[Vision2020] It Was Torture Then, and It is Torture Now

Nicholas Gier ngier006 at gmail.com
Thu Jan 8 12:42:45 PST 2015

 Dear Visionaries:

For those not taking the Daily News, here is my column from today.  Some of
you may have seen previous columns, and they are at
www.NickGier.com/Torture.pdf and /HumaneTreatment.pdf.

Pope John Paul apologized, so when will the U. S. government (namely
Congress) going to do the same?  I hope that it does not take several

It is one of the deepest moral stains in our national history.


By Nick Gier, the Palouse Pundit

In A. D. 866 Pope Nicholas I decreed that “neither divine nor human law
allows for torture, since a confession should not be compelled, and should
not be elicited with violence.” Until Church leaders perceived that that
Christianity was under existential threat by heretical sects, this
prohibition remained in place for 400 years.

 In 1252 Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull allowing the use of torture
to force heretics “to confess their errors (but) without killing them or
breaking their arms.” In 1256, in an act roughly parallel to Obama's
promise not to pursue legal action against CIA interrogators, Pope Innocent
offered absolution to those who used instruments of torture.

 Medieval inquisitors were allowed to use “enhanced interrogation
techniques” only after “half proof” of the charges had been presented.
After 9/11, terror suspects were picked up on the flimsiest of evidence. In
Afghanistan a bounty ($3,000-5,000) was offered for those with alleged ties
with Al Qaeda, and hundreds of innocents were swept up, shackled, and
hooded for transfer to “black sites” around the world. In the recent Senate
report the CIA admits that 26 people were “wrongly detained,” but there
were easily ten times that number.

 Pope Innocent obviously did not want heretics to die during their
interrogation, but there are no estimates of how many may have died of
torture. In 2008 the ACLU issued a report on 160 detainee deaths, and it
concluded that 70 of them were the result of “gross recklessness, abuse, or
torture.” One day in November of 2002 in a CIA “black site,” Gul Rahman was
shackled and forced to sit naked on a cold concrete floor. The next morning
he was found dead of hypothermia.

 Pope Innocent also did not want any broken bones, but heretical joints
were most certainly dislocated on the infamous Rack. Bush's attorneys also
allowed similar stress positions as long as they did not lead to permanent
injury. On November 4, 2003 at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, Manadel
al-Jamadi was placed in a position called the “Palestinian hanging.” “Less
than an hour later,” as reported in *The Daily Kos*, “he was dead, blood
gushing from his mouth and his arms were almost coming out of their
sockets.” One more turn on the ratchet by an eager medieval torturer could
have led a poor heretic to an early end as well.

 Perhaps only because no plastic tubing was available, medieval torturers
did not resort to rectal hydration or feeding. The CIA's excuse that it was
for medical reasons would be laughable if the procedures were not so
horrific. The Senate report concludes that “excessive force” was used and
one detainee “was later diagnosed with an anal fissure and rectal
prolapse,” symptoms congruent with anal rape.

 President George Washington refused to allow his soldiers to use the cruel
methods that the British and Hessians had used against them. Continuing to
preserve the moral high ground, President Roosevelt did not permit American
officers to torture any Japanese, even though they had tortured thousands
of allied soldiers to death.  At Fort Hunt Park 4,000 high level Nazi
prisoners were treated more than humanely and underwent noncoercive
interrogations. The Axis Powers were a far greater threat to world peace
than any terrorist group today, but America still preserved its values.

 The U. S. has always recognized waterboarding, a torture technique that
goes back to the Inquisition, as a war crime. In 1901 Major Edwin Glenn got
10 years in prison for waterboarding a Philippine insurgent. The U. S.
prosecuted Japanese soldiers who brought thousands of prisoners to the
point of drowning. Former Vice-President Dick Cheney speaks in error when
he denies these facts of U.S. military history.

 On November 15, 2004, Pope John Paul II apologized for the Inquisition,
and it is important to acknowledge that Protestants tortured and burned
many more heretics, and that the conviction rate during the various
Catholic Inquisitions was very low.

 Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld may travel to Canada with impunity, but
European judges and parliamentarians are eagerly waiting to arrest them as
war criminals. When will the U. S. government acknowledge that the Bush
administration violated not only international law but basic human decency?

 Nick Gier taught philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years. Read
previous columns on this topic at *www.NickGier.com/Torture.pdf
<http://www.nickgier.com/Torture.pdf>* and /HumaneTreatment.pdf.
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