Monday, November 12, 2007

Thoughts on Torture

BLOGdoc 2 Thoughts on Torture November 12, 2007

Our first stop in considering torture and the questions we face about it will be to make it academic. As a sterile, distant phenomenon populated with entirely unknown quantities and painted with equally adolescent cinematic impressions it allows us to be little less than Caesar lounging on his throne with his thumb up or down. This will be the stage set for us as we “make our opinion.”

Our War Dogs are little more than pudgy draft dodgers. They have never seen even the grisly aftermath of combat, much less the corpse remaining after three weeks of hysterical screaming. Perhaps they have never heard the Grateful Dead. Perhaps they have conveniently neglected any seasoning knowledge of the horrible sight in our civil war that spawned those words. Are their lives and souls so clean? They seem, when asked, to forget almost everything.

We are tempted to suspect that they only compassionately insulated us with secrecy as they did what was necessary. After all, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no crime.” Perhaps, “We couldn’t handle the truth.” A flock of combat Generals tell us that it rarely yields what is sought, but the real men in the Senate know better. By the way, we continue to do it. Does Richard Cheney recline comfortably with the extracted truth or, dreaming of the screams, with one of his infrequent erections?

Being protected from it all, we hope to remain innocent, body and soul, from its fact. We didn’t know, and better yet, when we did, we could do nothing. It was the clammy Attorney General, its author but not its origin, or the strange mix of thugs and mice in the Senate, unwilling to outlaw it, who will fully shoulder history’s indictment.

We have very cautiously transformed our enemies, that is, the soldiers in the armies against us, into criminals. These idealistic unfortunates, captured fighting for dreams which were not our dreams, have become law breakers. They “Hate our freedom.” Whatever that means, it is enough to lubricate their ejection from the Geneva Convention’s protection and to permanently dislodge their inconvenient humanity.

Torture’s temptress smile is the deceitful promise of unreliable intelligence. Through history it has served up the wretched vengeance of hideous, slow death. Ours, of course, is done in secret, but our polished rumors, leaks and endless, vacuous debate must grant it some redeeming value as deterrent, that is, deterrent with even more value if only the Jihadist youths would only read the Wall Street Journal editorials before they rushed out to confront our helicopter gun ships with their rifles.

Intelligence, vengeance and deterrence are almost vindicated motives when compared to torture’s less illuminated products. It pays all its sponsors with the haughty intoxication of domination and superiority. One can drink quite deeply viewing the panic and suffering he authors for his pathetic adversary. And, don’t be fooled here in the bosom of a Christian nation, there is sex. Sex taken in as food in fantasy. Or, otherwise. All this food is the same. We, of course, are what we eat.

Happily this headache has only to do with distant deserts and, perhaps, our oil greed. Or, is this really true? Follow every moment of the life of a twenty year old convict as he “gets what he deserves.” Listen to the jokes of Letterman and Lenno. A forgotten prison architect left a few out-of-sight places for these violent trysts of five-on-one. And there is always man to man in night time cells under the constant threat of death. For ten to twenty, of course. All this not in Poland, but perhaps Kansas.

All we know are the jokes. Our high borne justice holds firm. American justice. Over here or over there. All unseen and unknown to us. Secret.

Secret crimes. Secret criminals. Secret needs.

If we are to ever torture, we must all “kiss the same girlfriend.” We must all, if we claim to be responsible and honorable, know what we have done. Is there some self-destructive mandate which compels us to “bravely” endure the awful consequences of a rubbish can full of smallpox germs hidden in Los Angeles as we pursue an absolute policy against violently extracting information?

Medieval Royalty insisted on a hood for their decapitators. Perhaps we might retain a few torturers to perform what is necessary to save Los Angeles then, afterward, sacrifice them to our cleansing justice, clearing the shadow from our own superficial consciences. In our modern day not even anonymity could provide dependable immunity. We love the thrill of defeating any such transitory protection with Congressional inquiry, courts marshal or “gotcha talk shows.”

Yet, there may be a solution. Our President is constantly available to “press the button” for a nuclear war. We rely on his judgment, and we have consolidated the necessary power for this required authority in his office. After the pivotal moment we will know if it was war. If the world and our nation step back from the brink, we will probably be told only what is expeditious. For calm. For politics. For economy.

Governors are required to specifically authorize executions, one at a time. This act, although not usually explained, inevitably becomes quite public whether with a stay or by inaction. The similarity between inflicting torture and inflicting execution suggests a possible future path to sooth our reluctance in endorsing the former if not both of these social anomalies.

Grant the President immunity, but require that the authorization for torture come from only that one high signature. No blanket policy. The dream would require the President to watch it in person. Or even direct it in person. In any event, the whole affair would, by law, come into the public domain within a week. It would enter the Presidential Library, the Presidential legacy. It would challenge us, as citizens, to accept or reject our own actions.

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