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There can be no tolerance of torture

Roslyn RossRoslyn Ross is a Webdiary columnist. Her last contribution was How aid ails Africa.

by Roslyn Ross

There would be an outcry of gigantic proportions if our leaders were to suggest that the infliction of pain, otherwise known as torture, could reasonably be used to secure a ‘desired’ or ‘required’ outcome from an animal.

 

It’s because some people do believe that ‘a good belting’ is the best way to teach a dog to behave (in the same way that once some people believed it in regard to children), that we have laws preventing the use of such methods.

 

And no well balanced parent would encourage their child to pull the wings off an insect because it bites, string the kitten by its paws from the clothesline as punishment, or nail the dog’s tail to the floor to stop it stealing food from the table. Such violence and cruelty would be seen as unhealthy at best and seriously dysfunctional at worst. And yet the signs are increasing that there has been a lessening of opposition to the use of torture on human beings. The term ‘torture lite’ has entered the lexicon as if something like torture could ever be less than what it so awfully is.

 

The ‘no tolerance’ attitude to torture has been considered to be the bedrock of the civilized world, a sign that we have moved beyond mere brute barbarism to a place of compassionate reason. What has brought it creeping back into the modern world, slithering down dark corridors of expediency, dressed in robes of fearful revenge masquerading as necessity?

 

In January, Democrat Senator, Andrew Bartlett raised the issue of how the Australian government has been willing to turn a blind eye to the use of torture by the United States, our erstwhile ally in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

 

He cited a recent ruling by the highest law court in the United Kingdom which stated that even in the case of terrorism, no British court can consider evidence obtained under torture. In the words of Lord Nicholls, “Torture is not acceptable. This is a bedrock moral principle in this country.”

 

“It is a very sad indictment,” said Bartlett, “on how far principles have declined in leading democracies in recent years that such questions even have to be raised.”

 

Just last year, Peter Faris, QC, a former chairman of the National Crime Authority spoke out in favour of torture saying it should be used against terrorists and in domestic criminal situations. Mr Faris, like many of those seeking to make a case for the use of torture, presented a hypothetical scenario whereby information gained through torture would enable a life or lives to be saved. Apart from the fact that most intelligence and law enforcement agencies hold the view that torture rarely, if ever, provides accurate information, the hypotheticals are exactly that and unlikely to be encountered in real life. Mr Faris quoted an example which he said was taken from the film Dirty Harry which rather says it all.

 

And just how far do you take this hypothetical approach? Let’s just say that DNA testing develops to the point where we can ‘tell’ if a baby will grow up to be dysfunctional, where we can pick if you like, a ‘Hitler’ gene. Do we then have the moral obligation to kill that baby in order to ‘save lives’ in the future?

 

Or to run with another ball, where we have someone in custody whom we think has information as to where a ‘dirty bomb’ has been planted and we can’t ‘break’ him or her, do we then have the moral duty to torture family members in order to extract a ‘confession’?

 

In a torture world, lite or otherwise, it’s pretty common practice to extend the reach to family members in order to up the ante! After all, the justification for the use of torture is based on the argument that the suffering of one, or a few, or even the death of one, or a few, whether guilty or innocent, is morally acceptable in order to  potentially save the lives of many others.

 

Mr Faris’s comments followed upon statements from the head of Deakin University’s law school, Professor Mirko Bagaric, who said torture was acceptable in some circumstances.

 

Professor Bagaric and fellow Deakin law lecturer, Julie Clarke,  argued in a paper written last year for an American law journal,  that torture should be legalised and is a ‘morally defensible’ interrogation method even if it causes the death of innocent people. They went so far to say that when many lives were in imminent danger (which really means  believed to be in imminent danger) 'all forms of harm’ may be inflicted on the suspect, even if this resulted in ‘annihilation’ (a euphemism for death, or more correctly, murder).

 

The basic premise is that it is okay to torture and  kill people, even if they are innocent, in order to preserve a perceived ‘greater good,’ or the well-being of greater numbers of people. No doubt such a premise could justify many if not all of history’s barbarisms and holocausts.

 

What is even more shocking than the fact that such a case could be argued by academics is that the general public response to it should be so muted. But perhaps this is a sign of how increasing levels of violence and abuse in the ‘entertainment’ field have inured us to the suffering of human beings.  One of the most graphic, and ‘disgusting’ as described by some reviewers, in the horror film genre, is Quentin Tarantino’s recently released Hostel, where the plot revolves around people who pay to torture and murder unsuspecting victims.

 

In a world where torture can be considered acceptable practice as an information gathering device, or a method of punishment and revenge, why should it not also become a source of gratification for the mentally damaged?

 

How can intelligent, educated people argue that inflicting terrible pain and suffering, if not death, on helpless human beings is something we should do, or need to do?

 

How can people, who would weep at the sight of a wounded animal, turn a blind eye to such cruelty?

 

The answers to such questions lie not just around us, but deep in our human nature. The history of torture is a long one and its bloodied, weeping trail has dried black behind us. The sight of fresh blood on this ‘trail’ should make us all shudder.

 

Torture, as generally defined, is the use of various physical and psychological manipulations in order to elicit a confession. But torture has often also been used as punishment as it was under the British penal code in colonial Australia and during the 17th century witch trials. Torture, in short, is any form of cruel punishment designed to inflict pain or destroy mental function in order to achieve an end or as a method of revenge.

