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Torturing the English language

Postby M. Henri Day » Thu Dec 08, 2005 8:24 am

Image

Thanks, Tony Auth, for saying like it is !...

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Torturing the English language

Postby Andrew Dalby » Fri Dec 09, 2005 2:25 pm

This is the first time I've agreed with George Bush, and it may well be the last. The first two things are not torture, and the third may or may not be. Torture is (according to the Oxford English dictionary) 'the infliction of excruciating pain'. It's fun to play with language to enforce your views, and lots of authorities do it, including the current US government. But in this example, the organizations that have extended the meaning of torture are the ones who are torturing the English language. Those acts are oppressive and tyrannical, they are the acts of bullies and cowards, but they are not torture.
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Postby Apoclima » Fri Dec 09, 2005 8:41 pm

Andrew:
The first two things are not torture, and the third may or may not be. Torture is (according to the Oxford English dictionary) 'the infliction of excruciating pain'.


I agree with you, on the first two, but the third, if done right is very painful.

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Postby Apoclima » Fri Dec 09, 2005 9:42 pm

I found this to agree with:

Michael Levin
THE CASE FOR TORTURE


It is generally assumed that torture is impermissible, a throwback to a more brutal age. Enlightened societies reject it outright, and regimes suspected of using it risk the wrath of the United States.

I believe this attitude is unwise. There are situations in which torture is not merely permissible but morally mandatory. Moreover, these situations are moving from the realm of imagination to fact.


Here are the results of an informal poll about a third, hypothetical, case. Suppose a terrorist group kidnapped a newborn baby from a hospital. I asked four mothers if they would approve of torturing kidnappers if that were necessary to get their own newborns back. All said yes, the most "liberal" adding that she would like to administer it herself.


Idealism:There is an important difference between terrorists and their victims that should mute talk of the terrorists' "rights." The terrorist's victims are at risk unintentionally, not having asked to be endangered. But the terrorist knowingly initiated his actions. Unlike his victims, he volunteered for the risks of his deed. By threatening to kill for profit or idealism, he renounces civilized standards, and he can have no complaint if civilization tries to thwart him by whatever means necessary.


Just as torture is justified only to save lives (not extort confessions or incantations), it is justifiably administered only to those known to hold innocent lives in their hands.


There is little danger that the Western democracies will lose their way if they choose to inflict pain as one way of preserving order. Paralysis in the face of evil is the greater danger. Some day soon a terrorist will threaten tens of thousands of lives, and torture will be the only way to save them. We had better start thinking about this.


Amen!

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Postby anders » Sat Dec 10, 2005 1:23 pm

All those supporting torture assume that they'll get vital information out of the process. But what if the assumption is wrong? How much useful information will you get from this Swedish student caught in Pakistan about for example who's where in Afghanistan?

I find the fact that this poor guy was silently released from Cuba without any provisions like that the Swedish government would have to continue investigations into whatever he was supposed to have done except being where the US army thought that he had no business being is sufficient proof that the hardships imposed on him were groundless.

And there have never been any accusations from the US, other than that he was supposed to have been 'uncooperative'. How much cooperation do you expect from a terrified and abused kid who knows nothing about anything that the interrogators want to hear?

I should add that he was brought home in a Swedish Govt. aircraft, at a cost that some people thought was ridiculous. I find it a rather official demonstration from Sweden that we think that the US acted abominably.
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Postby gailr » Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:42 pm

Who would Jesus torture? by Christian Dewar

Who would Jesus Torture? by David Batstone

Who would Jesus torture? by George Phillies

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Postby Stargzer » Sun Dec 11, 2005 1:56 am

I began composing this when I first saw Henri's post, but i didn't get a chance to post it until now.

Al-Quaida Act of Contrition

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful:

O Allah, may Your Name be forever praised, I am heartily sorry
This man has offended Thee,
And I detest all his sins,
Because of Thy just punishment,
Which I am about to administer to him on your behalf, O Allah,
You Who art all good and deserving of all my love and praise.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy Strength,
He will sin no more
As I separate his head from his body,
And then don a suicide belt to blow up those Iraqis,
The heretical Shia majority, the traitorous Sunni minority,
And the Kurdish dogs who sit on Sunni oil,
Who would dare vote to elect a free government
Rather than live under a murderous tyrant
Or return to a way of life
As practiced by a desert tribal culture of the Seventh Century.

