Is there a fine line or a bright line between a free and democratic nation interrogating a terrorism suspect and torturing a terrorism suspect?Abu Ghraib

The 279 images from Abu Ghraib appear to confirm the bright line between right and wrong has purposefully been pressed into the fuzzy and dark:

Although the world is now sadly familiar with images of naked, hooded prisoners in scenes of horrifying humiliation and abuse, this is the first time that the full dossier of the Army’s own photographic evidence of the scandal has been made public.Most of the photos have already been seen, but the Army’s own analysis of the story behind the photos has never been fully told.

It is a shocking, night-by-night record of three months inside Abu Ghraib’s notorious cellblock 1A, and it tells the story, in more graphic detail than ever before, of the rampant abuse of prisoners there.

Bob Herbert, in today’s New York Times, argues: Abu Ghraib

The people at the top are getting scared, that’s what’s going on. The fog of secrecy is lifting, and the Bush administration is frightened to death that it will eventually have to pay a heavy price for the human rights abuses it has ordered or condoned in its so-called war on terror.The Supreme Court has ruled that the Geneva Conventions apply to the prisoners seized by the administration, which means that abusing those prisoners — as so many have said for so long — is unquestionably illegal. ….

Bush, Cheney & Co. are desperately trying to hold together a house of cards that is ready to collapse because their strategy and tactics for fighting terrorism were slapped together with no real regard for the rule of law.

What we’ve seen over the past few years has been a nightmare version of the United States. Torture? Secret prisons? Capital trials in which key evidence is kept from the accused?

That’s the stuff of Kafka, not Madison and Jefferson.

Paul Krugman joins Abu Ghraibthe analysis:

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. According to an ABC News report from last fall, procedures used by C.I.A. interrogators have included forcing prisoners to “stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours”; the “cold cell,” in which prisoners are forced “to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees,” while being doused with cold water; and, of course, water boarding, in which “the prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet,” then “cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him,” inducing “a terrifying fear of drowning.” …So why is the Bush administration so determined to torture people? To show that it can. The central drive of the Bush administration — more fundamental than any particular policy — has been the effort to eliminate all limits on the president’s power.

Torture, I believe, appeals to the president and the vice president precisely because it’s a violation of both law and tradition. By making an illegal and immoral practice a key element of U.S. policy, they’re asserting their right to do whatever they claim is necessary.

Have we lost the advantage of the high road and staking our claim as a nation along the higher moral ground?

To fight the down and dirty must we become them? If the United States is, as many proclaim — “the most civilized society in the world” — what message is sent to other nations when we take up the arms of the Barbarian and not the means of the Civilized in order to press fear, instead of trust, into our threadbare moral fiber?

We all can’t be demons. We all cannot be terrorists.

Yet we are all still brushed aside with the bright, broad strokes of a darkening national policy hoping to strangle the international wicked while grasping for straws in the Homeland.


  1. David,
    This is true to any society – regardless of the country.
    We despised the way we used to be tortured in the British imperialism, but we replicated/reinvented those to tackle inner turmoil/terrorism in our country today.
    It’s a vicious circle.

  2. Katha —
    Can you explain a bit more about the history of the torture you mentioned? What was the purpose? What were the terms? Was the torture successful in the frame of history?
    What is the point of torture?
    Is there an alternative?

  3. The number one reason why we don’t want to do it is to protect our own people from being tortured if they are picked up or captured.
    The second reason is to keep the moral high ground. How can we complain about another country doing bad things if our hands are dirty.
    But, I don’t think any of the above applies to the forces wanting to kill all of the infidels and to start a new caliphate that will rule the whole world, as the Iranian leadership has stated. The people who want to kill us also want to kill everyone in Darfur and other places in the world.
    The problem is how to obtain information while still playing nice.
    Do we have a degree of “leverage” that we will allow our government to use to get information?
    I don’t know what the answer to the question is, because I have a feeling that torture doesn’t necessarily produce valid information.
    I’d rather see the U.S. do what good cops do when they interrogate suspects to get the information.
    Of course, we have to be careful as all humans have the tendency to want to become inhuman as the newspaper stories about former Chicago P.D. officer Jon Burge show us.
    Safeguards for treatment of all detainees must be formulated and enforced.
    From the University of Chicago:

    Between the years of 1972 and 1991, approximately 135 African-American men and women were arrested and tortured at the hands of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command at Area 2 police headquarters. Some of these victims were as young as thirteen years old. Various court cases have established that the methods of torture used in the interrogation of suspects included electric shock to the ears and genitalia, mock executions, suffocation, and burning. While Jon Burge was ultimately fired by the Chicago Police Department, not a single perpetrator of the tortures has ever been criminally prosecuted.
    These incidents were not isolated and allegations of abuse by Burge continue to surface. In fact, the Area 2 cases are seen by many observers as part of a pattern and practice of racially-motivated police brutality in Chicago that has been revealed over the course of many years. This site is devoted to telling the stories of the Area 2 victims and seeking justice for those without a voice.

  4. Chris! Yep! Akismet grabbed you again! Does this always happen on Mondays? There’s nothing in your post that is Spammish in any way. I will be installing a new version of Bad Behavior soon. The earlier version I tried this morning didn’t work quite right so it is being updated and I’ll put it up and see how many people get locked out.
    I agree torture is a difficult slope to navigate. There is the “ticking timebomb” theory that if you know a bomb is going to explode in an hour, you do everything you can to have the person who knows how to disarm the bomb, to start talking. The problem is, as you so rightly suggest, is torture leads to the invention of bad information to get away from the paid.
    Krugman’s article also mentioned this:

    What torture produces in practice is misinformation, as its victims, desperate to end the pain, tell interrogators whatever they want to hear. Thus Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi — who ABC News says was subjected to both the cold cell and water boarding — told his questioners that Saddam Hussein’s regime had trained members of Al Qaeda in the use of biochemical weapons. This “confession” became a key part of the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq — but it was pure invention.