 

Until the twentieth century most forms of torture were physical; breaking bones or tendons; amputation of limbs, genitalia, breasts, ears, noses, lips; burning the body; flogging; crushing limbs or semi-drowning.  But some of these physical cruelties persisted and in Russia in 1919 the Bolsheviks were known to have nailed leather straps to victim’s shoulders, gouged out their eyes and cut off noses. Similar tortures were used by British and Irish forces in Ireland in the 1920’s. And then of course we had the atrocities of World War Two when the capacity for human cruelty reached something approximating an ‘art form.’

 

In the modern age the ‘artistry’ of the torturer has concentrated more on the mind with the goal of destroying emotional and psychological function in order to render the subject more malleable. One would have thought any information coming from someone who has been reduced to a  gibbering, deluded wreck would be next to useless, but this is the foundation of what has come to be tastelessly referred to as ‘torture lite.’

 

At the beginning of the Cold War the CIA decided that there was substance to the claim that traditional forms of torture led to unreliable information. So, in that innovative, ‘thinking outside the box’ way that Americans have, they  decided to spend over a billion dollars, and as it turned out, some fifty years, trying to find new torture methods which might work.

 

They had a few dead-ends and the odd disaster, like giving LSD to their subjects, but in that ‘never say die’ Yankee way they pursued more promising methods such as sensory deprivation, or forcing subjects to assume stress-inducing positions for long periods and sexual humiliation. In CIA colloquialism they are known as ‘no touch’ tortures and have been made known to the rest of us through the infamous Abu Ghraib pictures.

 

There was nothing ‘bad’ about the ‘apples’ running Abu Ghraib; they were your run of the mill military and CIA ‘fruit’ who had been well trained in modern forms of torture. The first stage of the modern method involves non-violent techniques to disorient the subject. To induce temporal confusion interrogators use hooding or sleep deprivation. Attacks on personal identity or sexual humiliation are used to intensify disorientation.

 

Once the subject is disoriented they are moved into the second stage which involves ‘self-inflicted discomfort’ such as standing for hours with arms extended. The goal in this phase is to make the victims feel responsible for their own pain and induce them to capitulate. It was this ‘technique’ which evoked the tasteless if not sadistic comment from Donald Rumsfeld that he stood for eight hours a day (he works standing up at a desk) and what was so unusual about prisoners doing it. He of course overlooked the fact that he can sit or move as and when he chooses and that this freedom is denied the prisoner.

 

The ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’ used by CIA interrogators violate United States law but are popular all the same. They include ‘waterboarding’ (mock drownings) and mock suffocation. Other variations on the ‘theme’ are ‘stress positions’ where a prisoner is suspended from the ceiling or wall by his wrists which are handcuffed behind his back.

 

Iraqi, Manadel Jamadi, was subjected to this treatment before he died in CIA custody at Abu Ghraib in November 2003. One of the military police who witnessed his torture, Tony Diaz, said that blood gushed from Jamadi’s mouth like a ‘faucet had turned on’ after he was lowered to the ground.

 

According to Amnesty International figures torture has been recorded in some 130 countries, including the United States, in recent years and occurs regularly in most of them. Rather than becoming more civilized, it seems we are becoming less.

 

Not surprisingly fear is a factor in terms of our preparedness to accept the use of torture. The more insecure people feel the more likely they are to allow Governments to  abuse human rights in the name of ‘defence.’

 

And this ‘tolerance’ quickly taps into human nature. There have always been people willing and able to commit torture. More than that, there is an innate human capacity for cruelty, which often manifests as a desire for empowerment or even vengeance, which is in all of us.

 

A landmark study, done by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram, in the 1960’s  found that most human beings, ordered to inflict pain on a stranger, will do so as long as the order comes from someone who seems to be in authority.

 

Milgram’s experiment had been designed to test the limits of obedience. He recruited students from the university and in individual sessions they were told that the experiments would measure the effects of punishment on learning. Each participant was told to inflict a series of electric shocks on a ‘learner,’ increasing the intensity of the shocks with each wrong answer that they received.

 

The ‘learner’ was an actor and was not in fact shocked but the realistic setup meant the students believed that they were inflicting pain. In a completely impersonal relationship, where the student would not face punishment for refusing to continue, some 60 percent were fully obedient, applying shocks as great as 450 volts in spite of their dial registering: Danger: Severe shock.

 

When Milgram ‘refined’ the experiment to allow the ‘victim’ to register protest or pleas, the results remained the same. The subjects were prepared to inflict terrible suffering on a stranger, even to the point of possible death (the victim began screaming his heart was affected) as long as an authority figure told them to do so.

 

Of the hundreds of participants, Milgram wrote that ‘with numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under to the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe.’

 

His experiments showed that ‘men (and women) who are in everyday life responsible and decent were seduced by the trappings of authority, by the control of their perceptions, and by the uncritical acceptance of the experiment’s definition of the situation into performing harsh acts…”

 

The most fundamental lesson of the study, he said, was that ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. His conclusion was that many people are unable to act on their values and that even when it was patently clear that they were inflicting harm, very few had the resources to resist authority.

 

It is even more sobering to reflect that the people involved in this study had no connection with, nor view of, their ‘victims.’ How much greater must the capacity be for human beings to inflict pain on others when they view the ‘other’ as an enemy, a danger, or even less than human as the military trains its soldiers to do?

