Friday, May 6, 2011
That the question of torture is once again being "debated" in this country.
According to the Bright Lights of the Republican Party, at any rate, torture is OK with them, and if it is OK with them, then the question must be raised and engaged extensively in the media -- all media, including the New Media (ie: Blogistan) as if it were some Important Discussion to Have.
Bizarre and crazy.
Here's the thing: torture is illegal, and torture is used. Those who use torture -- for whatever reason -- face legal consequences, though generally speaking those consequences are mitigated based on the circumstances of the torture employed.
That's the way it is, and it is the way it has always been. Torture is -- and has long been -- used for a variety of state/official purposes (set aside "torture for pleasure" for the time being), and those who use torture may face legal consequences in the by 'n' bye. More likely, though, they will not -- if they are torturing in service to the state.
The "debate" hardly ever deals with those facts, and it almost never starts from that perspective.
It's like the notion that Law Enforcement Officers are not allowed to shoot unarmed, non-resisting suspects. Hello! It happens all the time. LEO's almost never face legal consequences when they do it. It's basically a judgement call on their part -- whether to use force against suspects, and what kind of force to use, up to and including lethal force. Their judgement is almost always ratified by Authority in the end. Whether or not the suspect is armed and/or resisting. It doesn't matter. What matters (generally) is whether the officer believed s/he was under "threat." Which can literally encompass any emotion or situation at all.
Just so, it is a judgement call on the part of interrogators whether or not to torture a captive. And whatever the interrogator decides to do will ultimately almost always be ratified by Authority, post hoc or as necessary.
The Osama Thing seems to have revived the "torture debate" because of certain claims that information that led to his liquidation in Pakistan was gained through "harsh interrogation methods" -- though there is dispute about it based largely on Party lines. Whether information was gained through torture or not is beside the point. Torture remains illegal, and those who engage in it are potentially subject -- at least in theory -- to legal consequences. That's the only thing that needs to be said about it.
On the other hand, from current reports it would seem that Osama was in fact summarily executed when encountered in his bedroom in the Bilal Town Compound. Summarily executed with the well-known "double tap." Supposedly, summary executions are illegal as well, but they have been employed relentlessly throughout our many overseas Imperial wars of aggression, and they are a feature of JSOC and Navy SEAL operations, widely celebrated and cheered. They call it Wet Work.
It is what Death Squads do.
It's as illegal as hell, but it goes on relentlessly, and our Armed Forces and their mercenary auxiliaries wouldn't know what to do without recourse to a whole suite of otherwise frowned upon or outright illegal techniques.
The debate we should be having is whether this is the kind of society and world we want. And if it isn't, what do we have to do to change it?