    John McCain has said when he was captured in Vietnam his torturers told him and the others with him in prison they were “not POWs” and did not fall under the protection of the Geneva Convention and, so, they could do whatever they wished to them. McCain said the one saving grace they had in the eye of the horrific torture was the ability to say back to them, “We believe in the Geneva Convention and I promise you that your POWs are being treated fairly and they are not being tortured because it is not allowed.”
    Bob Herbert also said today:

    The reason President Bush has been trying so frantically to get Congressional passage of his plan to interrogate and try terror suspects is that he needs its contorted interpretations of the law to keep important cases from falling apart, and to cover the collective keisters of higher-ups who may have authorized or condoned war crimes.

    We’re in for a mess of trouble!

  5. I also worry about those we are worrying about since they don’t seem to have any second thoughts about doing bad things to us:

    The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of Sunni Arab extremist groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq, issued a statement on a Web forum vowing to continue its holy war against the West. The authenticity of the statement could not be independently verified.
    The group said Muslims would be victorious and addressed the pope as “the worshipper of the cross” saying “you and the West are doomed as you can see from the defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and elsewhere. … We will break up the cross, spill the liquor and impose head tax, then the only thing acceptable is a conversion (to Islam) or (killed by) the sword.”

    Source: AP.
    Can our efforts to be civil rub off on people who promise to kill all of us?

  6. Hi Chris!
    Hey, I got all caught up in our Akismet problem last time and forgot to say: I LOVE THE NEW AVATAR! Now that’s beautiful, iconic and urbanely semiotic!
    I’m not sure pre-emptive strikes or reacting to threats can work in today’s instant-response psyche that now appears to rule people and their nations. If the war in Iraq has proven anything it is how miserable things can work out when a nation acts on bad or invented “information” and they’re you’re in it with no way out.
    Diplomacy deserves a grander try. Economic incentives can go a long way to healing a hot impulse.
    I agree if we are struck we must strike back with a measured and purposeful intent — but when things get to the point where an established nation “declares war” on another country and then acts on that declaration –- I believe that indicates more a failure of diplomacy and the modern human condition than a accommodating a terroristic threat.
    I read something over the weekend that this big problem in the Middle East cannot ever be healed by the West: We have gone too far and told too many lies to remain believable in our intent. The West needs to stand together and demand that the neighbor nations in the Middle East find way — their way — of diminishing the threat and calling each other into line and policing their own neighborhood. I think that may be the last best effort we have left before the nuclear warheads begin exploding over Israel.
    I also think there are quieter and more surreptitious ways to eliminate threats. Everything can’t be the end of the world. Smaller threats can be handled without fanfare or remorse.

  7. David,
    India has been invaded by many other courtiers in its history; the last one was by British, from 1757 – 1947.
    The first “rebellion” against the British took place in 1857 and it was then some innovative methods for torture were invented by the British to put a stop to that revolution.
    We practice it – till date…to stop our internal unrest.
    Will come back later with more details…

  8. Hi David,
    Thanks for the comment about my avatar! I like that it’s something from the region! When I reduced it to 80×80, it looks a little like a bird.
    It’s too bad that we never seem to take care of problems when they are small — either by talking to resolve differences or other action.
    We always wait and wait and wait — not just the U.S. but it seems the whole world — until problems grow into serious beasts that threaten to ruin our ways of life or economy.
    We need to figure out a way to work out our differences better than we do now. The U.N. doesn’t seem to work and military efforts get tiresome after the first couple of months.

  9. Chris —
    Yes, it took me a moment to place your Avatar. It looked Phoenix Rising!
    We do need to find a better way of getting along with each other in the world. The US is a diminishing country in population, education, and financial stability.
    We can’t play the bully role any longer if there isn’t a verifiable moral core behind every intention and move.
    We don’t have the money or the personpower to be The World Police any longer. We need to work quietly with movers and shakers across the world to stamp out radicalism at home and abroad before it threatend the stable, moderate, middle core.
    When Colin Powell was used and abused and then walked away from it all with his spirit broken but his integrity intact — that was the beginning of the end of the whole war effort.
    We’ve since given up on Anbar province in Iraq . That’s a third of the country that we are “letting go” because we cannot fight there or maneuver there any longer.
    Anbar is a bright warning for a dim future.

  10. Dave —
    I don’t mind a mad dog coming after me until it bites me. If it bites me I will fight back but I won’t kill that dog and its puppies and the neighbor’s dog and that dog over across the way that is looking at me funny…
    The trick is to put down the mad dog before it becomes a threat. There are many ways to tame a wild animal that don’t including biting or killing.
    I think in your scenario, yes, taking a Muslim to a pig farm would be against GCIII, Article 3, concerning “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment:”

    Article 3
    In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
    1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
    * violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
    * taking of hostages;
    * outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
    * the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
    2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
    An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
    The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
    The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

  11. Dave —
    There was a case where an person was interrogated by the military and “broken” by playing rock music. The guy hated the sound so much he told them whatever they wanted to hear.
    I think we need to listen for barking dogs. If a dog bites without any warning there isn’t much we can do about that except to remember that dog bites after the fact. We can’t go around expecting every dog to bite even if we don’t hear the barking.
    Bin Laden was an ally. Then something changed. What? He disappeared. Did anyone notice? It seems logical if you have a friend one day and the next the friend has disappeared you should begin to look for and wonder and worry about your lost friend and then heal the loss if possible.
    I believe there was fair warning — at least two days — for the nun who was shot in Mogadishu:

