Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Torture for Ash Wednesday

Andrew Sullivan has another excellent piece on torture up, "May the Judgment Not Be Too Heavy Upon Us." It seems that Marc Thiessen, the most prominent and zealous torture proponent of the day (save perhaps Dick Cheney) and a Catholic, went on a Catholic TV show to argue that torture was consistent with Catholic teachings. Sullivan does a thorough job with Thiessen (as he has before). Here's a sample:

Then we have the astonishing argument from Thiessen that the torture-victims in the Cheney program he supported were grateful for being tortured, because when they were forced beyond what they could endure - which, of course, is Thiessen's unwitting admission that what he was doing was definitionally torture - they were grateful. They were grateful because their duty to Allah had been fulfilled and they were then free to spill their guts. They had done their religious duty and had been brought to a spiritual epiphany that allowed them to tell us so much.

There is much to say about this but let me on Ash Wednesday simply remember the Catholic church's own shameful history of torture. It was done, according to the Inquisitors, as a way to free the souls of the tortured, to bring them to a religious epiphany in which they abandoned heresy and saved themselves from eternal damnation. It is hard for modern people to understand this, but as a student in college of the years in which my own homeland used torture to procure religious conversion, it is important to remember that the torturers sincerely believed that what they were doing was in the best interests of the tortured. In fact, it was a sacred duty to torture rather than allow the victims to die and live in hell for eternity, a fate even worse than the agonies of stress positions or even burning at the stake. Why? Because the torture they would endure in hell would be eternal, while the torture on earth would not last that long.

This is not an exact parallel to the way in which Thiessen defends torture. But the meme that it somehow relieved the victims, that it liberated them, that it helped them to embrace giving information without conflict with their religious faith is horribly, frighteningly close to this ancient evil. For a Catholic to use this argument on a Catholic television program and to invoke the Magisterium of the Church in its defense is simply breath-taking in its moral obtuseness.

Read the rest. I'll be doing a post on Thiessen at some point, who's a partisan zealot, and tells outrageous falsehoods all the time. As Sullivan's pointed out before, Thiessen argues both that prisoners were subjected to pain to make them talk (and that they were grateful for this) and that this was not torture.

I've dismayed to see so many public figures running around casually endorsing torture, especially because, well, they don't know what the fuck they're talking about, and they haven't made any real effort to find out. I'm also dismayed to see that The Washington Post, once a great paper, has continued its slide in hiring Thiessen as a regular columnist. I suppose it's the soft bigotry of Eichmann expectations, but I'm not surprised that media outlets won't call torture torture and won't call for investigations, let alone accountability. But to hire someone who endorses torture is a new low. (In the WaPo's case, he's actually another someone in addition to Charles Krauthammer, Richard Cohen and some guest columnists.) Endorsing torture is about all that Thiessen brings to the table. And as Sullivan noted not long ago, Dan Froomkin, who the WaPo fired (and was the best blogger they had) fact-checked and dissected both Thiessen and Krauthammer multiple times on torture. I don't believe anyone who honestly, seriously studied the subject could not know that Thiessen is making outrageously false claims, and his strongest "evidence" is hearsay. And while he seems like he's a true believer, I think he's also a liar. He tries to pretend torture isn't torture even when glaring evidence has been presented to him. He knows that others don't buy it, and that Cheney and the gang are in legal jeopardy to be tried for war crimes. Here's hoping there's still a full investigation, because otherwise, I don't see any reason the same abuses won't happen all over again. At times, these scumbags are actually bragging about it.


Rehctaw said...

At times? They have no shame.
There is more than enough video and audio evidence to indict. No chance of invoking the 5th. They BRAG about their crimes and dare ANYONE to call them on it.

I say we indulge them.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

There is zero chance that anyone is going to prosecuted for any of this shit in the United States.

Anonymous said...

Torture is a method the state uses against some people to terrorize everyone else. The state knows it does not work for gathering intelligence. Therefore, there is another reason for its use. They may only be criminally insane and sadistic acts excite them, but that is less plausible than torture being part of an overall plan for oppression.

Stephen Kriz said...

Jesus Christ was a victim of torture and also capital punishment wrongly applied, but conservatives wouldn't understand anything about him.....