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What IS Torture?

December 17, 2014

A boy sets a puppy on fire and laughs and claps his hands; and the louder the puppy screams, the more the boy laughs. That boy has tortured a clearly innocent animal. When we hear about it, we shudder and worry that the boy will grow to be a man without moral consciousness, without empathy.

When we hear that a man finds gratuitous pleasure in inflicting pain on someone, the word “depravity” comes to mind, and if he has bound that person, the word “torture;” and when we learn that the victim was an innocent, we record the name of the torturer on a special page in our heart.

If the torture was ordered by a leader of our government, then our peronal conscience and our patriotism feel outrage, because a grave injustice and inhumane action has been undertaken in our name, by our country, by us. To go as far as possible to make things whole again, to wipe the blood from our hands, both the physical torturer and that leader must admit their wrongdoing, and do whatever they can to make amends, including standing trial. In defense of our common humanity and our country’s system of justice, we require and demand nothing less.

But wait.

We learn that the leader ordered something of another name, for altruistic reasons, believing he was doing what he must, to save the lives of thousands of innocents, like those innocents who were murdered by the attackers on 9/11. He declares proudly that he would do it again, without qualms and as his patriotic duty, even if some of his victims were innocents themselves.

Ah, then the pleasures of the one who touched the victims, and the satisfaction of he who ordered action by another name, were not gratuitous. No one is depraved here. Indeed a kind of justice has been achieved. Eye and tooth. His means were only those required to serve a noble end. He is, himself, an innocent of any crime or inhumanity. This was not torture.

From → psychopatholgy

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