 

It is because of this innate human capacity, or flaw, that torture can never be allowed. There are no half-way measures; there is no ‘lite’ in torture when tolerance of any kind can only be a key to open the gates of a hell which people of conscience and reason have sought to close.

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order of priorities

I've just read the latest on this thread, and noted that the comment-count has now exceed 50, not too bad. But what's this I see? Complaints from Roslyn Ross (g'day!) of silence, interpreted as no-one caring about torture? And that this 'lack' of response (now 50+?) may even indicate that people actually approve?

Then Peter Hindrup (g'day!) says: "It is widely accepted that many people who voted for the coalition cast their vote on the belief that interest rates would not go up under Howard."

-=*=-

With all due respect, I think you're both a bit off-track. In the case of torture, it's 'competing' with lies, cheating, theft and murder, more specifically lies leading up to mass-murder for oil in Iraq, and the festering 58-year sore that Israel is, a truly murderous scab-of-the-Earth. The cheating comes in hugely from the US, see Perkins' "Hit Man", or the general mining rip-off of resource-rent, say. Resource-rent costs us, we the people, quite literally billions. Then there's the more 'normal' cheating of flogging off our family silver, the last 'shining' example of which being the Snowy. Boo! Hiss! Then there's Quaint-arse, that bank, Sydder's airport and the insidious toll-roads, and/or PPPs, just don't get me going.

-=*=-

Moving on to politics; to have a valid, working democracy (we don't), you need a few primitives, like the truth, the whole truth & nothing but the truth - whereas most'a the time, we get nothing like the truth from the MSM (incl. big bits'a the AusBC, another Boo! Hiss!) Then, we'd need a valid opposition. Latham had Howard's measure and that in spades, then he pissed it all up the wall when he posed (or even 'just' allowed himself to be posed) in front of a US flag. Said it all. That Latham probably did not get whole-hearted support may be indicated by the re-election of the Beazley-blimp, again & again! Shit! What fools! We didn't get the option of voting on Iraq (illegal invasion thereof); lies, cheating (a bit of torture incl. some dead'ns and yes, I did notice, as did most'a the world, some said no US credibility - but we all knew that, 'specially in WD - and deplorable with it, yeah), theft and murder, more specifically lies leading directly to murder for oil), let alone have a 'fair' or 'decent' or 'honest' voting competition, i.e. election.

Mr 'know-nothing' Howard (kiddies (not!) in the wardah, SIEV-X (353 dead, incl. lots'a women and more kiddies, all drowned miserably in the cold, wet dark. Great work on the SOLAS, fellas - and lady, now gone to Health?), Mr 'liar' Howard (knew Iraq had WMDs, couldn't justify invading Iraq for regime-change), Mr 'honest-little-Johnny' Howard will win again - because the sheople don't listen, they're all watching their 5.1 channel surround-sound stereo augmented with a dirty great woofer (actually 'feel' the bombs exploding), DVD-driven wide-screen flat-panel TVs - and when not, probably have their heads up their bums - will all yawn, and vote against Labor every time, until Hell freezes over - or Labor pulls their own heads out'a their own arses - and gets the right policies for us, we the people - instead of pandering to the fat-to-the-point-of-obscene-cats, aka 'the big end of town'. Phew!

Fix the lies and lack of info first (and policies!), then torture might go away on its own.

Oh, yeah: an' stop the killing; NO WAR!

Alberto Moro interviewed.

John, Alberto Moro was formerly senior legal officer for the US Navy who fought an internal battle over torture and abuse. Here he is interviewed on BBC Newsnight.

"I think it was sanctioned, initially."

 

The truth about Abu Ghraib.

Phillip Adams has an excellent interview with Janis Karpinski, the former Commander in charge of rebuilding the civilian prison system in post-Saddam Iraq, including the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

Janis puts the blame for torture right back where it belongs - with the Bush administration.

John: Thanks for the

John: Thanks for the links. Of course the responsibility rests at the top. We all know that the military works on the basis of absolute control of soldiers to the 'you don't sneeze unless I say so' category.

Of course it is ludicrous to suggest that individual soldiers were responsible when nothing can happen in the military without the approval of superiors.

A core premise of the Nuremberg trials was that responsibility for the war crimes should go where it belonged .... to the top.

Hypocrisy has always been with us and never more so than now.

Ludicrous

Your authority please, for your comment that a core premise of the Nuremberg trials was that responsibility for the war crimes should go to the top?

Here's me thinking all these years that a core premise of the Nuremberg trials was that "I was just following orders" was no defense.

Clearly you know better. I must have misread those judgements.

invaded and occupied

Actually looking at what happened it could be more that the highlevel officers get a trial, the low just get machine gunned.I am looking now at a photo of the Auschwitz guards lined up against a long brick wall and apparently in the process of being gunned down by the liberators. It is interesting that Saddam is having a trial and so few of his off siders seem to be around in the public light. Where are his commanders, and those lower? Are they the unnamed in Abughraib, 8 thousand or so imprisoned isn't it? Where is their trial? Nameless for the machine gun.

No accountability for the victors warcrimes of course.