    On Friday, hardline cleric Sheikh Abubakar Hassan Malin told worshippers at his mosque to hunt down and kill whoever offended the Prophet Mohammed.
    There has been no effective central government in Somalia since 1991, and although the UIC is credited with bringing some stability to Mogadishu, correspondents say the city is far too dangerous for all but the bravest aid workers to operate in.
    The dogs were barking. The Pope’s security detail was increased but those in the field were not. That is a failure of intelligence analysis moving from the core out to the spokes.
    The rest of the nuns are now gone from Somalia and it is too bad it took a death to make that step happen. You don’t need to wait for a killing to move away from the chance of harm coming your way and sometimes the best way to do that is to get out of the way and remove yourself from the line of fire.
    You defeat threats by befriending the friends of the threats and getting reliable information about intent and action. That takes a lot of time and energy and trust. We have few friends left in the Middle East. Human intelligence begets human results.

  12. My personal view is that 9/11 was the day that signified that “we” had lost the war – lost the moral high ground – the day when the terrorists said enough was enough. Our global reaction to that has made us as unpoular in many parts of the world as the terrorists are here. We have lost the respect of many nations. Our governments have lost the respect of their electorate and the names of Bush and Blair are tarnished.
    In recent days there have been attempts to add religious fuel to the fire. When I studied RE as a teenager – we looked at the Bible. Our teacher, I felt was rather enlightened. She reminded us that the Bible had two parts – the Old and the New Testament. She said that Christians were followers of Christ and the teachings of Christ – that of love and compassion – rather than the barbaric justice of the Old Testament. There has been a distinct move to “Old Testament” rhetoric – to “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” – rather than the good Samaritan and love your enemies. Christianity is tarnished by their actions.
    We have showed ourselves to be barbaric and inhuman – no better and possibly worse than those we oppose. Is it any wonder both America and Britain are hated and persued with such determination.
    The only people who win war – are the arms manufacturers –
    And some quotes ……………
    Liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands are dyed red with innocent blood. ~Mahatma Gandhi
    The next war … may well bury Western civilization forever. ~Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
    Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it. ~Noam Chomsky
    (Typed one handed after falling and bruising my thumb – so apologies for any “loose formatting”)

  13. Excellent comment, Nicola! I’m so sorry you injured yourself! Shucks!
    I LOVE YOUR NEW GRAVATAR! The message is outstanding!
    Your quotes are right on target and it is frightening to see how clear the warnings are from history — yet we run away from the truth of the idea. Amazing.
    I agree there has been a strange conversion from intellectualism to blind-belief radicalism and we’re the worse for it.

  14. Dave —
    Do you think Bin Laden is mentally stable? Are his actions those of a sane person? I’m sure we used him as much as he used us. Our mistake was not keeping tabs on him when the rift became larger and larger.
    Good luck with your mother.

  15. I am fine – more injured pride than anything else – I will be sore for a couple of days. Makes typing very slow though.
    I blame you/thank you for the inspiration for the new avatar! All the discussions about viral marketing.
    I think that is the real danger – we are all becoming radical.
    So where/when does it stop ? can it be stopped ?

  16. So is this more Salem Witch Trials, torture people until they confess and then kill them for their confession or more George Orwell’s Animal Farm depose one “enemy” only to become them?

  17. Nicola!
    I hate it that you can’t type! I am wounded for you!
    I love your viral marketing of ideas! FAB! Inspirational!
    I’m not sure we’re all radicals. Our leadership are radical and are enabled by their radical base. The rest of us just sit around and wonder and wait for it all to pass while they cement their hold and rouse our houses and intimidate us into their ways of believing. We used to have leadership by intellect. Now we have leadership that pushes us down with heavy belief.
    It stops when the good people — the intellectual moderates — stand up and say: Waitaminuite. Let’s rethink this; let’s don’t go that way; let’s stop and turn around. You don’t get there by listening only to a few and playing to the crowd and preaching to the choir.

  18. A S!
    You’re back!
    Yes, you are precisely right –- those event and ideas are all warnings against the awful predictors of our certain state.
    Has there ever been a moment in history when torture actually revealed any verifiable and important information? How can anything said while under torture be expected to be the truth or to be believed?
    “If you are not with us, you are against us” is a favorite saying of, and reflecting in, the hollow of our current administration — and it rings chillingly false in the current and shall again in the future.
    History will be a cruel judge of where we are now.
    Buy Frank Rich’s new book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold.

  19. Our limited words, mostly derived from Indo-European language has limited our thinking and acting and led to torture, and the world situation. As long as people believe in negative concepts they are like squeezed lab rats that must punish the closest rat. There is no “evil,” even “baby bushkins” knows this. See the twisted smirk on his face when he uses the term. If there is a “God/Godess,” we are being tested to see if we fall for these sucker-punch words from an ancient Indo-European tribe. Rascism is built into the English language and all languages derived from this ancient warrior tribe. Enlightenment=Solipsistic being.

  20. I don’t think that torture would ever really produce any of what people in this country would state as the “desired results”. Unless the desired result is that of unrestrained cruelty.
    Whether it is the stress of the situation or under the direct order of a commanding officer, the actions of the individuals and the commanding officer who ordered it must be brought to justice before we can re-establish any sense of a “moral high-ground”. There must also be actions taken to ensure there is no repeat.
    As a nation, “moral highground” was lost when we ignored the UN and began the pre-emptive strike on terror through the invasion of Iraq. It only permits other nations to attack their enemies with the premise that it is a pre-emptive strike kill or be killed. Had the funds been used strategically to target terrorist groups rather than other nations, we as a nation may not have lost credibility with the rest of the world.
    I never actually left. I read the post from last week but didn’t really have any comments.

