Friday, September 15, 2006

More on Torture

The following was sent by highwayscribery friend and ally John Rippo following yesterday's post on torture. It should help put the lie to (p)resident Bush's mantra about the need "to protect the American people.

Well put. As a victim of torture myself---one who did not know the answers to questions asked of me by an interrogator----I want to laugh at the notion that this is somehow necessary, relevant, useful and productive.

It isn't.

The idea behind torture as an interrogation method and practice is flawed because it rests on a fundamentally incorrect assumption----that the victim, or the one under Inquisition, actually has knowledge or information that someone wants to know about a particular thing or event. There is no mechanism in the practice to discriminate between someone purposefully with- holding information, and one who has nothing of value to offer. The inquisitive process has no way of dealing with those who do not know, neither does it have a way of dealing with those who do not ask the right questions.

The regular argument made by those in favor of torture, the "dirty bomb going off in an hour" kind of thing is farcical on its face. Assuming that its elements could be correct for a moment, the contest becomes a waiting game. The first lie from a victims' mouth sets off inquisitors on a wild goose chase until the tragedy they wish to avoid plays out. Or, the victim stands tough and waits until his attack has carried off, knowing that he'll die anyway, and prefers to die with the satisfaction of keeping his opponent in suspense until its too late.

The regular argument for torture hearkens back to the days of the Inquisition in Europe; a time of ecclesiastical absolutism that pursued heresy unto death. The inquisitive form of justice is exactly what the United States was founded in opposition to; the notion of rights, derived from a creator, inherent in humanity, not able to be trespassed by any sovereign was a new and threatening development in the world in the 18th century; one that was confidently predicted to fail at its first crisis. Unfortunately, those who took that view may yet be proved right by those who erroneously call themselves "American". The notion of human rights is why we have trials by impartial juries in open courts where an accused can confront his accusers, offer evidence in his defense and where the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a reality. This civilized and eminently respectful approach was immediately and bitterly condemned by Inquisitors of Europe who offered the thumbscrew, the rack and the stake as a Christian form of justice instead.

This American president is a miserable excuse of a human being; one with the sensiblities of a tyrant, the will of a dictator and the guile of circus carny. Nothing calling itself an American should give him or his positions the time of day.

As for me, I was introduced to an old Turkish form of torture as a child called Bastinado which consists of holding the victim in place and hitting the soles of his feet repeatedly until he talks. In my case, the information wanted was confirmation that my father had a mistress. My inquisitor was my mother who thought that she had cancer and would be left for a younger woman. She worked me over for an entire weekend, using wire hangers, a belt, a heavy rolling pin and ironically enough, a meat tenderizing mallet on my feet until they were the color and shape of eggplants. Numb from the waist down and hyperventilating, I passed out more than once and went into shock. On the few occasions that I succeeded in crawling under the bed, she poled me out with a broom handle, and her little games began again. And again. The worst of it wasn't that my dad had no mistress, but that I didn' t understand what she meant and couldn't give my mother any information that would make her stop. At the age of five, I didn't know what a mistress was.

The form of torture---Bastinado---was something that my seafaring family remembered culturally from fighting the Turks in the Mediterranean for centuries. It had been practiced at first by them, later by the Italians against them and framed some of the words of the dialect of their culture. Though painful---I still walk with a cane from it, forty years later---it was fruitless because it was directed at one who had no information of value because there was no information of value to be gotten because the suspicions that spurred the action were groundless.

And groundless suspicion is what the American system of justice was intended to avoid.

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