Yep, the scum at the top get trials,those following orders get shot. and if you don't follow orders in UK you have life imprisonment now (murder is only about 20yrs eh?). Crime of crimes what is happening to the "free world"? And, just as a reminder, it is only the victors who decide justice. What if we ever are not the victors? Or are invaded and occupied, karma.

the spoils of war.

cheers

The art of hair splitting

Geoff: I used the term 'core premise' on the basis that Nuremberg was very much about bringing the guilty to justice but the main focus was on the leaders, not the footsoldiers so to speak.

The leaders were held responsible. Those held accountable were at the very top of the military tree. In addition the argument 'I was only following orders' was given no credence.

The goal, if you like, was to bring the hierarchy to judgement at Nuremberg.

If a core premise, foundation, position from which to start, whatever you want to call it, was NOT that those in command should be held to account, then why was the focus so particularly put on those in charge?

It seems a logical assumption although perhaps the logic escapes you. But I am sure you will continue with the art of hair-splitting.

The real "Axis of Evil"

The world calls on the US to end torture.

See here.

 

“The United Nations (UN) committee against torture says the US should close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and any secret prisons abroad because they violate international law.

The 10 independent experts, who have examined the US record at home and abroad, are also urging the Bush Administration to "rescind any interrogation technique" that constitutes torture or cruel treatment.”

Howard has Australia marching in terrible company.

Roslyn Ross: "Yes, there

Roslyn Ross: "Yes, there is hatred of Israel and America but with good reason."

So, Roslyn. What is the "good reason" for Iran's hatred of Israel?

Roslyn Ross: "You believe Iran is a threat. I do not. You believe the US is not a threat, despite all evidence to the contrary. I do. You believe Israel is not a threat despite all evidence to the contrary. I do."

In what way is Israel a threat to Iran?

Iran does not conceal its ties with such terrorist organisations as Hamas, the PIJ and Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC. This, despite Iran not being an Arab nation and not sharing a border with Israel.

So, clearly Iran is a threat to Israel. But what has Israel done to Iran? Apart from "spreading Zionism" around "the world", that is?

Roslyn Ross: "Dangerous nuclear powers like North Korea and China are not threatened in this way. Why Iran?"

In what way is Iran being "threatened" that North Korea isn't?

Perhaps you would like to answer those questions for purposes of clarifying your stance?

 

Legalities of torture

I totally agree with the piece; start allowing torture in law and the floodgates will open even wider than they are now, when torture is "illegal".  I'm still shocked at how openly the possibility of using torture in "special cases" is discussed.

It's interesting to look at how the US has tried to weasel its way around the Convention Against Torture. There is the infamous memo from the Assistant Attorney-General, Jay S. Bybee, which said that torture is only

“extreme acts … where the pain is physical it must be of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injure such as death or organ failure.” 

That leaves a lot of room for acts that, to quote from the same memo, “though they might constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, fail to rise to the level of torture”.

White House Counsel Gonzales infamously advised the Bush Administration:

“the war on terrorism is a new kind of war … [that] renders obsolete the Geneva Convention’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint (my emphasis) some of its provisions.”

Welcome to the Brave New World.

The torture was real

In a previous post I linked to false confessions and now on the radio (Skid Row) I hear that there was real torture in US gaols.

Democracy Now

For nearly two decades a part of the city’s jails known as Area 2 was the epicenter for what has been described as the systematic torture of dozens of African-American males by Chicago police officers. In total, more than 135 people say they were subjected to abuse including having guns forced into their mouths, bags places over their heads, and electric shocks inflicted to their genitals. Four men have been released from death row after government investigators concluded torture led to their wrongful convictions.

Torture is wrong morally and practically. It does not produce the results that are claimed by its proponents.

Pigs

In support of Roslyn’s defence of pigs.

Late ‘40's early 50's our family farmed in the mountains in the bottom of the North Island. Wild pigs were a serious problem.

Dad brought a piglet the dogs caught home, to grow and fatten. It lived in a large pen in the woolshed. Although it became very tame, it would never eat while it could see anybody watching, I used to peer over a solid timber wall on one side of the pen. You can forget the idea that they are messy or gluttonous eaters!

It used one corner to defecate. It slept in another.

Over time we killed a great many wild pigs. I never saw a ‘dirty’, smelly or louse ridden pig.

If you ever do, blame the human who is keeping it in unsuitable conditions!

The legal Major

Webdiary's files on Angela Ryan's "legal Major" are at Did our government lie to us to protect America? and Was Australia complicit in U.S. war crimes at Abu Ghraib?. From the same time, and relevant to Australia's behaviour are Avoiding the Geneva Conventions: how Australia does the job and Our 'special responsibility' betrayed at Abu Ghraib.

There's also A primer on defence dissemblers' tall tales before today's try-on, about Rod Barton's recollection of his time in Iraq.

The lesson I draw from a brief look at those files is not on whether torture can sometimes be justified (it can't!) but that there isn't anyone we could trust to do it, even if it could be justified.

It's the old slippery slope argument. The hypotheticals are so tortured (pun intended) and Governments so undeserving of trust (as shown in the links above) that the slide would be very rapid.

Just look at what they do when torture is illegal.

The tragedy of false confessions

Although not about torture, this article by Ralph Nader in Common Dreams covers the risks of false confessions under duress.

There are enough injustices in our society without innocent people being convicted of heinous crimes. Yet, it turns out that happens with far greater frequency than we ever imagined. DNA testing, a relatively new phenomenon, has already exonerated 175 people convicted of crimes.

