Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The trickle-down effects of torture

In my post Why I don't buy the ticking bomb scenario , I spoke of how accepting torture in extraordinary circumstances becomes lesser abuses as standard operating procedure. Before I continue, watch this video . If that video doesn't play, try this , and search "Arizona pastor tazed, beaten" on Youtube.

It would be nice to think that this was a freak occurrence, but it's not- something of the kind happens on a near-daily basis somewhere in America. There are some police officers for whom "being a wiseass" is the ultimate crime, to be punished on the spot with a beating. Such abusive police officers are a big problem for police forces. Among some circles, they're called "dead men walking", because they know that sooner or later he's going to bully the wrong guy, and get 9mm justice- and nobody wants to be standing close to him when it happens. But weeding such characters out is never easy, not least because even the clean, decent cops (the large majority) understand the frustration that can cause it.

But the "never easy" becomes the "nearly impossible" if the social pressure is not there, and societies respond to leadership- the fish rots from the head. When Woodrow Wilson made speaking against WW I illegal, we had vigilante groups burning small newspapers who opposed it. In the 20's-50's, when the government was busy enforcing racial segregation, (another Wilson initiative), we had mass lynching. In the 60's and 70's when the most common three syllable word in politics was "lawnorder", beating up "filthy hippies" was a popular redneck pastime. And throughout all this, police behavior reflected social behavior as a whole; the best Chiefs of Police couldn't hold their men to a higher standard than the public demanded.

This is why it's so crucial for the Federal government, from the President on down, to be beyond reproach in such matters. People respond as quickly to good example as bad; nobody wants to feel like a monster- and close-knit societies like law enforcement feel peer pressure even stronger than most. To fall from grace hits those in uniform harder than a bullet- but only if there is grace to fall from. In a very, very real sense, to protect the inherent dignity of prisoners is to ensure your own- and vice-versa.

1 comment:

Bill Baar said...

Anytime someone has power like a cop or better yet, a nursing home aid, there is a risk of abuse. Witness the fight club on the news in Texas at an assisted living center.

If you don't check that, it accelerates.

That's far different than an interrogation policy which is secret, and the circles involved limited. We waterboarded three people... some say the policy impacted Abu Garib etc, and we need the hearings (including Nancy Pelosi under oath) to get to the bottom of that, but I doubt those connections are going to pan out. Some will argue interrogaters used EIT for kicks but once the documents released unredacted I don't think that's going to be the case.

If were really concerend about violence and sadism begatting more violence and sadism, we really ought to start with our TV.

Americans watch graphic barbarism routinely there.

It's worth noting Obama's just encouranged the Paks to use the strong arm in the NW Frontier displacing upwards of a million people, and has named a new Commander for Afghanistan with a reuptation for squeezing info out of informants with a rough manner.

A Prez will do what a Prez needs to do to win wars.

Even if it means putting a million civilians into DP camps.

And notice the silence in the UU blogospher on AFPAK too...

Peace Makers gone mum on this war save one post from Alex Winnant which he later purged of references to a Christian (Rev King) and Hindu (Ghandi) as models for our Muslim allies.