Sunday, December 11, 2005

Torture Treatises

An amazing four-part series by Arthur Silber on torture at Once Upon a Time . . .

On Torture, I: State Violence and Brutality, and Totalitarianism
On Torture, II: Of Means and Ends.
On Torture, III: Brutality and Sadism as National Policy, and the Monsters of our Time.
On Torture, IV: Becoming Monsters and Ensuring our Ultimate Defeat.

Here is a taste of these treatises:

Before proceeding to some crucial truths about torture, why torture is always, absolutely wrong, and why torture must never be affirmatively condoned -- directly or indirectly and even in the slightest degree, if an individual or a nation wishes to remain civilized in any meaningful manner -- we should briefly review where we find ourselves today. Among the many crimes and immoralities that can be placed directly at the feet of the Bush administration, the fact that we have now crossed a critical line and begun the descent into a moral abyss that may destroy us in time is undoubtedly the worst. What the Bush administration has done in this respect can be accurately described in only one way: their actions are profoundly and unforgivably evil.

Evil is a word from which we tend to recoil, both in our personal dealings and when we consider issues of national policy. My reasons for applying the word to the Bush administration -- and to all those who support the administration's position on the question of torture -- will become clearer in the final two parts of this series (which will follow this installment, later today). For the moment, only one key fact needs to be remembered, and we must never, ever forget it: torture is the deliberate infliction of unbearable agony on a human being -- a human being who is intentionally kept alive precisely so that he will suffer still more and for a longer period of time -- for no justifiable reason. This is the embrace of sadism and cruelty for their own sake, and for no other end whatsoever. As we shall see, the rationalizations used to make torture "acceptable" on even one occasion are only that: rationalizations for other motives and other concerns. The excuses used to justify the practice of torture are the lies that serve only to disguise the nature and extent of the evil being committed.

In a belated response to reader Sean: I accept the above definition of torture as my own, until I find good reason to challenge it.