Then the more amazing part: one fifth of them had confessed to the crime! And when it comes to false confessions, this is only the tip of the iceberg. One study by two law professors documented 125 proven false confessions - these include people exonerated before or during trial. And these are only the cases we /know/ about.

You could imagine what nonsense could be confessed to under real torture. Further link: Truth about false confessions.

Thanks for the links Graeme

Graeme, thanks for the links.America also has a plea bargaining system which impacts on the stance a prisoner takes in regard to pleading guilty or innocent.

It's not surprising that there are high numbers of false confessions. Evidence also shows that people's memories about traumatic events are not reliable. One imagines being arrested and accused of a crime one did not commit is traumatic.

The human response is shock. In this State we are even more vulnerable than normal. What is real or what was real becomes harder to define. Also, in a state of psychological shock and emotional trauma people are inclined to do anything they can to end it... even admit to a crime they did not commit. It's a similar psychological response to that which has hostages bonding to their captors.

Few confessions are worth the paper on which they are written which is why the legal system was meant to establish guilt through evidence.

What moral bedrock?

I really must comment on the following quote from Roslyn’s essay, which illustrates the resounding hypocrisy of the British position on torture:

"In the words of Lord Nicholls, 'Torture is not acceptable. This is a bedrock moral principle in this country'."

Excuse me? At what point in time did the rejection of torture become a "bedrock moral principle" of British culture? For the record, Britain has practised torture as a tool of empire for as long as it’s had one; and has continued to use torture right up to the very recent past, and on its own citizens.

I wonder if our morally outraged Lord is aware that, in 1977, the European Court ruled that the interrogation procedures employed by his own government on Catholic/Republican prisoners in Northern Ireland, constituted ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading’ treatment, and were in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite this ruling, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, working under the supervision of the British Army, continued to use torture in NI throughout the following decade.

Euphemistically referred to as ‘interrogation in-depth’ or ‘highly coercive interrogation’ (HCI) – such procedures included keeping a prisoner’s head covered with an unventilated bag for long periods, stripping prisoners naked, forcing a prisoner to stand unsupported or against a wall for up to 40 hours at a time, placing a prisoner in close proximity to loud noise for up to a week, and forcing prisoners to run the gauntlet while being beaten. Another bizarre procedure was to take a blindfolded prisoner up in a helicopter and either threaten or pretend to throw them out.

Perhaps Lord Whatshisname needs to have another look at what other murky secrets are hidden away in his cultural bedrock.

Well said Jane

Seems to me we like pointing fingers at the same countries all the time.

Could anyone name any country where the history has no example of torture? Could anyone here say it is not happening in this country right now as I write.

Closing eyes to "acceptable" torture is what all countries do. If Australia captures an opposing soldier or fighter you cannot tell me torture is not used to gather information. We are actually a particpant in Iraq and our government has rubber stamped the activites at Guantanamo Bay. We are complicit even if we don't agree with our government today. Why? Because we have not prevented it happening.

Looking inside our country you only have to have visited a jail to know what goes on there and it ain't pleasant. Have any of you any  knowledge of what happens to aboriginals in custody in the NT and other States too. If it's not torture I don't know what qualifies.

Torture is unacceptable at all levels and in all situations but it's not reality. Violence is used by all countries against those that are either considered a threat or infringe laws of that country. No, not every case, every day, but only 1 incident that is not admittted and punished brands all as torturers.

The only difference between the countries that claim to never use torture is that the other countries just don't bother to deny it.

So go ahead and believe the high morals that all leaders claim to have. And if you're very good Santa will bring you presents this year.

A valid point

Jane, you make a valid point but it needs to be made in context. Lord Nicholls was not saying Britain has never been guilty of torture but that rejection of torture was a moral bedrock of that nation. Which it is. Which it is meant to be for us.

Certainly there are historical instances of torture carried out by Britain but it was never done on the basis of being a principle. It was done secretly and rightly condemned when made public.

I have no doubt that Lord Nicholls was perfectly aware of the instances of torture in British history, including Ireland, but his comment was made purely in the context of the principles by which the nation purports to live.

Sanctions for countries that use torture.

Amnesty International reports.

Evidence continues to emerge of widespread torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees held in US custody in Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Iraq and other locations. While the government continues to assert that abuses resulted for the most part from the actions of a few "aberrant" soldiers and lack of oversight, there is clear evidence that much of the ill-treatment has stemmed directly from officially sanctioned procedures and policies, including interrogation techniques approved by Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld for use in Guantánamo and later exported to Iraq.

The US is a signatory to the convention against torture.

“The Convention Against Torture” (see here) is the most important international human rights treaty that deals exclusively with torture. The Convention obligates countries who have signed the treaty to prohibit and prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in all circumstances. The Convention compels governments who ratified it to investigate all allegations of torture, to bring to justice the perpetrators, and to provide a remedy to victims of torture. The Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1984 and went into force in 1987. As of April 2006, 141 countries have ratified the Convention.

The coalition of the killing is accused of breaching the convention against torture. These allegations should be brought before the United Nations and sanctions against countries that use torture should be enforced.

How can the US, Great Britain and Australia play the role of the world’s policeman when they obviously flout international law?

