Torture: Excruciating or agonizing physical or mental pain. As defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary.
Yes, hello! Thanks for still checking in every now and again, I’m back. Still breathing.
And I’m angry.
About what, you ask?
About women who have approached a certain age and still think it’s acceptable to wear pigtails?
Well, yes...sort of.
But no…not really.
About a president whose administrative actions mock the tenets of the “faith” he claims? About warrantless surveillance, violating international laws, and subverting the Constitution’s separation of powers—in the name of fighting a war on terror?
About how, rather than fighting terrorism, it looks a as though he’s laying the groundwork for a police state?
Yes! You’re getting warmer!
About living in a society that has reduced itself to earnest discussions concerning “What constitutes torture?”
Yes! Hot! Very, very hot!
Didn’t this conversation already occur in August 1947? At the Geneva Convention? (“Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” –George Santayana)
We’ve all been listening to this conversation lately, on the radio, in the news, etc…about whether the U.S. military breeches the ethical limits of war-time conduct, and whether a ‘stress position’ and a bag over a prisoner’s head really constitutes torture.
Let’s say—just for giggles—that it doesn’t. The United Nations Committee Against Torture happens to disagree, but whatever. (Expert-schmexpert). Put that aside for a minute.
How about water-boarding? Does that constitute torture? If someone blindfolded me and strapped saran wrap across my face, flipped me upside down and poured water over my head to induce a repeating gag reflex that simulates drowning, I’d feel tortured. You?
Yes? No? Unpleasant certainly, but it is perhaps not torturous to everyone.
How about then, administering electrical shocks to a prisoner by attaching electrodes to his testicles? Does that constitute torture?
The ACLU issued a report to the UN on April 27th of this year documenting evidence of the United States rendering prisoners to Egypt in order to do this. Now. Not 50 years ago, but today. In the war on terror.
How about beating a detainee so severely (no renditions here, this was all American military) that the U.S. medical examiner described the body as “pulpified”? Does that constitute torture?
The interrogators, by the way, deemed the 22 year old man innocent.
Sometimes I tell myself that I’m overly dramatic. That I’m too reactionary. Perhaps I should be more reasonable and give the government the benefit of the doubt. I do recognize—in all sincerity—that 9/11 changed everything for most Americans. I was personally effected by the deaths of two people who were in the Towers. But exactly how much abuse will we allow this government to perpetuate in the name of “protecting” us?
Because perhaps, I say to myself, it only seems likes stuffing a man headfirst into a sleeping bag, wrapping it (and him) in electrical wire, and then sitting on his chest until five ribs break and he suffocates to death constitutes torture.
Human rights lawyers issued this report in February that we do that, too. Today. In the war. On terror.
Apparently, in an advanced, civil society such as ours--the "role model" for the rest of the world-- whether or not these actions are barbaric needs to be debated.
Don’t forget about psychological torture. It turns out that the CIA has known for years (years!) that sensory depravation and physical disorientation can induce a psychotic dementia in a coherent person in under 24 hours.
Perhaps that should make us all pause and reconsider whether a stress position—aka: physical disorientation—and a bag over the head—aka: sensory deprivation—constitutes torture.
(If you feel compelled to know what this government is doing in America’s name, go here to the ACLU report delivered to the United Nations on April 27, 2006).
The indifference to this evil is what astounds me most. That we look away, carry on, and rationalize that we can’t do anything about it. Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers rape 15 year old girls and kill their civilian families.
Don’t get me wrong—I think most people feel a pang or two of empathy. But, as Alfred Kazin once said, we are too self-involved and too disinterested to pay much attention to anyone else’s circumstances. Particularly if the government has slapped on the label “enemy combatant.”
The thing is, we are not helpless to act, not any of us. I include myself first and foremost in this statement. But the reality is, we (I) simply choose not to. I suppose though, that if human beings have the capacity to carry out such unspeakable atrocities, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that other human beings have the capacity to ignore it.