American acceptance of torture only matched by Nigeria & Israel – Red Cross poll

American acceptance of torture only matched by Nigeria & Israel – Red Cross poll
A Red Cross poll has found that about half of American respondents believe that torture is a solution for extracting information. The US was matched only by Nigeria, Israel and Palestine.

The global ‘People on War’ poll that surveyed 17,000 people in 16 countries has revealed that indifference to torture has grown substantially since the late ’90s, especially where it concerns the five permanent UN Security Council members. By contrast, those living in war-torn countries like Afghanistan showed very little acceptance of such methods and a greater regard for international law.

According to the poll results, it appears that war crimes are now being looked at as simply a part of war – an attitude increasingly prevalent in the US, where just under half of all respondents (46 percent) support the use of torture. Only Thirty percent disagreed, with the remainder were undecided. The American shift in opinion was also by far the biggest the authors have seen: none of the other P5 members (Russia, China, France, the UK) came close in figures.

On average, one in three people in the US believed torture was “part of war.”

Together with the Afghans, the Yemenis showed the greatest aversion to torture with the record-breaking figure of 100 percent against. This is a country that has been in the grip of war for 50 years and now witnessing a resurgence in fighting since March 2015, with thousands of lives lost.

Globally, eight out of 10 people believe civilian casualties should be avoided as much as possible when going into enemy territory. The same number believe that targeting civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools, is wrong.

But more than a third of the respondents (36 percent) believe in torturing enemy combatants for information. Only slightly under half (48 percent) in 2016 believed this to be wrong. And 26 percent in P5 countries believe in grinding the enemy down by depriving them of essentials like food and water.

At the turn of the millennium, in 1999, a sizeable 66 percent globally said torture was wrong.

ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson talked to DW to explain the alarming rise and the discrepancy in results, and the alarming rise in indifference is seen by him as an unsurprising development for our modern age.

“With all the images we receive from the world front lines via internet we, in countries not affected by war, have a distance to the reality of people's suffering,” he said.

The more concealed root of this shift are seen by Watson to originate in the so-called War on Terror, whose invasion of popular culture particularly desensitized people to the use of torture.

“If you look at films which show torture in action, this notion of the ticking time bomb, that you must torture somebody to reveal information that will stop something tragic happening. All that provides a kind of rational framework for torture to happen,” he added, recalling that multiple studies have testify to the technique’s ineffectiveness at obtaining information – instead breeding hatred and enemies.

Torture is internationally recognized as an illegal practice under the Geneva Conventions.