Saturday, January 08, 2005

Tortured acceptance

Dahlia Withlick over at Slate has an excellent piece on Gonzales and torture, but her critique of the Bush Administration is particularly eloquent:

"The Bush administration's party line on every smudge and tear it has inflicted upon the Constitution has been: "Trust us—we know what we're doing." But it's hard to trust a government that either won't disclose what it's doing or denies what we know it to be doing behind closed doors. From the Patriot Act, to its treatment of aliens, to its indefinite detainment of citizens, and the sham of its military tribunals, we have been advised at every turn that the administration has only the national interest at heart. And even that argument might have been defensible were the government honest about what it deemed our best interests to be. Many, if not most, Americans were once willing to trust the Bush administration to protect them in wartime. But when government officials cannot publicly stand behind the extreme positions they have staked out in private; when they espouse one view in secret and irreconcilable politically correct versions before the cameras; when not a single individual is ever held to account for genuine government screw ups—such as those at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib—one is left only to wonder which individuals and ideas we were meant to trust in the first place. "

I just love this. She put so many of my worries and feelings into an exponentially better paragraph than I ever could.

More importantly, we're left with the question of torture, one that I'm extremely uncomfortable with. Other parts of her article argue that Gonzales' position is defensible, that torture is defensible in some ways. Ezra has made similar arguments on Pandagon. I'm just not so sure.

The very idea of torture signifies horrid things in my mind, as it does in most I'm sure. I can't bring myself to overcome the symbolic weight of torture in order to mull it over as a legitimate strategy. Parts of me simply resort to the old Golden Rule, even though it's unsophisticated. I try to breach that hurdle by accepting the realities of our world: there will always be torture (probably), so if it can prevent loss of lives, shouldn't it be used? Still, even when I force myself to try and see the possible situations where it should be legitimate, I can't. I am unable to do so internally. Which is why I point others to articles like these, I can read the arguments, but never make them myself.

I guess my other discomfort comes from the fact that the prisoners tortured in Iraq most likely knew nothing. Any evidence gleaned was minimal, it was all for nothing, and tarnished our presence irreparably. So if I can't ever support torture, regardless of current political realities, how could I ever condone it with this administration?

I guess I'll just await the invention of the truth serum.


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