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Trump & Son on Torture

Okay folks, the next wander down rabbit hole emerged the other day. I kinda thought we were done with the torture thing and that we’d all agreed that waterboarding is torture, that it is against American laws and traditions to torture anyone and that, as even Napoleon knew, it doesn’t work because, “The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know.”

But now we have Trump saying he’d waterboard prisoners in a New York Minute. In fact, he said that waterboarding was too mild and he’d really kick the torture methods up a couple of notches. We even got an extra treat when his son said that waterboarding was “no different from what happens in frat houses every day.”

After a while it hardly makes sense to critique the things that emerge from Trump because those supporting him don’t care. After all, this is a guy who acknowledged that his supporters are so behind him that he could just shoot someone at random and wouldn’t lose a vote.

But for the still sane among us, three basic principles and three psychological ones:

I. “Enhanced interrogation” is torture. It is a pathetically transparent euphemism put in place by Bush and Cheney to cover their asses when/if they got pulled before the DOJ or an international tribunal.

II. Torture is immoral, unethical, illegal and counter to every principle held to by decent people.

III. It is against the Geneva Convention and those who use it are, in the eyes of the international community, criminals.

Those are the basic principles. Torture, in any form, is proscribed by all decent persons and is prohibited by international agreement. Then there are the more nuanced points, the ones with data behind them.

IV. Torture does not work. It does not produce valid or reliable information. Those who claim it does and defend it (Cheney, repeatedly) are just wrong. The problems are manifold. For one, in the mistaken belief that torture must be used to extract critical information there is a compelling tendency to increase the pain inflicted. For another, the more torture is used the more likely it becomes that either, (a) the prisoner increases the amount of information provided mixing up true and useful material along with the false and useless — and, of course, it is not possible to know which is which and, (b) as Napoleon noted, the prisoner simply tells his tormentors what he believes they want to hear without regard to its validity.

V. There are well-known, humane and effective ways to extract information from prisoners. They involve gentle and supportive interactions designed to gain confidence and respect. In short, pretend to be their friends, build rapport, find common links in social customs, films, TV shows, whatever works.

VI. So, if all this is obvious, why do people support torture? Why do Trump’s fans hoot in delight when he says that not only would he waterboard terrorists, he’d “bring back (things) a hell of a lot worse”?

I guess the answer’s easy: they think that anyone captured is a terrorist and terrorists should suffer. It has little to nothing to do with “interrogation” or getting critical information. It’s all revenge and steeped in the hate and vilification that has washed over the Republican Party and its candidates.

I also suspect that none of these big brave souls has a clue what’s involved in “enhanced interrogation.” Maybe they think it’s like getting a cavity filled without Novocain or, for the true idiots, a frat prank. Some years back The Sun’s reporter Oliver Harvey agreed to be waterboarded. His write-up of the experience is chilling. It’s even more compelling when you realize that it was being done by friends with medical help available if needed and that he could stop it any time he wanted.

This whole resuscitation of even the thought of the legitimacy of waterboarding or any other form of torture has to stop. So I’m ending this entry with the same line as the one before it:

Just stop it. Okay? Okay!

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