Between the CIA and ISIS: Is torture a basic human trait?

Have you read the CIA torture report in some of its most gruesome details?

Octavia Nasr
Octavia Nasr
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Have you read the CIA torture report in some of its most gruesome details? Has the cruelty of Islamist groups made you sick? Have you been repulsed by the silence or justification given to cover up the bestiality every time it occurs?

We know how we became “human” whether you subscribe to the evolution theory or creationism stories. Either way, it is hard to find a unified definition or ethos for what it means to be a “human” today.

What identifies us from our animal ancestors are very specific traits: Walking up right, making tools and food, creativity, thought process, larger and more complex brains, social behavior, political and economic systems, language and symbols. Yet, some people surpass even monsters in their violent tendencies, both verbal and behavioral.

While the U.S. tortures, Americans are either poor too busy making both ends meet or too rich to care

Octavia Nasr

One significant human characteristic is changing the world, supposedly or the better; but as we stand divided into a million pieces, we cannot agree which is better or which is the worse.

A global village

Technology has revolutionized the world and turned it into a global village. We celebrated as we reached for the connectedness only to be blocked by the haters and the fundamentalists. They have their plans to take things back not forward. Indeed, as some wish to explore space, others invest in weapons of mass destruction, and there are those that long to rule the world with the sword of a Caliphate.

As we evolve, we become greedy and lose ourselves in the process. We went over the top with everything: population, food consumption, and environmental abuse. We dug in the earth for oil, we carved mountains for rocks, we asphalted roads to “modernize” our existence; we genetically modified our food and ourselves and called that “civilization.” We do not recognize ourselves anymore. Who are we, really? All our scientific advances cannot keep up with the destruction we cause, the diseases we spread and the backwardness some inflict daily.

While the U.S. tortures, Americans are either poor too busy making both ends meet or too rich to care. While Muslims torture, their counterparts are either too superficial glued to brain-numbing entertainment or too busy building their plastic dreams to care.

The ground is left to the extremists to devise more diabolic ways to neutralize or eliminate each other.

Yes, we have come a long way in our evolution. We now walk upright but some of us bury their heads in the sand pretending not to notice our species’ heinous acts, while others bury our heads in shame at the inhuman lows some have sunk down to.

This article was first published in al-Nahar on December 16, 2014.


Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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