In the red, red sea

17 12 2014

We now know what we suspected and it’s all right.

Our government tortured and a good chunk of Americans are good with that.

Long pause as I contemplate this. And another.

One more.

Okay, then.

Jamelle Bouie is right that this should surprise no one:

It’s not just that Americans want a system that metes out punishment, it’s that—despite our Eighth Amendment—we are accepting of the cruelest punishment. And while it’s not legal, it exists and it’s pervasive. In theory, our prisons are holding cells for the worst offenders and centers for rehabilitation for the others. Inmates can work, learn, and prepare themselves for a more productive life in society. In reality, they are hellscapes of rape, abuse, and violence from gangs and guards.

[. . .]

If this is how we treat domestic prisoners—who, despite their crimes, are still citizens—then it’s no shock we torture noncitizen detainees, and it’s no surprise Americans largely support the abuse.

And thus, connecting punitive lash with punitive lash:

We aren’t living in “Dick Cheney’s America” as much as Dick Cheney is just living in America and thinking like an American. Here, we already believe our criminals deserve the brutality of our prisons. From there, it’s easy to think that our detainees deserve the depravity of our dungeons. That’s where he stands, and we stand with him.

So no one will be prosecuted, at least in domestic courts, and this may, even will probably, happen again.

And a good chunk of Americans are good with that.

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There is no blood around, see no sign of pain

16 12 2014

If you’re going to make an argument in favor of torture—and no, I will not be making an argument in favor of torture, even hypothetically—it seems the worst one is the one most often used: the ticking time bomb scenario.

What if you knew there was a nuclear bomb about to go off in New York City: wouldn’t you torture the suspect(s) in order to prevent the conflagration?

No. No no no no no no no.

Admittedly, I would neither torture nor approve of the torture of anyone under any circumstances—it’s one of the very few issues on which I’m an absolutist—but torture would seem to be least effective under these conditions.

Consider: the bomb is about (hours, days) to go off. If you are someone who is willing to die in order to kill hundreds of thousands of people, wouldn’t you be willing to outlast hours or days of torture? Or to lie repeatedly in order to forestall any efforts at finding and defusing the bomb?

The kind of person who’s willing and able to pull off the worst kind of terrorism is likely also the kind of person who’s willing and able to withstand hours and days of torture in order to make sure that bomb goes off.

I’ve spoken of my love for the mediocre movie The Peacemaker, but (and?) one of the things that makes no sense was Dušan Gavrić’s suicide. Here’s a man who went through all kinds of trouble in order to detonate a nuke in New York, and a couple of minutes before it detonates, he shoots himself.

Why not just talk until time expires? Mission accomplished.

Okay, so that’s a movie, but it seems like the assumptions beneath the ticking-time-bomb scenario are even less realistic than Nicole Kidman as a nuclear expert: that the bad guy who knows what the good guys need in order to stop the bad guy’s plans won’t just bullshit until time expires.

Give this to the psychopathic former vice president: at least he doesn’t bother with this particular bullshit scenario to justify the breaking of human beings.