Saturday, December 13, 2014

poke her with the SOFT CUSHIONS

The recent publication of the CIA torture report and the accompanying media brouhaha is extremely interesting in itself; almost more interesting is what people's reactions to it, and the question of the use of torture in general, reveal about people's unexamined assumptions, and their willingness to examine those assumptions when invited to do so.

First a confession, freely offered, so there's no need to pull any of my toenails out (though, as we'll see, that probably wouldn't do any good anyway): I was prompted to write this by a good friend of mine retweeting something which on the face of it appeared to be pooh-poohing the findings of the report and offering a big American FUCK YEAH to torturing people.
Now I'm not judging anyone: other opinions than mine are available and maybe this was offered in a mocking, satirical sort of way, or just retweeted without due care and attention. Just in case it wasn't, it's worth noting that Eric Bolling, rather than being some sort of military intelligence expert, is in fact a Fox News Channel presenter and the man who achieved the fairly remarkable feat of making the United Arab Emirates seem less sexist than the USA. The original tweeter also appears to be a boneheaded racist, so it's all good.

The trouble is that if, like most people of a conservative persuasion, you're not really inclined to think too much about stuff, then there is a sort of appealing superficial logic to the use of torture: these are people who HATE OUR FREEDOM and will stop at nothing to destroy it, and so, sometimes, regrettably, it becomes necessary to get answers quickly and sometimes, regrettably, that means tearing up the so-called "rulebook", manning the hell up and doing what needs to be done.

The main problem with that is that every single bit of it is bullshit on even a moment's reflection (so obviously the key is to avoid even a moment's reflection). Most of the arguments for the use of torture involve the wheeling out of some bullshit hypothetical "ticking time bomb" scenario that dissolves at the slightest scrutiny: how do you know you've got the right man? how do you know he'll give you accurate information? what motivation does he have to give you accurate information, rather than a) something he thinks you want to hear or b) literally anything that'll make you stop?

In any case, if you're into thought experiments, try this: let's assume that in the ticking time bomb scenario above, you've also got Mohammed J. Terrorist's wife and two-year-old daughter in the next room. Now Mo might be a tough guy, and able to resist things like having his fingernails pulled out with a pair of rusty pliers, but how would he stand up to seeing his two-year-old daughter raped in front of him? Not so tough now, eh? So we should probably do that, right? I mean, in this bullshit hypothetical situation literally thousands of lives are at stake, right? Or, heck, millions, if you like. And when billions of lives are in the balance, our effete western distaste for the brutal raping of young children will have to be put to one side. So we should swallow our pansy liberal pride, saddle up and get raping. The future of the civilised world depends on it.

Now you might say: well, yes, a moment's thought will reveal that the ticking timebomb scenario is bullshit, and indeed most of the well-established torture techniques are almost guaranteed to produce a mental state where you'll get nothing coherent or useful back, BUT maybe that isn't the point; maybe the point is to strike fear into our enemies. Couple of problems with that, firstly that that is almost the dictionary definition of terrorism, so we might need to reflect on who the bad guys are:

- secondly, one of the things that the limp-wristed girly surrender monkeys who drafted the Geneva Convention achieved was to save countless lives by providing a point to surrendering during a conflict: there's no value in surrendering if you believe that you, as a captive, are likely to be either summarily executed or slowly and lingeringly tortured to death; you might as well go out on the battlefield and try and take as many of the enemy as possible with you. If there is some structure that ensures your safety and survival once the combat situation becomes hopeless, well then that gives you a get-out that saves further pointless bloodshed.

So, to recap, torture is a bad idea because:
  • it surrenders any moral high ground we might seek to occupy
  • it is more than likely counter-productive just on a purely utilitarian lives saved vs. lives lost basis
  • it does not work in terms of getting any useful information
Nonetheless some people have an almost visceral attachment to it as an idea. As always, examining your own motivations is the key here, and it would probably be better to admit that rather than some fictitious idea of obtaining information your key motivation here, in the aftermath of some atrocity that the person in front of you (probably foreign, most likely brown) may or may not have been involved with is a more primal desire for revenge. And if the pansy-ass liberals have ensured that you can't just arbitrarily kill people without incurring a substantial amount of paperwork then the least you can do to avenge your fallen comrades is POUND SOME FUCKING HUMMUS UP HIS ASS, GODDAMMIT.

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