Saying the Unthinkable
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Saying the Unthinkable

     As more and more reports about the torture of foreign prisoners held by the United States come out, the explanations about it being caused by a "few bad apples" become less and less credible. We hear now that it was official US policy to apply extreme measures to extract information from al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners as part of the War Against Terrorism. Those extreme measures have been applied somewhat indiscrimently to Iraqi prisoners who are suspected of resistance to the occupation of that country. We also hear mixed reports about the usefulness of that extracted information.

     This raises a difficult question, were the reasons for this torture more than for collecting intelligence?  Was perhaps torture its own end?  Maybe for vengeance, for intimidation, for making an example?  Certainly after 9/11 the call for vengeance was very strong in this country. We hear from many officials and intellectuals that the only thing Arabs understand is force, and that we need to make them fear us. While there is probably no written document that states this policy directly, the implicit message in official words and attitudes has been quite strong.

     To say that this torture was an end to itself is to say the unthinkable. But outside of this country, people are starting to think and to say it.

     If it is true that a large part of the motivation behind these tortures is vengeance and intimidation, what does that imply about the actions of this government and our responsibilities as citizens. Do we deny and rationalize, or do we confront and change it?

 David E. White, 6/7/04


The love of liberty is the love of others. The love of power is the love of ourselves. -- William Hazlitt
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( This page was last updated on:  12/21/2004 )