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The Most Disgusting Three-Word Phrase Ever

December 16, 2014

m-o-d-005  m-o-d-002

Both Political Scott AND Ranty Scott at the top of the post.  Fair warning given.

“Disgusting.  Adjective.  1. causing disgust; offensive to the physical, moral, or aesthetic taste.”

Dictionary.com is my friend.

Now, I’m a proponent of free speech.  I think that censorship is one of the great sins, so far be it from me to tell people what they should and shouldn’t say, or what words that they should or shouldn’t use.  Language is a playground, after all.  I like me some off-color humor from time to time (that is, all the time) and I can hold entire conversations in innuendo.  Heck, I even like puns.

There is a phrase that has been going around the internet over the past few days, though… a three-word phrase that has managed to earn a rating of “disgusting” from me.  That’s not easy… that’s REALLY not easy.  While I generally try to be inoffensive, I also try not to be too offended if I can help it.  It takes a LOT to push me over the edge into “unsettled” territory, and a lot more to push me into “disgusted.”  This phrase has done it, though.  The phrase?

“Defense of torture.”

For clarity and to mark the events which bring this about, a little current events.  After the events of September 11, 2001, the United States took actions to determine who was responsible for the terrorist attacks on American soil.  More, they set out to get early warning for possible future attacks, and to dismantle the networks of individuals and organizations that were determined to do harm to the United States of America and Americans.  How well this effort has succeeded at this point in time is up for some interpretation; we found and terminated the man most responsible for the attacks, Osama bin Ladin, but in the wake of our efforts there is a vastly destabilized geopolitical situation and whole new organizations of ever-increasing size set to oppose us.

A recently released report on Intelligence activities conducted by the United States during these operations states quite clearly that, in our pursuit of intelligence about our enemies, we tortured people.

I say “we” because these operations were performed by operatives of the United States of America in pursuit of the interests and defense of the United States of America. I participate in the electoral process and enjoy the benefits of citizenship of the United States, so whether my guy wins or not, I’m a part of it.  Every American is, like it or not.  I can have no personal pride in my country if I do not also admit its faults personally.  Like this one.

At the time, what little we knew about these activities were hidden behind the euphemism of “enhanced interrogation.”  This is the technique known as “doublespeak,” as it was described in George Orwell’s novel “1984.”  You can call something by a flowery descriptive term and intellectually distance yourself from it, like calling torture “enhanced interrogation,” or calling dying “becoming metabolically challenged,” or calling a softball bat a “lower cranial impact enhancement device.”

What was being done, however, was most definitely torture.

“Torture.  Noun.

1. the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.
2. a method of inflicting such pain.
3. Often, tortures. the pain or suffering caused or undergone.
4. extreme anguish of body or mind; agony.
5. a cause of severe pain or anguish.”

Again, Dictionary.com comes to my aid.  Sounds unpleasant, doesn’t it?  It kind of is.  By necessity, engaging in this activity results in unpleasantness.  It is a practice that is widely reviled, so much so that the United States of America has participated in the signing of numerous international treaties, conventions, and other agreements that state we won’t participate in this activity.  You know… this activity that we just participated in.

Torture is such a reviled practice that we, as a nation, have used it as justification for entering into war.  When some despot is known to engage in the act of torture, they must be stopped.  When looking back in history on the qualities of the most vile and egregious of perpetrators of evil, torture is among the first of their crimes listed.  We know Hitler was responsible for torture, because torture is that crime of his that is constantly trotted out right next to genocide.  Stalin?  Torturer.  Saddam Hussein?  He tortured his people.

And so did we.

We tortured people who were guilty of acting against us, and we tortured people who were completely innocent of any crime.  We tortured innocent people.  One of these innocent people perished from the process.  We tortured an innocent man to death.

Wow.  It’s not often that I have to stop in the middle of one of these to calm myself down a little bit.

There’s something I have to say about the process of torture.  It’s kind of important, and while others are saying it, I have a pithy blog and i feel the need to state this once more.

As a method of gaining information, torture is mostly ineffective.  This isn’t a new area of information, this isn’t some grand revelation.  Torture isn’t a new field of study by any stretch of the imagination.  Torture rarely gives the torturer the information that they are trying to acquire in any accurate form.  When someone is tortured, they develop a tremendous urge to make the torture stop.  The torturer usually believes that their victim will give them the desired information as a condition of stopping the torture.  It makes a certain kind of sense; “I want something from you, so I will cause you tremendous discomfort until you give it to me.  When you give it to me, I will stop causing you tremendous discomfort.”

The problem is that the victim in this situation will tell the torturer what the victim believes the torturer most wants to hear.  Even in our popular literature where this occurs, the victim will say “I’ll tell you anything you want.”  Note that this statement is qualitatively different from “I’ll tell you the absolute truth.”

