Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The self-justifying dynamics of torture

Turns out June was torture awareness month. I'm behind the curve.

Christopher Hitchens gets himself waterboarded. Video here.

We're cribbing torture techniques from the 1950s version of Communist China. Some interesting speculation there on what the motives for this could have been, given that the purpose of these techniques is mainly to elicit false confessions. So why do it? Because we could. Radley Balko makes the further point that far from fighting terrorism, techniques like this perpetuate it by generating all sorts of false alarms.

He does not go on to point out that this could very well have been the purpose of the torture, consciously or unconsciously. War is the health of the state and the war on terror is the health, such as it is, of the Bush/Cheney administration. Wars and states want to perpetuate themselves; inflating the strength of your enemies is an important technique for accomplishing this.

And if you are a cog, big or little, in a torture machine, surely you must feel a need to excuse your appalling acts. Every confession elicited by torture lets you pretend that the torture was justified all along, and on into the future. And once this dynamic is in motion, the truth or falsity of confessions hardly matters at all.

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