Wednesday, August 03, 2005

More on Torture

I haven't posted much on torture lately, not so much because the stories have died down (they've actually gotten steadily worse) as out of a morose sense that nobody really cares one way or the other.

Today's story is about a captured Iraqi general who was beaten with rubbber hose and fists and suffocated to death in a sleeping bag during questioning. Some of it is quite dull by this point; Military officials had recently sent the word out that interrogation methods were to be stepped up, and then lied about the man's murder, ho-hum. Some are quite surprising- the CIA was responsible for this one, also an Iraqi paramilitary unit working under CIA supervision. Okay, this isn't exactly surprising, but, it is a new wrinkle on this story.

No doubt, liberals on the web will hold this up as proof that the President is pure evil and the war is doomed, although it isn't that damning at all, and that really misses the point anyway. The point of opposing torture is to oppose torture, not gain ground over any political party. Because they're all capable of resorting to it, and they all have at one time or another.

No doubt, conservatives on the web will cry like little babies, "You just care about torture because you hate America! Wah! Wah! Wah!" It's tiresome to see apparatchiks of any stripe shilling for torture. But, especially ones that claim to have such developed morals.

I try to think "What would Voltaire do?" when most moral dilemmas arise. The old salt is still my model of Enlightened skepticism. He wasn't particuarly beholden to any person or way of thinking, unlike the Bloganderthals of today. "Reason", as he saw it, was a sort of radical subbjectivity, or intellectual self-determination. Something sadly missing anymore.

Incidentally, he was also very opposed to torture, or "extraordinary questioning" as it was known in France at the time. In fact, Voltaire's public opposition of the torture and killing of the Calvinist Jean Calas was so celebrated around the world that it helped end the use of torture in the West. The case changed how western democracies functioned, and had a profound effect on the founding of the bastion of democracy known as the United States. Those of us in enlightened Western cultures are opposed to torture. Period.

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