Saturday :: Apr 18, 2009

Open Thread

by Mary

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick asks whether just getting over it is the right answer when the subject is torture.


One article that was burned into my brain as the Bush administration was embedding torture as a matter of bureaucracy and routine was this one by Vladimir Bukovsky. As a victim of Stalin's torture regime, he reflected on how the acceptance of torture undermined the quality of people the state could attract when it was known that one could be working side by side with brutal sadists.

[T]orture 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.

...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.

When we have doctors and psychologists participating so intimately in torture, there is something deeply wrong with our country that cannot be just "gotten over."

Mary :: 12:05 AM :: Comments (19) :: Digg It!