Apr 20th, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM


Legitimizing Torture: How Similar Ideologies of the United States in the War on Terror and the French in Algeria Led to Torture


The United States’ effort to win the war on terrorism by spreading democracy served to legitimize torture by circumventing international and domestic laws, creating ambiguity and confusion among members of the United States military. France too, in the French-Algerian War of 1954-1962 used torture in the name of spreading the benefits of French civilization. This study discusses the role of ideology by comparing similarities between France and the United States in terms of each nation’s world views. Ideology is discussed in the creation of laws legitimizing torture and how government officials came to decisions that allowed for abuses to happen. Winning these wars was considered so important that both the French and U.S. governments either created or interpreted laws in a way that allowed for torture. Government investigations are examined, revealing the role of ideology in the reports and how that effected recommendations for punishment for those culpable in torture acts. French bias is revealed, showing a strong desire to promote the torture activities, believing the methods to be effective. U.S. reports reveal a desire to fix the problem but do not investigate the roots of the abuse, for fear of losing the moral ideological authority of carrying out its wars. Ideology affected the judgment of individual soldiers in both conflicts. Confusion among the soldiers and their sense of duty to their nation affected the decision to engage in torture, sometimes believing it to be government policy to abuse prisoners in order to stop future attacks. Lastly, public perception of torture has affected how these wars are remembered. Thus, the experience of France in the Algerian War of 1954-1962 and its use of torture should have been a warning to the United States of how a well-meaning ideology can deny people the values those ideologies are said to promote.


Faculty Sponsor: Dr. David Walker