Three Looks at the Torture Conversation (and a nod to atheism)

Waterboarding. This is the topic for debate in our modern world. We go on and on about progress in civilization, yet we're talking about torture. Here are three recent views on the subject: This Modern World, The Onion, and Doonesbury. It's the torture satire trifecta.

(And for those who stay with us, a bonus feature for the atheists with the Doonesbury reference below.)



WASHINGTON--National Water Watch, a Washington-based conservation group, criticized the government's use of waterboarding Monday, calling the practice of stuffing a cloth into a detainee's mouth, immobilizing him, and pouring water over his face and body to simulate the sensation of drowning "a tragic waste of resources." "The idea that the United States could condone the despicable act of squandering several pitchers of water is shameful," NWW spokesman Gregory Hammil said. "It is amoral, unconscionable, and in direct opposition to all internationally recognized water- saving techniques." Hammil recommended the government switch to more eco-friendly means of enhanced interrogation, such as waterboarding with a return-hose device in order to reuse old water, or simply beating suspected terrorists to a bloody pulp.




That is all.

More like this

Morally-challenged Attorney General Michael Mukasey can't figure out whether waterboarding is torture or not -- he seems to think it is an open question -- but there is nothing stopping him from following the example of fellowdoubter Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens is a flagrant Iraq War cheerleader…
Since torture seems to be under discussion by the A-list bloggers, I want to follow up on a point Helmut made in his Congressional testimony about torture. Simply, it is this: if torture is truly used as an interrogation technique, and not to fulfill a psychological need or as terrorism, it can…
Via Deep Sea News, I came across a story from Tuesday's LA Times about recent corporate and fashion-industry efforts to ween Americans off of bottled water. With Americans currently throwing away 38 billion plastic water bottles each year (that's over 100 bottles per American!), it's a cause that…
Amid my flu frenzy I missed Vaughn Bell's excellent consideration of CIA psychology through the declassified memos: I've been reading the recently released CIA memos on the interrogation of 'war on terror' detainees. The memos make clear that the psychological impact of the process is the most…

I like the writing of Susan R. Matthews (not everyone does, just check the reviews at Amazon). 'If Tolstoy Wrote SF'...or something, your mileage may vary. The protagonist is a classic Golden Child, inheriting son of a powerful corporate family (it's SF; they own some planets), in short, he has everything going for him. After medical school (Golden Child, remember?) Daddy sends him to Fleet, but since they're rich and powerful, the only medical rank that will suit is Chief Medical Officer...which also happens to have a dual role as Inquisitor, that is, the torturer for the dystopic government.

It's truly cruel that Ms. Matthews plays the dirty trick of getting the reader to like the protagonist and then introducing us to his messy bits, because as it turns out, Mr. Golden Child discovers that he likes torturing people. On a literary level, this allows the reader to consider his or her shadow side and experience the most frightening part of the hero's journey in a safe environment (your bed, 3 AM, if reader reports about not being able to put the books down can be believed).

Ms. Matthews is very effective at invoking a strong emotional reaction, partly (or maybe even mostly) because when her first book was published in 1997, almost everyone would agree that torture is wrong, enjoying torture is morally abhorrent and therefore the protagonist is a monster (if only an ordinary one).

Never, never, not in my worst nightmares (my mother was a teen in Nazi Germany, my father was a teen getting blown out of foxholes at Okinawa; our family history is rich with walking nightmares) could I imagine that the United States of America would consider torture to be desirable, never mind morally sound or even effective.

Ms. Matthews protagonist eventually takes a stand. Hes an obedient son, so it takes four or five books, but he does get there. The Rule of Law is no excuse for torture. And it doesnt work. Its expensive. It destabilizes societies. How many books will it take for us to realize it?

Did I mention how much I like Ms. Matthews writing? Read the books, learn to grapple with the darkness, and maybe youll learn how to grapple with the darkness growing at the heart of our society. I hope its not too late.