Tuesday, March 01, 2005

My sickening comments 

Remember this, from some three weeks ago?

"If exploiting religious beliefs to break down detainees is a no-no (and I'm not arguing that it should or shouldn't be), are all the other types of beliefs, for example political or ethical beliefs, also off-limits? Would smearing vegetarians with meat be torture? Now, to some people, being locked up in the same room with a Republican, particularly a talkative one who makes fun of your deeply cherished ideals (think Rush Limbaugh or Mark Steyn or James Taranto), would be torture, too. Is this a purely subjective judgment of the torturee or are there some objective components in making the call?"
Andrew Sullivan calls my comments "sickening" (I'm in an esteemed company here with James Taranto).

In the past, I left it to others to debate the issue of torture, in large part because I'm simply not that interested in it. "Why has there been such astonishing silence about torture [from conservative commentators]?" asks Sullivan. For "astonishing silence" read "lack of condemnation" regarding various practices said to be taking place in detention facilities from Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib to the so called CIA's "ghost prisons" in other parts of the world.

I don't think that 1) knee-jerk labeling all the interactions between interrogators and detainees as "torture", and 2) condemning them, is a useful way forward in this debate. Sullivan might consider my questions "sickening" but the only point I was making was to raise the question whether using detainees' religious, cultural or political views to break them psychologically should be classified as torture and therefore banned. We are not talking here about attaching electrodes to testicles or pulling out nails but about, for example, smearing detainees with blood, fake or otherwise (which they consider makes them ritually unclean). I don't have the answers, which is why I asked the question in the first place.

By the way, I'm still waiting for these answers.


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