2009-05-08 / Letters

Can't Decide On Definition Of Torture

Dear Editor,

How inane is this? We live in a country of three hundred million people, many with advanced college degrees, and we cannot decide what constitutes torture.

Media talking heads and politicians are bandying about the word, torture, as though it means nothing. To the contrary, the act of torture as it is conceived of by individuals who most probably will never experience torture, definitely varies by degrees. For some, the degrees are degrees of intelligence. For others, they are degrees of sensitivity. While still for others, the concept and act of torture is a combination of the two. In any event, torture is cruel, evil and inhumane. The idea of whether we should condone torture is asinine.

The military, those most likely to be held captive in war and tortured, were and are reportedly dead set against it for fear the consequences of retaliation would be dire. Thus, one would conclude that the military's attitude toward torture would be the law of the land. Not so. Politicians at the highest level during the last administration, comfortable behind mammoth antique desks in Washington, felt capable of determining the five W's and the how of dealing with prisoners of war. So convinced their way was the best, circumventing the protesting military higher-ups, the prior administration hired mercenaries to do their torturing for them. If top pols of the prior administration were so sure torture was an acceptable means of interrogation, they wouldn't have had to take extraordinary measures of going outside our military to waterboard our captors.

To clarify a definition, waterboarding is not a synonym for surfing; nor, does it involve a day at the beach. It is simulated drowning.

It is despicable.

Psychologists surely can devise means (other than torture), of extracting information from the enemy with desired results. And, for those who think of the anti-torture position as liberal minded, do what you did in elementary school. That is, put yourself in the captors' position and imagine how you would feel if somebody tried to waterboard you or your son or daughter. Then, multiply that concept by one hundred and eightythree. The question that remains, then, is now that we are aware of waterboarding, what steps are we going to take to make sure our politicians never condone such behavior in the future? Our obligation as citizens of the world is to publicly decry such behavior and assure the world it was an aberration, never to be sanctioned by us again.

Should members of the prior administration be placed on trial for ordering torture and torturers for selected prisoners with their motive being to keep us safe when they knew torture was morally and militarily wrong? If only to prove to the world that the heinous behavior will never be replicated or condoned by this country, yes. Whether any investigation of torture winds up in courts or in the hands of a special investigator, we, as a world power, are obligated to show our sincerity to repent on the world stage. If we are not comfortable with finding out the responsible parties involved in this breech of ethics and character (and the Geneva Conventions), perhaps, like the last administration, we should hire outsiders to do the dirty work for us.

JOAN METTLER

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