Andrew Sullivan and the confusion of non-torture
Andrew Sullivan writes about torture today (as he does almost everyday). He writes in today's post titled "Anti-Islamic Torture": 'One of the remarkable features of this whole disgusting phenomenon is the anti-Muslim techniques. We now have the use of sexual humiliation, rape, the force-feeding of pork, forcible pouring of liquor down an inmate's throat, wrapping someone in the Israeli flag, forcing inmates to kneel and pray and then kicking them in the head, and now placing duct tape over the mouth of someone reciting the Koran.'
Look at that list. Notice how easily he mixes in torture and non-torture. How exactly is "wrapping someone in the Israeli flag" anything at all like "rape?" How is "sexual humiliation" like being kicked in the head? The answer is "they are not alike." It is this confusion that makes the veins on my head pop out. By broadening the definition of torture to include wrapping someone in a fucking flag the word threatens to collapse into meaninglessness, if it hasn't already?
Sullivan goes on to quote "a first-hand sworn Red Cross deposition of an interrogation in Abu Ghraib":
They took me inside the building and started to scream at me. They stripped me naked, they asked me, "Do you pray to Allah?" I said, "Yes." They said, "Fuck you" and "Fuck him." ... Someone else asked me, "Do you believe in anything?" I said to him, "I believe in Allah." So he said, "But I believe in torture and I will torture you. When I go home to my country, I will ask whoever comes after me to torture you." Then they handcuffed me and hung me to the bed. They ordered me to curse Islam and because they started to hit my broken leg, I cursed my religion. They ordered me to thank Jesus I am alive. And I did what they ordered me. This is against my belief. They left me hang from the bed and after a while I lost consciousness."
It's easy to let knee-jerk emotion and blind sentimentality overwhelm you when reading that. It's easy to say that the man was tortured horribly and turn away. He was tortured but not in the manner Sullivan implies. The torture does not begin until they hung him from his bed. The torture continues when they hit his broken leg. But that's it. Insulting someone's religion is not torture. What's next, you can't say his momma is ugly either? Except for the hitting, the recruits were treated worse in Full Metal Jacket. You can't threaten someone? How are threats torture? If that's the case I want reparations for the 8th and 9th grades when I was routinely threatened (which I didn't mind nearly as much as actually being hit.)
This anti-Islamic treatment may be ill-advised. It may be counter-productive in the long run. It may be stupid and short-sighted. It is certainly blasphemous and rude. I won't argue against any of that (at least not here). But I refuse to accept that any anti-Islamic treatment is by definition torture.
Update: Welcome Instapundit readers (and thanks to Glenn). Here are two other recent posts on the topic. Remembering Ezra Pound and Torture? Your Lame Jokes Are Certainly Painful. (link repaired. sorry.)