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Apr 27 2009

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Tortured logic (a letter/editorial submission)

 For the sake of argument, let’s suppose torture works…

For the sake of argument, let’s also suppose that 9/11 was inevitable.  Let’s suppose that it wasn’t a circus of errors and missed opportunities and hot pursuits that were allowed to grow cold.  Let’s suppose that the CIA and the FBI were a model of harmonious cooperation and weren’t selfishly competing for the exclusive favors of their prince.  Let’s suppose that, even though Americans once revolted against a royal tyranny and fought a civil and then two world wars, all without top-down sanctioned torture, well, let’s suppose that things are just different now.  Only torture will save us from another 9/11…

 Let’s suppose that George and Dick and Donald and the rest of the gang were absolutely right to fixate on the imaginary successes of an imaginary Jack Bauer who stopped prime-time terror with nothing but torture, night after night.  Maybe they and Jack know something about the efficacy of torture that an overwhelming consensus of real-world professionals do not.  Maybe that major who leads a crack interrogation team in Iraq doesn’t know anything when he suggests torture may have led to the death of as many US soldiers as American civilians killed in the terrors of 9/11…

Let’s forget that we tried and executed Japanese soldiers for waterboarding.  And that our “enhanced interrogation techniques” were based on the very same methods used to force false confessions from American POWs more than fifty years ago.  Let’s pretend that our citizen-inquisitors weren’t advised by men and women who developed their craft in the hellholes of Israel’s territorial prisons.  Like how to grab a man’s collar and propel his face into a concrete wall.  Or how to hoist a man up by his bound wrists in a delicately-enhanced technique known as a “Palestinian Hanging.”

 Let’s pretend our own officers haven’t described prison scenes that remind them of a crucifixion.  And that men didn’t have their legs beaten into jelly-like pulp.  Let’s imagine that torture is not about surrendering to our cruelest national impulses for revenge and punishment.  For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that torture works…

What then?  Will we, in this c’est la vie moment of moving on, forget Nuremberg and forgive those who were “just following orders?”  Will we, like Alan Dershowitz, conclude that torture should be a legally sanctioned option for thwarting whoever is America’s evil-doer du jour?  Perhaps we should stroll down this slippery road a bit further.  If torture works — if only to weave false illusions of strength and safety — then what else?  If a desired end always justifies any means, maybe it is time to reconsider other quaint notions of conventional humanity as well.  Maybe it is time to abandon all those silly ideas about rights, and justice, and equality.  If it works, that’s all that really matters, right?

Using the same tortured logic that condones torture, why not increase profits and lower prices by reverting to plantation-style slave labor?  Euthanize the elderly.  And those who are mentally and physically challenged.  Hide poverty by putting the poor to work in prison factories.  Hide the sick while we wait for them to die.  Round up people we don’t want living among us, because we don’t like their color, or their religion, or their language.  Or because we just don’t like them.  Herd them onto cattle cars and send them off to concentration camps.  Or gas chambers…

For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that torture works…

Permanent link to this article: http://levantium.com/2009/04/27/tortured-logic/

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