campaign promises: an expanded deportation force, a wall on the southern border, and draconian changes to the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and other immigrants. These policies are guided not by national security or common sense, but rather by antipathy towards Muslims and Latinos, fearmongering about “criminal aliens,” and a deep skepticism toward people in need of protection.
This week’s inauguration naturally prompts conversations about the centrality of presidential leadership and power. What kind of powers will the president-elect have, and how will he use them?
As a psychiatrist and the child of Holocaust survivors, I struggle to fathom how a doctor — sworn to “do no harm” — could inflict such incredible pain and suffering on another human being. And yet we know today that in the post-9/11 period, doctors and other health professionals were instrumental in designing and implementing the U.S. torture program that destroyed thousands of lives and has undermined the moral standing the United States assumed in the postwar period.