November 07, 2007

Some common sense on a touchy subject

Despite the caterwauling from the usual suspects (you don't seriously expect me to link to those douchebags, do you?), I've never favored torture. And though Abu Ghraib provided those yammering nincompoops proof that "the US is just as bad as Saddam, mayb even worse!"™, it remains an isolated incident. Since the military resembles our country in a microcosm, it's no surprise that the occasional evil person manages to slime their way into the armed forces. The fact that no such event has occurred since would lead you to believe that this was, in fact, the reprehensible actions of some people who would probably be pulling the wings off of flies if they hadn't joined the military first. Hopefully, being in the service will give that minority what they sorely lack: a moral center.

Anyway, onto the topic at hand. I've watched with interest for several years the dizzying arguments about people being pro or anti torture. It shouldn't need saying, but I'm willing to bet that almost everyone opposes torture almost all of the time. Where we run into disagreement is over the definition of what constitutes torture. Many people who I respect think that waterboarding is torture; end of story. Others who I respect feel differently. That discussion is worth having. What I find irresponsible and hypocritical are those who refuse to actually define what constitutes torture. More specifically, our beloved elected officials decline to pass into law exactly which acts should be legally considered torture. Why do they fail to act? Because taking a stand for or against a particular action will set them up for abuse as either (a) too eager to pull off fingernails or (b) more than willing to give warm oil massages to terrorists. Instead, failing to put themselves on record for/against a particular activity allows our leaders in DC to pompously preen, strut and moralize at length about anything and everything. So it's not about defining torture. Instead, it's about seizing the political low ground. And to those people I have something to say: fuck you. You think that something is torture? Fine, pass a law against it, as well as any other actions that horrify you. Then enforce those laws. Otherwise, have a Coke and a smile and STFU.

Stay with me, I'm actually going somewhere with this rambling post. J. R. Dunn wrote an article about how many have been "defining torture down". He makes many valid points which, of course, will continue to be ignored. Either that or shrieking ninnies will claim that he's an Evil BushBot. Regardless, here's an excerpt:

"Torture" is one of many current topics of significance that have been abandoned to the left. Leftist commentators have been allowed to set the terms, make the definitions, and generally run the argument without much in the way of serious opposition or debate. ... "Torture" is probably the most egregious of these cases. That's the explanation for the sneer quotes. Because, quite simply, in much of the debate over "torture", we're not talking about actual torture at all. We're talking about rough treatment, harshness, or coercion.

The American left has defined these upward until they mean the same thing as torture, all as a part of their efforts to undermine the War on Terror in general. The core of this stance is the assertion that a slap on the head, several days without sleep, or hearing Rage Against the Machine played at full volume is fully the equivalent of torture in the classic sense. (Well... maybe we should reconsider that last....)

Of course, it's no such thing. Torture is easily defined as physical assault carried out over a prolonged period against a victim under complete control and holding the possibility of permanent physical or psychic damage.
...
The left has succeeded, through a relentless media campaign (is there any other kind?) in obscuring this distinction. According to the latest criteria, torture is anything unpleasant that occurs to a prisoner while in American custody.
...
The most recent uproar concerns waterboarding, a practice that has become a media favorite because it is the only activity approaching torture known to have been carried out under official auspices. Waterboarding has played a large part in Judge Michael Mukasey's bid to become attorney general when he refused to define it as "torture". A number of Democrats, including the party's entire presidential slate, have declined to support Mukasey for this reason.

Waterboarding may be brutal, it may be nasty, it may even be uncalled for. But it's not torture. It does not inflict physical pain or damage. It does not destroy the victim. Its sole purpose is to create a sense of terror by arousing deep instinctive reactions against drowning, instincts shared not only by almost all mammals, but almost all vertebrates who don't happen to be fish. It is effective, it is quick, it leaves no scars and should revolt no one's conscience.

There's plenty more to read. In fact, I suggest that you get busy right now.

Thanks to Mike for the link.

Posted by Physics Geek at November 7, 2007 01:30 PM | TrackBack StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!