Sunday :: Apr 13, 2008

Torture: the Rot at the Bottom of The Barrow

by Mary

What to say about an administration that has made torture the "Standard Operating Procedure" for the country? Like dday and digby, over the weekend I read through the multitude of posts I've written over the past few years about this horrible blight on our country and I find it sad that there are so many.

There is something horribly wrong when as a country we have a number of people who see nothing wrong with torture (the targets are evil-doers and deserve it - oh, yeah, so what about this?).

In my opinion, this one fact is enough to convince me that although people say this is a Christian country, there is nothing more anti-Christian or anti-Jesus than the idea that it is okay to torture. History shows that nothing is more likely to produce a profoundly immoral and corrupt society than torture. It is the farthest thing from a "city on the hill" that one can imagine.

In the last days of 2005, Vladimir Bukovsky, a victim of Stalin's reign of torture and terror, wrote about the human scourge of torture. What he wrote about was how deeply corrupting and destructive of good governance torture is. It chases out the decent people and leaves the sadists. It guarantees that you will never be able to rely on good police work, because those who stay in such a soul-corrupting environment are the dregs of the police state. And it guarantees that normal people -- your daughter, your father, your friend, yourself -- will never be assured of being protected from being the target of the sadists.

Indeed, with the exception of the Black Death, torture is the oldest scourge on our planet (hence there are so many conventions against it). Every Russian czar after Peter the Great solemnly abolished torture upon being enthroned, and every time his successor had to abolish it all over again. These czars were hardly bleeding-heart liberals, but long experience in the use of these "interrogation" practices in Russia had taught them that once condoned, torture will destroy their security apparatus. They understood that torture is the professional disease of any investigative machinery.

Apart from sheer frustration and other adrenaline-related emotions, investigators and detectives in hot pursuit have enormous temptation to use force to break the will of their prey because they believe that, metaphorically speaking, they have a "ticking bomb" case on their hands. But, much as a good hunter trains his hounds to bring the game to him rather than eating it, a good ruler has to restrain his henchmen from devouring the prey lest he be left empty-handed. Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one's sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists. Thus, in its heyday, Joseph Stalin's notorious NKVD (the Soviet secret police) became nothing more than an army of butchers terrorizing the whole country but incapable of solving the simplest of crimes. And once the NKVD went into high gear, not even Stalin could stop it at will. He finally succeeded only by turning the fury of the NKVD against itself; he ordered his chief NKVD henchman, Nikolai Yezhov (Beria's predecessor), to be arrested together with his closest aides.

Just after the Abu Ghraib espose, I noted that Dr. Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi death camps had some insightful words about the crucible of human morality - how does one judge how one's acts in the face of profound evil?

Life in a concentration camp tore open the human soul and exposed its depths. Is it surprising that in those depths we again found only human qualities which in their very nature were a mixture of good and evil? The rift dividing good and evil, which goes through all human beings, reaches into the lowest depths and becomes apparent even on the bottom of the abyss which is laid open by the concentration camp.

The individuals that find themselves trapped in this world created by their leaders? Well, they are responsible for their behavior in the hell they've been thrown into, and on how well they've been able to hold on to the humanity of those in their power and on how well they've been able to hold onto their own humanity.

Bush and the ghouls in his National Security Council are most assuredly responsible and should be held accountable for the sadist playground they helped create.

Mary :: 8:22 PM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!