Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On Vengeance

Posted by codemorse at Daily Kos - Reposted here.

From DailyKos:

[The approach is two-fold]....On one hand, hard sell the effectivness of torture techniques, while at the same time, the Bush administration soft peddles the techniques of torture as being as inconsequential as a military boot camp exercise or a harmless fraternity prank.

The GOP supporters of Mr. Bush are advocating that the President and Congress absolve themselves of any criminal responsibility for violating the Geneva Accords. The message the Bush administration is sending other nations is that the United States is free to pick and choose from the ala carte menu of torture violations banned by the Geneva Accords without withdrawing from the accords. Fully withdrawing from the Geneva Accords would place the United States on the blacklist of rogue nations who refuse to honor the accords.

Let's talk about a couple of those torture techniques that Rush Limbaugh refers to as "college pranks" ...Bush's proposed use of induced hypothermia involves subjecting the prisoner to exremely cold air temperatures aimed lowering the prisoner's body temperature.. The goal of induced hypothermia is to lower the body temperature of the prisoner enough to induce the severest of hypothermic symptoms without causing cardiac arrest.

Induced hypothermia is a technique of locking the prisoner into a walk-in freezer or refrigeration device in pitch black darkness and holding him there until the prisoner develops the following symptoms: inability to think or pay attention to events, confusion (some people don't realize they are affected), loss of judgment and reasoning, difficulty moving around or stumbling, feeling fearful, memory loss....

Would someone smarter than I please explain how the use of torture to procure information could be effective when the top symptoms of that torture include confusion, memory loss and the inability to think?

Sadly, I'm no pacifist. I wish I was. I want to believe that we can live in this world without resorting to violence - but I know all too well how effective and how enjoyable violence can be. All arguments about the "effectiveness" of torture aside, there's a darker part of the argument for torture that isn't being discussed, and it's important to acknowledge:

Torture is enjoyable for the torturer.

You can deny all you want, but human nature and thousands of years of civilization will call you a naive fool. Hurting people - especially when they've hurt you, either actually or in your perception - feels good. It gives you a rush, and unlike negotiations or accords, you don't need to engage in anything that might dampen your anger.

...And anger feels good, too.

Perhaps those in government advocating for the use of torture in violation of the Geneva accords are doing so out of a pragmatic desire to gain information. But the techniques being used seem almost designed to give us faulty, partial, or misleading information for our efforts.

When our methods of torture include techniques that would seem to automatically render information suspect and questionable, then the gathering of information is not that torture's primary objective.

The truth is that most people who advocate torture aren't doing so because they think it'll provide any useful information. They're advocating torture because its "deserved." They're advocating it, because it makes that base, primal, reptilian part of the brain (see: "The Lucifer Principle") that responds to vengeance lights up, Christmas Tree style.

And vengeance is an emotion everyone understands - You hurt me, and I'll hurt you. I'm sorry to say that I'm all-too-familiar with that line of reasoning. I've spent the better part of my life wrestling with the desire to toss my adopted morals to the side and just seek revenge. I haven't always succeeded.

So I understand the desire - I truly do. I just cannot condone or approve of it. Because as good as it feels to hurt someone, it fixes nothing. And what this country needs right now is to stop breaking things - either consciously or through lack of action (Iraq, New Orleans, Education, Healthcare, etc, et al) - and start fixing them, instead.


At 11:29 AM, Blogger Wesley said...

For some reason that escapes me I am reminded of a scene in Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garica; Warren Oats character guns down two men who murdered his lover. After which he takes a look at one of them on the ground and fires a bullet into the corpse to which he mutters "Why? Cause it feels so goddamn good."
I could take a guess why I think of this scene every time I hear news about Aubu Ghraib and Gitmo. Besdies being one of my favorite films, I can imagine it is something that is going through the minds of the interrorgators as they waterboard or beat detainess. Like you said its a base emotion, vengence, one that every human being can understand, one that has been the theme of countless action films and westerns. A thought that has gone thorugh the skull of anyone who took the law in their hands, soliders who went way too far, police officers who use excessive force, and, finally, that of the national guard troops at AuBu Ghraib; "It feels so goddamn good." Its something that if we ever want to move foward as a people, we have to supress.

At 8:06 PM, Anonymous portia said...

Not only is evidence-gathering precluded as a 'reason' for torture in that it makes it impossible to use the evidence, we have the additional wrinkle of the wildly inexcusable precedent question.

We have soldiers engaged in active combat. We have flagrantly dismissed the Geneva Conventions. Are we relying on the rosy assumption that none of our soldiers will ever be captured?

At 11:58 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

We're relying, essentially, on the assumption that the world will see our interrogations as righteous, and the enemy's interrogations as monstrous.

This is not as difficult a concept as it appears. It's essentially Orwellian, in that it asks you to hold two simultaneously conflicting concepts in your head at once and to accept them both as truth.

See, for instance, Malkin's reaction to the "unfair" trial of the convicted Christian terrorists in India. Malkin has spent the past few years literally mocking those who suggest that Muslim terrorists deserve a proper and fair trial. Yet the moment Christians are given that treatment, suddenly it's wrong.

And there's absolutely so sense that Malkin understands the staggering hypocrisy of that.

Interesting thought, Wesley, bringing up "Alfredo Garcia". I'm an enormous fan of westerns, but that's one I've never seen. From your brief description I'm obviously going to have to check it out.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Wesley said...

Well its more of a modern day western(or it could be called the death of a western?) but yeah definatly worth checking out one of Peckinpah's weirdest and finest.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

I've heard great things.

My personal faves include "The Searchers," "Unforgiven," "Butch Dassidy and the Sundance Kid," and "Deadwood."

Favorite non-westerns that technically qualify as westerns would include "Heat," "Serenity," "Cool Hand Luke."

Got any other suggestions for me?

At 9:30 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

...I'm not sure who Butch Dassidy is, but if he's half as entertaining as Butch CASSIDY is then I'm sure I'd enjoy his film as well.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Wesley said...

Well Kill Bill vol 2 but I'm sure you've seen it ;-)


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