You would think that there would be no reason to have to explain why torture is something wrong. You would think that the logic would be self-evident for why Torture is the wrong way to interrogate prisoners and “material witnesses.” It is self-evident to most advanced countries, and not to nearly every tyranny. Even so, almost all torturers, including the current administration pay lip service to the moral quandaries and the unethical quality of torture, all the while trying to make lame justifications for doing what they want to do anyway.

The last people to be shameless on the subject and make ethical justifications for that shamelessness were the leaders of that Catholic institution the “Inquisition.” Those people had all sorts of euphemisms for their activities. The actual murder was called a “relaxation” and was part of a ceremonial holocaust known as an “act of faith” — auto da fe. The torturers of the inquisition maintained that you had to torment the body to save the soul. A person I know claims that when she toured Torquemada’s chambers, her guide was still quite proud of this record of saving souls for which the Spanish became quite known. That record involved torturing thousands or innocent people, whose only real crime was that they wanted to think for themselves and practice their religious beliefs.

Modern day torturers have new excuses for their behaviors. These excuses, incompatible with all sane notions of human rights, justice, or process, nevertheless have a diabolical logic of their own. Let’s look at them.

David Ignatious in his article drawing from that infamous memo quotes:

“Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

And yet, the section doesn’t give someone an out that somehow it’s “not torture” simply because the pain is less than that of severe injury. It just says:

Section 2340 of the U.S. Criminal Code banning torture abroad — defined as any act “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering . . . upon another person within his custody or physical control.”

We see a similar logic employed in other countries. Many of them don’t admit that they torture people either. They have laws on the books spelling out that torture is illegal. The US isn’t the only place where perverted officials create intentionally confused laws so that they can commit it. Amnesty international has a wonderful(?) article on the subject. I saw the text of an egyptian law on the subject a while back. Here is an article that lays it out:

http://www.hrcap.org/Reports2/torture%20in%20egypt/ch1.htm

They will tell you they have laws against torture in Egypt — quite strict ones — which they ignore regularly:

http://www.amnestyusa.org/amnestynow/tortured.html.

It describes how the lovely democrats in Egypt dealt with people “rendered” to them by the US:

‘Other captives have been sent to Egypt, where, according to the State Department, suspects are routinely’

“stripped and blindfolded; suspended from a ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor; beaten with fists, whips, metal rods, or other objects; subjected to electric shocks.”

‘A former CIA official told Newsday about one detainee transferred from Guantánamo Bay to Egypt:’

“They promptly tore his fingernails out, and he started telling things.”

also read:http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/11/12/international1909EST0793.DTL

Alan Dershowitz(http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/03/03/cnna.Dershowitz/), a man I used to have a lot of respect for, makes the next case that torturers like to use. “The Ticking bomb theory.” You might know this theory, it also tries to provide a constitutional rationale for torturing people under “extreme” cases. According to this theory, if someone knows something about an imminent threat, such as a nuke about to explode or something like that, then under that extreme circumstance torture might be justified.

“My basic point, though, is we should never under any circumstances allow low-level people to administer torture. If torture is going to be administered as a last resort in the ticking-bomb case, to save enormous numbers of lives, it ought to be done openly, with accountability, with approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice. I don’t think we’re in that situation in this case.”

This was exactly the logic written into the guidelines followed by the tortureres in Iraq, except that some of them got enthusiastic and photographs were taken of them doing so.

That is the trouble with perverse behavior, once it ‘s starts it’s difficult to reign in. They had CIA and officials everywhere, and yet these things went on anyway. They got the Seargent present at the time to take the fall, but who took the pictures?

All these tortured reasonings ignore a number of important points.
One is that this kind of torture is unalloyed evil.
Two, There is no guarantee that a suspect actually knows what the torturers are trying to extract, nor that what he says when he “cracks” is the truth.
Three, no matter how they try to get around it, this behavior is illegal. The US bound itself by conventions and laws on torture that have unequivocal language — except in the hands of liars and twisted people.
four, History shows that what is done to “foreigners” eventually is done to citizens. And indeed two of the prisoners being denied their constitutionally guaranteed rights are citizens.
Five, countries abide by laws like this as much to protect their own foreign nationals as for ethical reasons. We have already seen Al Quaida and similar organizations justify heinous crimes on the ground that they are retalliation for our torturing their people. If we want our prisoners reasonably treated we have to treat their prisoners reasonably. And we need to do this consistantly even in the face of enemies who behave barbarously in order to influence them, or others, to behave less barbarously.
Six, a just society does not torture people. This is the spirit behind the prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment” in the constitution. Justice has to be proportionate to the crime, and the crime of being a “witness” or knowing something is not a sufficient moral break to justify this behavior.

Alan Dershowitz may disagree on this, but even he sees the moral extremity of this behavior. A democracy can only preserve it’s integrity at the cost of “sometimes fighting with one hand tied behind one’s back.” Israel had tried to develop “less coercive interrogation methods” and all they had done was to lead to trouble.http://www.amnestyusa.org/amnestynow/tortured.html. As a result, even Israel, with the extremity of determined cold-blooded killers on it’s back, has eschewed Torture on moral and religious grounds. You can find where Deborah Sontag broke this story several years ago. It was also in the New York Times:http://www.la.utexas.edu/chenry/aip/press99/090799israel-rights.html

To be continued…