Tag Archives: torture

News from the Agora: Retribution Edition

Senate Intelligence Committee Declares Torture “Terrible Mistake”

According to the Washington Post, the Senate intelligence committee recently reviewed a 6,000 page document on the efficacy of the secret “coercive” or “enhanced interrogation” techniques.  That’s “torture” to the rest of us.  Torture is an act usually reserved to serial killers, on women chained in basements, or for sociopaths dissecting small animals.  But for the past decade, at least, torture has been the official and public policy of the United States.  Here’s a taste of what I’m talking about (my emphases):

Upon arrival, still handcuffed and blindfolded, he was initially placed in a chair, where he sat for one and a half hours….Then, two people violently pulled his arms back. On that occasion he was beaten severely from all sides. His clothes were sliced from his body with scissors or a knife. His underwear was forcibly removed. He was thrown to the floor, his hands were pulled back and a boot was placed on his back. He then felt a firm object being forced into his anus….He was then pulled from the floor and dragged to a corner of the room, where his feet were tied together. His blindfold was removed. A flash went off and temporarily blinded him. When he recovered his sight, he saw seven or eight men dressed in black and wearing black ski masks.

Four months, two hunger strikes, and a sojourn in more than one secret prison later, the man, Khaled El-Masri, who had been picked up in Macedonia in 2003, was simply dumped by the side of the road near an Albanian border crossing. Along the way, he’d had a gun held to his head as an interrogator berated him, demanding that he admit his connection to Al Qaeda….

…[A]fter a couple of months, the C.I.A. figured out that they had picked up not a shadowy terrorist but a car salesman from Bavaria who happened to have a similar name. Even then, they kept him prisoner for several weeks while trying to figure out their next move. There is now no dispute that this was a case of simple mistaken identity.

In the past few days, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that El-Masri’s treatment “amounted to torture”.  According to the ACLU, “[t]he court also found that while in CIA custody El-Masri was subjected to abuses including sodomy, forced nudity, total sensory deprivation, solitary confinement, force feeding, physical assault, sleep deprivation, inadequate food and water and denial of medical care in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that his entire period of captivity constituted a “forced disappearance” in violation of international law” (again, my emphases). read more »

Sometimes It’s Not Really Politics

I was at a get-together in the last few months where I had a particularly nasty encounter. Because of the presence of an ex-Marine, several of the party-goers felt the need to profess their “love” of the military. I’m not sure that makes any sense, but that’s not the nastiness. The nastiness comes when one such party-goer, let’s call him Bill, starts advocating torture for the purposes of “getting the intel.” After all, if we had had the “intel”, the 9-11 attacks could never have happened. Absurdity, of course. Through all the long debates about torture over the past ten years, interrogators from the military and the intelligence services have both discounted the effectiveness of torture for gathering information from prisoners. Not that this could justify the use of torture – genocide, slavery, cannibalism or rape does not become acceptable when it is proven “effective,” even if for the greater good.

The response of Bill’s friend to Bill’s tirade was, “you can tell Bill’s a bit of a conservative.”

Is he? I find it hard to believe that such sentiments can come to characterize any genuinely political position. The advocacy of torture should not be considered the policy of some political philosophy – the advocacy of torture is evidence of something gone horribly wrong in a human being’s brain, an explicable but yet unfathomable moral degeneracy approaching psychopathy. Whether or not you think torture is permissible is not a sign of where you fall on the political spectrum, it’s a sign of whether or not you are a human being.

At the recent Republican Party presidential candidate debates, the idea that a thirty-year old who “refused” to purchase health insurance should be left to die brought laughter and applause. Again, this is an example of a lack of moral character so complete that one wonders if they are of the same species as homo sapiens. Again, this is not a blogpost about the politics of the Republican Party – hideous politics is a cancer that has metastasized across America’s political landscape. This is not some “liberals versus conservatives” thing.

The whole point is, is that some things just aren’t about politics, but merely about being a person.

It’s Not Enough

Bradley Manning has recently been moved from conditions amounting to torture in Quantico to the medium-security prison at Fort Leavenworth, and people concerned with seeing any form of justice in the United States have been relieved.  While I am glad that Private Manning is no longer effectively being tortured, this is not enough. read more »