Regards//Larry

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
-- Attributed to Richard Henry Lee
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Dec 11, 2005 6:48 am

Apoclima wrote:...

Here are the results of an informal poll about a third, hypothetical, case. Suppose a terrorist group kidnapped a newborn baby from a hospital. I asked four mothers if they would approve of torturing kidnappers if that were necessary to get their own newborns back. All said yes, the most "liberal" adding that she would like to administer it herself.


What is the «informal poll» carried out by Mr Levin (and cited by Apo above) supposed to mean ? That none of these four mothers had the immediate presence of mind to respond to Mr Levin as follows : «Wait a minute ! Someone's kidnapped my baby and I get it back unharmed if I torture someone ? Could you please explain that in a little more detail ?»....

There is little danger that the Western democracies will lose their way if they choose to inflict pain as one way of preserving order. Paralysis in the face of evil is the greater danger. Some day soon a terrorist will threaten tens of thousands of lives, and torture will be the only way to save them. We had better start thinking about this.


After reading the above citation, I was reminded of Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi's famous reply to the question of what he thought of Western civilisation - that it was a good idea....

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Postby Apoclima » Sun Dec 11, 2005 7:40 am

gailr:
Who would Jesus torture?


Are we talking eternally?

Look, I am against torture as a routine intelligence gathering method and I am against the mistreatment of prisoners. However, I do not think that what went on a Abu Graib was torture; it was mistreatment, and should never have been allowed to go on. We will notice that those perpetrators have been prosecuted.

I do believe that it would be pretty hard to justify not torturing someone that "knew where the bomb was." This is an extreme example.

Suppose through regular intelligence gathering, it was found out that there was a plot to ram planes into the World Trade
Center. There was one guy, who was surely in the middle of the coordinating effort, and you happened to catch this guy before the devastation took place. Are you trying to tell me that nothing could be done to try to elicit information? Who is going to explain to the families of the victims that you had a guy who knew about it, but he didn't feel like talking? Is there no case in which torture would be justified? What if the plan was going to destroy most or all of the world? What would you do personally? Even if it meant damnation, wouldn't you do everything you could to try to stop it?

anders:
All those supporting torture assume that they'll get vital information out of the process. But what if the assumption is wrong?


It may be mostly wrong, but in an extreme example like the one I have outlined, wouldn't trying be better than not?

But, certainly, I am not against detaining people "caught" in the middle of a battle zone and interrogating them, and keeping them until it is determined that they are combatants or collaborators with the enemy. Why was he uncooperative? (post a link to this story, anders) How were the investigators to know that he was "innocent" before they investigated?

Anyway, I am not very impressed by an effete PC Jesus, as much as this image is portrayed in the current Feminaries:

In his many contacts with Roman soldiers, he never once told them to lay down their arms.

He drove the moneychangers out of the Temple with a whip that he had fashioned of cords.

He called the Pharisees many "bad" names (probably a hate crime today).

He claimed not to bring peace, but a sword!

Apo

Liked it alot, Larry!
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Dec 11, 2005 8:18 am

Apoclima wrote:... However, I do not think that what went on a Abu Graib was torture; it was mistreatment, and should never have been allowed to go on. We will notice that those perpetrators have been prosecuted.

...


This is the sort of torture of the English language to which I was referring : referring to the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib as «mistreatment», not «torture» (was it on this forum, or the ydc forum that they were characterised in one posting as something so innocuous as forcing prisoners to wear women's panties on their heads ?). Apo and I, however, are in agreement that these acts «should never have been allowed to go on» ; where we disagree is whether or not the perpetrators «have been persecuted». Whatever happened to «command responsibility» ? People at the bottom of the pyramid, as always, take a fall, but those who believe that responsibility for what went on at Abu Ghraib begins and ends with the like of Lyndie England and Charles Graner delude both themselves and others. When Messrs Rumsfeld, Gonzales, et al find themselves standing in the dock, then, perhaps, justice will be served and, no less important, these practices will come to an end - or at least be diminished. Those who feel (but don't say - as that would hardly be comme il faut) that torture is OK, so long as the Other, the «ragheads», are the ones being tortured, might be advised that torture not only changes the tortured, but also the torturers, and these latter come home and bring with them the lessons and attitudes they learned in their war-time professions. While Apo is convincing the French, he might take the opportunity to ask them about their experience when the torturers came home from Algeria and took up careers with, say, the police....