Torture

Roslyn, I certainly don't condone the use of torture. I've been at Webdiary long enough to remember the first time this topic came around and I was appalled. I think the relative overall silence on Webdiary is something to be concerned about. I think Webdiary is very much going through a quiet time. If you look carefully at recent pieces the comments level is way down compared to what it was last year. I've noticed a slide in my own contributions - My first piece last year got over a 100 comments, without much trouble. Now I'm lucky to get 10. I do think it's important to look at quality, as well as quantity, however. I got a lot of passionate responses, yourself included, which makes me proud.

just a comparison

Solomon, thanks for your post. Things may be quiet on Webdiary but I am fairly new to it and was making a comparison over that time to issues which appear to be deemed important. I only responded because someone else commented on the fact.

tolerating torture

We are becoming more immune to these outrages and my theory is because, as in the cases of torture that have been revealed that were perpetuated by those we believe are our friends and allies, there is a human tendency to switch off because they simply believe they cannot do anything about it. There are many who believe that torture may well have been necessary - there is a dark spot in most people that is often repressed because they intellectually know it's wrong but can surface given the right timing and the style of presentation of these outrages. For instance a Melbourne university professor proclaiming torture is necessary, given his ridiculous set of highly unlikely circumstances worthy of a bad Hollywood film plot, works subtly to inplant an idea that he is indeed, correct. Multiply that a thousand times and the idea of torture as an utter evil is chipped away at.

It's become part of the very pace of today's style of living. If we cannot change something immediately it's put to the back of the mind. What it does mean that those who actively work to expose these issues and affect change have to work harder and become cleverer at affecting change. We always knew it wouldn't be easy.

Australians are Tortured!

Michael, I think you and others have missed the point. People did not initially react to this article because, as Australians, we live in a constant state of torture and therefore are tolerant of it when it occurs elsewhere.

I reckon that living under an elitism-based, right-wing, capitalist-loving, American arse-licking, greed-obsessed, wealth-worshiping, discriminatory Howard regime is severe torture indeed!

Speak for yourself, Daniel!

I don't feel the least bit tortured. In fact, I'm loving life like most Australians. Wake up and smell the roses mate!

Troughs and Roses

Syd asks, 'what's wrong with having your nose in the trough?' and Mike says, 'smell the roses.' Hard to smell the roses with your nose deep in putrid swill.

Pig sties I've seen, generally, are rather disgusting places. The pigs jostle and shove, the bigger crushing the smaller, each one trying to get their noses in deeper, to open their mouths wider, trying to get more of the swill than their neighbour. They gorge until they can't eat anymore.

People gorging at the trough of capitalism, like pigs, don't have the advantage of watching from behind the fence, seeing how disgusting the spectacle of human greed is. Also, because they can't see over the fence, they don't have the advantage of seeing what the long-term effect of greed is: global warming, social fragmentation, loss of humanity and caring, elitism, economic inequality, spiritual impoverishment, wars between nations, corruption, etc.

I thought humans were supposed to be on a higher plane than pigs.

Apparently not!

Pigs are intelligent

Daniel, pigs are in fact amongst the most intelligent of animals... more intelligent than dogs actually. And genetically very close to humans which is why consideration has been given to organ transplants from pigs.

And, interestingly, if they live in natural and humane conditions they are extremely clean. I suspect your exposure to pigs was not that.

Like human beings pigs respond badly to being illtreated. Much more so than sheep or cows do.

Pigs and Suicide Bombers.

Roslyn, I stand corrected. In the future I will look at the humble pig with new admiration and appreciation. Who knows, when humans fall off the evolutionary merry-go-round, pigs might become the top species, make Orwell's book Animal Farm, even more prescient.

You also said: Like human beings pigs respond badly to being illtreated. When next the Palestinians launch a suicide attack against their occupiers, perhaps some folk will be more understanding.

Indeed, Daniel

"When next the Palestinians launch a suicide attack against their neighbours," then perhaps people like you will be more understanding of their neighbours' response.

Mike: Only thing you

Mike, only thing you overlook is that when Palestinians launch an attack they do so as dispossessed, occupied and colonised people subjected to daily human rights abuses and war crimes. When the Israelis launch an attack they do so to maintain their brutal occupation and their colonisation plan which is turning Palestine into a series of concentration camps.

That means one lot, the victims, have a right to fight although one may not condone methods, and the other lot, the Israelis are the aggressors and have no right to fight or retaliate.

Roslyn, ask yourself these simple questions:

When did this occupation start? Under what circumstances? Read up on the history of the region and then read my post to Daniel again, with understanding this time.

colonisation of Palestine

Mike, I have read the history, in detail and I hold to my position that everything began with the wrongful dispossession of the Palestinians and the violent colonisation of their land to create the State of Israel.

It does not matter when the official occupation began because it only happened because the original wrong of dispossession and colonisation happened.

If the Palestinians had not been violently removed from their land to allow Jews to settle and create Israel there would be no occupation because the Palestinians would not have in turn attacked Israel. Ergo: the original wrong of colonisation is the problem. The conflict would not exist if it had not happened and perhaps, not even if it had not happened violently.

Israel was created by the use of terror. Hardly surprising that it lives in a State of terror. Sad that it still uses terror to expand its colonisation of Palestine. Appalling that the world allows it.

If there is any relevance to the topic of this forum then this represents torture on a grand scale. The State of Israel by the way, also sanctions torture against those it occupies and colonises.

