When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

18 December 2005

Torture's Long Shadow

Like John McCain, Vladimir Bukovsky actually knows a little something about torture.

Unlike McCain, who was tortured by the enemy while a prisoner of war, Bukovsky, a former Soviet citizen, was tortured by his own government. He was, you see, a "guest of the state" in prisons, political gulags and psychiatric hospitals for over a decade due to his nonviolent human rights activism.

He has a few thoughts on torture as a matter of public policy, which he shares with us in an op-ed in today's Washington Post.

(Warning for those of you with weak stomachs: the article contains a harrowing description of torture, under the guise of "medical treatment"--brutal force-feeding--inflicted on Bukovsky after he went on a hunger strike. You've been warned.)

Here's an excerpt:
If America's leaders want to hunt terrorists while transforming dictatorships into democracies, they must recognize that torture, which includes [cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment], has historically been an instrument of oppression -- not an instrument of investigation or of intelligence gathering. No country needs to invent how to "legalize" torture; the problem is rather how to stop it from happening. If it isn't stopped, torture will destroy your nation's important strategy to develop democracy in the Middle East. And if you cynically outsource torture to contractors and foreign agents, how can you possibly be surprised if an 18-year-old in the Middle East casts a jaundiced eye toward your reform efforts there?

Finally, think what effect your attitude has on the rest of the world, particularly in the countries where torture is still common, such as Russia, and where its citizens are still trying to combat it. Mr. Putin will be the first to say: "You see, even your vaunted American democracy cannot defend itself without resorting to torture. . . . "

Off we go, back to the caves.
Torture's Long Shadow (Vladimir Bukovsky, Washington Post, Dec 18 2005)


No comments: