Friday, May 22, 2009

Andrew McCarthy is Torturing Me
On May 19 Andrew C. McCarthy wrote a piece for National Review Online in which he asserts that two Republican congresspersons made a fool of Attorney General Holder in a House Judiciary Committee hearing. Holder, according to McCarthy, does not know the definition of torture or he does not mind misstating it.

Figuring prominently in the questioning cited by McCarthy was the issue of whether the Attorney General's assertion that "water boarding is torture" means that the people conducting water boarding demonstrations on certain groups of military trainees are committing torture. Holder said this was not torture in response to the matter being raised by the congressperson. He pointed out that the intent was for training purposes and not to inflict serious bodily or mental harm.

McCarthy jumped on this point, emphasizing that the legal definition of torture is completely based upon intent. In the article he gets into the legal technicalities of general intent and specific intent (a judge quoted by McCarthy made much of this specific v. general intent in a torture case) which may or may not be the significant point that McCarthy makes it out to be. To be torture in the legal sense, the article states, the person performing the act must have the specific intent to cause significant physical or mental harm.

Apparently we should think that regardless of what the torturer does, if his or her intent was to get information rather than to cause harm to the source of the information, the acts which result in harm are not torture. This kind of thinking is sickening.

Regardless how the law and subsequent judicial opinions might define intent and mental harm, the crux of the matter lies in the fact that the victim of torture faces his or her treatment involuntarily. A sailor volunteers to become a SEAL. When made aware of the impending water boarding demonstration the would-be SEAL can opt out or volunteer to continue. What the trainers do in such a case is then not torture and they are not torturers - dangerously sadistic perhaps, but not torturers.

The situation faced by someone water boarded by the CIA or its henchpersons does not have a voluntary aspect. At this point the McCarthy and others willing to spend our tax dollars on torture might say that the victims can opt out of torture by giving up the information that they hold. We are to believe that water boarding or other torturous techniques are never applied when probing for information. The water boarders somehow know the victim has the information in every instance. So in effect this line of thinking would claim that in spite of the documented failures of the CIA in so many other cases, when it comes to knowing who has information that will save lives the CIA never makes a mistake.

And as to intent, the actual intent of the water boarder is to get the victim to say to herself, "This time I am going to die if I don't get them to stop this now." How could this not be mental harm? And what of the several prisoners who died while under CIA or other United States government control? Do possible murderers involved in deaths get a get-out-of-jail-free card because they didn't intend to do harm, regardless of the outcome?

The excuses and disgusting justifications promulgated by the pro-torture crowd are torturing me. And killing our reputation in the world.

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