Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Cheney, Fox News, and the Water Cure

I fear you speak upon the rack,
Where men enforced do speak anything.

--William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Tortures are a dangerous invention, and seem to be a test of endurance rather than of truth.
--Michel de Montaigne, “Of Conscience,” The Essays

There is only one thing that arouses animals more than pleasure, and that is pain. Under torture you are as if under the dominion of those grasses that produce visions. Everything you have heard told, everything you have read returns to your mind, as if you were being transported, not toward heaven, but toward hell. Under torture you say not only what the inquisitor wants, but also what you imagine might please him, because a bond (this, truly, diabolical) is established between you and him.
--Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

I mentioned to one of the gaolers my sense of this hardship, as an obstinate guilty person might deny the truth, whilst an innocent one, less courageous, might very readily, to relieve himself from such a state of misery, make a false confession. His answer was laconic: “They soon confess.”
--William Sampson, Irish lawyer, writing of his experience under torture

"There is the rack, and there are its ministers! You will reveal all now or be put to the torture.


Then she made that great answer which will live forever; made it without fuss or bravado, and yet how fine and noble was the sound of it:

"I will tell you nothing more than I have told you; no, not even if you tear the limbs from my body. And even if in my pain I did say something otherwise, I would always say afterward that it was the torture that spoke and not I."

There was no crushing that spirit. You should have seen Cauchon. Defeated again, and he had not dreamed of such a thing. I heard it said the next day, around the town, that he had a full confession all written out, in his pocket and all ready for Joan to sign. I do not know that that was true, but it probably was, for her mark signed at the bottom of a confession would be the kind of evidence (for effect with the public) which Cauchon and his people would particularly value, you know. No, there was no crushing that spirit, and no beclouding that clear mind. Consider the depth, the wisdom of that answer, coming from an ignorant girl. Why, there were not six men in the world who had ever reflected that words forced out of a person by horrible tortures were not 
necessarily words of verity and truth, yet this unlettered peasant-girl put her finger upon that flaw with an unerring instinct. I had always supposed that torture brought out the truth--everybody supposed it; and when Joan came out with those simple common-sense words they seemed to flood the place with light. It was like a lightning-flash at midnight which suddenly reveals a fair valley sprinkled over with silver streams and gleaming villages and farmsteads where was only an impenetrable world of darkness before. Manchon stole a sidewise look at me, and his face was 
full of surprise; and there was the like to be seen in other faces there. Consider--they were old, and deeply cultured, yet here was a village maid able to teach them something which they had not known before. I heard one of them mutter:

"Verily it is a wonderful creature. She has laid her hand upon an accepted truth that is as old as the world, and it has crumbled to dust and rubbish under her touch. Now whence got she that marvelous insight?"

--Mark Twain, Joan of Arc

It is a truth that has always been known, and tyrants have known it as well as everyone else—known it better, in fact.

The tyrants tell us they do not want to torture, but they must torture for the greater good--our good. They must torture to make the guilty confess.

But they know better, and so do we. They torture for the opposite reason: to make the innocent confess.

There is another reason they torture. They torture to instill fear--not just fear in the Gulags and Gitmos, but fear in the general population. Everyone fears the tyrant who tortures.

This is an old technique for controlling a population. All tyrants have used it, throughout history. And they are using it still.

Vice President Cheney says the water cure is not torture. Does he believe this? I suggest he does not.

Recently, a Fox News reporter voluntarily underwent the water cure. He described the experience as "tortuous" but "efficient." By efficient, he meant it only took a few minutes to "break" him. Breaking someone, of course, is not necessarily the same thing as extracting the truth.

It is interesting that Fox News, Mr. Cheney's favorite news network would run such a segment. On the surface it seems like something that would run counter to the agenda of Fox News and Mr. Cheney, until you realize it fits the agenda perfectly--the real agenda, that is.

The real agenda is not what they say it is; it is not to make us accept torture as a reasonable, civilized, necessary thing to do. The real agenda is what it has always been with tyrants.

The tyrant will not say it is torture; the tyrant will, in fact, say the opposite. But the tyrant nonetheless wants you to know it is torture, because the real agenda is fear.

Everyone fears the tyrant who tortures.