Torture’s back in the news, and in our culture

A 60 Minutes interview with Jose Rodriguez in which he defends the use of torture has largely passed unnoticed by the mainstream media. But Andrew Sullivan continues to force us to pay attention to crimes perpetrated in the name of the US.

Here’s Sullivan on why Rodriguez destroyed tapes of torture interviews:

watching live-action tapes of waterboarding would have brought the reality of torture – and the rank incompetence and brutality of the torturers – into stark relief. It would have destroyed any remnants of Bush’s and Cheney’s reputation and America’s moral standing in the world. It would have forced the American people to realize that their leaders really were and are war criminals.

Sullivan on the 60 Minutes interview itself, quoting Lesley Stahl: “we used to think waterboarding was a war crime.” Yes we did, when the Nazis and Khmer Rouge did it. Moral people think its a war crime when Americans do it, too.

And the argument that torture helped to get evidence used in the assassination of Osama Bin Laden is also refuted by the CIA and by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The investigation by Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee (The Republicans wouldn’t participate) has concluded “there’s little evidence that our so-called enhanced interrogation techniques produced key intelligence.”

Robert de Neufville comments:

We should not continue to look the other way. We may no longer be torturing people. But now we have established a precedent that we can torture with impunity. Torture doesn’t work, but if we aren’t honest with ourselves about it, we will inevitably torture again.

Greg Sargent wonders whether a President Romney would reverse Obama’s executive order forbidding its use.

Torture In the Game of Thrones:

I raise the issue of torture regularly because it is a religious issue.

William Cavanaugh, the author of the brilliant Torture and the Eucharist has this to say about torture:

Torture is a part of the Christian past. From a Catholic point of view, the Church does indeed have penance to do for the Inquisition. But how? I propose that the way to do penance for the Inquisition is to speak out and resist torture as it is practiced now.

The examination of conscience that would precede such penance would require rejection of the many ways that we try to distance ourselves from realization of our own sins. Chief among these in this case is the attempt to put distance between ourselves and torture by relegating it to the past or to the remote Other. Confession of our sin would require not simply the admission that torture has been done in our name, but the confession that only God is God, and not any nation-state that claims to save us from evil.

Christians worship a God who was tortured to death by the Empire. It is this God who saves by saying “no” to violence on the cross. Our penance, then, would take the form of resisting the idolatry of nation and state and its attendant violence.


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