The Report on Torture and a Glimpse of the Dark Spirit

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    Last week, while the nation’s attention was riveted on the events in Boston, a bi-partisan report on torture was issued. (Republican Asa Hutchinson was one of the heads of the group that produced the report.)

    The report confirmed what we all should already know, but that political dissimulation has kept unofficial: the United States engaged in the practice of brutal torture, sanctioned at the highest levels of the U.S. government in a manner unprecedented in our history. This, despite there being no evidence that such practices serve any useful purpose.

    If the purposes are not utilitarian, the reasons must lie elsewhere. And here we see the dark spirit. Forget the issues of American law, and international treaty, violated by those during the Bush presidency. Look at the place our leaders were coming from. Torture is as far as you can get from “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    Torture, for which there is no practical reason, is an expression of the kind sadistic cruelty that stains the darkest pages of human history. This is the spirit that finds expression in dungeons, on the rack, in the chambers of the Gestapo. And here it found expression through the people nominated by the Republican Party and re-elected by half the American people.

    And prosecuted by no one, including a successor who said we must look forward and not backward.

    Is there in America a crisis at the level of the spirit? One need look no further.

    Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia’s 6th District.  He is the author of various books including Out of Weakness:  Healing the Wounds That Drive Us to War.  

    • Jason

      Andy, I take your point about the depraved spirit that may lie at the use of non-utilitarian torture.  But your post seems to suggest that had there been a useful, utilitarian purpose, torture might have been ok. It is not.

      The utility of torture can only be judged after the fact, if at all, meaning the decision to engage in torture always will be made without surety that the act will lead to information that is useful.  And it assumes that information cannot be gathered by legitimate means.  

      The fact is torture is always morally wrong.  It is always illegal under U.S. and international law.  And it should never be permitted.  

    • Pat Robertson, who is a major donor to Virginia Republicans, as well as close friends with the man he calls “Bobby” McDonnell, says that the religion of Islam is just like Nazism, Hitler, etc. In addition to violating “Godwin’s Law,” it’s just funny to have Robertson – a theocrat who believes in an absolutist form of his religion, one that claims anyone who doesn’t believe it is going to hell, among other things – tell us how horrible Islam is because it supposedly aspires to world domination. Robertson also conveniently ignores history, such as the Crusades, which indicates that many religions, including his own, have had periods of expansionism and violence. But whatever, those are facts, and that’s not where “Bobby’s” good friend is coming from…