Saturday, February 16, 2008

339 days left and counting

With the cretinous crassness for which he is internationally famed, President Bush this week attempted to justify the use of a method of torture notably used by the Gestapo, the Spanish Inquisition and the Khmer Rouge.

Through forced suffocation and inhalation of water, the subject experiences the process of drowning in a controlled environment and is made to believe that death is imminent.[2] In contrast to merely submerging the head face-forward, waterboarding almost immediately elicits the gag reflex.[3] Although waterboarding can be performed in ways that leave no lasting physical damage, it carries the risks of extreme pain, damage to the lungs, brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation, injuries (including broken bones) due to struggling against restraints, and even death.[4] The psychological effects on victims of waterboarding can last for years after the procedure

Making his point, President Bush referenced the London bombings...

( edited and updated)

It's quite hard to write this without wanting to put my head through the computer monitor but, (and breathe, Rachel, breathe), I have two choices here. I can ignore the unpleasant fact that my country is supporting a President who has okayed a method of torture associated with some of the cruellest, most abusive, murderous regimes in history, or I can continue to write and speak out about it.

Leaving aside the moral objections to the repulsive and degrading practice of State torture for one moment, there's the problem of the utterly self-defeating nature of the policy. Information obtained under torture is frequently useless because of the simple fact that if you torture someone or put them in fear of their life they will say pretty much anything you want them to say to make you stop torturing them. They will do anything, behave in a way that is completely out of character in order to survive. Anybody who does not understand this is in denial about about what torture is.

It is unendurable, that is the point of it. Water-boarding in particular, since it is not merely about inflicting atrocious pain, which can be managed to a certain extent using mental techniques, but activates the body's gag reflex and whatever your mind 'knows' about what is being done to you, and why, your body responds as if it is about to die and you can do nothing about it.

Want to know more? This man describes being waterboarded.

Bush's assertion that the families of those killed on 7th July 2005 would ''understand'' the use of torture makes me want to weep. As usual, nobody actually bothered to ask what the families or survivors of 7/7 thought,
before invoking ''the victims of 7/7'' as a fig-leaf for a naked desire to look tough for political gain, or to excuse or explain foul or cruel practices.

As if everyone involved by chance on that day has but one voice and one view; as if there was something about bereavement, trauma and injury that reduces people to a point where they freely condone torture and any kind of abuse of their suspected enemies. Bush has just given himself away: this is the politics of revenge and hate as well as the politics of fear. It is either the reaction of someone who has been traumatised and is letting his unconscious desire to hit back dictate his actions, or it is someone who is so drunk on bellicosity and power that he has lost touch with what he is supposed to stand for: freedom and democracy and the rule of law.

Either way, it is clear that he is unfit to hold office, since he is behaving in a way that not only debases what he is sworn to protect but endangers the American people. And the people of many of cities and countries as well, including the people of London who use public transport.

It is much easier to hate those who forswear the rule of law and uses cruel and inhumane practices of execution, indiscriminate bombing, kidnapping (which is what rendition is) and torture. This is what we are supposed to stand against. Has Bush no sense of the message this sends out? Does he not understand that every photograph of humiliated, shackled, blindfolded prisoners who are being kept in jail without even having been charged with anything, every news story about rendition, every description of cruelty and every contemptuous breach of international law feeds into the propaganda loop of the terrorists, acting as a recruiting sergeant for a hundred more wannabe Mohammed Siddique Khans? And no, the solution isn't to stop reporting it. The answer is to stop it.

There is a baseline desire for revenge that I understand all too well. There were weeks in 2002 when I entertained the fantasy of seeing my attacker tied up in a chair, in a windowless cell, and me entering that cell with a hammer. But it was justice in a court of law that I wanted, and got. Revenge fantasies have no place in the criminal justice system or for that matter, in a government's foreign policy. The extent of the rage and the hurt of the individual victimised or dehumanised cannot dictate the response of a society to the evil act.

Torture doesn't work. It is a propaganda gift to your enemies, it produces noise, not information, and there is a damn good reason why after two world wars and the death of millions we decided to outlaw it. To have a President attempt to justify it by invoking the guessed-at emotions of the relatives of the innocent dead is craven and despicable.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heard you yesterday doing an interview talking about on opposing torture on Drivetime on LBC radio - very good. Am sure you are saying what so many of us feel. Keep it up.



February 16, 2008 5:34 pm  
Blogger MarkF said...

Have to say I found Bush's summation of the Tibetan issue as "you got the Dali Lama crowd" just too depressing in his recent BBC interview.

February 17, 2008 9:48 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just looking to the time when some 'group' decides to kidnap some military folks in the Baghdad area, and waterboard them live on video.
Lets see how Bush cries reacts?

February 18, 2008 12:16 am  
Blogger Chip Michael said...

I was directed to your site by Rob (Eine Kleine Nachtmusik) and am amazed at what I have found.

As an American in Britian I am at a loss for words on the stupidity of the American President, of the American people for 1) electing him and 2) continuing to believe anything he has to say.

I hope, when his days are over, someone decides to press charges against him - not that I want him to be waterboarded - but that I want other future leaders to learn they can not abuse the world without eventually facing their crimes against humanity.

Thanks for being a sage voice in a world which seems so unreasonable.

February 20, 2008 3:47 pm  
Blogger PbPhil said...

Rachel your article sparked some questions on terrorism in my mind which I've explored on my blog as opposed to posting numerous ranting paragraphs on here.

As ever I remain amazed at how a country as great as the USA could ever elect such a muppet for a president. Am following the current presidental race and remain as cynical as ever about politics.

Keep up the good work, you make a difference that many of us are unable to do.

PS lolcats are cool, am thinking of starting roflmao-dogs, just not sure dogs are clever enough to hold the signs up ;-)

February 24, 2008 11:44 pm  

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