Saturday, October 27, 2007

Suffering fools

“Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister from 1977-83, was tortured by the KGB as a young man [and described] losing the will to resist when deprived of sleep…‘In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.’ ”

- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3376951.stm

“Mr. Giuliani said: ‘Well, I’m not sure [waterboarding is torture] either… It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it. [The] Democrats…talk about sleep deprivation. I mean, on that theory, I’m getting tortured running for president of the United States. That’s plain silly. That’s silly.’ ’’

- http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/25/in-his-own-words-giuliani-on-torture/
I am profoundly sick of politicians bloviating about the inconsequentiality of various forms of torture. But Mr. Giuliani takes the prize when he says defining waterboarding as torture “depends on who does it” and when in all seriousness he compares his experience on the campaign trail with that of prisoners deprived of sleep for days on end. What’s “silly,” Mr. Giuliani, is that anyone on earth takes you at all seriously.

Politicians believing that they can be all things to all people apparently also believe that such moral relativism applies to behaviors long ago defined as torture, brutality and inhumanity. Those of us who persist in resisting our extrication from “reality-based” daily life, and its delineation of wrong versus right, have tremendous difficulty even intellectually engaging the ideas of people like Mr. Giuliani. How on earth can one logically respond to delusional rhetoric? Where does one begin? Isn’t any discussion predicated on first abating such complete and utter irrationality?

Maybe* we should arrange a field study for Mr. Giuliani and his politico pals, in which they can experience these self-defined not-really-torture techniques first-hand, since they’ve repeatedly demonstrated that they cannot comprehend what’s involved through the mere verbal description of Mr. McCain. No, I think we need to set up a torture demonstration center on Capitol Hill, so they can all absorb the full flavor of waterboarding, stress postions, sleep deprivation, relentless loud noise, and all the rest, and see how long they can tolerate it before crying “Uncle,” as in Sam. Or maybe we could get even more creative, and “compel” them to give false testimony, such as “I will never accept any money from special interests.” Now that could be interesting…

Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enhanced_interrogation_techniques
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* No, I am not advocating this, other than as a thought experiment. I cannot and will never condone torture, of anyone, not even of the practitioners of torture.

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