[Vision2020] We're Actually Debating Torture? (Molly Ivins)

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Thu Sep 21 06:51:23 PDT 2006

>From today's (September 21, 2006) Spokesman Review -


We're actually debating torture? 
Molly Ivins 
September 21, 2006

Some country is about to have a Senate debate on a bill to legalize torture.
How weird is that? 

I'd like to thank Sens. John McCain, Lindsay Graham - a former military
lawyer - and John Warner of Virginia. I will always think fondly of John
Warner for this one reason: Forty years ago, this country was involved in an
unprovoked and unnecessary war. It ended so badly the vets finally had to
hold their own homecoming parade, years after they came home. The only
member of Congress who attended was John Warner. 
A debate on torture. I don't know - what do you think? I guess we have to
define it, first. The White House has already specified "water boarding,"
making some guy think he's drowning for long periods, as a perfectly good
interrogation technique. Maybe, but it was also a great favorite of the
Gestapo and has been described and condemned in thousands of memoirs and
novels in highly unpleasant terms. 

I don't think we can give it a good name again, and I personally kind of
don't like being identified with the Gestapo. How icky. (Somewhere inside
me, a small voice is shrieking, "Are you insane?") 

The safe position is, "Torture doesn't work." 

Well, actually, it works to this extent - anybody can be tortured into
telling anything that's true and anything that's not true. The more people
are tortured, the more they make up to please the torturer. Then the
torturer has to figure out when the victim started lying. Since our
torturers are, in George Bush's immortal phrase, "professionals" and this
whole legislative fight is over making torture legal so the "professionals"
can't later be charged with breaking the Geneva Conventions, Bush has vowed
to end "the program" completely if he doesn't get what he wants. (The same
thin voice is shrieking, "Professional torturers trained with my tax

Bush's problem is that despite repeated warnings, he went ahead with "the
program" without waiting for Congress to provide a fig leaf of legality.
Actually, we have been torturing prisoners at Gitmo, prisons in Eastern
Europe and Afghanistan for years. 

Since only seven of the several hundred prisoners at Gitmo have ever been
charged with anything, we face the unhappy prospect that the rest of them
are innocent. And will sue. That's going to be quite an expensive
settlement. The Canadian upon whom we practiced "rendition," sending him to
Syria for 10 months of torture, will doubtlessly be first on the legal
docket. I wonder how high up the chain of command a civil suit can go? 

I was interested to find that the Rev. Louis Sheldon of the Traditional
Values Coalition is so in favor of torture he told McCain that the senator
either supports the torture bill or he can forget about the evangelical
Christian vote. I'd like to see an evangelical vote on that one. I don't
know how Sheldon defines traditional values, but deliberately inflicting
terrible physical pain or stress on someone who is completely helpless
strikes me as ... well, torture. And, um, wrong. And I've smoked dope! Boy,
everything those conservatives tell us about the terrible moral values of us
liberals must be true after all. 

Now, in addition to the slightly surreal awakening to find we live in a
country that's having a serious debate on a torture bill, can we do anything
about it? The answer is: We better. We better do something about it. Now,
right away. What do we do? The answer is: anything ... phone, fax, e-mail,
mail, demonstrate - go stand outside their offices or the nearest federal
building in the cold and sing hymns or shout rude slogans, chant or make a
speech, or start attacking federal property, like a postal box, so they have
to arrest you. Gather peacefully and make a lot of noise. Get publicity,
too. How will you feel if you didn't do something? "Well, honey, when the
United States decided to adopt torture as an official policy, I was dipping
the dog for ticks." 

As Ann Richards used to say, "I don't want my tombstone to read: 'She kept a
clean house.' "


Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Vandalville, Idaho


"What does that mean, 'outrages upon human dignity'? That's a statement that
is wide open to interpretation."

-- George W. Bush


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