Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Should the U.S. Torture? Why Did We?

Oh my god. I cannot believe that as a civil society -- or one that pretends to be a civil society when it is convenient -- we are even having this discussion. Pursuant to the adoption of the Geneva Conventions, a thorough airing of this subject was had, and it included an examination of all the methods used by the Nazis, Japanese, etc. At that point we still had a strong mythological sense of ourselves as "the good guys", and as a Nation that was our high point. "Land of the Free, Home of the Brave" -- I still remember believing that. When the Conventions were adopted, the U. S. agreed with most of the world that we would not practice such things as Waterboarding, with its roots in the Spanish Inquisition. We even executed at least one person for practicing it!

When we began to "practice" this form of torture, apparently we did it so badly I hear they routinely drowned detainees. They eventually got the bright idea of having doctors monitor their tormentees, thereby subverting those doctors relationships with the Hippocratic Oath. I've been cruising around looking at politically neutral websites and I am disheartened to see how many people in this country favor torture. My friends laugh at my naiveté. Always have, always will. So who cares -- this is what I think.

There are at least two basic concerns. One is that of the pragmatist, who simply says that the information gained by cruel methods will produce unreliable information. This is a given, a fact told to us by respected Military professionals worldwide. You might get a correct answer along with all the screaming and gasping and near-drowning, but you won't know and you'll waste time. Professionals know this.

This leads me to believe that there are those in high places that tortured because they could. Some people probably enjoyed it. Some did as they were told. But pragmatically, if it doesn't work, why bother? And if they were told by leading military authorities before-hand that it didn't work, why did they insist upon using such obscene methods? Personally, among the gang that was BushCo -- let's include W, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and Rice.

I believe there is the possibility that at least one was a psychopath -- a person incapable of empathy -- and there were at least a few sociopaths. They ALL seem like sadists. Now I admit to arm-chair analysis, but I'd love to hear an eminent psychiatrist or two analyze THESE guys. I was relieved to hear one of Condoleeza's Legal guys say that State was anti-torture and argued against it -- but she signed off on it, so what can you say? She'll have to live with whatever her culpability is -- I doubt the others have any capacity to feel remorse. They still think that "enhanced methods of interrogation" work.

Experts know that relationship-building is a far better method for purposes of information gathering than the infliction of pain. If you are dealing, for example, with a Muslim prisoner -- far better to call in the highest Imam or spiritual counselor of HIS brand of Islam (no Sunnis for Shi'ites!) and let the Imam remind the prisoner that Islam not a violent religion, and in this fashion gain the confidence of the man. This method is one that has been used successfully far more often than getting somebody's resistance up by slamming them around as though we were no better than gorillas.

The other consideration is moral. A FOX (!) journalist put it best when he said (loose quote), slamming his fists on the table "I don't give a rat's a** if it works. We are AMERICA!! We don't f*cking torture!" And that is how I feel. We are better than that. Or we should be. If Americans get so worked up about their religions -- and we do -- then why are we so ambivalent about the issue of torture?

If you want to know what Jesus would do -- ask yourself and I think the answer will come very quickly. Torture is against all laws of Spiritual Man and also Religious Man. It is against the very Laws of Man as we have devised them in our current day Code of Law, as represented by the Geneva Conventions. War is a loathsome and primitive way of settling earthly squabbles. But since we ARE still that stupid, let's at least play fair. And that means not creating an entire subculture of goons who will scorch your testicles for fun -- these guys will end up on our local police squad or as prison guards.

Has anyone thought about that? What happens to the men and women who have, in the words of one soldier (profiled in an early article about the Iraq War in Rolling Stone magazine), done things in Iraq they'd be put in jail for the rest of their lives for in regular society? Especially the ones who develop a taste for torture? I can see them now, spreading their wisdom throughout the already hideous penal system. We absolutely MUST continue to support the International Laws that govern our behavior relative to the rest of the world. We like to pretend that we are heroic -- in between bombings of Hiroshima and fiddling around down in Latin America. Supporting such "methods" of interrogation gives the lie to that myth. I rather liked the America of my youth and innocence -- what happened to all that?