Thursday, October 25, 2007

Torture and Popular Culture

[Never thought I'd see, much less write, a title like that.]

Digby over at Hullabaloo has a great, long post about torture and TV and stuff. It's not pleasant. As usual, Digby says everything I would want to say, and says it much better.

Just a reminder:
Cruel and unusual punishment is banned in the constitution for a reason --- it makes barbarians of all of us.
I really want to stop writing about this.


...but I can't. It's a big topic among those running for president these days, but at least some of the candidates trivialize it. Rudy Giuliani yesterday told a group in Iowa that
...they talk about sleep deprivation. I mean, on that theory, I’m getting tortured running for president of the United States. That’s plain silly. That’s silly.
No, that's torture. Anonymous Liberal, filling in for Glenn Greenwald at Salon this week, dredged up some actual descriptions of sleep deprivation being used as torture. It's grim, but it's worth reading to understand what people like Giuliani are trivializing:

Apparently, this is what it's like on the campaign trail:

Mr. Bashmilah was subjected to severe sleep deprivation and shackling in painful positions. Excruciatingly loud music was played twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. Guards deprived him of sleep, routinely waking him every half hour. Initially, the cell was pitch black, his hands were cuffed together, and his legs were shackled together, severely restricting his movement and causing him pain. Later, he was chained to a wall and the light in his cell was left on at all times, except for brief moments when the guards came to his cell ... Mr. Bashmilah's psychological torment was such that he used a piece of metal to slash his wrists in an attempt to bleed to death. He used his own blood to write "I am innocent" and "this is unjust" on the walls of his cell.

I wonder what Giuliani writes on the walls of his $4,000-a-night hotel rooms.

I'm sick of this, I tell you. Even when Giuliani says right-sounding stuff about torture, like this:
So I think America should never be for torture. America should be against torture. It violates the Geneva Convention. Certainly when we’re dealing with armed combatants, we shouldn’t get near anything like that.
That's pretty good, but his very next words were:
There is a distinction, sometimes, when you’re dealing with terrorists. You may have to use means that are a little tougher.
And later, this:
So let’s be careful on how we define this. And, sure we should be against torture. But we should not be against aggressive questioning. And the line between the two is going to require some really difficult decisions about drawing it and kind of trusting each other with the discretion for the president to make decisions about what has to be done in the interests of the American people.
This insistence that somehow it isn't torture if you're doing it in a good cause is sickening. Or that good people might sometimes torture bad people, and that's somehow all right. Sick. And sickening.

We have no business discussing the nuances of when and on whom we should be allowed to
use "aggressive questioning." A civilized society doesn't work that way, doesn't go there, doesn't even think seriously about it.

That used to be us. It can be again.

1 comment:

Laura E. Goodin said...

I sure hope it can be us again. Or are we tainted beyond redemption?