Monday, June 25, 2012

Of Pain and Power

A 15th century tribunal using ropes to elicit a confession in this engraving from a painting by A. Steinheil.

By Dan Hagen
In the 21st century, under the Bush-Cheney regime, the United States of America became a nation of torturers, and when you question the wisdom and the morality of that historical fact, the time bomb starts to tick.
That would be a fictional time bomb, of course — the nonsensical rhetorical device that is supposed to invalidate centuries of civilized moral agreement and the Geneva Conventions.
If some terrorist knew where a ticking nuke was planted, wouldn’t you want him to be tortured to find out where it was?
Or, as the right wingers’ true spiritual ancestors used to put it, “Ve haff veys of making you talk.”
Extreme examples make for terrible policy, a fact that any rational, honest person already knows. They’re excuses, not reasons. If you were in a group trapped on a mountain without food or hope of escape, you might finally dine on other people. Therefore cannibalism should be legalized, right?
Basing your ethical views of torture on a Hollywood ticking-time bomb scenario is about as intelligent and realistic as limiting your culinary choices to the menu available to the Donner Party.
So we have reached the point where torture supposedly “protects the troops,” but inconvertible evidence of American war crimes “endangers the troops.” That's the point at which I have to ask what in hell these much-protected troops are supposed to be protecting, because it sure as hell isn’t the United States of America.
Torture is not used to stop a ticking H-bomb in some ridiculous comic book scenario. Torture is used by authoritarian governments to produce false confessions to justify their quest for power. Everybody knows that, right?
Anybody remember José Padilla? This American citizen was arrested in Chicago on May 8, 2002, on “suspicion” of plotting a radioactive “dirty bomb” attack. Bush designated him an “enemy combatant” without legal rights and had him transferred to a military prison where he was tortured insane. The phony “dirty bomb” claims were dropped, and the now-mentally disordered Padilla was finally convicted in civilian court on criminal conspiracy charges.
All those torture war crimes committed by the U.S. government have gone unpunished, and that’s an engraved invitation for them to be committed again. Evil acts left unidentified, unexposed and unpunished are evil acts that will be repeated again and again, with greater and greater enormity. Bank on it.
In fact, there is no "war on terror." That’s just propagandistic pabulum. Nor is there any question that interrogation techniques like “waterboarding” are torture. The U.S. executed Japanese soldiers for waterboarding as war crime torturers.
However, I do love these semantic weasel-word games, in which the right wingers require their corporate media puppets to use fascist euphemisms like “harsh interrogation” and “enhanced interrogation.” So torture isn’t torture anymore just as soon as we start torturing people. I presume that squirming rationalization sounded better in the original German.
As Joseph Goebbels observed, “It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is, in fact, a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded to clothe ideas in disguise.”
Right wingers are moral cowards, willing to scrap every standard of civilization and torture people, both the guilty and the innocent, just because they have soiled themselves in panic over the danger of terrorism.
Yes, the U.S. will experience more terrorist attacks at some time. I would prefer that the people who face those attacks be the decent citizens of a democratic republic, not craven, morally bankrupt torturers who have squandered the promise and abandoned the meaning of their ancestors' heroic struggles.
The bullshit argument that the use of torture is about “terrorism” was exposed, inadvertently, by Fox News, the most vociferous of the corporate media torture advocates.
Fox News Business Host Eric Bolling asked his viewers to list people they'd like to see tortured, and of course they said Joy Behar, President Obama and Senate Democrats, among others.
Note that this ISN’T even about torture falsely described as an intelligence necessity, but about the REAL reason right wingers love it — as a sadistic, entertaining punishment of their innocent enemies. The mask slips, and the fascist skull grins out. Thanks for proving my point, you Fox torture lovers.
The right wingers want to torture people not because it’s effective — it isn’t, particularly — but because they like the idea. They relish the notion of inflicting excruciating pain on helpless people, because that would prove to them that they are powerful. They are always desperate to prove they are powerful, because they are secretly so afraid of life, of change, of the world, of reality.
Secretly, like all great bullies, they believe they are weak, and are terrified of that fact. The extent of the agony they want to inflict on others is a reflection of the depth of fear and weakness that they dare not examine in themselves.
Read here about how the U.S. teamed up with Muammar Gaddafi to torture the dictator's enemies. And cheer for your "shining city on a hill," patriots.

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