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March 9, 2003

Not dead. Just having one of those spells, familiar to longtime webloggers, of feeling like everyone else is saying it better than I could.

Jim Henley’s depressed. For good reason. Be sure to read this, this, this, and this. And this and this for examples of the problem. And, as ever, Emma of Late Night Thoughts.

Henley quotes Leonard of Unruled, who says:

Torture is the canary in the coal mine. When your society starts seriously talking about torture, it means you’ve fucked up and become repressive.
Hope you like your new world, Oliver.

Here, don’t miss this.

Elsewhere, J.B. Armstrong of MyDD reflects on MSNBC’s hiring of Michael Savage, noting that here’s

[…] a guy with a record of dismissing child victims of gunfire as “ghetto slime,” referring to non-white countries as “turd world nations,” calling homosexuality “perversion” and asserting that Latinos “breed like rabbits”— does it get any lower? The dominant media in the US is hopeless. If you value your mind, stay far away from its influence.
A year ago I would have dismissed that kind of talk as paranoid.

It’s no wonder that increasing numbers of Americans are doing this.

Don’t forget to read David Neiwart, indefatigable anatomizer of American fascism’s march to power. Be sure to have a stiff drink handy.

Perhaps just as disturbing about Savage is the eliminationist tone of much of his rhetoric, much of it aimed not at a racial or ethnic group but at liberals generally: “I say round them up and hang ‘em high!” and “When I hear someone’s in the civil rights business, I oil up my AR-15!” Here was a recent rant aimed at liberal critics:

“I’m more powerful than you are you little hateful nothings. You call yourself this for that and that for this. You say you represent groups, you represent nobody but the perverts that you hang around with and I’m warning you if you try to damage me any further with lies, be aware of something: that which you stoke shall come to burn you, the ashes of the fireplace will come and burn your own house down. Be very careful, you are living in incendiary times. You can’t just throw things at people and walk away thinking that you had a little fun. I warn you; I’m gonna warn you again, if you harm me and I pray that no harm comes to you, but I can’t guarantee that it won’t.”

The level of intolerance and the implied threat in remarks like these—and they are common in his diatribes—raise reminders of similar eliminationism that ran rampant in Germany in the 1930s.

Godwin’s Law violation? You hope. Remember, this guy has just beeen hired by MSNBC.

His book’s a New York Times bestseller. If you enjoy this kind of thing, I don’t want to know you. That includes brothers-in-law.

By the way, remember this post? Several commenters were ever so convinced the whole thing must have been a journalistic hoax. Funny about that subsequent Official Secrets Act arrest, then.

Not much left to say except to quote yet another person I thought was full of crap a year ago. And who sounds good now. Ladies and gentlemen, Terry Jones:

It worries me that Mr. Bush says that one of the reasons he wants to kill a lot of Iraqis is because Saddam Hussein has also been killing them. Is there some sort of rivalry here?

Back in 1988 Saddam killed several thousand at once, in the town of Halabjah. Since then he’s been carrying on the good work, but on a piecemeal basis. In fact, for all I know, since his 1988 spree, he may not have killed any more of his own citizens than George W. Bush did as Governor of Texas. When Mr. Bush became Governor in 1995, the average number of executions per year was 7.6. Mr. Bush succeeded in quadrupling this to a magnificent 31.6 per year. He must have had the terrible chore of personally signing over 150 death warrants while he was Governor. I suppose the advantage of killing Iraqis is that you don’t have to sign a piece of paper for every one of them. Just one quick scribble and—bingo! You can kill a hundred thousand and no questions asked! What’s more, nobody is going to quibble about some of them being mentally retarded or juveniles, which is what happened to George W. Bush when he was Governor of Texas.

I’m not saying that George W. Bush shouldn’t be allowed to kill as many people as he wants. After all he is the unelected leader of the most powerful country on earth, so if he can’t do anything he likes, who can?

[06:27 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Not dead.:

Oliver ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 08:11 PM:

I have a hard time caring about Al Qaeda.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 08:48 PM:

Actually, you appear to have a hard time understanding anyone who disagrees with you on this issue.

You literally aren't engaging with the arguments; you keep repeating that you "can't get worked up about the pain of Al Qaeda members." As if that were the only thing critics of torture are concerned about.

