The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Photos. Dear God.

I feel like I want to cry this morning. The stories about photos of detainees being raped in Iraq are coming down the pipe, and I can't find it within myself to disbelieve. All it takes is the 10% asshole factor. I think that this was absolutely predictable, and largely preventable. Once decisions were made to "go to the dark side," either the Deciders were ignorant of human nature, or this is what they wanted to happen--they just didn't realize someone was going to be stupid enough to photograph it.

Which raises another question: does anyone out there think that the very worst behaviors were documented? That this is the limit of it? I hope not. The problem is that once you begin to treat human beings as means, as objects, you are on the road to hell, and that is one slippery slope.

Do you think the best and brightest, the most compassionate and emotionally controlled, will be the ones to implement the rough treatment? If so, then it might be possible to set limits, and trust that they won't be crossed.

But if in the light of day, with the safety of distance and in civilized context people will approve simulated drowning, they are saying: "these are not people. Wring from their bodies what you need, and avenge our dead." And just as it is inevitable that innocent people will be swept up in mass arrests, it is inevitable that orders will be exceeded.

We have had too many psychological experiments where people placed in power over others began to exhibit sadistic tendencies. Does anyone out there think that the guards were selected for their respect for Muslim culture, and clarity on the concept that Sadam Huessein had nothing to do with 9/11? Oh, please.

Don't you think that people who enjoy controlling other people, people who want revenge, people who believe torture is expedient and justified...don't you think those people will find the jobs where they get to apply their theories and express their needs? Find each other, and collaborate in the shadows? Even if our armed forces are better than humanity in general, and we gave them the respect of, say, only a 5% asshole factor, don't you think those few assholes will find their way into the shadows?

This is heartbreaking--not that it happened, but that so many intelligent people think that they can tip-toe up to a line, but even in the heat of action, with blood in their nose and a helpless "evil" enemy in their hands, no one will cross it. I want to believe that everyone who approves of "enhanced interrogation" has only the very highest morals, the very best intents, really, deeply loves our country and believes that such methods make us safer and better both short-term and long term. I really want to. those who listened to Mancow's "waterboarding is torture" reversal and decided that whatever he experienced was insufficient to meet that standard, I want to add a thought. Is rape torture? There is no organ failure, after all (an asinine definition, one as cold-hearted as I can possibly imagine.) And to those who think that what the SEALs and others who use SERE-style training experienced under voluntary waterboarding (conducted by people who love them, who would place their lives at risk to protect them) is somehow equivalent to what we did to our enemies, I ask: what is the difference between rape and making love? One thing: consent. That single thing takes the most pleasurable, positive sensation human beings are capable of experiencing, and turns it into absolute horror.

We all know this. But I think that because we do not extend our own humanity fully to the "other" this doesn't quite register. We don't quite "get it." Frankly, I don't think some of us want to.

And this is where it leads...and worse. No one can believe this is the end of it, that this is the worst, or the only. Can they? Can anyone still be blind about this? Regardless of the original intentions, walking down this road was an unbelievably bad mistake, and I think we'll be paying for it for a long, long time.

If torture were the very best means of obtaining information, inarguably superior to every other method, there would still be very serious questions. But considering that NO ONE with actual experience in this arena seems to believe that...just what the hell are we doing?


Marty S said...

Steve: If concluding that enhanced interrogation techniques were legal and okay can be blamed for sending a signal that raping prisoners was okay and therefore under no circumstance are these techniques justified, then I would make the same case on abortion. When the justices gave heir opinion that a woman could snuff out the life in her womb just because having a child was inconvenient, they gave a signal to Susan Smith and women of her ilk that it was okay to drown your kids because they were inconvenient.
So I have a deal for you. We criminalize and stop abortion on demand as well as enhanced interrogation techniques and save far more lives than if they are both legal.

Steven Barnes said...

Got a better deal for you: how about men get out of the discussion and let women decide. I'd be happy with whatever they came up with, but am very uncomfortable about telling 1/2 the human race what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

Anonymous said...

Marty, I'd say you are employing some rather dubious logic here. Can you provide the text in which a Supreme Court Justice defines an aborted/potentially aborted fetus as an inconvenience? You're also taking the completely faith-saddled position that an unborn fetus is exactly the same as 7-year-old child.

So Marty, why don't you try this instead: you make sure that you don't have an abortion, and stay out of the lives and faces of people that don't agree with your point of view.

Marty S said...

Wow I'm impressed by the reaction to my post. Now Steve is always talking about how in his experience when a person says he doesn't care about their physical fitness they are lying to themselves. My experience is that when someone doesn't even acknowledge that you have a right to voice an opinion on a subject its because they realize they don't really believe that they can justify their side of the issue.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Marty, what about the actual argument that people can't be trusted to limit torture once they start using it?

Marty S said...

Nancy: The arguement that people might not know where to draw the line can be used against a multitude of actions. Making the drinking of alchol legal will lead to some people getting drunk. Some of these drunk people will drive, get into an acident and kill an innocent individual. Therefore we should make alchol illegal. Well thats been tried and didn't work. Susan Smith drowned her two children. No one knows how she justified this to herself, but someone who is against abortion can argue that she might not have seen the moral difference between her act and having an abortion.The argument that people can't be trusted to limit torture once they start using it, is just that an arguement. On any issue both sides generally have a number of arguements that justify their position. In making a decision it is important hear all arguements on both sides before making a decision. In all contraversial decisions you will never get everybody to agree on which decision is correct.