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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Jim Camp
Bio: Jim Camp
Date:  April 27, 2009
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Topic category:  Military/Defense

The U.S. Forbids Torture

Amidst all the discussion about the use of torture since 9/11, it is rarely mentioned that the United States specifically forbids it. One can find the law pertaining to torture in the U.S. Code, Chapter 113, sections 2340 that defines it and 2340A that levies fines and terms of imprisonment.

Amidst all the discussion about the use of torture since 9/11, it is rarely mentioned that the United States specifically forbids it. One can find the law pertaining to torture in the U.S. Code, Chapter 113, sections 2340 that defines it and 2340A that levies fines and terms of imprisonment.

Not torturing those who are taken prisoner, even in the course of war, is not only illegal, but speaks to the moral code that Americans internalize as they go to school, play sports, and for some like myself served our nation’s military. As a pilot I flew with the 531st TFS “Call Sign Ramrod” during the Vietnam War and had the good fortune to never have to eject. Unfortunately, hundreds of others where not so fortunate.

John McCain was one who ejected from his A-4 over Hanoi. Sen. McCain opposes the use of torture and that may strike some as odd, given the fact that he endured it at the hands of his captors, but they were Vietnamese and dedicated to imposing communism on our ally in the south. One of my good friends I had the honor to fly with after Vietnam was Joseph Crecca, Jr. He was with McCain as a “guest” at the Hanoi Hilton. Joe would spend 2,280 days there.

The Air Force instructs its pilots in surviving as a POW in a program called Survival School at Fairchild AFB, Washington. You’re taught various ways to negotiate to keep yourself alive. One is to give information that is misleading and of no value. You are taught to set a strong mission and purpose as an American fighting man to keep your decisions sharp and your emotions in check.

You are taught how to keep the fear at bay and your mind sharp. Joe Crecca did this for real by writing two books on the back of propaganda leaflets in his cell. He passed the books around for other POW’s to study. One was the Russian language and the other how to build an MG automobile.

Crecca was repatriated in 1973 and went back on flying status. Coach Woody Hayes at the last practice before the Ohio State-Michigan game in 1976 asked him what made him so tough that he made it through an experience that including both mental and physical torture. Crecca replied, “I believed in my God. I believed in my country and I believed in the games I played as a young man.”

Americans do not torture their captured enemies even if their enemies engage in such practices and worse. That’s what separates us from our enemies. It is part of our national DNA.

In Survival School, pilots are taught to set daily goals in your behavior to keep yourself alive. Run movies in your mind. Re-read books in your mind. As a coach in the science of negotiation, I can tell you that surviving torture is the greatest negotiation. So much time is spent negotiating with yourself, your captors and even other prisoners. Surviving and helping others to survive when you are able is your personal victory, your personal success, and that can never be taken from you.

The idea that the end justifies the means in torture is not a valid argument. In 2006 a 372 page study by leading science and intelligence officers concluded harsh interrogation is not effective. “To slam someone up against the wall, keep him awake for days, lock him naked in a cell and slap his face enough, and he will probably say something but that does not make it true, says Air Force Col. Steven M. Kleinman.

In the midst of the heated debate over the use of torture, we need to recall that enemies who authorized it and engaged in it during World War II were brought to justice and often condemned to death for it. The Nuremburg trials and comparable trials of Japanese war criminals after WWII were part of the restoration of civilization.

The United States and the West are now engaged in a global war against fundamentalist Islam and we have seen its barbarity and its attachment to a seventh century code of behavior that has held back the Middle East and other regions where it has been and continues to be applied.

Writing in 2004, Crecca exposed the so-called “peace movement” that opposed the Vietnam War. “The warped thinking of such people was that demonstrating against U.S. involvement in Vietnam, they’d be shortening the war and reducing the number of American casualties. They were utterly wrong on both counts, not to mention the detrimental effect their actions had on the morale of our troops and our POWs.”

“After all,” wrote Crecca, “fighting against a political regime (communism) that up to that time had murdered more than a hundred million people couldn’t have been all bad.”

Yes, fighting against an evil political regime or a warped one that uses religion as the guise for totalitarian control is a good thing, the right thing. History teaches us that it is our moral responsibility.

It is immoral, however, to torture. That is what lies at the very heart of the current debate about its use. People can honestly disagree about torture, but they cannot escape the question of whether its use puts this nation in the same dark room as those who torture.

Our American fighting men and women are the finest in the world. They are the finest in the world because of our image of America as a land of free, brave, loyal people from every corner of the earth striving to make this a better world. We must never allow ourselves no matter how dark it gets to climb into hell and try to justify it.

The famous line from the comic strip, Pogo, is “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

I am pleased this debate is now in the open and our legal system is at work determining if charges should be brought. No one is above the law. As someone who has served in uniform and in combat I believe in my country and I believe that torture is not an option.

Jim Camp

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Jim Camp is CEO of Camp Negotiation Systems,, and the author of two best selling books on the science of negotiation.

Biography - Jim Camp

Jim Camp, best-selling author of negotiation books Start with No and No: The Only System Of Negotiation You Need For Work and Home, is chairman of The Jim Camp Group, founder, CEO.

Camp and his negotiation training have been featured on CNN, CNBC, numerous radio shows, and in The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Inc., Cosmopolitan, San Francisco Chronicle, The Columbus Dispatch, The Christian Science Monitor, and San Jose Mercury News. Knight-Ridder Publications declared his negotiation book "must reading." Camp has lectured on negotiation at many prestigious graduate schools, is a frequent conference keynoter on negotiation, and has taught his negotiation training methods in nine countries on three continents.

Camp served his country for seven years. He is a Vietnam Veteran and Air Force pilot. He holds a degree from Ohio State University in Education, Biological Sciences, and Health and Physical Education.

Camp lives in Austin, Texas, Vero Beach, Florida and Dublin, Ohio with his wife Patty. They have five children and six grandchildren.

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Copyright © 2009 by Jim Camp
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