Okay – now I’m really mad. And what’s worse, I’m mad on two fronts. For one thing I don’t like people messing with my language, and for another, I don’t like people messing with the people who do the hard and dirty work of keeping us safe.
Dianne Feinstein’s release of the enhanced interrogation technique documents is, on both national and linguistic fronts, an act of treason. To attack the language by which we carry on our national dialogue and the methods we use to protect our right to have a national dialogue is unforgivable.
Let’s look at the language piece of this first.
Torture is a concept way out on the edges of cruelty and evil. It is not merely making a person uncomfortable. Torture causes screaming, mind-destroying agony. It is not merely scaring or even terrifying a person. It is not humiliation, nor is it mere confinement. Nor is it the same as irritation, or annoyance, or frustration. It’s not merely causing distress or anxiety. Torture leaves physical scars – twisted limbs, missing fingernails, missing fingers, toes, eyes, tongues. It drives people permanently mad. To torture is to cause maximum pain while still keeping the victim alive, and has been used throughout human history to extract information, to effect revenge, to punish in such a way as to scare others out of committing the same crime – Braveheart comes to mind.
To think that pouring water on a prisoner reaches that level is to demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge about what man is capable of doing to his fellow man. It is ignorance of history. When the CIA water boarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed they followed strict guidelines allowing breaks every few seconds; they had doctors and minders and interpreters in the room with him. There were strict limits. With torture there are no limits. Allow me to elaborate:
In the Middle Ages torturers liked to place men in coffin-shaped cages – if possible cages really too small for the man’s size. They’d hang the cage outdoors and leave the victim there until he rotted. The French liked to arrive at the same end by using the oubliette – a narrow, deep dungeon into which they’d lower their victim, and forget about him – hence the name oubliette from oublier, to forget. Those in power abused their power by letting their evil imaginations run rampant. The iron maiden – horrible name – imprisoned a man in its hollow interior – an interior filled with iron spikes. As the inquisitor fired questions, he’d push on the door, driving the spikes ever deeper into the victim.
The rack was the staple of the Spanish Inquisition – an inquisition not done to protect Spain from an enemy, but done to force citizens to relinquish their beliefs or to accuse their neighbors. The rack stretched a man, his arms and legs attached to cranks that the tormentors turned, slowly, agonizingly pulling a man apart.
The current fuss about tummy-slapping and sleep deprivation not only shows ignorance, but a naive assumption, a Darwinian assumption, that man is getting better and better, so much so that even playing loud music is too terrible to consider. After all, that other grisly stuff happened in the distant past -- those who don’t study history tend to lump all of the past together, but note that those practices were common only five or six centuries ago.
In times before that people were also doing horrible things to each other. Boiling captives in oil, impaling them, carefully pushing the stake between organs so as to keep the victim alive longer. The Assyrians enjoyed skinning their prisoners alive. They did this as a contest to see who could keep his victim screaming the longest. Perhaps entertainment should also be added to torture’s list of purposes.
And any discussion of torture has to include crucifixion, which did much the same thing as the rack, adding to the excruciating (a word derived from the word crucifixion) pain, slow asphyxiation. If the asphyxiation took too long the Romans would break the legs of the prisoner to hasten that process.
Well, this proves that mankind has learned to be kinder. I’m sure they give out Boy Scout badges for getting all bent out of shape about making people stand in front of a wall; the Age of Aquarius must be just around the corner.
No. Not. ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and their ilk have driven a stake through that nonsense. Syria alone, just since the beginning of the uprising 2011, has tortured to death an estimated 55,000 people. They specialize in using a technique called the flying carpet which involves tying a person, face down, to a hinged board and gradually bending the board, compressing the spine and eventually breaking it. They also like to handcuff a prisoner’s wrists behind his back and hang him, by his wrists, from the ceiling -- another variation on the rack.
Torture – real, debilitating, crazy-making, excruciating torture is still being done today by societies anxious to do those things to us. We have built systems and hired people to protect us from such monsters, and that job is ugly and requires them to rub elbows with evil, demands that they work in uncomfortable, dangerous places, and obligates them to make dreadful decisions, to look the wicked realities of human nature right in its jaundiced eye. Very few of us are willing to do that.
That doesn’t mean that the enemy tortures so it’s OK for us to do so. It does mean that we will have to get rough – just rough enough – to get these cowards to talk. Not rough enough to use as a scare tactic. Not rough enough to entertain anyone, but rough enough to find out ahead of time what these jackals are up to.
Liberal fantasies notwithstanding, man has not evolved into a pussycat – not by a long shot. Many Americans have, however, become so removed from reality that they think they can just call things by different names and thereby change what-is into what-ought-to-be. They, like one of Dickens’ characters who couldn’t “look on anything that wasn’t perfectly prim, proper, and pleasant,” want to just ignore the terrifying realties of war. Even our president doesn’t want to call our efforts to stop Islamic militants “war.” He doesn’t even want to call them “Islamists.” But they are Muslims and we are fighting for our national existence. But they’ll like us better if we stop keeping them up at night, if we give them prayer rugs and home-style cooking, volleyball courts and Korans. They’ll like us even better now that we’ve come clean about how we treat “detainees.”
In what lopsided, topsy-turvy world would that work? Not in this one. In this world the Islamists will use this CIA document as a training manual. They’ll probably use it as a joke book. We will no longer know what they’re planning, no longer be able to prevent attacks. Feinstein, by releasing this document, has given aide and comfort to the enemy and has put every one of the brave and dedicated men and women who protect us in danger. It has flipped on a spotlight that’s aimed right at them.
And who wants to protect a country that will turn on you the way the Democrats have done here? Our intelligence officers, regardless of which agency, must be free to act quickly, dispassionately, decisively and do so without any hyper-prissy hesitation – to protect themselves and to protect us.
Nothing is more unattractive than superior uber fastidious self-righteousness, especially when you stack it up against self-less devotion to duty and nation that we find in our military and investigative institutions. I am furious at what this vindictive, traitorous woman has done to us all. To use a word wrongly, to fill it with baggage it was not meant to carry, to debase the only way we have to make sense of this world is the worst crime of all.