Friday, June 18, 2004

Torture and Non-torture

I am against torture. Let's get that out in the open now. I'll even be more explicit: the United States government should not torture prisoners, captives, detainees, or enemy combatants.

What is torture? I consider torture to be, well, torture. We can't hit, burn, shock, bite, or in any way physically abuse or harm people in our care. We can't break their bones or drill their teeth or pour acid on their skins. We can't withhold food or water. That is torture.

What isn't torture? Humiliation isn't torture. If it was, Amnesty International would demand that every high school in America be closed. We can humiliate prisoners. Why not? We can scream at them. We can keep them in windowless rooms with the lights on all the time. Or with the lights off all the time. This is not torture.

We can serve them pork. Pork is a perfectly healthy and nutritious food and when served with a variety of grains and vegetables makes for a balenced diet. In fact, we should serve them pork at every meal. Why not? Ignoring their religiously motivated dietary restrictions is not torture. If they don't want to eat the pork, that's their decision. I guess they'll be hungry. If you believe that serving prisoners pork is torture, you are a naive tool. Grow the fuck up. If I started a cult that ate fillet mignon with grilled asparagus and three pints of Bass Ale, would they serve me this in prison? I hope not. We are required to provide them enough food to meet the nutritional requirement of a human being. We are not a fucking catering service. Eat the pork or go hungry.

We can under-medicate them with painkillers for wounds suffered before we captured them. We must provide medical care to ensure that they don't die. But if under-medication was torture, then I'm going to report my doctor to the UN. The pills he prescribed for my shoulder injury are worthless. I'm in as much pain after I take them as before. That's not torture.

We can threaten them and their families. We can't carry out those threats, but we can make them. We can have dogs bark at them. That's not torture. Dogs bark at postal workers every day. Where's the outrage? Our dogs can't bite them, but barking isn't torture. Prisoners are not guaranteed freedom from fear. No one is.

We can put them in solitary confinement, play loud, obnoxious music, and give them fake newspapers that claim their leaders have surrendered. That's not torture. We can play 'God Bless America' 24/7 and make them wear 'I Love America' t-shirts. We can shave their beards. None of this is torture.

It's a military prison, not a spa.

The NYT had an article a few weeks ago about the image of the Iraqi prisoner on the box, wearing the hood, with wires on his arms. It seems that some anti-America groups have adopted that image as a symbol of how terrible we are. I love that because of the irony: this man was not being shocked. It was purely an image. He was posed that way to man others think he was being shocked. So the anti-American image is in my mind really an image of someone not being tortured. If we were as bad as they say we are there would be images of tongues sliced off, hands chopped of, arms broken, decapitations. No, those were under Saddam. He knew all about torture.


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