For an excellent example, re-read the first comment posted here. Then re-read your response. That's not an honest argument, that's putting your fingers in your ears and going NA NA NA NA I CAN'T HEAR YOU.


Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 09:08 PM:

Y'know, I can't either. The thought of an Al Qaeada member being torturedd to death, it doesn't actually make me feel that bad by itself. This is probably a moral failing on my part. I've got to work on my own emotions to make myself feel bad about it.

But I do work on it. Because even if my conscience is deficient, my brain isn't. I know that the range of behavior law enforcement agents employ is always larger than that which is allowed. The wider the range of what we allow, the still wider the range of what they'll do. If we forbid torture entirely, it'll still happen occasionally. If we allow it occasionally, it'll happen often. If we allow it often, it'll become common, and if we allow it as a common matter, it'll be ubiquitous.

I also know that torturers don't always pay strict attention to the important line between offenders and alleged offenders. We can stay out of the former group, but nothing we -- me, Patrick, Oliver, us personally -- do is guaranteed to keep us out of the latter.

Oliver ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 09:15 PM:

Patrick, it's not that I have a hard time hearing what people are saying - it's just that at the end of the day, I disagree with you as much as you seem to disagree with me. I believe that in the interests of protecting innocents, the torture of members of Al Qaeda and their cohorts in the Taliban is justified. If some members of a terrorist group (whose sole purpose is to kill as many innocents as possible) have to suffer discomfort or death for the lives of thousands to be protected, so be it. Why should I argue this? Nobody on either side is going to change their minds. You think I'm wrong, I think you're wrong.

I wonder if you received the "liberal bloggers should be against torture" email that's making the rounds.

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 09:21 PM:

That and the fact that torture doesn't actually get good intelligence, so it's at best a waste of time. But we're not usually that lucky, and what we end up with instead is lots of information, almost all of it useless. The only point of torture, as far as I can see, is so someone who likes to torture people can get his jollies.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 09:24 PM:

Avedon, it's also got "hard-on" value. Y'know, just like police brutality allows a candidate to convince certain segments of the electorate that he's "hard on crime", torture conveys a connotation of being "hard on terrorism".

Andy ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 09:58 PM:

Torture and the death penalty are apparently issues where Oliver feels he can, I dunno, act like a mini-Kaus or something. Mind you perhaps this could be the birth of the torture-blogger genre although there are many warbloggers who run right up to causing pain upon reading. Oh and what is so wrong about e-mails advocating liberal bloggers being opposed to torture? It certainly ain't a liberal value to be pro-torture but rather a barbarous one.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 10:26 PM:

"I believe that in the interests of protecting innocents, the torture of members of Al Qaeda and their cohorts in the Taliban is justified."

I believe that, as other have argued, torture does a remarkably bad job of "protecting innocents." Those you are torturing are notably prone to tell you what you want to hear. I'd like you to answer this point, instead of completely ignoring it, as you have so far done.

"Why should I argue this? Nobody on either side is going to change their minds. You think I'm wrong, I think you're wrong."

You should argue this because if you aren't willing to argue your position--and if, as you claim, "nobody is going to change their minds"--then all conversation is pointless because, well, might makes right.

I read on your site that you claim to be a liberal. Funny; I thought one of the core propositions of liberalism was that we should always be open to the possibility of changing our minds. I do so frequently. I'm sorry to hear that you have a policy against it.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 10:33 PM:

Another exciting bonus benefit of deploying torture: captured American servicemen and women will be much more vulnerable to mistreatment, since we won't have any moral standing on which to insist on frumpy old standards like the Geneva Convention.

I'm sure the relatives and loved ones of those servicemen and women will be very, very impressed with the Bush Administration for their brave stand against those outdated standards. Also with Oliver Willis.

