Humane Anti-Torture Principles
The cultural environment within which the latest anti-torture rhetoric is batted around is quite ironic and telling of the zeitgeist of the times. One the one hand, there are those who think that torture in and of itself is wrong under any and all circumstances. On the other hand, there are those who are more concerned about our status and reputation in the world. As this logic goes, if we allow the torture or mistreatment of any prisoners, our enemies will be emboldened to reciprocate, but also, we would turn friends against us. (And my psyche couldn't possibly withstand even one more of the slightest critical comments from the French.)
The McCain provision calls for banning the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in U.S. government custody.
After all, what human with even minimal sentience would favor cruel or degrading treatment? Like so much of the cheaply formed rhetoric of our day, it gives the appearance of erudition and morality, but it really is so thin that a blind man couldn't even detect it with his white-tipped cane. Who wants to starve old people or children? Who wants poisoned water and air? Who wants poverty and homelessness? Lance Burri laments this style of argumentation in a post concerning the concealed carry legislation in the state of Wisconsin. Lance must be too ignorant to know that his own children would soon become bullet-riddled victims from the crossfire by all the Old West style shootouts that will occur if concealed carry is passed in Wisconsin. Therefore, we can conclude that Lance hates his children.
It is said that the power to define is the power to control. In these types of debates, defining the terms is 3/4 of the battle. If one does not agree with another's assertion, then he is a racist, sexist, homophobe, polluter, etc. It has all the sophistication of an argument on a third grade playground, but is often effective in garnering public support, especially among all those third graders who can now vote.
In this anti-torture discussion how does one define cruel, inhuman, or degrading? Does any sheriff, warden, or interrogater want every little word and action to be scrutinized by a judge or court without specific definitions of cruel, inhuman, and degrading? What could not in some way be rationalized to fall within the penembra of the elastic, living umbrella of the meanings of cruelty or degradation? I can easily envision an Islamofascist run on mail order law degrees about now along with application requests for employment with the ACLU.
The St. Petersburg Times, Oct. 16: "... conferees have an obligation to rise above partisanship and uphold principles that should be beyond debate in a civilized society." Obligation to rise above... principles beyond debate...Wow, that's heavy! Oooo... deep! Principles? It is an unpardonable sin to put women's underwear over a naked, dog-collared prisoner's head or to get a copy of the Koran wet.
Imagine if the pictures smuggled out of an American run foreign prison had included something even more graphic. Imagine a formerly participating professional had 'blown the whistle' on American behavior with video documentation. Imagine the video, narrated by the whistle-blower, had shown a naked prisoner in a confined space with guards thrusting a spear-like device into his cell. The captive is shown dodging the deadly intruder to the best of his limited and weakened ability and finally is shown to succumb to the thrusts as the weapon hits its bloody mark again and again. Although the video itself has no sound, one can see the face of the prisoner with mouth wrenched open in an agonizing, mute scream as his deadly situation concludes.
Oh, wait... that video has been available for more than a decade. It's called 'The Silent Scream' and narrated by Dr. Bernard Nathanson. It is an actual video ultra-sound of a baby during a suction abortion being torn limb from limb. But, never mind! Heady principles must be compartmentalized and the living and elastic meaning of the word limits it to certain areas only.
But we must 'rise above partisanship and uphold principles that should be beyond debate in a civilized society' and forbid American interrogators anywhere and anytime from mixing an Islamofacist with Victoria's Secret. After all, if Victoria can keep her secrets, so may a murderous enemy to our way of life. Principle!
I don't know very much about the faith of these terrorists. I do know, however, that they believe in a religion of works. They work to earn points to garner the favor of their god. Suffering and death for the cause earn many brownie points. If any are merely captured, having not yet honored themselves through murder/suicide, we should at least show them mercy and consideration for their beliefs by earning them points through suffering. Keeping the torture card on the table will give them hope, knowing that even if they are too timid for murder/suicide glory, the mean American infidels may help them earn that glory. They may turn themselves in by the busload.
Update: Joe Carter, in Evangelical Outpost, explores the similarities of the anti-torture provision with the euthanizing of nursing home patients before Hurricane Katrina.