  21. A S —
    I agree with you and Bob Herbert expands on your argument:

    One of the biggest concerns of the administration is the possibility of evidence emerging that could lead to charges of war crimes against high-ranking officials. The president and others in the administration have argued that they are seeking changes in the law in order to protect soldiers and ordinary interrogators in the field against war crimes accusations.
    But there are already clear guidelines — short of war crimes prosecutions — for dealing with soldiers and civilian interrogators who abuse prisoners. The Abu Ghraib prosecutions are a good example.
    The people who would have to worry, if war crimes were found to have been committed, would be those at the top of the command structure who crafted policies that were illegal and ordered them carried out — or who turned a blind eye to atrocities.

    We are sorry to learn you were here all the while last week whispering in the back row during our URB education class!
    We can revoke your Boles University Ph.D. in International Relations, ya know!

  22. Another problem of the pre-emptive strike is that if there is any future evidence that could prove a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida, what’s to prevent them from claiming that they were helping them because they feared the son of the previous President who lead an attach on Iraq would have similar plans? Who’s to prevent Al Qaida from claiming that they were issuing a pre-emptive strike on behalf of their neighbors?

  23. On a side note, the Boles University sweatshirt is really comfortable. (hmm.. Hope this doesn’t count as spam.)

  24. A S!
    I agree. The whole run up to Iraq was preplanned before the oath of office was even taken.
    I fear this won’t end with Iraq. I think we’re on the warpath to Iran next.

  25. Oh, and A S —
    Thanks for confirming the Boles University swag is comfortable!
    I ordered a lot of stuff from all sections of the store and I’m impressed with the fit and the quality of it all. Yay! You never really know if the stuff will look as good as you hope but it all looks super!
    Thanks for buying the sweatshirt! The whole idea of starting a store was yours, and for that, I thank you!

  26. The thing is now that we’re in, we must invest substantial amounts of money to rebuild we cannot simply pull out all of our troops and leave them in a state similar to post WWI Germany. But I believe that the American voters will put their trust in a candidate who will alter our current course. Hopefully that will take place before any other wars are initiated.

  27. Hi A S!
    I agree we’re in a sticky tar pit with no simply way to release ourselves. The next president will have to be good at chess and puzzles because the Middle East is a difficult problem to resolve in a timely manner.
    It is unfortunate the Iranian president is in NYC to speak at the United Nations — as is our president — yet our president will not meet the Iranian president even though the Iranian president wants to talk. It seems like, with the right mindset, a small dialogue could be opened or at least discussed. Diplomats create opportunities while true-believers command the world to bend to their worldview.

  28. Another thing we must prevent is to pass the torturing on to other governments, who claim no high ground, so as not to sully our own hands. But how would one go about it?

  29. A S —
    How would we go about stopping our farming out of our torture?
    I guess by refusing to make the request in the first place and refusing to accept the information if offered.
    Information by torture is, by its very deceitful nature, untrue.
    The only value in gaining information by torture is to press out the answers you need and the information you want in order to provide a rationale for an action that can be later be pointed to as the “facts” behind the commission of the act set in force against a false confession.
    We only need to look to Galileo to see the folly in forced recantation.

  30. As long as we use the worthless war paper printed up by the G-8 they will always stay one step ahead of us. We will always be doing their bidding. The only answer is to print up a truly democratic currency that people could trade this un-backed joke paper for. Everyone in the world (including you and me) currently follows the paper of 8 printers or dies. We can blame no one but ourselves. Why blame scapegoats. We have met “the enemy,” and it is us.

  31. “I guess by refusing to make the request in the first place and refusing to accept the information if offered.” This is correct. But as individuals, you and I and people who read this blog, the question is how can we stop it? How can we make sure that the people in positions of power will not act in this manner? I’ve not known any one of the elected office holders on any personal basis and political campaigns are always trying to sell the politician in the best light.
    A track record may mean nothing if the puppet is manipulated by a new puppet master.

  32. A S —
    I think we stop it by starting to pay attention and calling out the lies with the facts. So many have written off the current administration as an idiot theocracy that doesn’t hold interest except for disingenuous pity and that means no one is watching or playing the watchdog.
    I think it has been too easy to turn our eyes away from the reality of the lies that surround us because it is easier and more soothing to focus on our own individual problems instead of the problems we face as a nation.
    We must find and elect politicians who will tell us the truth – even if they are corrupted by money and power — and try to set wrong things right in the greater sense of serving everyone in America instead of a narrow few.
    We know the election process corrupts all politicians and we know we end up with purchased candidates who pay back dunning notices sent by monied supporters when they get elected. Big money in politics ruined the system of equal representation and it may be too late to do anything about it except to try to make the best of the worst we have.

  33. Hi David,
    I was listening to Roe Conn on the radio today and he mentioned a theory that he has that the extremist movement will burn itself out.
    People cannot sustain a hate-filled movement that threatens to destroy everyone. Sooner or later, the majority of Muslims and others will rebel against the threat that it poses to them.
    Right now, most people are afraid to speak out against the haters. If you do, it means the sword.
    But, there will come a time when the sword turns against everyone and people will rise against the tyranny. Our human nature will demand it sooner or later.
    Is it torture to give someone “truth serum” that doesn’t harm them, but unlocks the secrets in their minds?

  34. Hi Chris —
    Gosh, I hope the extremist movement will burn out but I don’t think that will happen. It didn’t happen in Germany in the early 1940’s and I doubt we will be able to stop Middle Eastern Fundamentalism before a bomb that cannot be unfelt for years is detonated.
    I would say, according to the Geneva Convention, that injecting someone with a serum to force the truth from them would not be allowed because of torture concerns.