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Postby anders » Sun Dec 11, 2005 3:01 pm

Apoclima wrote:But, certainly, I am not against detaining people "caught" in the middle of a battle zone and interrogating them, and keeping them until it is determined that they are combatants or collaborators with the enemy. Why was he uncooperative? (post a link to this story, anders) How were the investigators to know that he was "innocent" before they investigated?

This 25 year old boy had been studying Islam in Afghanistan. When villages started selling people to the US Army, he tried to escape to Pakistan. And village people there apprehended him and sold him to the US Army.

There have been no accusations against him of any crime. Nobody outside Gitmo knows what was the reason for keeping him there for 30 months.

After telling the story of his life n times, he refused to answer more questions. Ask any psychologist and you'll learn that this behaviour is not unheard of.

Regarding what he might reveal, how much sensitive information do you think anybody would give to a young boy from a faraway country?

For links, you could start at Wikipedia and try your favourite search engine using the boy's name, Mehdi Ghezali (some 52.000 hits in all languages).
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Postby Apoclima » Sun Dec 11, 2005 9:50 pm

This is the first site I found in English about Mehdi Ghezali:

7/20/2004
No More Tears Formula
Filed under:

* Sweden

- Paul O'Mahony (Stockholm, Sweden)@ 11:32 pm


I also found this on another message board (it reminds me how well "our" Swedes speak English):

Mehdi Gezali was in no way innocent, US let him go not because of political pressure but simply because he no longer posed a threat or had information available. Ghezali was under investigation for criminal activity in Sweden, he had been to Afghanistan attending a Madras and did have ties to terrorists. He was a mislead young confused person that leftist organisations used as a figurhead to raise hate towards US.
When all the questions were raised about what he in fact had been doing there he could not answer. Ghezali perhaps was not a terrorist per se but that is only because he lacked the courage and time to do so.
US couldn't care less about Sweden as an ally, Sweden is a marginalized country, US let him go due to the fact I stated before.
Other than that we can pose the question when Sweden last was an ally of US, Sweden worked against US from day one with France and Germany and official protests from gov't. "Lose an ally in Sweden", laughable... -Trial by Error


USA A State Of Terror?

Hummm....staying with a friend in Afghanistan, studying the Koran in a Taliban madrassa.....hmmm....

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Postby gailr » Sun Dec 11, 2005 11:00 pm

Apoclima wrote:gailr:
Who would Jesus torture?


Are we talking eternally?

You are referring to hell, here? According to St. Thomas Aquinas, "In order that nothing may be wanting to the felicity of the blessed spirits in heaven, a perfect view is granted to them of the tortures of the damned." While this seems [to me] to fall somewhat short of a spiritual pinnacle, it is worth noting that martyrdom was still being portrayed as an express track to paradise when I was learning catechism.

It merits contemplation that, by this definition, those most likely to be “enjoying” the tortures of the damned might be those who themselves suffered religious- and/or politically-motivated torture and execution when alive, not those who perpetrated those acts or encouraged them from the sidelines. Of course, we’re looking at two different Abrahamic religions here, so who is righteously authorized to enjoy whose torture (temporal or otherwise) seems to be in the eye of the beholder. We cannot be certain whether every person captured in a warzone (or even whether every person who looks like the people in a warzone) is innocent of wrongdoing, therefore it's prudent to torture them all, just to be on the safe side. My Bibles seem to be missing the pericope where Jesus instructs his followers to mete out torment in the here-and-now, rather than waiting for him to take action in the hereafter.


