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Torture is not okay. [Dec. 15th, 2007|10:43 am]
Torture is not okay. It is, in fact, never okay. I was reminded of this when I read this description of a Yemeni man who was tortured into confessing by a despotic regime and then handed over to the US as a terrorist. He then spent 19 months having his mind broken in US "black site" prisons. Then, he was released without charges or explanation or apology or even acknowledgement.

Torture rots the soul. Government-run torture rots the soul of a nation. Guantanamo Bay is now cultural shorthand for being locked up forever and mentally destroyed for no reason and with no recourse. Even the hamster song, sung by children with extra verses they made up, says "If the hamster is caught playing with fireworks / Guantanamo Bay for the hamster". Undoing the Magna Carta by revoking habeas corpus and engaging in extended psychological and physical torture of subjects is evil. It goes way beyond anything that might be considered "wrong" or "misguided". The people who have wrought this upon our nation should be in prison, removed from society so that we may recover from the fallout of their evil deeds.* Instead, not only are they still in power, there's basically nobody out there with any power who is standing up when it matters. Even was-a-POW-and-got-tortured John McCain rolled over and signed onto our current course of action. Without useful recourse, I am stuck complaining on the Internet and signing every petition that comes my way and calling my elected representatives, and wondering what are the long term effects of evil deeds when they are committed by a modern hyperpower.

The consequences will not be nice and they will not be good and they will echo for a long long time. I'm worried.

* - Fallout is definitely the right word here. Think of nuclear ash poisoning the landscape and taking generations to fade away. In the meantime, all that tries to grow there ends up stunted and gone wrong. The only sane responses are to either give up and wait it out in a bunker or to engage in a concerted cleanup effort at no small danger to the cleaner.

[User Picture]From: pmb
2007-12-15 07:32 pm (UTC)
If you need a unicorn chaser, then here's a heartwarming story about how poetry, freely made to order, can touch people.
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[User Picture]From: ouro
2007-12-15 11:57 pm (UTC)
Agreed. The article is horrifying; the implications are not pleasant to dwell on.
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[User Picture]From: nuclear_eggset
2007-12-16 02:18 am (UTC)
I think of the dark ages. I'm not history buff, but I understand there is well established historical precedent for state-sanctioned torture, and the effects last for centuries, if not longer.
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[User Picture]From: clipdude
2007-12-16 02:33 am (UTC)
Well said. At the beginning of this decade, I never would have imagined that my government would use torture, or would imprison people indefintely, even if faced with a challenge like terrorism. I thought we were better people than that. I was naïve, I guess. It makes me very sad.
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[User Picture]From: keystricken
2007-12-16 06:53 am (UTC)

Basically, we are fucked.

The damaged souls who performed torture come home. Some of them become alcoholics, maybe beat their wives and children. Some of them get jobs in police forces and prisons: torture in Chicago was a serious problem after Vietnam.

The Chicago Police Torture Archive
In-depth report about Commander Burge
How Torture Begets More Torture
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2007-12-16 04:54 pm (UTC)

Re: Basically, we are fucked.

Those are the domestic consequences, and are very bad. What were the foreign relations consequences? What were the long-term consequences for the tortured and for our relations with their (and other) nations?
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[User Picture]From: keystricken
2007-12-16 06:48 pm (UTC)

More fuckery

I'm having a harder time finding the right sources on the internet. But basically, my class training has led me to believe that the U.S. loses its ability to pressure for better civil rights in other countries. Worse, it encourages other unscrupulous countries to torture with impunity, knowing they can publicly accuse the U.S. of hypocrisy.

I don't know what our relations will be like with the victims' countries. I don't even have a guess. But as for the tortured people, the most chilling thing my professor told me is they feel a sense of betrayal on the most fundamental scale -- simple, normal things like linoleum tiles or garden hoses can trigger flashbacks. This is largely because grand "torture chambers" like those we see in TV don't exist, and torture takes place in ordinary places like kitchens and bathrooms, using ordinary objects.

I've saved some documents on these subjects. I'll send them to you so it doesn't sound so much like I'm talking out of my arrogant ass. :)

China Releases 3 Prisoners in Gesture to U.S.
China Prisoners' Supporters Look to Bush
Long Term Needs of Survivors of Torture
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2007-12-27 09:32 pm (UTC)

Re: More fuckery

It's starting...
BOISE, Idaho - A state police academy leader has disavowed the slogan of the most recent graduating class urging one another to "go out and cause" post-traumatic stress disorder.

Each class at the Idaho Police Officer Standards and Training Academy is allowed to choose a slogan that is printed on its graduation programs, and the class of 43 graduates came up with "Don't suffer from PTSD, go out and cause it."


Black said the class president was ex-military, and that the slogan "slipped in." He declined to identify the graduate. Black said future slogans would be vetted by academy leaders.

(emphasis mine)
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[User Picture]From: zudini
2007-12-17 10:01 pm (UTC)
As right as you are, be careful with that word "never". One could easily interpret your statement "Torture is ... never okay" as "Torture could never be okay in any circumstance, even theoretically", which is wrong. I think you probably mean "In every practical circumstance, torture is not okay" which I agree with.
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2007-12-17 10:44 pm (UTC)
Pedantry and rhetoric make for strange bedfellows.
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