  35. From Reuters:

    OTTAWA, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Canadian police wrongly identified an Ottawa software engineer as an Islamic extremist, prompting U.S. agents to deport him to Syria, where he was tortured, an official inquiry concluded on Monday.
    Maher Arar, who holds Canadian and Syrian nationality, was arrested in New York in September 2002 and accused of being an al-Qaeda member. In fact, said the judge who led the probe, all the signs point to the fact Arar was innocent. …
    Civil rights advocates said the case of Arar and three other Canadians who ended up in Syrian jails raised suspicions that Canada might be outsourcing interrogation to nations where torture was commonplace. …
    The unit probing possible terror networks was poorly supervised and was comprised largely of financial fraud experts, who had little experience of national security cases.
    Police gave all the files from their probe to the United States without screening the data for inaccuracies or following internal rules that limited what they could hand over.

  36. David- i agree. J.P. Sartre thought the Nazi’s would burn out. Our liberal (Kennedy), and conservative (Bush), presidents are children and grandchildren of supporters of this regime. We need a peaceful revolution. Want to lead? Have more than many ideas, would be glad to join.

  37. I think a serum is not torture and even if it is, that discussion is semantics. Unless, there are some serious health problems for the those who have been administered the truth serum.
    There IS a fine line between what is acceptable and what is not. It is not as blurry a line as the government of Bush would like us to believe.
    When it is clear for all that Abu Graib and the other prisons and the torture inflicted in those places have not brought anyone more safety and seem to have no place in the “war of terror”, then one should ask oneself what is the motive for such cruelty?
    When the world’s self acclaimed country of freedom of speech can arbitrate such disregard for International Law, such complete disrespect for human beings and their human rights, what does it say of the world today.
    In 2006 how come Americans, who have been blessed in so many ways with more wealth than many countries in the world(however poor the average American is), how can people from Bush to his government, from the highest ranking officer to the lowliest private, how come there are so many people willing to abuse, torture, terrorize and kill other humans on supposed charges? How come so few people say stop, refuse to participate?
    After the second World War so many people questioned how come not more people in Germany said stop or refused to partake in the cruelties against jews. So is this because our nature truly is to abuse and hurt others?
    I pinch my arm to wake up from this medieval culture, to wake up in 2006, but we are there. This is what thousand of years of enlightenment, philosophy, psychology, world wars have been fought for, this is what why we rid ourselves from religion in the west in the public space and preferred founding our societies on democracy. From concentration camps to abu graib / Guantanamo / secret cia prisons. From tattoes with a number to orange jump suits and black hoods, from the Berlin Wall to the Israeli Wall.
    From “turn the other cheek” and back to “eye for an eye”
    How corny when feel by saying: When will we ever learn?
    And how dreadfully to the point is that statement?
    And also is human beings really capable of creating a free, honest and open society? Or will the pressure from un-democratic movements, like the current islamist fundamentalist one, always force us to stoop down and become them? And when do let out that inner beast, are we doing so because we truly are like that? Are human beings capable of creating a society of Common Sense or Reason or is reason an act of choice for individuals, a hat we place on our heads, adorning ourselves with, like the way we pull on a nice shirt before a dinner out with the friends?
    Lastly: Is Freedom as a human right really threatened from the beyond (of the western civilization) or is it threatened from within our ranks, from the ones carrying the banner, the most and in the front?
    When beasts become heads of state, leaders of nations and at least half of those nations support and applaud illegal acts of state terrorism, when superpowers and super fundamentalists choose the world as the battleground for their beastly agendas, then what can the sole dissidents do?
    When dissenting voices are stigmaed with labels like “unpatriotic” when they are against bombing and invading other countries or “anti-semitic” when they are against settlements and against building large concrete walls on stolen land, then what really is on play here is that the rhetorics is being monopolized by the forces in question.
    Copenhagen, Denmark

  38. Draccan- Of course you are correct about everything, but consider the enlightened/solipsistic view that we are all creating this including you and me. It is up to us to do something. As it is, our last realization when we leave this physical body will be “we dreamed all this, and yet did nothing about it of any consequence.” If we could just start joining together this would at least be a start.

  39. David..I have been keeping tabs on your excellent blog for quite some time. This is the first time I have actually felt brave enough to contribute, I apologise in advance for it’s length.
    I think the underlying foundation of our problems is that the ideals, which are the subject of our mantra of spreading Democracy and freedom, are critically flawed. We do not actually have true Democracy and freedom in our own countries, so what right have we to force our gentically flawed ideals on to others?
    Democracy and freedom are illusions that are fed to the masses as the utopian panacea to most of the problems throughout the world. Impose Democracy and freedom upon other countries and the problems will disappear. Well, no they won’t. If accepted, they will just replace current problems in that country with another set of problems.
    Democracy, as defined by is:
    “1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.”
    Sounds good in principal, doesn’t it? The reality is that politics is now sponsored by Corporate Business which uses it’s financial muscle to control the media, which in turn controls what the vast majority of people think. The electorate are tricked into thinking they have a choice at elections, whereas in fact, the only choice they have is whether to elect one Party whose politicians are the servants of one set of Corporations or another Party which are the servants of another set of Corporations. Even then, the choice is not that clear cut, because a lot of big Business Corporations cover their bets by financing both sides. Democracy is an illusion, it should be relabelled “Corpocracy”.
    There are only a small proportion of free thinkers in society. The vast majority (and these are the people who get to determine who are elected to govern us) are susceptible to advertising and what they are fed by the media. Control the media and you control the way the electorate vote. In the UK, elections have been decided by a single headline on the front page of a single newspaper on polling day. Such power in the hands of Corporate Business cannot be healthy or democratic.
    To me, there is something incongruous about the words Democracy and freedom in the same sentence. Democracy, in it’s purest form means imposing the will of the majority upon minorities, to the point where the freedoms of minorities are curtailed. The weapon it uses to enforce this will and remove the freedoms of the minority are our laws.
    As an example, in the UK, our Government is proposing to bring in laws which will outlaw the possession of pornography which “appears” to be violent. The Government themselves admit there is no hard evidence of harm which comes from adults looking at these type of images, but the “high moral majority” appear to be in favour of the law and so, if it is passed, I could go to prison for several years and be placed on the sex offenders register for having pictures of my own consensual sexual activities on my computer. The fact that no harm was caused during these activities is irrelevant, the only thing that has to be proved is that they “appear” to be violent. This law, if passed would be so unfair and is a persecution of a minority whose sexual activity is not approved of by the majority. However, in order to pay homage to the God of Democracy, the freedoms of the minority are trampled upon in order to appease the morality of the majority. Maybe freedom, when applied in tandem with Democracy should be relabelled “Freejority”.
    “Corpocracy” and “Freejority” is what we are actually peddling to the rest of the world. We are invading other countries on the pretence that we are giving them Democracy and freedom, but in reality what we are trying to impose upon them, at the point of a gun or the blast of a bomb, is the freedom to be exploited and controlled by the few who control Corporate Businesses and the freedom for the majority to inflict their will and prejudices upon minorites.

