Torture: A conversation

Hey.  How’s it going?  We made it to another Friday.

Here’s a conversation about torture.  And Dr. Forrester’s question number one says it all.  What more is there to say after that?  It was originally an IM conversation, by the way, so there’s a little cross talk and multiple threads of conversation sometimes.

dr. forrester:

So I have a political observation for you
All of the people defending torture…
and preventing investigation of it…
need to be asked 2 questions
1) Is it okay for Iraqi or Afghani insurgents to torture American prisoners?
2) If they do torture American prisoners, does saying, “We’ve learned our lesson… we’ll never torture again” exonerate them?
If the answer to either question is “no”, I don’t see how anyone can defend our torturing people OR not prosecuting them after the fact.
The question of whether or not it works is irrelevant.

mr. beardsley:

it’s a bizarre situation.
that logically doesn’t make any sense to me.

dr. forrester:

Perhaps I’m cynical, but I believe the only reason we have a convention against torture is so that our own people are not subjected to it.
It’s not because we’re really morally against it.
As the polls prove.

mr. beardsley:

a little cynical.  but i think we are, supposedly, morally aginst it.
i mean, we do attempt to uphold a sense of dignity and human rights and such.  we fail, as a country.
but we usually reflect afterwards.
or maybe we’re just constantly bifurcated to the point of moral chaos.

dr. forrester:

It’s easy to say such things… but when the chips were down… we tortured.
And now people are defending it
And the majority of people polled approve
That’s the shocking thing

mr. beardsley:

and there are people who decried it.  and who are pressing to hold them accountable.
well, i think it’s largely because the conversation is political.
and falsely dichotomous.
and people aren’t informed.

dr. forrester:

Oh, and the other thing
People use the “ticking time bomb” defense
That’s the only time we’d use it
Um… one does realize that’s the worst time for torture, right?
Since the person undergoing torture has added incentive to lie
to make you waste time
So that time runs out, bomb goes, off, bomber wins

mr. beardsley:

i’m sure they do get information, though.  and with enough gruesome pain, i know i would tell the truth, lie, bark like a dog or anything else.
oh.  also, i wonder if the polls distinguished the types of torture.
or different types.

dr. forrester:

But for all the people saying “we support the troops”…
if you’re not demanding prosecution for torturers you’re supporting torture for any of our troops that get captured
like, the torture that people can presumably recover from and be physically whole.   or…
Because we’ve essentially said, “It’s okay”

mr. beardsley:

bamboo under the fingernails, chop off digits and limbs.   burning.   beating.  stabbing, shooting, sodomizing.  etc.

dr. forrester:

Even “safe” techniques can leave permanent mental problems

mr. beardsley:

you know.  torturing “terrorists” as opposed to, say, children.
definitely.
“hygienic” torture as opposed to making someone hack their parents to death.

or making people rape someone in their family.
you know.  that horrible bull crap going in africa.  or that happened in Florida, too.
but anyway…i mean, if the gullible public is convinced (and willing to be convinced) that the way we torture is somehow wholesome and humane…
the news media, even NPR, uses the term “harsh interrogation techniques” sometimes…
and everyone thinks of torture based on “24” or that recent Liam Neesen movie — vengeful justice…

dr. forrester:

That’s the thing… Torture can’t be relied upon for information… it’s ALWAYS for revenge
or fun
depending

mr. beardsley:

and with an administration who was so “pious” to the point of evil, aka “by all means necessary”.
then boom.  culture of torture from a country who think it’s morally superior.

dr. forrester:

yup
sickening

mr. beardsley:

because we torture with doctors and psychologists in the room to try and keep the victim from dying?
well, maybe not in the room but you know what i mean.

dr. forrester:

Yeah… on call

mr. beardsley:

of course, the way we run our prisons … y’know.

dr. forrester:

yeah, that’s true
should just call them Hardened Criminal Factories

mr. beardsley:

i always wondered there was stuff in the bible about visiting prisoners.  or even Kahlil Gibran’s book about compassion for criminals and people in jail.
this kind of stuff really makes it obvious.
what dehumanizing people does to the victim and the oppressor.

dr. forrester:

right

Morality

One more thought.  I was thinking about morality.  I think that morality is not just something you have.  It’s like love.  You don’t, say, fall in love and therefore you’re in love for the rest of your life with that one person with no rough patches and no temptation.  It’s something you work at and then work to maintain.  And it’s a constant effort to one degree or another depending on a lot of other factors.

Maybe if there’s a strong foundation it more or less cruises along, nearly frictionless.  Or it may be more like pushing an oddly shaped boulder up a steep, craggy skree covered slope.

If you’re moral as a person or a country, that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to make bad decisions.  It will be the exception, but still.  It doesn’t mean you won’t do crappy things or have crappy policies.

The defining factor, in my mind, is what you do after that?  Do you recover?  Do you turn things around?  Do you do your best to make amends for the wrongs you’ve committed?

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