Sunday, February 17, 2008

Torturin' Tony, or Scalia the Barbarian

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This past week, the Bush administration stated that it finally planned to put six men connected to the 9/11 attacks on trial. And, as Gomer Pyle used to say: surprise, surprise, surprise!

They don't intend to use evidence obtained by so-called "aggressive interrogation" -- as it's known in the civilized world, "torture." (You remember the civilized world. We used to be a part of it till George W. Bush and his cronies decided that the best way to defeat barbarism was to become barbarians.)

Seems that after the subjects were subjected to "waterboarding" and other "coercive techniques" by the CIA, a group of FBI interrogators known as the "Clean Team" came in. They used the techniques they'd been using for years on suspects, techniques aimed at gaining the subject's trust. Obviously, the FBI hates America and loves terrists.

Amazingly, the FBI team got the same answers the CIA got when they drowned the detainees, then brought them back to life. Of course, after you've tortured someone, it's kind of hard to decide exactly what to believe coming from them, since they know they could be put back in the barrel again at any moment.

Just ask Malcolm Nance, who has the unenviable job of waterboarding candidates for the U.S. Navy SEALS. Why? To teach them how to resist -- say it with me -- TORTURE.

Nance describes the story of a waterboarding victim he met who experienced the technique firsthand at the hands of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge: "He told his interrogators everything they wanted to know, including the truth. They rarely stopped. In torture, he confessed to being a hermaphrodite, a CIA spy, a Buddhist monk, a Catholic bishop and the son of the king of Cambodia. He was actually just a schoolteacher whose crime was that he once spoke French."

And for those who'd scoff and say that waterboarding isn't torture, Nance has this to say: "Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them to accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies."

Obviously, Mr. Nance hates America and loves terrists.

Recently, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told BBC radio that, as far as he was concerned, torture could be A-OK, in some circumstances. He trotted out that old chestnut, the "ticking nuke" scenario.

You know the one I mean, the one that torture-loving Republicans bring up whenever the idea gets debated: A nuclear bomb is ready to go off in a major American city. You have the one guy who knows where it is and how to disarm it in a room. Do you torture him to get the information?

Sure, says Torturin' Tony.

"It seems to me," he said, "you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn't stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face."

It's August 1945. Hiroshima has just been bombed. The Japanese know that another bomb's coming. They haul every American POW out of their cells and waterboard them to find out when and where. War crime? I can't help but think every Japanese officer, noncom, and buck private involved would have at least served a lengthy prison sentence, if they weren't hanged outright.

You see, that's the thing about torture. When you say it's OK for us to do it in the name of saving ourselves, that gives our enemies an excuse to do it to our people, and effectively makes us hypocrites in the eyes of the civilized world if we try to prosecute torture as a war crime. (I know, I know -- who needs the civilized world, anyway?)

I'll tell you what, though. Since I'm a reasonable guy, I'll make you a deal. In the one situation where a nuclear bomb is about to go off in a major American city and you've got one guy in a room who knows where it is, then, and only then, do you get to "stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face." Everything else is right out.


I have to tell you, everyone I've proposed this to had either refused to answer or flat turned it down. Because the ticking bomb scenario is so farfetched it's not likely to ever happen outside of a bad TV show.

Fortunately, it seems as if the days when our president condones torture by redefining the word are ending. Even the leading candidate for the Republican Party, a man who knows a bit about torture, has condemned it, which of course means he hates America and loves terrists.

I look forward to the day when the answer to the question "when can we torture the accused?" is a resounding "never."

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage. He says the closest he gets to torturing people is his guitar playing.


Anonymous said...

Not only is it not OK, I think everyone who has done it so far and ESP. everyone who has given the order to do it should be punished to the full extent of the law. And everyone who is still "on the fence" about these techniques --I'm looking at you William Kristol-- should be waterboarded as a matter of systematic policy, so they can make a concrete (and informed) decision once and for all. I'd hate for people to burdened by uncertainty, after all.

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