Apoclima wrote:Anyway, I am not very impressed by an effete PC Jesus, as much as this image is portrayed in the current Feminaries:

In his many contacts with Roman soldiers, he never once told them to lay down their arms.

He drove the moneychangers out of the Temple with a whip that he had fashioned of cords.

He called the Pharisees many "bad" names (probably a hate crime today).

He claimed not to bring peace, but a sword!

You are referring to Matt 10:34 here? Reading the chapter in its entirety puts this statement into context. Furthermore, when the tide is turning against him, Jesus does not shock and awe his enemies. “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” [Matt 26:52] which removes the ringing endorsement implied by presenting that first statement in isolation. As regards the Romans, Jesus is presented as seeing himself with a niche market [Matt 15:24] (at least prior to the great Commission), so I wouldn't expect to see him offering them a lot of unsolicited spiritual or social advice.

Jesus was also known for hanging out with known troublemakers (always a bad career move in the eyes of the Empire’s occupying forces, which were determined to bring order and stability to the region regardless of the cost.) So how to account for his usual “effete” instructions to avoid violence, for example as recorded in Matt 5, especially v38-44:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;


Sadly, my translation is missing the verses where he tells them to kill their enemies before they can be killed, to humiliate those who hate them, and to waterboard those who might be harboring information which might be yielded to give a tactical advantage to his own occupied country.

I am not ignorant of the evil in the world, nor do I believe that skipping through life singing “kumbaya” will prevent evil from occurring. I am also not surprised to hear hawkish conservatives--the kind who denounce social liberals for the moral weakness of situational ethics and moral relativism--so quickly toss their God-given Scriptures out the window when encountering moral dilemmas of their own.

I’ll let Thomas Aquinas speak again and have the final word, An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention
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Postby uncronopio » Sun Dec 11, 2005 11:42 pm

Apoclima presents an alternative version of the 'ticking bomb' argument. The fact is that when one enters the slippery slope of torture for the 'greater good', people using torture start finding more and more reasons when to justify its use. Last year the Guardian published this article by Ariel Dorfmann (sorry for copying it here, but it is not available in the paper anymore:

Are there times when we have to accept torture?

Every regime that commits this crime does so in the name of salvation

Ariel Dorfman
Saturday May 8, 2004


The Guardian

Is torture ever justified? That is the dirty question left out of the universal protestations of disgust, revulsion and shame that has greeted the release of photos showing British and American soldiers tormenting prisoners in Iraq.

It is a question that was most unforgettably put forward over 130 years ago by Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov. In that novel, the saintly Alyosha Karamazov is tempted by his brother Ivan, confronted with an unbearable choice. Let us suppose, Ivan says, that in order to bring men eternal happiness, it was essential and inevitable to torture to death one tiny creature, only one small child. Would you consent?

Ivan has preceded his question with stories about suffering children - a seven-year-old girl beaten senseless by her parents and enclosed in a freezing wooden outhouse and made to eat her own excrement; an eight-year-old serf boy torn to pieces by hounds in front of his mother for the edification of a landowner. True cases plucked from newspapers by Dostoevsky that merely hint at the almost unimaginable cruelty that awaited humanity in the years to come.

How would Ivan react to the ways in which the 20th century ended up refining pain, industrialising pain, producing pain on a massive, rational, technological scale; a century that would produce manuals on pain and how to inflict it, training courses on how to increase it, and catalogues that explained where to acquire the instruments that ensured that pain would be unlimited; a century that handed out medals for those who had written the manuals and commended those who designed the courses and rewarded and enriched those who had produced the instruments in
those catalogues of death? Ivan Karamazov's question - would you consent? - is just as dreadfully relevant now, in a world where 132 countries routinely practice that sort of humiliation and damage on detainees, because it takes us into the impossible heart of the matter regarding torture; it demands that we confront the real and inexorable dilemma that the existence and persistence of torture poses, particularly after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001. Ivan's words remind us that torture is justified by those who apply and perform it: this is the price, it is implied, that needs to be paid by the suffering few in order to guarantee happiness for the rest of society, the enormous majority given security and wellbeing by those horrors inflicted in some dark cellar, some faraway pit, some abominable police station.

