PolySciFi Blog

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Re: Torture

Matt wonders why there's a debate (or a political issue) over torture. I wonder why the word "torture" is being dumbed down.

While everyone agrees that torture is a bad bad thing, the word torture is running a serious risk of becoming so watered down that it has no meaning, sorta like "war crime." Thanks World Court!

Rape, murder, mutilation are all torture.

Pulling out fingernails. Check.

Electrocuting testicles. Check.

However, a lot of other things are being called torture which I think just isn't torture. Gay pyramids are abuse, not torture. Leashing a prisoner is abuse, not torture. Telling someone if they step off a platform that they'lll be electrocuted is abuse, not torture. Abu Ghraib was wrong and people are being rightly prosecuted, but it was not torture, it was prisoner abuse (a lot of that same stuff goes on in US prisons, partially because those same people at Abu Ghraib were prison workers).

Wrapping a Muslim in an Israeli flag is not torture, I don't even think it's abuse. Sleep deprivation is not torture. Forcing someone to stand for hours on end with implied threats is not torture. Shouting and yelling at a prisoner is not torture. Giving prisoners favors for cooperating is not torture. Denigrating a prisoner's religion is not torture. Calling a prisoner names is not torture. Varying the temperatures to extremes is not torture (otherwise my officemate has been torturing me for a year). Attempting to foster a dependency in a prisoner on an interrogator is not torture. A system designed to break the will of a prisoner is not torture. Solitary confinement is not torture.

Yet these things are what the ICRC deems as tantamount to torture.

Yes, there's a debate over torture because many seem intent on dumbing down the definition in a way that is detrimental to the security of the US.

If the term keeps getting dumbed down to where we can't detain prisoners and can't use them to gain information, we'll have to address the problem the only legal way that we have left.

Take no prisoners.
Assuming we don't want to do that, we have to make certain that we're all on the same playbook as to what constitutes torture and what does not. Hence we're having the discussion, much to the amazement of some. Rather than shrieking and political point scoring (which I think Sullivan excels at and is what I feel was going on during the Gonzales hearings), more serious debate is possible and needed. Like what's going on over at red state.


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