Monday, May 22, 2006

Torture Awareness Month

Now isn't it just pathetic that we have to have one of those? And worse yet, that a country I know and love and live in is implicated so shamefully? Yet, here we are.

Amnesty International is coordinating a month-long focus on torture this June. You can find suggestions for activities here: Torture Awareness Month.

One of the least disturbing -but on my mind today- things about extraordinary renditions (HELLO??? Double-speak, anyone?) and torture as somehow essential for national security is the underpinning logic. And I use the word logic extremely loosely.

If I understand it, the argument is that these people who are tortured might have (or do have, for the sake of argument) information that would protect us from another terrorist attack. For one thing, if someone were holding your head under water until you convulsed, wouldn't you say anything that would get it to stop? It seems to me that, ethics aside, the quality of the information we get this way would be questionable at the very least.

Secondly, we're creating understandable rage against us even among moderates in the international community. Maybe al Qaeda will always hate us, for distorted reasons I'll never grasp. But if we're not much better, aren't we driving moderates to the right and thus making ourselves less safe?

And who pays for this absurd policy first? Aside from its actual intended victims, it seems to me that on at least three levels it's young volunteer soldiers. First, if we can torture then so can everyone else, which makes them vulnerable. Secondly, there's no way that I believe that the torture done at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are isolated incidents of rogue soldiers without the knowledge of commanding officers. I have no support for this -just a vague notion of chain of command and how it works. I'm just sure that the commanding officers know about the torture and condone -or possibly even require- it, and leave young soldiers to take the fall for it. And thirdly, even if the soldiers don't go to jail for it, they come home and have to deal with the knowledge of what they were entrapped into doing and who they have become.

Shame on us.

So, come let us reason together about things we could do in June to shine the spotlight on torture this coming month.

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