Make no mistake: every regime that tortures does so in the name of salvation, some superior goal, some promise of paradise. Call it communism, call it the free market, call it the free world, call it the national interest, call it fascism, call it the leader, call it civilisation, call it the service of God, call it the need for information; call it what you will, the cost of paradise, the promise of some sort of paradise, Ivan Karamazov continues to whisper to us, will always be hell for at least one person somewhere, sometime.

An uncomfortable truth: the American and British soldiers in Iraq, like torturers everywhere, do not think of themselves as evil, but rather as guardians of the common good, dedicated patriots who get their hands soiled and endure perhaps some sleepless nights in order to deliver the
blind ignorant majority from violence and anxiety. Nor are the motives of the demonised enemy significant, not even the fact that they are naked and under the boot because they dared to resist a foreign power occupying their land.

And if it turns out - a statistical certainty - that at least one of the victims is innocent of what he is accused, as blameless as the children mentioned by Ivan Karamazov, that does not matter either. He must suffer the fate of the supposedly guilty: everything justified in the name of a
higher mission, state stability in the time of Saddam, and now, in the post-Saddam era, making the same country and the whole region stable for democracy. So those who support the present operations in Iraq are no different from citizens in all those other lands where torture is a tedious fact of life, all of them needing to face Ivan's question,
whether they would consciously be able to accept that their dreams of heaven depend on an eternal inferno of distress for one innocent human being; or whether, like Alyosha, they would softly reply: "No, I do not consent."

What Alyosha is telling Ivan, in the name of humanity, is that he will not accept responsibility for someone else torturing in his name. He is telling us that torture is not a crime committed only against a body, but also a crime committed against the imagination. It presupposes, it
requires, it craves the abrogation of our capacity to imagine someone else's suffering, to dehumanise him or her so much that their pain is not our pain. It demands this of the torturer, placing the victim outside and beyond any form of compassion or empathy, but also demands of everyone else the same distancing, the same numbness, those who know
and close their eyes, those who do not want to know and close their eyes, those who close their eyes and ears and hearts.

Alyosha knows, as we should, that torture does not, therefore, only corrupt those directly involved in the terrible contact between two bodies, one that has all the power and the other that has all the pain, one that can do what it wants and the other that cannot do anything except wait and pray and resist. Torture also corrupts the whole social fabric because it prescribes a silencing of what has been happening between those two bodies; it forces people to make believe that nothing, in fact, has been happening; it necessitates that we lie to ourselves about what is being done not that far, after all, from where we talk, while we munch chocolate, smile at a lover, read a book, listen to a
concerto, exercise in the morning. Torture obliges us to be deaf and blind and mute - and that is what Alyosha cannot consent to.

There is, however, a further question, even more troubling, that Ivan does not ask his brother or us: what if the person being endlessly tortured for our wellbeing is guilty?

What if we could erect a future of love and harmony on the everlasting pain of someone who had himself committed mass murder, who had tortured those children; what if we were invited to enjoy Eden all over again while one despicable human being was incessantly receiving the horrors he imposed upon others? And more urgently: what if the person whose genitals are being crushed and skin is being burnt knows the whereabouts of a bomb that is about to explode and kill millions?

Would we answer: yes, I do consent? That under certain very limited circumstances, torture is acceptable?

That is the real question to humanity thrown up by the photos of those suffering bodies in the stark rooms of Iraq, an agony - let us not forget - about to be perpetrated again today and tomorrow in so many prisons everywhere else on our sad, anonymous planet as one man with the power of life and death in his godlike hands approaches another who is totally defenceless. Are we that scared? Are we so scared that we are willing to knowingly let others perpetrate, in the dark and in our name, acts of terror that will eternally corrode and corrupt us?

© Ariel Dorfman

The Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman is the author of Desert Memories and, with his son Joaquin, the novel The Burning City


I have met several people that were tortured under Pinochet’s regime and I would say: no, I am not that scared to justify what these people suffered. I wasn’t then and I am not now.
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Postby Apoclima » Mon Dec 12, 2005 6:20 am

uncronopio,

I did not like the Guardian piece that you posted for several reasons!

