Friday, January 14, 2005

Torture is as torture does

I've been meaning to link to the Waco Trib's excellent coverage (Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3) of the Graner trial at Ft. Hood. In case you didn't alread know, Graner is supposedly the lead torturer at Abu Ghraib. His defense is that he was simply following orders. I think it's interesting to note this Gallup poll taken for presidential approval numbers. If you scroll down a bit you'll find a section on how people feel about certain acts that could be deemed as torture.

35. Here is a list of possible interrogation techniques that can be used on prisoners. Do you think it is right or wrong for the U.S. government to use them on prisoners suspected of having information about possible terrorist attacks against the United States?

A. Forcing prisoners to remain naked and chained in uncomfortable positions in cold rooms for several hours

Right Wrong No opinion
2005 Jan 7-9 18 79 3

B. Having female interrogators make physical contact with Muslim men during religious observances that prohibit such contact

Right Wrong No opinion
2005 Jan 7-9 12 85 3

C. Threatening to transfer prisoners to a country known for using tortur

Right Wrong No opinion
2005 Jan 7-9 35 62 3

D. Threatening prisoners with dogs

Right Wrong No opinion
2005 Jan 7-9 29 69 2

E. Strapping prisoners on boards and forcing their heads underwater until they think they are drowning

Right Wrong No opinion
2005 Jan 7-9 16 82 2

F. Depriving prisoners of sleep for several days

Right Wrong No opinion
2005 Jan 7-9 49 48 2
Results based on 528 national adults in Form B.
Some of those numbers, especially for waterboarding, are not very promising. How can 16% think that is OK? As a liberal, I feel that some things fall under the category of absolutely wrong. I don't see how one immoral act can undo another immoral act. As far as I'm concerned, torture is always wrong with no mitigating circumstances. But some people don't have that view. Apparently, our next Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might feel some acts of torture are justified. All we have to go on are the Bybee memo and a few others and lots of evasive question answering during his confirmation hearings. When we start to do these sorts of things, we lose part of our humanity. If we don't have that, there really is no point in fighting a war on terrorism. But there is something else. In the accounts from Graner's trial, we learn about some of the heinous things that went on at Abu Ghraib. And from the Bybee memo we see that extreme acts get justification. When some people seek rationalizations for their extreme actions, we call that psychosis. Pure an simple, the people who might see the things done at Abu Ghraib as having been in a grey area are sick motherfuckers. And I think part of the rationalization process involves racism. Thinking of the Iraqis as less-than human in a way is racism. What no one talks about is the fact the International Red Cross believed that 70-90% of those being tortured at American facilities had nothing to do with terrorism. They were people who were arrested for allegedly stealing a car or who were picked up in large-scale raids. The fact is, because it is happening to dark-skinned people half a world away, most people couldn't care less. Others, like Michelle Malkin, will say because we aren't as bad as the Nazis everything is gravy. But everything is not gravy. If anyone in this country were arrested on suspicion of a crime and then tortured, then released, there would be an uproar. We've got to start thinking of ourselves as global citizens, not just Americans. If not, then atrocities like this will continue.

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