March 29, 2009

Torture Egg

Torture egg. It's what we have on our faces for letting our government torture people, and letting our friends and neighbors cheer this behavior on.

In spite of the evidence which contradicts claims of the uses of torture, in spite of the damage it does to us as a nation, in spite of the increased animosity toward our service members -- some people actually backed torture. And we were along for the ride because our voices weren't loud enough.

This recent story shows our embarrassing and disgraceful folly:

When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

As the article states later, Zubaida may not even have been an official member of al-Qaeda.

Torture isn't practical. It's emotional, vengeful, and satisfying to those who are feel anger, fear and frustration.

Torture starts and ends with the self. We torture not because it is effective or necessary, but because we want to torture. There is nothing in that equation about the victim of torture because they barely need to exist except for the necessity that someone must feel emotional and physical pain for the torturer and his supporters to feel some sort of emotional relief. This is why torture sometimes exists in popular entertainment; it's a fantasy device, like super powers, or wizards. These things magically alleviate real-world frustrations in an escapist way. But you're meant to walk away with your escapist relief, not with a reshaping of your impressionable credulity.

The effects of torture are profound on the torturers, and the society of the torturers. These effects are many.

Torturers carry the knowledge of their actions. Torturers carry their scars with them back into their society, their behavior now incorporating their memory of torture, their rationalizations and their view of a world where torture makes sense.

Those who authorize torture are convinced of its effectiveness, and therefore accord weight to the anguished words of the torture victim. In the case of Zubaida, the torturers wasted intelligence and military resources chasing phantoms.

Societies who torture lose in moments a moral high ground which is difficult to obtain. This ground is not a perfect shield against mistreatment by your enemy, but there is no doubt that it colors the perceptions of those who encounter you across the globe, and for the worse.

Torture leaves a mess that some people simply walk away from, but the rest of us must live with. In the case of Zubaida, the legal ramifications are a hurdle for a new president whose attention is needed on so many other issues. But our government must now find a way to move forward legally with cases such as this without worsening the problems torture has already caused.

We are the victims of torture, and that victimization continues as friends and neighbors rationalize torture.

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Posted by James at March 29, 2009 6:24 PM
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Yesterday, BBC reported that Spanish judges are considering a US torture case. This will be interesting to see:

"Spanish judges have agreed to consider charging six former US officials with providing legal justification for alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay."

Posted by: Patti M. at March 30, 2009 8:45 AM

Who is going to make the Spanish Inquisition joke?

Posted by: James at March 30, 2009 9:14 AM

Ooh, I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition.

Posted by: Julie at March 30, 2009 10:43 AM

NOBODY... no I can't do it.

It might be time to break out the comfy chairs though.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at March 30, 2009 10:50 AM

Prison Farm! Compared to Attica, it will look like a tea party!

Posted by: briwei at March 30, 2009 11:39 AM

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