Saturday, March 22, 2008

Brief Thoughts on Torture Protests

I'm a little to swamped right now to engage in any lengthy discussions about interrogation policies and the ethics of America using torture methods. Suffice to say I am against the use of torture. Regardless of feelings towards terrorist or suspects of terrorism, I simply do not adhere to the rationality that if an enemy is probably going to do a wrong either way, we should condone that wrong by doing it ourselves. If we torture our enemies, it sends a message that we are ok with them torturing our troops and civilians when held captive by them. Furthermore, I do not believe torture works, or at least works to a consistently reliable degree. If someone is tortured, they will say anything to stop being tortured, but that doesn't mean what they say will be true. If anything, it's more effective at getting the tortured to say what the torturer wants them to say. Thus, it is a method of investigation that is highly susceptible to corruption.

With my position on torture made clear, I'd like to criticize some of the methods of anti-torture protesters, not to dissuade them from opposing what I agree with them is wrong, but in hopes that better strategies can be devised.

With all due respect to the individuals who did this and their willingness to inflict actual torture upon themselves to show others how wrong it is, these kinds of protests are really, really stupid.

Why? Because though the activist is getting a very real idea of what is being done to prisoners, the audience isn't. What we are seeing is someone hanging upside down flailing about. It looks like an act at best. At worst, it does look real, and only encourages people that it isn't such a big deal that we are doing this to people, since some peace loving hippie is willing to do it to himself. It looks unpleasant but comparably ethical to say... slowly cutting someones fingers off. If there is permanent damage, it is psychological and will not be expressed easily to a skeptical audience. They will simply see that you were willing to do it, and are probably going to be right as rain the next day, so what's the big deal?

What people actively protesting torture seem to forget or overlook is what torture means to the masses right now. Torture horror films have enjoyed more success in the last 4 years than ever before in America. When people have sat through the carnage of Saw, Hostel, their sequels and numerous other blood baths, pouring water up someone's nose seems like a joke. People actually don't believe it is torture and that's where the real battle ground is. If you want to make change, you need to go at the heart of American desensitization and reaffirm the dictionary definition of torture. Otherwise, you're just encouraging what you are against by making it look like less of a big deal than what it is.

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