Thursday, August 15, 2013

Torture Or Not?

Trey Smith

When most people began to learn of the torturous conditions involved in the kidnapping of three Cleveland women at the hands of Ariel Castro, the natural reaction was to recoil in horror. Not only did Castro sexually assault each of the women repeatedly for years, but he also beat them, denied them access to sunlight, starved them, and made their lives a living hell for as long as a decade. What Castro did was monstrous and inhumane by a factor of one million. Most people would have no qualms whatsoever in seeing Castro receive the death penalty (though he received life in imprisonment plus 1,000 years).

Writing in The Guardian, acclaimed crime novelist John Grisham wrote about other incidents involving torture. In these cases, the people imprisoned were subject to "sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, temperature extremes, prolonged isolation, lack of access to sunlight, almost no recreation and limited medical care." In addition, the captives were beaten regularly and some were even waterboarded.

What I find disturbing about the different imprisonments is that Castro is viewed as a monster, while those who dispense the torture that Grisham describes are not so reviled. In fact, in the US, the captors that Grisham writes about are saluted and venerated. Why? Because they are soldiers carrying out the orders of their political leaders: George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Torture -- regardless of by whom or why it is carried out -- is abhorrent. It shouldn't really matter if it is undertaken by some individuals for deviant kicks or others for geopolitical purposes. In a civilized society -- one that upholds the rule of law -- there is no place for torture. Anyone who carries it out should be rightly reviled.

Few of us will ever understand the depths of depravity that led Castro to commit his horrid acts, but what of the soldiers who carry out torture "under orders"? How can they look themselves in the mirror? And why is it that, while we condemn Castro, we do not condemn them -- and the ones who give the orders -- as well?

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