Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Torture Snowball

Perhaps to the chagrin of the Obama administration, the released torture memos have sparked a conversation regarding torture that continues to snowball towards a full blown spectacle usurping a significant share of the country’s psyche. Torture is not a superficial subject, its roots extending deep into challenging material taught in graduate level philosophy courses on ethics and the nature of morality. What can happen to few for the sake of the many? If a man falls overboard, yet stopping the ship to save him endangers the whole ship…or the entire convoy.. (He drowns.) Remember the agony of Sophie’s Choice? Choose which child dies, or both will be killed.

Even when the trade off exists, it is abhorrent and deeply disturbing. Darker still is implying the trade off exists when it does not.

Soulless, sick, and evil, the malignant Cheney shows no restraint in taking the country into the polarizing, painful, and soon enough, surprisingly consuming Pandora’s box of torture under the color of law. The mess will hinder the Obama administration and damage the country, but what does Cheney care? Worst of all, Cheney is forwarding an evil and malicious lie – attempting to frame torture in the context of the question of whether it works, i.e. that the trade off exists.

Already some are starting to crack and beginning to legitimize the question as Cheney desires, such as The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen in his article, What if Dick Cheney was right? As Sirocco observed, one has already fallen into darkness by asking the question. Does it work? I can solve hunger. Execute all without food. Unemployment? Shoot those without jobs. Incinerate the sick and uninsured and our health care concerns are resolved. The solutions work, no? SEMANTICS - What does it mean to "work"? See the lie?

The conversation gets messy quickly. Does torture really work when no other method does? Why waterboard when offering a good cigar does the trick? Until shown otherwise, I respect the protocol of the FBI, which is no cake walk for those on the tough end of the table. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has methods for getting information from you that you didn’t even think you had. They have highly proven and sophisticated methods refined over decades that masterfully drill towards the gold in your head. The FBI does not torture. It knows better, and it was getting good information, but not what Cheney wanted to hear.

Who in the world can possibly believe that something works if it has to be done 183 times?

The plot thickens and exposes intriguing fissures. A Pew Research poll found that among white evangelical Christians, a solid majority of 62% said torture was sometimes or often justified. For the religiously unaffiliated, the number was 40%. I find both numbers appalling, but what’s with those adhering to Christian values supporting torture? Those complexities at a later post.

The cup runneth over and I haven’t even started. Not only about torture, the conversation extends deeply into the nature of American democracy and the attempts (mostly successful thanks to a GOP Congress) of an evil administration to establish tyrannical control of the country. I could quote George Washington, other founding fathers, and numerous presidents including Ronald Reagan, who supported the UN Convention Against Torture. Prior to Cheney, the United States did not torture. This brutal conversation documents how America’s version of Nazi Germany muscled the bureaucracy into violating sacred principles at the heart of that for which the Union stands. Scholars and historians will be busy for years.

People identifying themselves as Republicans:

2004 – 30 %
2008 – 25 %
2009 – 21 %

Note the 4% drop in a single year after falling 5% in four years. The decline is accelerating dramatically towards the 15 % Cheney Limbaugh core.

Someday the departed will consolidate.


Blogger Sirocco said...

"Someday the departed will consolidate."

Is the implication that you believe there will be a split in the Republican party?

If so, while that might improve the situation within the party, on a national scene it would all but cement the Presidency in the hands of the Democratic party for at least a generation - if voters who disagree with Democratic positions/programs are split among two semi-major parties (not even counting Libertarians), how can either of those parties win a national election, or even a state-wide one? Maybe s few Congressional races at best.

This is not really a good thing ... a triangle is a very stable geometric figure, not so much politically in a winner-takes-all system (multiple major parties works better in a parliamentary sense).

5/13/2009 6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's easy for you to sit in your safe house and pontificate the moral high ground, but if you had a hardened terrorist who knew where a nuclear warhead was about to torch a populated city, and he steadfastly refused to talk, we'll see.

Cutting closer, if you had a brutal psycho who had buried your daughter alive and he knew where she was but wasn't talking, we both know what would happen.

5/13/2009 7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The preceding anonymous post sounds like plots on "24" and "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" respectively.

Neither of those conditions applied to Cheney and company. They tortured people who had no fresh information of value, and they got nothing out of it.

5/13/2009 8:13 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

Good point, Anon 8:13.

What most Americans know about torture is from TV or movies.

How many people would be upset if they waterboarded Bernie Madoff to find out the details of his 65 billion dollar Ponzi scheme? People would be standing in line to drown the mofo after he divulged everything he knows.

How many people would be upset if they had waterboarded Timothy McVeigh?

But real life and real torture is not a TV program or a movie.

Many people, including the anonymous from 7:30 AM will never bother to learn the difference.

Good post, X4mr.

5/13/2009 9:33 AM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

This post is very foretelling and says quite a lot. A real storm is brewing and we have barely begun. X4mr nails Cheney’s lie head on – the implication that the question (whether it works or not) is a valid consideration. One buys into the lie by asking it, and I don’t know how to more clearly capture it than the example of the cure for hunger, etc..

No imagination is required for those like Anon (7:30) to invent dramatic scenarios where torture appears to make sense. As Liza said, the truth is not what we see on television. The truth involves real people in murky and confusing situations, and the FBI has already long established that brutally hacking on people is sub-optimal. Certain elements of the US went to the dark side and beyond in Central and South America. They learned at every step of the way. As already said on the blog earlier, effective interrogation is time consuming and sophisticated. Blowtorches and butcher knives produce terrified gibberish. Gold dust comes from a clear head.

As the details deepen and clarify the sordid tale of Cheney’s dismantling of the checks and balances in order to violate what this country stands for (I’ve read the George Washington quote about our not torturing like the British) this is going to get ugly. It is terrible news for the Republicans, and the fact that some of them are siding with Cheney and supporting torture places another nail in the coffin.

5/13/2009 10:19 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Gold dust?

Wow, Nav, so you have seen Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy?

I echo the responses to 7:30 Anon, but will also add that the major assumption in TV land is that we have the question well framed and KNOW the bad guy knows the answer.

5/13/2009 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like x4mr said, an FBI agent is testifying as we speak about how torture does not work. Dark clouds are on the horizon, and it is starting to sprinkle.

5/13/2009 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Observer said...

Obama has rescinded his plans to release to the photos he had planned to release in the next few days, asserting that they only increase the animosity towards US troops in harms way and accomplish nothing in terms of useful information.

I agree with his decision, but most of the animals have already left the barn. Closing the gate now will have minimal effect.

God @#$#@$ @#$@#$ the Bush administration and Cheney. I can totally see Cheney building death camps like Auschwitz and murdering millions. Seriously, for real, I can see him doing it. Remember, when Cheney was asked about the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis and 4800 American soldiers, he said, "So what?"

5/13/2009 2:40 PM  
Anonymous Mariana said...

Anon@7:30, you are talking about two different things.
In the case of the "hardened terrorist" torture doesn't work because he is prepared for it, even trained to resist pressure of any kind. Ideology, religious belief, patriotism, whatever determined him to plan such an act in the first place will provide the nedeed moral support.
In the "buried alive daughter" scenario it's all about primal instincts.

The real problem is...well, I'll quote x4mr:
" (..)the nature of American democracy and the attempts ( ..) of an evil administration to establish tyrannical control of the country"
Who gets to define terrorism? Who gets to decide if my ideas, or yours, are dangerous or not?

5/13/2009 7:58 PM  

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