Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Your One-Stop Torture Shop

By now, unless you live in a hole, you probably realize that the United States tortured people. Unless you have your head up your ass, you also realize that this is an ineffective, inhumane and inexcusable practice. And if you've ever uttered a sentence about it on the internet, you probably understand that arguing about it is usually a time-consuming chore.

For one thing, advocates for torture tend not to know a lot of facts about it — this usually explains why they advocate it — leaving you to do a lot of explaining. For another, they tend to hysterically shout out red herrings about fantastic terrors, false equivalencies ("We can either torture, or New York can get reduced to post-atomic ash"), question begging ("60% of the time, it works all the time") or just move the goalposts on you until you give up. Viz.:
We do not torture.
Okay, we do the specific thing you found out about, but it isn't
Well, it is technically torture, but it's not criminal because of this
     tendentious reading of international law.
Okay, well, it is criminal, but it's mortally necessary.
Fine, yes, it's not mortally necessary, but there was no way we
     could know when we started torturing that guy.
Anyway, we have to do it because inflicting pain gets results in the
     way being friendly doesn't.
It isn't even painful anyway.
The whole process is exhausting in a way that tempts you to draw comparisons to the type of treatment you're attempting to describe — up until the moment you realize (a) you're not that much of a dick, and (b) the kinds of horrors you're contemplating are probably indescribable by you.

Most of us all probably know the broad strokes by now. Torture virtually guarantees false information because the victim just wants the pain to stop; empathy, friendliness and stressing things in common is far more effective. There has never been a ticking-time-bomb scenario in history: the whole concept comes from a French novel about the Algerian war for independence and from the lurid fantasies of conservatives who involuntarily start playing pocket-pool when they watch Jack Bauer. The types of techniques we condone now are ones we condemned and executed Japanese soldiers for employing on our own troops in WWII.

But beyond that, individual arguments become more slippery, harder to substantiate and more tedious for you to slog your way through.

In light of that, I thought I'd share this excellent one-stop blog post on torture, teeming with helpful links to dozens upon dozens of other sites and resources. Pretty much everything you'd ever need to read or cite on the subject is addressed, linked and substantiated there.

Then, when you're done, why not hop on over to Digby and read this great breakdown of the internal self-contradictions and inventions of the torture apologists? They even made a chart:

If you forget the address in the future, Hullabaloo (the real and much less fun name of the Digby blog) is linked on the left under my favorite blogs section.