1. It slips and slides between various meanings for torture:

Is torture ever justified? That is the dirty question left out of the universal protestations of disgust, revulsion and shame that has greeted the release of photos showing British and American soldiers tormenting prisoners in Iraq.


This is an allusion to Abu Graib. What I saw was (mis or) maltreatment, not torture. I am fully against any fun-and-games mistreatment of prisoners.

...the person whose genitals are being crushed...


Ah... now that's torture!

2. The hypothetical given from The Brothers Karamazov is insanely unrealistic and impossible.

Let us suppose, Ivan says, that in order to bring men eternal happiness, it was essential and inevitable to torture to death one tiny creature, only one small child. Would you consent?


It might make for good novel material, but it leaves me cold.

3. It acts like torture is somehow more horrible now than it was during the Inquisition.

How would Ivan react to the ways in which the 20th century ended up refining pain, industrialising pain, producing pain on a massive, rational, technological scale; a century that would produce manuals on pain and how to inflict it, training courses on how to increase it, and catalogues that explained where to acquire the instruments that ensured that pain would be unlimited; a century that handed out medals for those who had written the manuals and commended those who designed the courses and rewarded and enriched those who had produced the instruments in
those catalogues of death?


I think that the Inquisition's torturers could still hold thier own in a modern day torture contest.

4. Manipulatively emotive, and obviously so!

this is the price, it is implied, that needs to be paid by the suffering few in order to guarantee happiness for the rest of society, the enormous majority given security and wellbeing by those horrors inflicted in some dark cellar, some faraway pit, some abominable police station.


It demands this of the torturer, placing the victim outside and beyond any form of compassion or empathy, but also demands of everyone else the same distancing, the same numbness, those who know
and close their eyes, those who do not want to know and close their eyes, those who close their eyes and ears and hearts.


Please! This is flowery, way over the top! Get a pulpit!

5. A naive moral equivalence that defies reality:

An uncomfortable truth: the American and British soldiers in Iraq, like torturers everywhere, do not think of themselves as evil, but rather as guardians of the common good, dedicated patriots who get their hands soiled and endure perhaps some sleepless nights in order to deliver the
blind ignorant majority from violence and anxiety.


He is saying here that American and British soldiers in Iraq are torturers. Does he mean all? Which ones is he talking about?

Also, I do not think that all "torturers everywhere" think of themselves as doing good, but many are hired because the revel in doing what they know is evil. Am I really supposed to believe that Saddam's torturers thought they were doing good? No, I don't believe anyone is so innocent as to think that the torturers of various dictators and despots think they are doing good.

6. The threat of eternal corruption:

Are we that scared? Are we so scared that we are willing to knowingly let others perpetrate, in the dark and in our name, acts of terror that will eternally corrode and corrupt us?


If I am not mistaken I will bet you anything that this author, Ariel Dorfman, was just fine with letting the torture chambers of Saddam go on indefinitely as the Great UN tried to work it out peaceably.

If we, humans, as a race, are not "eternally" corroded and corrupt by now, by our past, what could possible corrupt us?

We all live in nations built on the graves of conquered nations, of peoples, slaughtered and raped into oblivion over and over again. What is a little torture more?

So, no, I am not happy about using torture, but I found another position I can agree with:

Oren Gross

Catastrophic cases are rare. Yet they are not hypothetical. When they do occur they present decision-makers with truly tragic choices.


....in my opinion, to deny the use of preventive interrogational torture in such circumstances may be as cold hearted and immoral as it is to permit torture in the first place. It is cold hearted because, in true catastrophic cases, the failure to use preventive interrogational torture will result in the death of innocent people. Upholding the rights of the suspect will negate the rights, including the very fundamental right to life, of innocent victims.


Oren Gross is a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and is an expert on the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict. In his writings, Gross advocates a ban on torture, but he would allow the forgiveness after the fact of public officials who used torture in emergency situations. Some call his proposal "OAF," or "outlaw-and-forgive."


is torture ever justified?

I am not through yet!

Apo
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