Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Poll: Torture Is Bad, But Using It Is Fine

I'm shifting gears today and diving into the bizarre zone of Current Events, and what I see is grim and convoluted and mostly a maze of misunderstanding. The fearful results of terror and terrorism have divided and joined so many around the world. I am reluctant to get into this mess, but here I am, foolishly perhaps, jumping into the Weird.

An odd item was presented by CNN pollsters, who offered results that shows 69 percent of those surveyed think that the use of "waterboarding" as an interrogation technique was torture. But 40 percent said it's use was just fine if it was used against suspected terrorists.

Our president and vice-president have both said that saying the US does or does not use "waterboarding" somehow emboldens terrorists. However, it was previously and widely reported in the news media that the technique was used in the interrogation of Kalid Sheikh Mohammed, leader in the attacks of 9-11. So the cat is rather out of the bag (and into the water) on the entire question, isn't it?

The concept of "waterboarding" has been around since the 1500s, as a historical review of the technique was presented here.

I am pretty sure if the technique, often lumped into the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques" (a grisly tortured used of language), if such an act were used on you, you would consider it torture. It has been a part of military training for some time, as reported by Malcolm Nance, former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) school in San Diego. He writes extensively about the tactic in this essay, which makes compelling arguments on what it is - torture - and that torture is a useless way to get information, and that even watching such interrogations is beyond the ability of most people:

Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred.

"It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American. We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become?"

Nance adds:

Who will complain about the new world-wide embrace of torture? America has justified it legally at the highest levels of government. Even worse, the administration has selectively leaked supposed successes of the water board such as the alleged Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessions. However, in the same breath the CIA sources for the Washington Post noted that in Mohammed’s case they got information but "not all of it reliable." Of course, when you waterboard you get all the magic answers you want -because remember, the subject will talk. They all talk! Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work."

In other words, many people today hold dear the idea that any tactic, any torture, is acceptable if an imminent or future threat is perceived against the nation. The fault in such a belief is that the information one gets from torture is truthful. It is not. It will be any answer which halts the torture.

The CNN poll mentioned above, as well as countless pundits who talk about torture, all point to an utter failure to understand torture in reality. The TV and movie version of reality has set in, where the Hero always gets the Villain to confess to nefarious truths Just In Time To Save The Day.

In the political world today, we see this creepy and awkward dance around the subject in the confirmation hearings for the new US Attorney General. We have talk of hypotheticals and secret information and the refusal to accept information which runs counter to what some want to believe. The never-shy Keith Olbermann fired off a fierce commentary on this topic yesterday, in which he sees a criminal conspiracy in the White House.

And so we are left to view an endless debate, ideas and definitions are heaved to and fro, up and down, left and right. One day, perhaps, History and Historians will sort it all out, will decide whether it was all just or unjust.

And with all the talk about waterboarding, am I the only one to consider it ironic that many parts of the nation are talking about water, too, except that talk is about the drought and the absence of water?

Strange Days.


  1. I found you oddly enough when I googled for a picture of a catfish dinner. I read back a few posts and am surprised you don't have a pile of readers. I will tell some of my blogger buddies about you. Some of them like politics a lot. I noticed you say you like movies. I lOVE movies. I think it is so cool that you are directing "It's a Wonderful Life." You should talk more about how that's going!

  2. Geewits -

    that's kinda cool to appear in a search for "catfish dinner", especially since it is a crime-related story of a catfish used as a weapon!

    glad you enjoyed the blog and yep, i should be read by many millions a day, i agree, :)

    and i will have more on the play production soon!

  3. Anonymous3:37 AM

    damn...I haven't had a cat fish dinner since I moved from east TN.
    I'm just sayin'