  40. Fred —
    I am all in favor of leading a peaceful revolution but I don’t think solipsism is the way to go because it is too easy to reflect away criticism via intraspection that says “I am unto myself, I know only myself, I answer to only what I know.”
    I believe the UK and Iran and the USA are all led by solipsists who each live in their own self-protected worlds.

  41. Draccan —
    There is a certain repressed bloodlust in those who live in civilized nations but who have yet to tame the wild beast within. They love “cowboy” talk about the Wild West and avenging deaths and living by the law of the land where no man answers to anything but the whims of the wind and a bullet coming out of a barrel is justice being served in a lead ball.
    Bush’s poll ratings are up! He’s now at 44% approval from 39% so there is a resonance in talk of revenge and blood in the streets and fighting infidels. You can’t blame the man for presenting a facade that is not only accepted as the face of reality but is celebrated in its wants for revenge.

  42. Hi budgie —
    Okay, now that you’re here, welcome! You are now expected to write thrilling comments like that every day all day and if you don’t, we have ways to make you. We have people who know where you live and they would not mind putting your thumbs in screws to get your fingers a’typin’!!
    Democracy has become the acceptable cover for Imperialism where we no longer worry about our home condition. We are instead obsessed with what we can take from the rest of the world by force.
    As the rest of the undeveloped world expands and gains technology and bombs and a voice in the ever-lessening wild — there is a new insurgence to revolt against the hypocrisy of democratic nations that are really just bullies with bigger guns and a need to line their pockets and their museums and the chests of their military leaders with ribbons and thefted goods.
    When good people are silent bad things happen.
    MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann said this yesterday:

    In four simple words last Friday, the President brought into sharp focus what has been only vaguely clear these past five-and-a-half years – the way the terrain at night is perceptible only during an angry flash of lightning, and then, a second later, all again is dark.
    “It’s unacceptable to think,” he said.
    It is never unacceptable to think.
    And when a President says thinking is unacceptable, even on one topic, even in the heat of the moment, even in the turning of a phrase extracted from its context, he takes us toward a new and fearful path — one heretofore the realm of science fiction authors and apocalyptic visionaries.
    That flash of lightning freezes at the distant horizon, and we can just make out a world in which authority can actually suggest it has become unacceptable to think.
    Thus the lightning flash reveals not merely a President we have already seen, the one who believes he has a monopoly on current truth.
    It now shows us a President who has decided that of all our commanders-in-chief, ever, he alone has had the knowledge necessary to alter and re-shape our inalienable rights.
    It’s going to get worse before it gets better and it will only begin to get better after bully noses are bloodied with bombs that will have an ongoing, generational, explosion that will resonate deep within the earth our elders where the real ideal of true democratic rule and a government for the people and by the people has been moldering for half a century.

  43. David W. Boles,
    “Bush’s poll ratings are up! He’s now at 44% approval from 39% so there is a resonance in talk of revenge and blood in the streets and fighting infidels. You can’t blame the man for presenting a facade that is not only accepted as the face of reality but is celebrated in its wants for revenge.”
    Erm, yes I CAN blame him. I know you are ironical, but still.
    This is my point. Is it entirely impossible to make a society bases on respect for human rights? If so then all I can do as an individual is to cry out “vox in deserto”. If it is not impossible then things should be set right, the error that is ongoing in current foreign policies should be corrected.
    There ARE such things as moral responsibility and social responsibility. And for a president they are just as important as for the individual being.
    Who are the infidels anyways? Who is the revenger / victim and who is the oppressor? It isn’t at all clear.
    I wonder what the world would have looked like if the money spent on the “war on terror” would have been spent on EDUCATION and SOCIAL SECURITY in America…
    As much as Bush is a reflection of an era, a mindset in our western civilization, he is still the man with the button, the man who can make things happen. I will blame him till the day I die..

  44. David- Let me clarify about solipsism. When i say my consciousness is all that exists, i am INCLUDING the entire universe as part of “my.” There is no separation. i feel the U.K., U.S., and Iran are egocentric dualists, not to be confused with “enlightened=solipsists.” Please see “The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects,” by Neel and Yongden with a forward by Alan Watts. The “secret” is solipsism that the leaders know about, but keep quiet about, and smirk about with their talk of “evil,” which they know doesn’t exist. (Well maybe buskins isn’t on that level, but the people hidden in back of him are.)

