Thursday, August 03, 2006

How can you torture a man without also torturing your own conscience?

The suspicion or the feeling or the thought that what you once perceived is not entirely real or entirely what others or your own senses have told you it is ... this is never a condition of the mind that can be described as one of complete conviction and certainty. That you are indeed who you have been accustomed to thinking you are, that it is you who sit now between the four walls your eyes are seeing--of such things as these, you are expected to be certain.

Unless you are being tortured.

For the principle of the torturer is simple. Like retrieving a clenched gem by breaking the hand, obtaining prized information is presumed to be easy if you have the means to dissolve the will, to so disorient and fracture the fragile "self" that the interrogated loses even the barest sense of time, place or purpose. Then, having effectively demolished sanity itself, the prizes should fall free.

But, frankly, all that can be got by such means are the rantings of a desperate madman.

What do you obtain if the interrogated was already schizophrenic?

What do you say to a man whom you had to torture to find out he was the wrong guy?
What does his village want to say to you?

Now, gentle reader, I imagine you don't count yourself among the "you" addressed by those questions. You have not acquiesced to your government's policies in matters of interrogation. At least I trust that you are not among those who speak publicly in favor of torture, demonstrating completely numb conscience and more than a little lack of imagination:

The disconnect between public debate of interrogation policy and reality is a broad chasm made broader by outsourced detention sites. The people making the speeches and answering the congressional committee questions are not the ones who actually apply the tape, the wire, the water...these we hide away so as to protect our consciences, to give whatever lack of empathy we do possess a better chance to insulate us from our own collective doings.

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