Why I Am Against Torture

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

See, it works like this:

You've been beaten pretty badly by many men then bound into an unmovable position which stretches muscles and tendons and forces bone against bone making breathing near impossible and agonizingly painful. Your bound and beaten body is dragged into a cold room and you are hosed down with ice-cold water and earsplitting music or loud, sudden noise is piped into the space continuously or into headphones duct taped to your head. You're forced to stand for upwards of 40 hours, feet bolted to the floor. If you should close your eyes to sleep or even to mitigate the horrendous pain or your uncontrollable shivering, shivering so violent that your teeth are loosened in your gums, a guard will come in and slap you or find some other way to force you to stay awake. The mental and physical exhaustion is all consuming. If you should fall or your legs collapse from under you...

This may go on for several days.

Just before you completely lose your mind you'll be dragged out, strapped to a board tilted head downward, a cloth placed over your face and water poured onto it. You can't breath - but the water keeps coming. If you try to breath you'll inhale water into your lungs and all your panic centers go off at the same time forcing your body into severe contractions which aggravates your existing condition causing not only indescribable panic, but indescribable agony. Just before you die, or wish you would die, the water will stop and you may be beaten some more. This process will continue until whatever shred of humanity you've had within yourself has been stripped away and your very existence is a maze of pain, agony and misery that permeates your very soul.

This treatment, according to the US Government, is not torture. And the practice is so not torture that we've even destroyed the evidence.

Here's a description of what happens to you when you're taken to a "black site" like Syria or Egypt or Turkey, through a Congressionally approved process called "extraordinary rendition". These folk are doing the real bad business for us. What I wrote above is kids-play compared to what our friends and allies will do to you. Here's what one prisoner had to say about a Syrian prison;

When death is a daily occurrence, lurking in torture, random beatings, eye-gouging, broken limbs and crushed fingers.. [when] death stares you in the face and is only avoided by sheer chance... wouldn’t you welcome the merciful release of a bullet?
- Extract from the prisoners’ report smuggled out of Syria

You might be beaten with electrified cables. They might crush your testicles, or shoot electric shocks through them. If you're a woman, you will most certainly be raped and electrodes placed deep into your vagina... just for fun. We might violate you repeatedly with all kinds of fun things. Rifles, for example, or cattle prods, laughing while we do so. We might do any and all of these things including feeding you mind altering drugs or inject you with drugs which stimulate your nerve endings making you feel as if your entire body, every single cell, is on unquenchable fire or that would simulate a heart attack or severe muscle cramps followed by bouts of debilitating nausea. You won't even be able to scream anymore since you've already screamed yourself to a point where your diaphragm and the muscles in your throat can no longer force out a sound. And we're just starting. Then come the constant daily whippings and beatings. But don't worry, a trained medical doctor will be standing by, monitoring the situation to make sure you can endure more of the same without actually dying.

Attorney General of the United States, Alberto Gonzales, has determined that this is not torture and isn't so long as it does not end in organ failure.

Even when it's all over and you've proven you either knew nothing or were innocently taken, your life is utterly and permanently destroyed anyway. Ask Mahar Arar, a Canadian citizen who was brutally tortured - in your name - in a prison in Syria for a year only to find out in the end we had kidnapped, renditioned and tortured the wrong man.

After the Second World War the US and its allies prosecuted Germans and Japanese for water boarding prisoners as torture and won convictions, sentencing the torturers to long prison terms for their crimes. In one Japanese version, questioning continued while water was being poured over your face. If you opened your mouth to answer a question you swallowed water. And, when you could swallow no more, a soldier would jump on your stomach to force it out, preparing you for more.

Here's how the French did it to a journalist, Henri Alleg, during their occupation of Algeria:

"The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could. But I couldn't hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, all the muscles of my body struggled uselessly to save me from suffocation. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably. "That's it! He's going to talk," said a voice. The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed,"

Why we allow the President of the United States to say that such treatment is not torture undermines not only our morals but undermines our very existence as a humane nation. Not to mention undermining the truth.

So you're thinking, fine, no problem! What's a little mistreatment if we're saving lives. But are we saving lives? No! Because if we use torture you can be sure that retribution will follow and I will bear no ill will against those who would strike back at us for that. A nation that tortures deserves what it gets in return, even my own.

I firmly believe there are more important things in our existence than people's lives. What kind of things? Our morals as a civilization, our national honor and the way the future will look back upon us, as just three.

We tend to view events only in an immediate sense and don't think about what the future holds. In fact, we don't seem to care all that much about the future. So long as we feel safe we will give up our rights and our morals. We're fed a daily dose of fear and uncertainty designed to allow us to treat others as I've mentioned above, without care and without worry and to feel justified in doing so. But there is a future and for most of us, we're going to make it there. Tomorrow, for example, is today's future.

If I say 'Nazi Germany', what's the first thought that comes into your minds? Concentration camps. If I say 'Imperial Japan', you think Pearl Harbor and then Nanjing. If I say 'Stalin', you think purges and Gulags. If I say 'Khmer Rouge', you think piles of bones. You think the worst of those places and times because that's what we remember.

When we mistreat people, others remember and in the future when people say, "United States" it is very possible the first thought that will come to them won't be "Land of Liberty", but "Guantanamo Bay", a phrase that is quickly becoming synonymous with the word 'torture', as it should. In fact, this is already happening. The very nation that earned global sympathy and praise just after September 11, 2001 is now being vilified for our use of torture and our illegal occupation of Iraq which has caused the death of hundreds of thousands of innocents - in your name.

Think of all the world leaders various US Administrations have accused of having mistreated their citizens. Think of all the speeches given by Presidents and Senators and Congressmen about how "evil regimes" mistreat and torture and yet, here we are doing the very same thing, performing the very same acts and all with your full cooperation and consent.

If you profess to be a Christian, would Christ endorse your treating others as he was scourged by the Romans after his arrest and his agony on the cross at Calvary? If you profess to be a Jew, would you endorse the treating of others as Mengele treated your forebears? For all the talk about how America is based upon a Christian foundation, how can we possibly torture others? If you believe in the Judeo-Christian God and have not actively worked to stop this practice, what fate awaits you when you meet up with St Peter? Can you really have taken "Jesus into your heart" if you believe that torture is acceptable for any reason? And if you do nothing, will he still forgive you for that fundamental sin?

A recent FoxNews poll found that 92% of Americans believe in a god. How is it then that so many can allow torture?

I don't believe in a God, but I stand firmly against torture and am willing to chance death or personal material loss so that future generations will view mine as one that rose above the cruel treatment of others and that based its present on a higher moral ground. Apparently I'm in a minority when it comes to morals as my professed religious brethren feel quite otherwise about the issue. They are more concerned about their material possessions and immediate personal well-being than they are about their fate before their god. There is something fundamentally wrong with that view, a dichotomy that I cannot parse properly.

Stop the torture. And bring those who have done so in your name to immediate and swift trial for their crimes against humanity.

Remember the future for it starts tomorrow. And when you look back on today, what will you think; Land of Liberty? Or Land of Guantanamo? Personally, I'll take the bold step to prefer the former.

In peace,

Jeff Green

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Wednesday December 12, 2007