Strange logic indeed!

Mike, just to make sure that I've got your meaning about the neighbour's response: if your next door neighbour was built like a brick shithouse and, following a dispute, he was sitting on top of you thumping your face as hard as he could and you retaliated and then he put his hands around your throat and began to throttle you, people looking on should understand that you deserved to be throttled for retaliating. Is that it?

Strange logic indeed. I'm glad pigs are intelligent!

Logic and pig troughs

Daniel, if your next door neighbor repeatedly attacked, hurled bombs at you and generally tried to annihilate you ever since you (legally, with UN sanction) moved in, and if you retaliated (including even occupying part of their side of the property boundary where they launched their attacks from), who in their right mind could possibly blame you??

Use your intelligence to figure this one out, Daniel. And get your snout out of that trough!

Mike: No State

Mike, no State established by the violent dispossession of others is legal let alone moral. The UN had no right to partition Palestine just as the Europeans had no right to divide up Africa or the English had no right to colonise Australia.

As a State founded in wrong Israel must admit to those wrongs and make redress.

By the way, the reason that the neighbour tried to annihiliate you was because you  drove them out or murdered them,  and demolished their villages. Would you like to name one country living under occupation which said sure, go for it guys, take as much as you want, kill as many as you want, it's all yours? Maybe Tibet but not even there. Nope, people who have their land taken away tend to fight. The winner either makes everyone a full citizen, which Israel as a racist state won't, or gives it back. Anyway, a subject for another forum. I am sure it has been discussed here before.

Roslyn, that applies to most states

Australia, for example, is a product of violent dispossession. Should Australia be driven into the sea? In the case of Israel, the history is quite a bit more complicated, and certainly far more complicated than your simplistic presentation. It is certainly not a "racist" state, with people of all races as citizens. And who are you to say the UN had no right to partition the British mandate of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states? You sound like George Bush in your dismissal of UN authority.

I was recently in Turkey, where I learned that thousands of Turks were forcibly expelled from their traditional homes on the various islands off the Anatolian coast (eg., Rhodes, Lesbos, Samos) after WWI, when Greeks took over and colonised those islands. Today, those islands are all part of Greece. Turks and Greeks get along quite well (except on Cyprus perhaps).

Mike: Yes, it does apply

Mike, yes, it does apply to most states and yes, Australia is a product of violent dispossession. That's why we have sought to provide justice to Aboriginals; why we have land rights; why we should and will eventually say sorry. We have admitted to this wrong even though none of us were actually around at the time.

 Israel, unfortunately, depending upon how you look at it, used violence to dispossess others in order to create its own state at a time when such actions were considered wrongful. Australia, the United States, South Africa and New Zealand fall into the same category. We all know that such dispossession has taken place throughout history, but, as the world entered more enlightened times it was no longer considered acceptable.

There is no point citing countless instances of dispossession such as the Turks as you do because we are talking about a historically recent coloniser. Tough luck, I know, but them's the breaks. The Jews are stuck in a way the Moslems were not, just because they dispossessed and colonised at a later date.

Perhaps it is divine punishment for the original dispossession and genocide against the Canaanites. But here is where we are at. In this day and age they are accountable. Australia with a couple of hundred years of history is accountable, the Americans with a hundred more than us are accountable, so why not Israel with just over half a century?

So, just like the other recent colonisers I have cited, Israel must admit to the wrongs inherent in its foundation and make redress. In addition, it must either end the occupation and return to original borders, paying compensation to the Palestinians for suffering and destruction, or, it must, as we have done, create one state where Palestinians have full and equal rights with Israelis.

Now, you and I know this will not happen because Israel is founded on discrimination.... and you are right, it is not strictly speaking racist because the discrimination is based on religion, not race, but if you look at the definitions of 'racism' it includes religious bias.

So, if Israel will not give full and equal citizenship then it must accept the first option... a viable state for the Palestinians.

And yes, the history is complicated but the facts are not.

Israel was founded by the dispossession of the Palestinians. It was founded in violence and out of that violence it has compounded the original wrongs with further wrongs of brutal occupation and an immoral, illegal and murderous colonisation programme which has created an apartheid state.

Israel refuses to act as Australia, the US, New Zealand and even South Africa have done. Why should it get away with this?

More to the point, Israel has become a pariah not because of the wrongs inherent in its foundation but because of the egregious human rights abuses, and at times war crimes, it has carried out and continues to carry out.

If Israel had not used the occupation to further its colonisation programme there is every chance that accommodation would have been reached and this bloody mess would have been avoided.

But, it did. Fact is, the plan to colonise all of Palestine has been there from the beginning.  That is historical record, backed up even more strongly by books published in recent years by historians, many of them Israeli. Israel is culpable because of this colonisation but even more culpable because of the way it has been carried out.

Israel is guilty of state sanctioned terrorism against the Palestinian people; it is guilty of war crimes; it is guilty of daily human rights abuses; it is guilty of contravening the Geneva Convention; it is guilty of collective punishment of a people it holds under occupation; it is guilty of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.... not just those shot and bombed but those who have died because of malnutrition, even starvation,  the lack of medical care, the lack of hope.

All of these reasons are what makes Israel morally bankrupt and which mitigate  to a great degree anything the Palestinians do and have done.