But hey! The issue is only and completely and forever about whether we "feel any sympathy for Al Qaeda." Nuances and second-order effects are for wimps. Vicious, brutal stupidity: it's the hip, new, street-smart way to be a liberal. Let Oliver Willis be your guide.

andrew b. ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 10:59 PM:

Avram...exactly. I think many lefties don't understand that raising a fuss about these issues doesn't upset the right. It's playing a role the right set for them almost. Rumsfeld cavalierly tosses off a few comments, those of conscience complain - it delineates and polarizes the us vs. them. They want this image. It's identity politics, "we're not them, we're the real Americans." The right doesn't care about being seen as, say, anti-enviro...they have focus-group tested these sentiments and decided that they gain more in energy and support from the right and center than they lose on the left (where they had little to lose). So, (1) pick an enemy...tree-huggers, immigrants(mexicans lately), arabs, the french, blacks (aff. action, welfare, confederate flag issues)or ACLU-types whining about human rights abuses...then (2) attack - usually only symbolically or rhetorically, so they retain a logical escape from unpleasant conclusions (i.e., "it's about state's rights, or only quotas, or only illegal immigrants)...(3) sit back and let the worst human tendencies swell your support or wallet. It's great advertising, the only problem is it could be argued that, rather than only expressing a latent sentiment, these techniques create these feelings, or at least radicalize them. And there are real-life, sometimes violent, consequences...thus, limbaugh creates the rise of the angry white man. It is worse in less-developed countries (for now), as they lack established, professional norms for media (Fox news, anyone?)..not to mention campaigning and education.
Sorry so long.

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 11:08 PM:

Patrick and Jim H. are right about torture. It's morally wrong, inhumane, and most often ineffective.

Patrick's also right about Savage.

But stating that a legitimate comparison between Saddam Hussein and George Bush "sounds good now"? I'm not a big fan of Bush's, and I'm against the death penalty, but that's grotesque.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 11:10 PM:

Leaving aside any all the (to me, determinative) arguments above against torture, I don't really see how anyone could want it to be handed as a tool to an administration which wants its political opponents to assume the burden of proof that they should not be stripped of their citizenship.

Mr Ripley ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 11:11 PM:

Patrick--thank you for those links. I think the Silber link that Henley cites, and the comments thereon, make the best case --particularly when they remind us that the Administration has already arrogated the right to make "detainees" of U.S. citizens. It's quite terrifying that Silber has to remind Americans ("libertarians," no less) that there's a difference between a suspect and a criminal: I guess the Ed Meese theory of jurisprudence has won after all these years. Even more frightening is the Balko link that Henley gives us, in which people say we should be like the Jordanians and do terrible things to the families of captured suspects. Since when, to paraphrase Robert Byrd, are the most oppressive Arab nations our role models? Is it really our goal to differ from them in name only?

Avedon--a friend of mine who's extensively studied the literature pertaining to human rights abuses in U.S.-supported Latin American regimes (think Timmerman's Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number), says that there are other points to torture than the one you aptly mention. Traditionally, states that have institutionalized torture have used that practice to isolate, discredit, and silence individuals, and by extension to eliminate dissent, opposition, and the very conceivability of a system different from the one that the authoritarian leaders have created. Sounds like the Soviet Union, right? But note the reports that those post-9/11 detainees who sought to sue the government or to petition for habeas corpus were the ones most quickly deported to Amman, Damascus, etc. Sounds to me as though that might be an attempt to eliminate the inconvenience of "opposition."

I more or less share Avram's heart/head divide --I can say that I shed no tears when terrorist John Salvi was killed in prison and still assert that prisons should maintain safeguards against inmates killing each other. How one feels about an individual differs from how one thinks about a policy; that's what civil liberties and human rights are about. And didn't someone once claim those rights for "all men" --that is to say, not just U.S. citizens?

Here's a passage from Bruce Jackson's article on Alan Dershowitz. Question number two is especially important, as those police precincts in the U.S. who have gotten in trouble for institutionalizing torture do indeed seem to have a prediliction for torturing members of a specific group --

I have a whole bunch of questions I wish Mike Wallace had asked Alan Dershowitz about his torture program. Here are a few of them:

-- What if the one person who you think knows the secret is a 12-year-old girl? How much torture is appropriate for a 12-year-old girl who might possibly know something really bad and won't tell? Or who keeps saying, no matter what you do to her, "I don't know what you're talking about?"

97Is the torture any less legitimate if the torturer loves his work, particularly when it's certain kinds of people, like 12-year-old girls who won't fess up?