  45. Draccan —
    I think it is much too easy to blame Bush when he is only the child of the system and a cog in the greater machinery. Don’t you think Cheney is more dangerous than Bush?
    I don’t think there is any true morality left in American politics. Morality has been taken over by polling and advertising.
    The infidels are those who do not give us what we demand!

  46. Fred —
    You keep getting caught by Akismet as Spam every single time you post a message. You have a worse record than Chris Hedges!
    I think it your long URL that is tripping the Spam switch. Can you use or something else to make your link shorter?
    Here is how Webster’s defines “solipsism” —

    1 : any of various extreme versions of subjective idealism: as a (1) : an epistemological theory that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and states (2) or solipsism of the present moment : an epistemological theory that the self knows or can know only its present modifications and states to the exclusion of future and past states b (1) : a metaphysical theory that the self is the only existent thing (2) : a metaphysical theory that all real entities are modifications and states of the self : EGOISM 1a
    2 : the adoption of epistemological solipsism as a premise for a general metaphysical or epistemological theory or as a scientific hypothesis
    3 : extreme indulgence of and concern with the self at the expense of social relationships especially as expressed in a failure of artistic communication

    Now I know you’ll say none of that applies to you because you define the word in your own terms and that’s where you lose me.
    Words must have shared meanings.
    Experiences of the alone are not those that contribute to the overall mindset of a culture.
    Our leaders need to be the opposite of solipsists they need to say:
    “I am nothing. You are everything. I am subservient to the social whole. I respect the community needs. I acquiesce to the greater wants of the world.”

  47. Bush + Cheney = The current American government
    Bush ≠ innocent / patsy / sitting-duck
    The current American government = 150.000+ dead worldwide
    Go figure…

    In your statement; infidels = everyone but ourselves

  48. I agree it is a horrific mess, Draccan, and I have a hard time believing if Gore or Kerry were president we would be stuck in this international bloody briar with no way out but more death and deeper killing.
    Oh, there are infidels at home but they are labeled “Democrats” and “Liberals” and “The Media.”

  49. The choice of Gore / Kerry in comparison to Bush is like saying I would rather want HIV than Antrax, because HIV will kill me slowly..

  50. Thanks for the welcome David, please excuse any poor typoing in this post, it’s a little difficult typing with these thumb-screws attached! 🙂
    Just what is it going to take for enough people to wake up and smell the coffee?
    I fear that it will take something devastatingly cataclysmic to shake our Western values to the very core, before enough people are sufficiently shaken out of their soporific stupour to actually open their eyes and see through the gauze that has been spun around us by Corporate Business/Governement. This would equate to the, perceptive, flash of lightning analogy you made in your post.
    If I hear of a bomb blast in Iraq that has caused 20 deaths, I pray that those 20 deaths are American and Britsh soldiers rather than innocent Iraqi citizens. Does that make me a bad person? Does that make me unpatriotic?
    Any death in Iraq is, of course, a cause for great sadness, but if there are to be deaths, surely from a humanitatrian point of view it is better that they are soldiers who are being paid to take that risk and have made the concious decision to put their lives at risk on behalf of the ideologies of their political leaders and the belief that they are defending their country.
    If, instead of the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi’s killed during Shock and Awe, there were tens of thousands of British and American troops killed, perhaps that would provide the sort of lightning flash that would allow the public to open up their eyes fully and see more clearly, what is really happening in the name of George Bush’s War on Terror.
    As horrendous as 9/11 was, the response to retaliate in the manner we have, in a ratcheting up of the cycle of violence, devestation and loss of innocent lives, is counter-productive. It is quite literally, a vicious and bloody circle. Killing civilians, however unintentional, will only serve to create more terrorists, more atrocities and more fear.
    If it was understandable for America to want revenge after 3,000 lives were lost on 9/11, it should be equally understandable, therefore, for others to want revenge against America and the West, when many times that number of innocent civilians are killed in the pretence of spreading the Western values of freedom and Democracy.
    Someone, somewhere has to put a stop to this escalation of violence sometime. Corporate Businesses make huge profits from supplying the war machine with all it’s needs. Politicians are put into their positions of power by these Corporate Businesses and are kept there by the media that Corporate Business also controls. They have no incentive to call a halt to the endless cycle of violence and retribution.
    So my question is… where IS that flash of lightning, that will enable people to see what’s going on, going to come from?

  51. Well budgie, you speak many truths and I fear that flash of light will be the ignition of a nuclear bomb in the Middle East. It will take that kind of strike that will kill thousands and maim future generations — from whichever side it falls — to make everyone stop and reflect back to the lessons of WWII and ask where we are and what are we doing here?
    Pride is a terrible word. So many people over thousands of years have died defending Pride instead of fighting for honor and morality.
    If there had been “tens of thousands of British and American troops killed” instead of innocent Iraqi’s, the nuclear flash of light would have already been dropped.

  52. Exactly David, but harsh as it may seem and as unplatable to read as it is for me to type; the sad fact is, that if it takes large numbers of Western troops to be killed, before it makes everyone stop and pull back from the course we are currently embarked upon, then those deaths will not have been in vain. In fact, if that is what it takes, the sooner it happens, the more lives overall that will be saved.

  53. David- You say “Experiences of the alone are not those that contribute to the overall mindset of a culture.”
    This is why Van Gogh, Nietzsche,Galileo, and many others, and i’m sure many we never heard of, were not understood in their time. Maybe we should start to listen more closely to some “outsiders,” with a more open mind, and not repeat the same errors. “In individuals, insanity is rare, in groups it is the norm.” (Nietzsche). Just because large groups agree on the definition of a word, or idea should make it highly suspect; not fundamentally accepted. This highly fundamentalist thinking is obviously what has led to the current polarized situation. “We should re-evaluate all values.” (Nietzsche).