So, not only have we used reviled methods, which help to define “evil” in the national consciousness, but in all likelihood these methods were ineffective.  The senate report on the CIA’s activities in this area concluded that the “enhanced interrogations” did not yield any accurate information that was not also acquired using less questionable methods.  Even the director of the CIA at the time, in his rebuttal, has stated that there’s no way of knowing whether or not the information gained was actually useful or usable.

The worst part?  All of these studies were available at the time of the operation.  There were operatives with decades of experience in intelligence gathering who knew that torture was, at best, an unreliable method of data acquisition.  We were well able to know at the time that these methods would be ineffective, and we still used them.

So, I’m going to go up to a statement that I made earlier (which upset me to type) and add two words to it.

We tortured an innocent man to death for nothing.

So, with that context firmly in place, let’s return to the most disgusting three-word phrase ever.

“Defense of torture.”

There are those who believe that the methods used were justified and, in some cases, laudable.  That the people who performed torture in the interests of our national security were patriots and heroes, doing what absolutely had to be done in order to save American lives.

After all, what’s a little torture if it means defending our way of life, right?

You know, even little evil Scott in the back of my head isn’t going to play devil’s advocate on this one.  So, I’ll list a few of the common defenses and then eviscerate them.

Those techniques weren’t actually “torture”

I’ve seen a number of pundits, in their defense of these techniques, say that they’d be willing to undergo a few of these techniques just to prove that they’re not actually “torture.”  Sean Hannity of Fox News said that he’d be willing to be waterboarded to prove that it isn’t such a big thing.  He said that a couple of years ago, but he has yet to undergo the process.  Interesting.  I DO have another video you can watch on the matter, though.  Writer Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) agreed to undergo the process under close observation by trained CIA interrogators.  Click Here To Have A Look and determine for yourself whether or not the technique is “torture.”

Experts in the field say that these techniques are torture; people trying to defend the practices say they aren’t… tell you what.  Anyone who wants to claim that the techniques used in these “enhanced interrogation” sessions who claim that they aren’t actually damaging or tortuous can easily convince me that they are correct by being subjected to those techniques themselves while being recorded on video.  Hey, that sounds like a great idea!  All these people who are saying that these techniques weren’t that bad?  They can quickly and easily prove their point by subjecting themselves to these techniques while being recorded so the whole world can see that they simply aren’t that bad!  That would immediately and decisively settle all of these arguments once and for all.  I wonder why none of them have done it yet?

(I don’t actually wonder why they haven’t done it  yet.  It’s because they don’t want to be tortured).

We didn’t torture all that many people

How many people do you have to torture for this to be a problem?  How many minds have to be shattered, families destroyed, unmarked graves dug?  I mean, would it matter if we just tortured one guy?  I mean, for the good of everyone in the country, just one guy?  That wouldn’t be so bad.  It’s just one guy.  So, just one more, right?  I mean, the first guy gave us a name.  We need just one more, just to make sure.

No.  Not one.  Not one person.  Morally, ethically, legally, TACTICALLY we can’t subject just one person to torture.  One, it’s wrong.  It’s fundamentally wrong.  Two, it’s ineffective.  It doesn’t work.  There is no return on the investment of our collective national soul.  The act of torture is the route to moral bankruptcy.

It was in the interest of saving American lives.

It failed. It failed in massive, huge gobs of “LOSE.”  Not ONLY did it fail to turn up any information that was actually useful in the preservation of American lives or interests, but (arguably) our practices in the Middle-East during this time created more terrorists than there were when we arrived.  Black-bagging husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons who are taken away never to be seen again, or to be seen again in an indeterminate time but as ruined shells of the men they had been, is a tremendous recruitment effort for the other side.

If there’s a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles that’s going to go off in forty-eight hours, and you have the guy who knows where it is, of course your’e going to torture him to find it

I write role-playing games for a living and even I think that’s far-fetched.  So, you know that there’s a bomb.  And you know what city it’s in.  And you know when it’s going to go off.  If you need more information than that, you’re going to have to fire someone in your intelligence agency.  What’s more, you’ve got the guy who knows.  So, you can try to torture the information out of him, remembering that most of the techniques used by the CIA took far longer than two days to accomplish.  More, the guy just needs to give you one or two bad leads to spread your forces unbearably thin and totally screw any efforts you could make to find the bomb conventionally.  And, of course, you’re torturing the guy rather than finding his known acquaintances, following his tracks for the previous week, looking at his travel itineraries, and doing all of those other things that competent Intelligence operatives have been doing for decades without resorting to torture.

Neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights specifically states that we can’t torture people, so long as they haven’t been tried of a crime and aren’t technically being punished

And THAT one, my readers is straight from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  It’s true, while people are protected from cruel and unusual punishment, technically these people couldn’t have been being punished, because they hadn’t been tried for a crime and convicted.  Let that logic sink in for a moment, and ask yourself who, exactly, is protected by that reasoning?  If you answered “no one,” you’d be incorrect… in fact, that reasoning protects torturers!  That must be what the founding fathers meant…

Oh, wait.  George Washington was one of the founding fathers, right?  I mean technically, yes?  So, what did he have to say on the practice of torture in wartime?

“Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.” – George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775

Of course, that was talking about prisoners of war, not “enemy combatants” or “persons of interest.”  So, if anyone out there can find me a quote where Washington said “Oh, wait, they’re not prisoners of war?  F*ck those guys, then,” I’d appreciate it.

So, yeah.

Jesus would support the use of torture

This according to Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association.  To this, I can only reply…

“Hello, Mister Fisher?  Hi, this is the brand manager for Christianity.  I’m going to have to insist that you stop using the name of Christ in any defense of any practice that brings harm to any human being or humanity; our Lord and Savior IS the ‘Prince of Peace,’ ‘Wonderful Counselor,’ and ‘the Great Healer,’ after all, and has never advocated for any form of torture whatsoever.  In fact, he advocated for a completely opposite course of action in any and all circumstances.  If you choose to ignore this polite request, we will have no choice but to pursue legal recourse and, of course, you’re going to burn in Hell for all eternity, but that goes without saying.  Have a nice day!”

Those who were tortured weren’t American Citizens

The treaties we have signed and the laws of our land prevent us from treating foreign nationals, in our country or in any other, the way the victims of torture were treated.  That’s the legal response.  Morally and ethically?  What does it matter where they’re from, where they were born, or anything else about them other than the fact that they are living, breathing, thinking, and feeling human beings?  The act of torture is reprehensible no matter who the victim is.  It’s a violation of the basic human rights that we, as a nation, have signed to an understanding of.

But the countries where we tortured people aren’t signatories of the treaties calling for an absence of torture

So?  Have you not been listening?  We have agreed on every occasion possible to restrain from the use of torture because torture is both bad and wrong.  As in the movie “Kung Pao, Enter the Fist,” we may actually need a word that reflects something that is worse than being both Bad and Wrong, and say that torture is “Badong.”  Or, more seriously, that torture is one of the most objective measurements of the presence of evil itself that we have in this world.  We don’t abstain from the use of torture because it’s an agreement that prevents our troops from being tortured; we abstain from the use of torture because torture is objectively wrong.

And that’s the thing of it.  Torture is one of those things that is objectively wrong.  It causes a human being to suffer and perhaps to die, for little or no gain of reliable tactical intelligence (or worse, faulty intelligence that will lead to tactical disadvantage).  The only thing torture can be successfully used for is to slake a thirst for vengeance or to satisfy a requirement for sadistic pleasure, neither of which are measured as “good” things.  Torture is in and of itself an injustice, and as such it can not serve justice.

So, yeah.  “Defense of torture.”  Have we descended so far into moral bankruptcy as a nation that this is even a conversation we need to have?  Is this really a debate, or am I in some kind of nightmare?  I do suffer from Sleep Terror Disorder, after all, and it’s possible that I’m dreaming this and can’t wake up from it.

That would be a horrible thing, all right.  But it wouldn’t be torture.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Josef Melton permalink
    December 16, 2014 5:29 pm

    I agree with everything you said, but have a couple of thoughts that you didn’t mention, so…

    First, as to the definition of torture, one other thing of relevance is that torture is not defined by who commits it, so when we call out others for certain actions as torture (such as waterboarding), we don’t then get to do so and say that it isn’t. Torture is torture is torture and regardless of whether we’re doing it, it’s being done to us, or we’re standing by watching it as a third party, it still is the same thing.

    On the same note as performing such actions on those who would do so, I couldn’t agree more. It’s much the same as officers who are required to experience tasers and pepper spray, if these people want to claim it isn’t torture, isn’t painful, etc., they should undergo the same experience. There is, after all, a reason why John McCain stands up against so many of his political comrades on this issue, because he knows what it’s like from first-hand experience. It’s appalling that so many would ignore his experience in making these decisions.

    As to saving American lives, it was just recently reported that the CIA took Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi from the hands of FBI agents in Afghanistan, duct taped his mouth, strapped him to a stretcher, threatened him and then handed him over to Egyptian torturers to be interrogated. He then became the primary (and virtually sole) source to suggest a link between Sadam Hussein and al-Qaeda, which then became the grounds for us going to war with Iraq. The same action they undertook to prevent potential future terrorist events then led directly to the loss of more American lives (4,425 at last count) than all those lost in the 9/11 incidents (2,996), to say nothing of Iraqis themselves.

    Lastly, I just had to register my shock at anyone saying with any level of seriousness that Jesus would support torture. Of course, given the way that some supposed Christians act towards those that Jesus most called on people to support (the meek, the poor, etc.), I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

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