Friday, April 24, 2009

Torture Unto Others

Recently, I was holding a conversation with someone and they argued that the problem with this hullabaloo over water-boarding is not the fact that it might be torture. To him, the problem was that we allowed the media to have too much access to our military and that people are acting as if we are torturing little old ladies. His feeling was that we aren't torturing people at all.

Aw, reality check, we aren't talking about people getting roughed up for their political statements, we are talking about animals who think it's a great thing to kill as many Americans as possible.

The single most important thing that should have been learned from this is to never allow the media near the military and never admit to having captured terrorists, ever. This moral superiority bullshit is tiresome, neither the Constitution nor the Geneva accords protect these animals.
and
I am soooo sorry, I didn't realize we were abducting little old ladies down the street to waterboard, how silly of me.

What our soldiers deserve is every chance we can give them to win and survive without the necessity to tell their stories unless they want to.

Dehumanizing the enemy is essential to the process of war. In the case of fanatics who crash airliners into office buildings the dehumanization was accomplished for us by their leaders.

You may be perfectly content to have your loved ones or even your nation buried in the moral high ground, but I am not.

You can make all of the lists you like but you are correct in one aspect. When it comes to military operations I am 100% against transparency in any form.

I don't appreciate having my loved ones chasing these bastards around while the press warns them not to use their satellite phones and assures them that we won't try to get information from them if their caught.

Now you can slice and dice my opinion any way you want, if your smugness is more valuable to you than the lives of our own people then I've already wasted too much time on you.
I'd love to have gone into the ageism inherent in that comment, but, given the circumstances and the audience, I was sure it would have been pointless. The argument that it's okay to treat (non-human) animals this way is also more than a little problematic, but that definitely would have derailed the conversation before it could even begin.

This conversation contained elements of so many arguments that I've seen over the past few days, that I thought it would be a good one for me to use to address some of the flawed assertions that are being used to excuse what our government has engaged in.

Part of the problem with excuses for this torture that are based on who we've used it on just don't work because we still don't know just who has and hasn't been water-boarded. For all we know, it could be little old ladies being tortured in this way. Not that it would matter to some of these folks, right? Because the ends justify the means, right? Only, we don't have any proof that it actually accomplished anything that couldn't be accomplished some other way. In fact, the evidence is piling up that this torture didn't help us at all. According to Ali Soufan, a F.B.I. supervisory special agent,

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.
and
There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.
There was one thing that I think the person got right. Dehumanization is essential in a war. That's what makes it possible for people to justify slaughtering each other. It's what makes it possible for our soldiers to slaughter others and it's what makes it possible for others to justify slaughtering us. Since I don't want to see our soldiers slaughtered like dogs in the streets, I don't think that dehumanizing people is a good idea. Maybe someone thinks that what our leaders have done makes it okay for this to be done to our soldiers, but I'm just not buying it. Therefore, I'm not buying it when someone says that it's okay to torture because the folks we are doing it to are "animals". Dehumanization is unethical, always. Furthermore, you choose to dehumanize people. No fanatic sitting in a desert in Pakistan can force you or me to do anything. So many people want to talk about how other people should show more responsibility, but they are unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions.

The idea that we will be "buried in the moral high ground" is just bollocks. Where's the evidence that this is what will occur? There are plenty of nations that have decided against torturing people and they haven't gone the way of the Dodo. When we sacrifice the moral high ground, all we do is make it even less likely that anyone will give a damn about what happens to us when we are attacked. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars have shown us how well that works out! We don't have enough soldiers to be able to go it alone, so we have to rely on convincing other people that they should come and defend us. To some, that might sound like a great position to be in, but I'd rather not have to go there.

As for those who have loved ones fighting in these wars, if you don't want them to die over there, then it is illogical for you to defend torture, because as long as we are engaging in torture, there will be people who are willing to attack and kill us in return for what we've done. American torture can only lead to tortured Americans.

This is the information age and, as Stewart Brand rightly noted, "Information wants to be free". In other words, you can't keep information out of people's hands simply by trying to keep it hidden. As long as information can get out, it eventually will get out. Trying to keep the media away won't change that. Any military personnel that wants to smuggle in a camera can do so, one way or another. That is fairly evident from how much soldiers have recorded and disseminated even without the aid of media accompanying them.

You can call it being smug if you want. I call it being intelligent and ethical. Where I'm from, that still means something. That "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" thing that a certain guy talked about a long time ago is just as much for our own protection as it is for the protection of others. But maybe some people think that guy was wasting his time, too. At this point, I wouldn't blame someone for thinking that the human species is beyond redemption.

6 comments:

GallingGalla said...

this is totally on point.

the answer to USians being dehumanized isn't to dehumanize in return, it's to stop dehumanizing people, period.

i guess that would mean we'd have to end this USian colonial project, and we can't have that now, can we? cos then it'd mean we'd have to share and share alike with the world, and actually *apply* those lessons we supposedly learned in nursery school.

BLESSD1 said...

I think dude needs to be tea-bagged by Dick Armey! LOL. Great response, Bint.

H├ęctor said...

Let me guess, you got that at LR...

bint alshamsa said...

Let me guess, you got that at LR...You know it! ;)

DaisyDeadhead said...

trackback-

Odds and Sods - merry month of May edition

libhom said...

Those are excellent points about dehumanizing the people on the other side in wars.