97How much torture is appropriate before you decide that maybe this person doesn't know anything?

97How much torture is appropriate before you decide that the person is starting to make stuff up?

97How do you undo the harm you did when you realize you tortured the wrong woman?

I hope you forgive my prolixity --the topic needs to be discussed; and the folks standing up for human rights need to be celebrated.

Oliver ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 11:21 PM:

I'd like you to answer this point, instead of completely ignoring it, as you have so far done.
Maybe they will lie, maybe they will tell the truth. I don't care, as long as we have a chance to get closer to the truth. Is torture somehow worse than if we shot them on the battlefield? I don't think so. Either way, there are less Al Qaeda.

I thought one of the core propositions of liberalism was that we should always be open to the possibility of changing our minds. I do so frequently. I'm sorry to hear that you have a policy against it.
On this issue, I'm not really open to changing my mind. If that disqualifies me from being "liberal", so be it.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 12:22 AM:

Oliver, lad, let me explain something to you.

Give me a pair of pliers, a soldering iron, and two hours alone with you, and you will confess to being a member of Al Qaeda. Another half hour or so, and I'll have a list of all the terrible things you did, and most of the details of the things you plan to do. Then I'll get a list of the other secret members of Al Qaeda you know. Give me a little time with them, and they'll confess too, confirming that you're a terrorist.


RKB ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 12:23 AM:

Other people have made a far more compelling case against torture here than I could. I can almost understand Oliver's point if the only people who were ever tortured were people who had committed heinous crimes themselves. An eye for an eye. I would still disagree with the technique, but I'd be closer to understanding it an a world that black and white.

But the reality is that we would also be torturing suspected Al Qaeda members. Some of them might even be American citizens, unlawfully detained, thanks to Ashcroft. Some might very well be completely innocent.

So. What if the lies these people tell just to (please god) make it stop move us farther from the truth? What, then? If you're going to be cool with torturing Al Qaeda, you're also going to have to be cool with torturing innocent people. Collateral damage. Can't drop a bomb on a city and not expect to kill a few innocent civilians, too.

I wouldn't expect sympathy for (known) members of Al Qaeda, but torturing "enemy combatants" goes far beyond that.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 12:23 AM:

> Maybe they will lie, maybe they will tell the truth. I don't care, as long as we have a chance to get closer to the truth. Is torture somehow worse than if we shot them on the battlefield? I don't think so. Either way, there are less Al Qaeda.

I wonder if maybe you missed the part where it doesn't get us any closer to the truth, while almost certainly it confirms the (possibly disastrously wrong) prejudices of the torturer?

If you truly think that creating martyrs (and torturing people is going to create martyrs) is going to mean fewer members of al Qaeda, I don't think you've been paying attention to the situation in the middle east.

There's no good strategic reason, there are plenty of reasons why it would be a disastrous mistake, any reasonably determined wannabe destroyer of the west would take the opportunity to give us dangerous misinformation which we would believe because of how we got it, and it would make you feel like something was being accomplished.

While I'm not ideologically opposed to that last one, this is too high a price.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 12:49 AM:

   “No one will wreak such justice as you. You say our mercy extends from sun to Sun, and we hope it is so. By our mercy we will grant even the foulest a quick death. Not because we pity them, but because it is intolerable that good men should spend a lifetime dispensing pain.”

— Gene Wolfe, The Citadel of the Autarch

Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 12:51 AM:

On the Official Secrets Act arrest: that would go a ways towards confirming the Observer's reporter's hypothesis that the leak came from outside the US, but within the "Echelon Quartet" (UK, US, AU and NZ) who share intercepts.

Nothing to add on the torture businsess, but to say that two days away from news and email, spent cross-country skiing and eating great food, does wonders for one's mood.

Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 01:18 AM:

On the Official Secrets Act arrest: that would go a ways towards confirming the Observer's reporter's hypothesis that the leak came from outside the US, but within the "Echelon Quartet" (UK, US, AU and NZ) who share intercepts.

Nothing to add on the torture businsess, but to say that two days away from news and email, spent cross-country skiing and eating great food, does wonders for one's mood.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 03:43 AM:

I see that others have largely said what I want to, but there are a few openings yet.

