On Torture: After reading about the death of Hamza al Khateeb, aged 13
I see hypocrisy in violent 'revenge', but when I read about 13 year old Hamza al-Khateeb's murder, I didn't care (for a while) what happened to those who tortured him to death.
'I hope the mob gets them,' was the first thought to run through my mind.
I'm not saying I wanted to see those torturers tortured, but shot dead sounded fine to me. Such an end, after all, would have been a kindness to Hamza.
Only later, after I'd cooled off a bit, did I decide that I still believe violent revenge isn't the right way.
Maybe it's not exactly and completely wrong (being partly instinctive) to want to react physically to something as grotesquely cruel as this, but it's not the best move in the long run, I don't think. The criminals (in uniform) who did this, should be (in a sane world) arrested and tried in an open court. Publicly, in front of the world's media - and if found guilty sentenced to life imprisonment. I believe that would do far more to help bring an end to the arrogant and complacent use of torture worldwide by those who choose to take part in the physical, mental and sexual abuse of another (defenceless) human being, under the cover of authority.
What better way to honour Hamza and others who have suffered and died in such a dark, hellish place.
But justice and the law shouldn't only be something wheeled out after the event, in order to punish. Justice and the law should surely be about protecting children, who are owed (by us) their human rights. And not just children, but all people.
I don't believe in any 'gods' – but I recognise human wisdom when I hear it.
To me, Jesus (real or imagined) was just a man. He said: What you do to the least of them, you do also to me.
I believe that torture is not only the abuse of another human – but a vile crime against the whole of humanity.
The Joker Scenario
According to a recent survey over half of US citizens think torture is okay to use in certain situations.
2011 -The Red Cross survey found that 59% of the 502 teenagers and 51% of the 1,019 adults polled believed that it was sometimes acceptable to torture enemy fighters to obtain important military information.
41% of teenagers and 30% of adults also accepted the logical corollary that it might therefore sometimes be acceptable for enemy forces to torture captured American POWs.
This blows my mind.
Especially when you consider the poll below, taken in 2004-
Two-thirds of U.S. citizens believe their government should "never use physical torture" against detainees, and 90 percent reject sexually humiliating prisoners, as was done by U.S. soldiers at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail.
The poll poll was conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA)
What the hell happened in seven years?
What suddenly made torture acceptable to so many more people?
If it wasn't acceptable to torture or execute without trial, Nazi Germans back in 1945, why would it be acceptable now?
A main argument seems to be that sometimes torture should be used as a last resort, if it is for 'the greater good'.
I'm bothered by the term 'the greater good' – it sounds like something Hitler's Nazis might have called themselves. Certainly we British at the height of Empire. 'The greater good in man...'
The Norwegian killer who exterminated those kids on that island told his lawyer he felt he had done the right thing for his country. Do you see where I'm coming from? There is a global responsibility here.
I find the greater good argument just a bit too easy. Did Hitler think, in his twisted mind, that what he was doing was 'for the greater good'?
But to return to the Joker Scenario....
If one man holds the code to disarm the bomb that will kill thousands of people, what can you do?
Well, for a start, this really isn't probable outside Hollywood, and certainly not something I've seen in reality before, but I'm willing to imagine it. Secondly, most killers can be brought – but let's take a character like the joker in Batman. Let's imagine that the man with the code cannot be brought,
Or tricked into giving up the code.
Or pleaded with.
(Come on, if we're willing to swallow enough pride to use torture, we can get a trained psychologist/actor to try appealing to his better side, just in case he has one).
You never know.
But let's imagine that the Joker just grins his grin, and tells us to go f*ck ourselves and meanwhile the clock is ticking.
There is no denying that torture doesn't cough up instant reward. It's not a thing that can be rushed.
On top of that, there is huge evidence that torture doesn't help extract information at all, even in the long run.
If you've got a strong stomach, consider this testimony by women, (including one 13 year old) who were tortured by the notorious Nazi Klaus Barbie during WWII.
One woman, working for the French Resistance was badly tortured for many days, including being subjected to Barbie's own brand of simulated drowning. She didn't talk.
And then, there's plenty of this:
"Using torture is worthless if the aim is to produce reliable information" says former CIA Interrogator Glenn Carle (read his article
And anyway, if he wanted to, the joker could send people on a wild goose chase, leaving the seconds to tick down. Hell, torturing him may even (from his point of view) validate his reasons for hating humanity enough to kill innocent life. It may prolong his silence. Or just destroy any hope of extracting the information a different way. (See the interrogation-of-a-German-prisoner scene in The Desert Rats).
Better to try and draw/trick a rough location out of him and start mass evacuations.
Why? Because in my opinion, that it the only sane thing to do.
Some people say that refusing to torture a prisoner in this scenario basically amounts to cowardice. A selfish refusal to corrupt oneself – even to save thousands of lives.
But putting aside the fact that torture doesn't work - with respect, I think they fail to see beyond the thousands. Fail to comprehend the reach of their own 'greater good' argument. Torture isn't something that can be confined or controlled. It can't be contained within a set of rules. If those who wear a badge of authority torture people, don't they validate the use of torture? And if we legitimise torture by using it and give ourselves (and any other person) the right to decide when torture is acceptable, couldn't we basically be condemning an infinite number of humans to the type of death Hamza al-Khateeb was subjected to? Why make torture a part of this world's future? If we create some kind of hell, doesn't that make us some kind of evil?
Is that the gift we want to leave here for future generations?
If we fail to look at the repercussions of our actions, if we deny that responsibility, don't we make torture a weapon of terror, which could be used to silence opposition and criticism of any government that chooses to normalise its use in the minds of its own citizens?
Dr Martin Luther King said, "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal."
To use torture is to legalise it and promote it's use (Check out the surveys above). To put it into the hands of those who would do most harm. People like Klaus Barbie.
There for, nothing can justify the use of torture, ever.
The Ultimate Scenario
As for the 'personal situation' – one in which the joker has someone I care for personally held hostage and they will be blown up unless I get the code off him – the truth is this: I don't know what I would do.
My experience of dealing with **** situations is that I can't possibly know what I will do until the very moment, when all things are weighed up.
Yes, there will be times when people feel obliged to step outside the law and take the consequences, of course, but how often would such a personal dilemma arise? For most of us – never.
All I can say is that I would not want someone to torture someone else, in order to try and save my
Torture is a weapon that promotes violence and perversion. The use of it destroys the good in us and empowers our enemies. It's blatant hypocrisy is an insult to human intelligence.
Its rubbishing of those who have gone before and fought and died to bring an end to such cruel and inhumane practices, its betrayal of all the men, women and children who have suffered torture and died, or survived it and gone on to live with it's scars, and its rejection of international law and the Geneva conventions is a shameful betrayal.
As as well as all that, it's barbaric, As long as there is torture there can be no peace. As long as there is torture there can be no harmony and as long as there is torture there can be no healing – for us or the planet. Surely we have it in us to believe in ourselves a bit more than that?
I believe we have a moral obligation to mark torture the vilest crime against humanity and to do our utmost to eradicate it.
We owe it to the past, and to future generations who depend on our integrity. And we owe it to ourselves, because humanity deserves better. Hamza al-Khateeb aged 13, deserved better.