Permissible degrees of torture

Department of Information Retrieval.
In the film Brazil, the smallest typo, a brush with an unlicensed repairman, or a humanitarian impulse, can see you in the hotseat.

There are no permissible degrees of torture.

I’d like to try to make that point sometime. I’ll ask for a volunteer. I’ll explain to the volunteer and to those watching what I intend to do. “Put you arm behind your back where I can grab it and twist it slowly. Like this,” I’ll illustrate. “I’ll twist gently but steadily until it might begin to hurt.” It will be up to the people watching to decide at which point I’ve gone too far.

Then I’ll have to hope that there aren’t too many sadists in the crowd. Plan B might be to grab for something like a baseball bat, out of view of the volunteer, and appear prepared to hit him with an unsuspected blow. Much will depend on the onlookers rising to interfere.

In that manner we will all be able to explore what it means to accept a certain degree of torture, up to a point. And that point should lie somewhere between the anticipation of torture and the application of pain. If my subject wets himself or herself at just the thought, perhaps my audience will urge that even the anticipation is going too far.

I hope we can recognize that we want to tolerate not a single degree of torture.

Many experts have been coming out to say that torture is not effective. In this era of modern chemistry, we have all sorts of drugs and serums for overcoming a person’s mental resistance. Putting aside whether those methods are themselves ethical, if interrogators want to learn something from a detainee, there is no need to resort to torture.

Torture is not about interrogation. Torture is about terror. It is terrorism exercised upon a defenseless captive, and it is terrorism practiced against a population who are subjugated by the fear that they too may face torture.

We have declared war on terrorism. Terrorism such as our governement defines it does not exist. There are no idealogues whose chief pursuit in life is the spread of terrorism. This is a myth. Terrorism is not an ideology.

Terrorism is a practice, and we are its greatest perpetrators. In the main it’s called state-sponsored-terrorism. Extra-judicial assassinations, the sanction of indescriminate killing, the tolerance of disproportunate civilian casualties, the imposition of inhumane social structures, all constitute the terror we are imposing upon an occupied people.

Torture is another method by which we terrorise our subjects.

Are we united against terrorism? Why then are we not also aggreed that we are united against torture?

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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