The phrase "driving while black" describes a real phenomenon in law enforcement abuse. Inevitably, if there's legal sanction for torture, it can only be a matter of time before racist cops start "discovering" evidence of some offense warranting torture the same way they "discover" evidence warranting interrogation, arrest, vehicle seizure, and the like.

There are three guys in Tennessee sitting in jail for, pretty much, the crime of being goth and pagan when scapegoats were needed. Given the history of official acceptance of conspiracy theories about Satanic cults and the like, again, it'd just be a matter of time before victims like these are tortured to make them reveal the names of others in their secret cabals. (And at that, Thomas Harris didn't make up the idea that there are clubs for people like the killer in The Silence of the Lambs - he got it from, among others, police and FBI advocates of such things.)

COINTELPRO is a matter of well-documented history. So are a great many other lesser-known cases. There are plenty of decent, hard-working federal agents who are genuinely on the side of American law and liberty, but there are also plenty who'd just love the chance to torture people and who can be counted upon to meet whatever standard the law my set in allowing it. Manufacturing evidence is a way of life for some of those folks, ienvitably justified in terms of the greater good.

Law and custom both grow by accretion. The only way we can respond is by introducing some centrifugal complications.

Carpbasman ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 04:55 AM:


--There are three guys in Tennessee sitting in jail for, pretty much, the crime of being goth and pagan when scapegoats were needed--

Actually, West Memphis is in Arkansas.

Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 10:17 AM:

Ouija boards and monkeys at typewriters have a chance of getting us closer to the truth. I'm glad to hear Oliver Willis supports their use.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 11:35 AM:

You're right, Carpbasman, and the annoying thing is that I typed the state right the first time and then anti-corrected it. Oops.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 01:34 PM:

The West Memphis Three case is actually a strikingly good example of just about everything wrong with the American criminal justice system, and

I don't know whether Damien Echols murdered anyone, but I suspect he didn't. I don't know whether Jason Baldwin murdered anyone, but I strongly suspect he didn't.

I know that Jessie Misskelley didn't murder anyone; one can see the police, on-camera, badgering a confession out of him, playing on his mental retardation, forcing him to describe things that he never saw, admit to things he never did, while he gets every single detail wrong. The only thing the police didn't do wrong in the Misskelley case was torture him.

Anne ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 02:29 PM:

What actually frightens me is that in this discussion we see ordinary people who can find a way to endorse torture.

It goes beyond whether or not "good" information can be gained through the application of extreme pain or psychological abuse (although as has been argued, it's doubtful, at best).

There's a fundamental humanitarian issue at stake.

It's wrong to torture people. It's wrong to tie someone down and cut, slice, puncture, bend, twist, and break their body in an attempt to inflict more pain than their mind can tolerate. It's wrong to administer carefully measured doses of electricity to interrupt brain and heart function. It's wrong to administer substances that cause pain and dangle the antidote in front of a chained victim's eyes, promising release if he'll just say...whatever you tell him to say.

It brutalizes and dehumanizes both the victim and the torturer.

And torture is as much about revenge as it is about gaining information most of the time, okay?

(This is why we have laws. Because the "human animal" has an impulse to wreak vengence but vengence damages society and breeds more vengence.)

Also. You know.

Torturing people is wrong.

Most of the world agrees on this. The Geneva Conventions didn't spring full-grown from the head of Zeus, okay?

David Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 02:56 PM:

I may have missed it above, but nobody seems to have mentioned torture-as-punishment. Which arguably blurs at the edges into such issues as prison conditions and execution procedures.

But that needs a trial, and a more honest judicial system than some stories suggest can be found in the US. It's tempting, but it's no different to convicting the wrong man of murder.

Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 05:01 PM:

One thing about the debate so far: it seems to be about the "I know it when I see it" definition of torture. What I wonder about is if we move away from the "Marathon Man", electric shocks, etcetera revoltingly etcetera definition, to a wider definition, say this one:

For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Depending on your point of view about "severe," "suffering," and "mental," this might include disorientation via irregular lighting, lack of quiet, sleep deprivation, and so forth.

