Saturday, December 10, 2005

Now THAT'S Torture

Torture: severe physical or mental suffering.

So says my dictionary on the literal definition of what passes for torture. What that means to folks in a physical sense, amazingly enough, varies more than you might think, but is generally similar in the minds of most reasonable Americans. In a mental sense, the differences in meaning are potentially an unbridgeable gulf.

Though they're trying in Alaska with pork tax payer funds, but I digress.

It's quite a debating point these days: what torture the US Military -- allegedly sanctioned by the US Government -- is or isn't inflicting upon the collection of combatant/terrorist suspects it holds in Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. What's justified in a time of war, versus what our national image -- in the eyes of some -- demands is not allowed under even the most trying of circumstances.

Allegations of 'torture' are rife in the US and international media: some of the photos of what passes for 'torture' in their lexicon are well known from the Abu Graibass prison scandal. Just as well known at one time -- but viewed differently by the same media that hypes allegations of American torture -- was the video of the brutal, saw-like decapitation of terrorist hostage Daniel Pearl, among others taken by Islamofacists.

Funny how the media wasn't as indignant and outraged at the terrorists for that videotaped torture/execution; instead of demanding retribution against the terrorists, some really sorry excuses for media chose to blame the Pearl video on Bush and his "unjust" war on terrorism.

Guess it depends on what's important to you, and what your definition of "torture" is, as to where you stand.

Senator John McCain -- a former POW and victim of genuine torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese -- is seeking to legislate all kinds of restrictions on the military with regards to the use of torture. One of his fellow inmates from the infamous 'Hanoi Hilton', US Representative Sam Johnson from Texas, takes an opposing view to McCain. They've both been on the receiving end of torture that makes anything at Abu Graibass look like a 3rd rate high school prank, yet they differ considerably on what should be allowed. So of no great surprise, persons with less/no comparable experience are likewise divided on the issue of torture: what it is, and when/where it might be permissible in the interests of national security, if at all.

Of course, how we define torture -- which we, collectively, can't agree to -- differs even more widely with how some of our enemies define torture. Add to it the fact that some of those same enemies aren't as squeamish about employing various forms of 'torture', as our media demands that we be.

Which our enemies know full well, watching CNN as so many of them do.

My thoughts on torture as an interrogation technique in a time of war are my own, and I can't say with absolute certainty that I am morally or ethically right or wrong on my rationalizations supporting or opposing it. Perhaps if I were tasked with interrogating a terrorist who'd previously hacked the head off an American hostage, and this terrorist allegedly had information about a pending attack against a US civilian target, I might have the sense of national defense urgency override my sense of American fair play, and employ expedient tactics of a dubious kind, until I got what I needed.

Or not. Luckily, I face no such moral dilemma. But I would sure hate to tie the hands of an American military interrogator who might be faced with such a dilemma. Were I in the hands of an Islamofacist, there'd be little doubt as to what he'd gleefully do, and with little compunction.

On a different front -- American society -- I have a better appreciation of what passes for torture, and the broad constitutional protections I enjoy against it, at least in a physical sense. Mentally, it's harder to say: "mental anguish", so often receiving punitive damages in civil courts, could be argued to be torture if you apply the aforementioned dictionary definition.

But at what point do you argue it to be torture, when it isn't 'forced' upon you?

For example, the annual argument about publically-displayed religious symbols on public/government property, and how it "offends" some. Is that technically considered torture? Perhaps it's so argued in some venues, though I think the argument would hold no water in a practical sense. If folks offended by a crucifix submerged in urine and called 'art' can't claim mental torture, I'd have to take the same view for some shallow yutz who claims a public Nativity scene "makes them want to hurl".

And in either case, who's forcing them to look at it? Isn't torture being forcibly subjected to something that causes physical/mental anguish?

I don't have to listen to the tortuous, intellectually vacuous pablum that is Air America, or what faux passes for 'news' on CNN; I am free to turn the channel. If I weren't, and were mandated to no choice but to listen to 24/7 Randi Rhoades....that would be, undeniably, a ghastly, unconscionable violation of my constitutional rights against some of the cruelest and unusual of punishment imaginable. No doubt a liberal would feel likewise, being subjected to a similar scenario with conservative firebrand Ann Coulter.

Or -- for torture that transcends political labels -- there's being forced to listen to 24/7 William Hung. How many people could sue American Idol for mental anguish, having brought that musical abomination to the fore?

If we were forced to listen, the number of plaintiffs would be in the hundreds of millions. But we are blessed in this country with a wealth of choices. We simply don't have to listen to that with which we find objectionable.

But back for a moment to torture and what constitutes it...what if the US Military is piping a William Hung CD into Islamofacist prison cells, 24/7?

Could we stoop so low? Could John McCain actually be onto something?

Especially if it's a Christmas CD?

William Hung fauxsinging Silent Night. Now, THAT'D be torture. Even I'd be moved to object.

But only if I had to listen.


Blogger FTS said...

It is a bit of a quandary on what constitutes torture in wartime. A POW is U.S. custody has 'rights' that an American POW likely will never see once in the hands of their captors. I can see both sides of the issue, but I wonder... it's okay if we shoot to kill in armed conflict, but it's not okay to extract information? We should strive to be above them when it comes to human rights, but there in war there are rules of engagement. Where is the line?

I know I don't have the answers.

10 December, 2005 11:37  
Blogger Karen said...

There are many degrees of torture, depending on the situation. Wartime torture - I cannot imagine what the soldiers went through (and continue to).

Great post, thought provoking and well written.

10 December, 2005 17:02  
Blogger poopie said...

There you go. While they're listening to Christmas carols by idiot boy, make 'em watch Pee Wee Herman's playhouse over and over and over. Then paint their nails and do a little makeup. Heh. I'm so devious.

10 December, 2005 18:40  
Blogger Monica said...

My son told me that in their "briefings" before going to Iraq that they were told if they were a POW even for one day they would never have to pay taxes again. Sort of a "positive spin" on it. I didn't care for it.

I define torture as the media putting the war on Iraq in my living room. Yes, I can turn the TV off but when your son is in the first wave sent over and you have no idea what's what, you become mesmerized by the very thing you hate most, the media. To this day, I don't believe we should have the media over there. I cite Geraldo's stupidity of drawing a map in the sand, a female reporter yelling at my son's comrade for knocking her down as a bullet flew past their heads...spewing about her first amendment rights and I'm sure I can dig up others. Oh, and the caskets brought home...geez.

It's not that I believe we should torture prisoners but I do believe we are THE MOST HUMANE country when it comes to POWs. After all, aren't we the country that gives everyone but God himself inalienable rights?

Very good post, Skunk.

12 December, 2005 09:08  
Anonymous TSB said...

What is done where you can't see and hear is what keeps you safe and able to express your opinions every single day you live in this country. I'm not sure how I feel on the subject, but I am sure glad that whoever does whatever they do, does it. I know I'd be highly capable of torturing someone to who hurt my kids or held them against their will, it takes a certain kind of person to inflict pain in the name of justice, thank God, it's not my job, nor do I have to make the decision to do so.

BTW...could you tell your service to make the word verification a little that's torture in the morning...LOL

13 December, 2005 07:41  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

TSB: make the woid verification LONGER? Ya mean like 'yobramosnarfglivverfritzfooyuck'?

I did that in the afternoon after coffee, and I'm experience cranial syntax error...

13 December, 2005 14:05  

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