Sunday, May 15, 2005

Torture's Dirty Secret: It Works

This article proposes a thought about torture I hadn't considered: its real purpose is to intimidate a whole community.
This is not a controversial claim. In 2001 the US NGO Physicians for Human Rights published a manual on treating torture survivors that noted: "perpetrators often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill treatment by the need to gather information. Such conceptualizations obscure the purpose of torture....The aim of torture is to dehumanize the victim, break his/her will, and at the same time, set horrific examples for those who come in contact with the victim. In this way, torture can break or damage the will and coherence of entire communities."
I find this especially nauseating, not just because it's torture, but because it means there really is a payoff. It reaches a desired goal. I don't think the ends always justify the means, but some people do, and it becomes that much harder to stop the insanity when there's an end.

And just to be clear, I don't think terrorizing a whole people is a worthwhile goal either.
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