This debate has come up (I think) because of the Bagram homicide findings, which seem to not be a gray area at all. But what about the "gray areas"? Do we all buy into the proscriptions we've heard about against hooding and so forth? Myself: I admit I'm not sure. These are probably ineffective measures by themselves, but they may help simple trickery be more effective: your buddies already gave you up, etc.

The "pragmatic" objection to any torture -- the information is just what the victim thinks you want to hear -- isn't all that convincing to me, by the way: torturers will generally check what's been screamed, and victims will therefore get it right eventually.

I'm very much with you, Patrick (and others), in your discussion with Oliver so far. But do you think we risk our souls or morals (and I'm not being sarcastic or ironic) when we use [any/high/extreme -- define!] psychological pressure, rather than physical pain, in interrogation?

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 08:35 PM:

Thomas, I'd say that there is very much the same moral risk with psychological manipulation as with physical torture - obviously there are horrific things one can do without ever inflicting physical harm, and I'm against them as well. The underlying concern is the same for me, at least, that there are things we ought not do not because of who the subject is but of who we're trying to be.

Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 09:48 AM:

The question is still, what is "horrific"? Dangling someone out a tenth story window is horrific. Hooding someone is less so, waking him up at odd hours is less so.

Simply an incidental point of information:
"Terry Jones" rang a bell, and I checked: here's an article of his called "Spare our blushes and put a sack on it", the subtitle is

"Taping a bag over the heads of Afghan prisoners stops us feeling anything for them, so we can breakfast in peace"
That and his article seem a bit overwrought to me. But given the Bagram deaths, maybe the notion of "slippery slope" applies.

A proposal: log and videotape all interrogations, with copies to independent oversight, say a Congressional office. Doesn't solve everything, but it seems like a decent start. (And we should do something like this in the US, too, as the Central Park jogger case screwup suggests.)

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 10:43 AM:

I have to admit that I don't know where to draw the boundary between acceptable but intense interrogation and unacceptable means. But then I'm not the one proposing legislative or administrative justification at the moment. The whole point of this republic thing is that I can delegate a bunch of that stuff. I'm sure that there are people whose judgment I trust who can offer much better specifics than I can, but just as I favor punishing toxic waste dumping without being sure in myself just how many parts per billion of this or that is ookay and just as I favor promoting republican government and free trade without being precisely sure when tariffs become unreasonable, so with this. I think that if it's described under the general category of "torture" I'm probably opposed to it along with significant parts of what are currently considered acceptable practice, and if I felt there were going to be a meaningful debate about it in the halls of govenrment, I'd make sure to have a well-laid-out position I found acceptable to lay before my representatives.

Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 07:05 PM:

I never thought I would say, "it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who thinks that torture is WRONG". Good grief. These are seriously dark times.

My only sad point is a lesson in history that Oliver might want to read up on. That is simply that officially santioned torture (religious or governmental) is (eventually, if not at the start) done by experts, and those experts are sadists who lack empathy.

The horrifying thing about people who lack empathy (besides lacking empathy) is that they also lack ALL loyalty (by definition). They will do ONLY what will continue to bring them their fun. (let's skip the details of that for today, and how obvious it is at even first glances, that they are enjoying it). Fun, Oliver, does not mean truth. It means hearing screams. And the victim who speaks quickly and accurately (or even consistently) shortens that fun. It may not be the nature of torture but it *IS* the nature of the torturer to prolong agony and spew lies. To the torturer, truth is actually the enemy.

Torturers are loyal only to their own goals, and that goal is lots more victims and lots more fun. It is never the "saving of innocents" or some other equally naive idea. Torturers don't care about innocents, their country, or their government. You may want it to work that way. But it doesn't.

If you are still convinced that some absurd shred of truth can come from torture, I highly suggest that you run right out and get some primary sources. Read some of the Inquisitions' confessions. Ask yourself what truth is in them. Read the numerous available transcripts of torture victims in the modern era recounting...what? Truth, lies? You will find in these transcripts, from eons gone to modern day, that all they contain of truth or lies is confusion and pain--and someone's terrible joy.

I will NOT be a part of that.

-Elizabeth

David Greenbaum ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 07:21 AM:

Torture is not a liberal thing.

It is nothing more than the fixing of vengeance in living flesh.

Pardon me, please, while I retch. If I could vomit on Oliver's shoes, I would.