April 18, 2009
Not Ready to Say Let It Go
Slate's Dahlia Lithwick asks whether just getting over it is the right answer when the subject is torture.
One article that was burned into my brain as the Bush administration was embedding torture as a matter of bureaucracy and routine was this one by Vladimir Bukovsky. As a victim of Stalin's torture regime, he reflected on how the acceptance of torture undermined the quality of people the state could attract when it was known that one could be working side by side with brutal sadists.
[T]orture is the oldest scourge on our planet (hence there are so many conventions against it). Every Russian czar after Peter the Great solemnly abolished torture upon being enthroned, and every time his successor had to abolish it all over again. These czars were hardly bleeding-heart liberals, but long experience in the use of these "interrogation" practices in Russia had taught them that once condoned, torture will destroy their security apparatus. They understood that torture is the professional disease of any investigative machinery.
...Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one's sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists.
When we have doctors and psychologists participating so intimately in torture, there is something deeply wrong with our country that cannot be just "gotten over."
Posted by Mary at April 18, 2009 04:38 AM | Human Rights
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The Slate article you linked says: "Having all-but granted immunity to those who actually carried out the torture because they believed they were merely following legal advice, and with the widespread understanding among experts that it's nearly impossible to criminally prosecute lawyers who were merely offering legal advice, the Catch-22 of nonaccountability is almost complete."
Not quite. It still leaves accountability to those who issued the orders, made the decision. That seems appropriate to me, and now that Obama is clarifying his position, it seems possible that he might act to punish those people in some way.
Yahoo news said, after Obama called water-boarding torture, that "Obama has come under heavy criticism for his actions from former Vice President Dick Cheney and other Republicans. They have urged Obama to release memos they say will show the tough methods were successful in obtaining information." As if the issue of torture were only a question of *effectiveness*... Of course Cheney and other Republicans should be worried.