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.”
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.
The conditions at Guantánamo Bay inflicted lasting physical and psychological harm on many men. As a recent New York Times investigation shows, many men detained in CIA and military custody suffer from lasting mental and physical harm as a result of their mistreatment. They have not received support.
Last month, the CIA released more than 50 declassified documents about the illegal torture program it operated after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Many of them elaborate on the sheer brutality of the CIA’s practices.
This month marks the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay detention center, the most visible symbol of U.S. torture and injustice around the world. President Obama has called the prison a “sad chapter in American history.” Unfortunately, Guantánamo is still open – and so is this sad chapter.