Rant of the Week

Rationale for Torture

“The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,” said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, in the letter, which had not previously been made public.
NY Times, April 27, 2008

This is the Bush Administration at it's most astonishingly acute.   This is from a letter drafted by the Attorney-General's office to the intelligence services to enlighten them as to how they may torture. 

Or was it drafted by the Arch-Bishop of Seville in 1300 to enlighten the Jesuits as to how much torture could be applied to a heretic?  Let's paraphrase:  "the fact that an act is undertaken to prevent the spread of heresy rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse..."  Or if Marxist guerrillas in Guatemala in the 1970's had captured a suspected CIA mole:  "the fact that an act is undertaken to prevent the oppression of the proletariat and exploitation of the working classes..."

Are there any government or military or paramilitary entities out there who only torture for the purpose of humiliation or abuse?  Stop that right now-- you are violating international law!  But if you have some purpose, divine or otherwise, in mind, well, we do it, so why shouldn't you?

We had formerly thought that such people were monsters of depravity, bereft of all that makes us human and civilized.  They used to be our enemies.  But now, they are merely like us, as long as their first reason is not "humiliation or abuse".  As long as they do not, as they approach their helpless victims with a tong, or electrodes, or a barrel of water, tell them, "and now I will inflict terrible suffering on you for the sole purpose of humiliation and abuse!  Once I have humiliated and abused you, I will stop!

Copyright © 2008  Bill Van Dyk  All rights reserved.