  54. fred —
    A nomenclature of a culture demands shared understanding and shared values or there is no common fabric lashing us to each other.
    If one is an island by choice of mind then the lone self is to blame for the lack of inclusion in the greater whole of society. Finding a way to propose unique, radical ideas that can be understood and accepted by the majority is the task of the genius individual who wishes a sublime seat in the history of moments. The history of the world is littered with genius hermits who only influenced themselves.

    Just because large groups agree on the definition of a word, or idea should make it highly suspect; not fundamentally accepted.

    This kind of blanket statement is indefensible on the surface and disingenuous in the depths and it reminds me of my students who try to argue no sentence should contain grammar; every idea is genius even if it is common and any word can mean anything. I argue structure matters. Clarity is paramount. Words without meaning are not words.
    The very fact you are here typing in words that you argue are suspect would be charming if you weren’t being so slippery in your argument that all words are “suspect and should not be fundamentally accepted.”
    You do not believe what you write because your assumption in even posting comments here is you will be understood and followed and by the very nature of that shared human desire you beg to be comprehended and supported by those who live outside your mind.
    Without quoting anyone, I would like to know your opinion on the following:
    1. Do we need laws?
    2. Is killing ever justified?
    3. If definitions of words are “highly suspect; not fundamentally accepted” — how are you understanding what you read here? How are you able to even begin an attempt to reply? Isn’t it the height of inconceivability that you would begin to dare to understand anything someone other than you has written?

  55. David-
    1. We need natural laws. (like “gravity” and what the un-domesticated plants and animals follow; this should be minimally modified for humans to get the desired result everyone agrees on.)
    2. (Assuming you mean killing humans)- Only if it is absolutely necessary to stop the killing of yourself or a loved one. The minimum force used to stop the agressor’s action should be the criteria. Even police use that standard (theoretically).
    3. i understand what the words point to, (the intended meaning) not what they literally mean. We all use terms like time/space/life/death but they don’t literaly have MEANING. One can not point to them. Things themselves describe their own meaning.
    Words should be used to get ones point across to move everyone in the naturally flowing mutually beneficial direction; not be used to re-inforce the status quo, or to impress that one has the superior intelect. This discusssion was about how we are in this world mess and how to get out of it. i stick to my original message- Aren’t we limited by our thoughts and ideas and words that might need a deeper look at. Are we not creating a box that we are in, that we might get out of by being a little more tolerant of outsiders/visionaries/genius,/indigos, and realize we all have these aspects. The trick is to know what part of each of us is the genius and what part the idiot. The whole idea that we are separate individuals, not part of a genetic living chain; as well as the idea that we and the universe don’t co-create each other; as well as the idea that we are born into this universe (from where?); the idea that the entire universe isn’t in each of us as we are in it (See David Bohm) should be deeply look into and re-evaluated, or we will continue to go to more of what we have.
    So what’s your answer to 2+2=5? That it doesn’t? LOL.

  56. David,
    I am back…though a little late!
    The way I look at it is – if I am attacked, if I feel the security of my family, friends and community is in danger – I will fight back unless I win or just evaporate from the face of the earth.
    The “eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” sort of Gandhi-ism will just go out of the window. At least it is true for a significant amount of the population those who just want to live happily with their families and friends.
    It takes an intense effort/honesty/integrity to make them believe in some greater good, to accept non-violence as a way to operate when they are under attack and their security is under question.
    If I revolt against the government? Well, definitely it’s not going to offer me the Chair, it will fight back to suppress me without looking for the root because that’s easy and sometimes profitable.
    It is like riding on the back of a tiger – I can’t get down…not even for once.
    As long as the concept of invasion/attack/war is there, the concept of torture will be there because everyone would want to know the whereabouts of the other once caught.
    Is there a non violent way to take out facts/truth from our Enemy(?)?
    I don’t know.
    Does violence work? Apparently yes – but it backfires too. Because there is no end of it.
    Someone has to stop first, the question is – ‘who?’

  57. Ok, I will try to be specific as far as I can.
    After coming to India and gaining administrative power, British rulers were interested in collecting land revenue, and for that purpose started setting up police organizations. Their most important obligation was to help the revenue authorities to collect land revenue. When extracting land revenue police widely practiced torture. Thus torture became second legacy of police as an official practice.
    Often called a “third degree” torture it was viewed as a second nature of the British.
    fter we became independent, as the “largest democracy in the world” – we still could not come up with a clean human rights record.
    The country was divided based on religion at the time of independence that was a bad precedence and caused a permanent rift.
    With an extremely diverse population (with n number of languages, customs and beliefs) someone, somewhere always feels oppressed and fights back with a demand of an “independent land on their own” today.
    I don’t know how feasible it is to succumb to that pressure…but can see the solution is sought through violence practiced by today’s government.
    If a militant/terrorist kills two policemen, police kills five of them – sometimes without even knowing who is who.
    Most of the time it is the ordinary people who suffer.

  58. David,
    The nature of torture is mostly physical, it’s said that the “independent India” perfected the third degree torture techniques.

  59. Outstanding links, Katha, THANK YOU! The hard truth is in the indispensable specificity.
    You should write about Indian torture techniques and why they were invented and if they work or not.

  60. Thank you for the update, budgie. Here’s the start of that article:

    Torture may be worse now in Iraq than under former leader Saddam Hussein, the UN’s chief anti-torture expert says.
    Manfred Nowak said the situation in Iraq was “out of control”, with abuses being committed by security forces, militia groups and anti-US insurgents.
    Bodies found in the Baghdad morgue “often bear signs of severe torture”, said the human rights office of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq in a report.

Comments are closed.