Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dunking Stool

Our American pilgrim forbearers, between arriving at Plymouth Rock and becoming colonial revolutionaries, felt threatened by witchcraft. In their zealous self-defense, they resorted to all manner of, what shall we call it, torture? Root out the names of all the witches. There was something called a dunking stool or ducking stool, a chair at one end of a see-saw, teetering over the water. Confessions took on a sense of urgency. Long lists of names might spill out of the mind. For the stubborn, let the underwater ordeal reveal the truth. If they drowned, it proved they were guilty. Heads I win. Tails you lose.

The Geneva Convention defines torture as psychological or physical stress designed to bring fear of unendurable pain or death. The Geneva Convention outlaws torture against the enemy in time of war, if you capture them. It is ok to kill them beforehand. Failing that, you just can’t torture them. Prisoners of War are what the Geneva Convention is all about. The Bush administration had a problem. It had gone to a lot of trouble to round up would-be 9/11 terrorists, Al-Qaeda operatives and sympathizers from back alleys in bad neighborhoods around the world and store them in Guantanamo and various secret locations. The problem was if these captives were covered by the Geneva Convention. So the Bush administration invented a new category, enemy non-combatants. A thorny rose by another name. Then, the Bush Justice Department decided it’s only torture if we call it torture. To try to follow the philosophical and legal logic of the Bush administration is itself torture.

Dick Cheney, former President Bush’s Vice-President, insists that torture works. He has requested the release from government secret files of documents he says prove torture results in protecting all of us from attack by the enemy. He says current President Obama only shows his weakness by closing Guantanamo and speaking out against torture, a weakness the enemy will use to its advantage and attack. Cheney knows secret files do not get declassified and published just for his convenience. He also knows if there is an investigation about torture, George W. Bush will be bypassed, because everybody believes he is just clueless, the amiable cowboy in way over his head, doesn‘t know Shiite from Shinola. A Watergate-style congressional committee can ask, “What did the President know, and when did he know it?“ Nothing. And still doesn’t. All roads will lead to Cheney.

What Americans don’t like about torture is that we don’t want to see ourselves as the sorts of people who would do such things. Everybody who doesn’t mind seeing himself as the sort of person who would do such things, go ahead and raise your hand. Ok, we knew about you, Mr. Cheney.

Copyright 2009 by William C. Cotter


pascal said...

Been right disturbed lately about reports of multiple use of waterboarding by the gestap...oh excuse me...the CIA in its pursuit of the nation's enemies. This somewhat medeival concept of nearly but not quite drowning a suspect to gain a confession works because the torturee will say anything to get the torturor to stop. Now , I have heard all the rationalizing that this may prevent a nuculear blast in suburbia...maybe...maybe not. Unfortunately, the nuculear blast will be to our moral values and our belief in who we are. I was taught as a child the evils of inflicting pain on others for what ever reason... and not to do it ...that it was a sin against god and man . Animals do such things...humans do not. I HEARD that bubble head Hannity say on the radio today that , "we only did it to Muzowie (?) 183 times." heaven ...I can't think of a more shameful thing to admit to. I guess the justification is ...he's and animal...we can be even bigger animal's ! All of this ...of the protection of our way of life. Read John McCain's book about his time with the friendly VC's to get a good idea of how vile torture is and why,he believes it should never be used....oh, but then ..."he's not a REAL conservative." I would think making a prisoner feel abandoned by his comrades...his be more effective and accurate in information gathered. But, what's the fun in that!!! Break some bones!! Yee-haw!

Tina said...

I can envision Cheney as a participant in the Inquisition.
If you dunked Galileo enough he would say that the earth was the unmoving center of the universe.

Anonymous said...

Which is it? Did 9/11 just not happen, not matter, or you think it could not happen again?

Paw Paw Bill said...

Our failure regarding 9/11 is applying all the wrong insights, or none at all. Only dumb luck will prevent it from happening again. Dumb policies will certainly not prevent anything except smarter policies.

tommy said...

It's an emotional issue, I'm confused by your last line, Reagan used the same tactics you're projecting for Bush (successfully), I LOVED this line, "To try to follow the philosophical and legal logic of the Bush administration is itself torture.", and I agree we as citizens don't want to be seen as associated with the "torture" tactics, yet, we become co-conspiritors if we think we may have benefited, been protected, by the tactics.

Paw Paw Bill said...

My hat is off to you for your last line. Yet, it is all the worse to sell one's soul to the devil under false expectations.


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