Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Is torture morally reprehensible or a necessary evil?

Engineer viewpoint: Torture has been part of mankind's uglier side since the beginning of time. Brought to a mass scale during the Inquisitions and early Christian expansions, it has been honed to a extensive science in modern times. It had a brief resurgence during the Cold War when both sides were developing psychological and chemical methods of interrogation and torture. Torture was used during the Vietnam and Central American undeclared wars mainly for Pysch-Ops not information gathering. It continues today throughout the world with Amnesty International monitoring and exposing countries that engage in torture and also gives aid to victims of torture.

Torture has come around in the news because of American policies developed by the Bush administration in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Most of the torture examples given during the Bush administration are of the variety developed centuries before. The stress positions, confinement with rats, extremely small cell boxes, various water torture techniques were actually used frequently during early British monarchs. Interestingly enough, they had "Legal Warrants" that legitimized in their mind the use of torture. Sort of like those issued legal memos that said waterboarding was okay. Later in the 16th century, torture was no longer recognized as a valid tool for preserving the status quo with the last monarch issued torture warrant issued in 1642. Even back then, they realized that during the process of torture, the tortured will say and confess to anything and everything to stop the pain. So why, after 400 years, did the Bush administration suddenly decide that it will work this time?

We executed for war crimes Japanese officers for waterboarding prisoners after World War II. Why is it so different now? Doesn't this seem like the worst kind of hypocrisy to the world stage of opinion that we suddenly say that it is legal? Even the FBI, which really has interrogation to a fine science, wash their hands of the CIA dirty tricks. Let me tell you of the two organizations and if I was a prisoner that had a secret to keep, the CIA would give me the most fear of physical harm but of being able to extract a secret, the FBI has no equal when it comes to extracting information without the use of torture.

To answer the question, torture in my opinion is not only morally reprehensible but it just does not produce results that other techniques couldn't get just as well. This was a dark day of US history that will continue to resonate for decades!

Lawyer viewpoint: Isn't it torture enough that Dick Cheney is persistently front-center in the national dialogue defending this crap that most even-keeled people recognize as being torture? There is the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States that together stand for the proposition that civilized cultures are against anything that looks, smells and sounds like torture.

What intrigues me is seeking to understand and contextualize the sort of person that would readily agree with the statement, "If Dick Cheney says it is all cupcakes and sunshine, then I am all for stringing a guy up, and sending a car battery worth of voltage surging through his body via the testicles."

The problem with approaching the harvest of information through physical coercion is that it is widely believed to be unreliable. It also encourages the supporters and allies of those we torture to do the same, and worse, to our own.

What might I be willing to say under the coercion of torture?

I was bounded, naked, to a forensic examiner's table for more hours than I could say, without food or water. My tongue was dry and had the consistency of kitty litter. My eyes felt like powdery ping-pong balls. I had been promised the worst by those who had previously handled me, but I was never in my wildest imagination prepared for what I saw, and the horror I felt, when next the cell door creaked open wide on its damp rusty hinges. There stood, the torch lights casting shadows dancing across his pale face, Dick Cheney. I gasped, stammered, blubbered, squirmed and pleaded. He sneered, perspiration glistening on his upper lip. He came to my side from where I was able to see that he was dressed in black-leather boots that laced all the way up to just below his knees, black-latex shorty-shorts, and around his neck, a studded dog collar. In a raspy voice he said, "Hur, I think, ah-hum, you should consider, err, what you say next, uh-hum, very carefully." With a cocked smile he raised the business end of the positive and negative jumper cables, copper, black and red. Bringing the copper ends together, sparks spit and jumped. I screamed. Cheney said, "Just, err, tell me son, ah-hum, what you know." I do: "It was the engineer--he did it. You can't trust those bastards," I cried.


  1. and so ends the letter that the lawyer writes each week to the "Politicians in Leather" website, his deeply held secret never to be revealed to anyone. If only I could confide in someone he thought, if only.....