And before you cite what Arab nations have done, the other reason why Israel is held to account is because it claims to be a democracy; it claims to abide by civilized values; it claims to recongize the Geneva Convention...

Therefore, having set the bar so high, it is judged accordingly. It is judged not by its non-democratic neighbours but by the standards by which it claims to live; by the standards of other 'civilized' democracies and it is found utterly wanting.

The world at large accepts that Israel exists and should continue to exist. Much of the Arab world does too and so do many Palestinians who have been able to hold onto sanity despite their persecution.

What no-one accepts, except those who are without conscience, or who live in a state of denial, is an Israel which occupies, colonises, murders, destroys, imprisons, punishes and tortures at will in order to maintain an illegal and immoral occupation and colonisation.

I am not Israeli or Jewish (ancestors yes, who sensibly 'lapsed') but like many who are, I grieve for what Israel has become and for the loss not just of its moral foundation, but for its soul.

The people who are being destroyed by this conflict are the Israelis, not the Palestinians. The culture that is rotten to the core is Israel's, not Palestine's. Israelis and Jews of reason and conscience know this and some are brave enough to fight against the forces that drive Israel further into a moral, if not spiritual abyss.

Those who support Israel as occupier, coloniser and aggressor are ringing the bell of its destruction. A true friend of the State of Israel would help them to accept truth in order to create life, their own life, instead of helping them to live in a state of denial that can only ever lead to destruction and death.

If Israel is destroyed it will not be by Palestinians or Arabs but by its own dysfunction and the diet of denial ladelled  daily onto its plate by its 'supporters.'

Rosslyn, it WAS historically recent.

You wrote: "There is no point citing countless instances of dispossession such as the Turks as you do because we are talking about a historically recent coloniser."

The Turkey example IS a historically recent one, which is why I used it: Greece violently dispossessed tens of thousands of Turks in the 1920s from their traditional lands, yet today Greeks and Turks get along just fine. You certainly don't see Turkish suicide bombers going into Greek nightclubs and blowing everyone up in the expectation of getting blow jobs from 72 virgins in paradise. And the basic reason, I suspect, is the relative absence of religious fanaticism and tribal culture in Turkey compared to the tiny part of Jordan now occupied (for self-defensive reasons, following repeated attacks) by Israel.

Note that the PLO was established well before the "occupation" with the stated goal of destroying the state of Israel. If the "occupation" ceased, the attacks on Israel would continue or even escalate. Note also that it was the UN that dispossessed people by establishing Israel; so do you support suicide attacks against the UN? If not, why not?

Roslyn, Dux of the class!

Roslyn, your last post of two (10.50 pm) was the best I've ever read on Webdiary. Brilliant! I salute you.

The sad part is that people like the Americans and Israelis will continue with their craziness and, eventually, we will have the mother of all wars.

Thanks

Daniel, thanks. I do think the major problem is the lack of information made available to the general public combined with the efficiency of the censorship policy 'imposed' by Israel's supporters.

But, the issue is being talked about more than it was and in recent years a number of Israeli historians have been re-writing the history books, debunking the myths and lies of Israel's foundation and shining a light of truth on how Israel was founded.

I do believe that ultimately, even if it takes decades or centuries, the truth will out. It's just a pity that denial always walks hand in hand with death.

Daniel, pull your snout out of the trough!

Daniel, if you really think you're in a pig sty, I suggest you extricate yourself ASAP. If capitalism is the problem for you, I'm sure North Korea would accept you as a refugee from your miserable tortured existence in Australia. Maybe you will find people there living on a higher plane of existence, but I doubt it.

Mike, be serious!

Mike, in my last post as well as trying to inject a little humour I also made the following serious comment: ...seeing what the long-term effect of greed is: global warming, social fragmentation, loss of humanity and caring, elitism, economic inequality, spiritual impoverishment, wars between nations, corruption, etc. I should've added torture as well.

These are serious problems arising out of capitalism and greed. Why dismiss them and concentrate wholly on minor issues? Or do you simply enjoy gilding the lily?

PS. The lily, ironically, is associated with death.

Australians are tortured

Daniel Smythe, how can you possible equate living in Australia, even under a Howard government, with the torture going on in other parts of the world. I am sorry but your hatred of the other side of politics is affecting your judgement, and you should really take a big breath before you next put pen to paper.

are we involved?

Hi Syd, if our government was colluding in, assisting in, helping cover up and our own citizens or employees involved in torture would we as a country/nation/government need to consdier ourselves as involved to a degree?

Mike, it is nice not to be tortured. Two of our country fellows are claimed to be and one of our residents/ex gov employee/dual citizen is claimed to be signicantly invovled via CACI in Abughraib. One of our military is claimed to have known of it long before the scandal broke and to have told their Australian superiors, most would remeber the details better than I as I haven't read the file for a while. No, I think he was a legal Major from memory.

Are we really no such a satellite state that we have no outrage as to what is done in the collective name of the COW? Is everything OK as long as it isn't done in Sydney and we don't see and hear the screams on our TVs?

We, support and pay for the regimes that are clearly indicated in torture, we poltically, militarily and monetaraly back their actions. In a court of law to do such with criminal deeds is considered an accomplice.

To be an accomplice to torture, rape, murder and all that of boys and women also, is why we are shamed by this government.For us to not seek accounting shames us as well.

Cheers.

Hate is not allowed!

Syd, I might loathe, despise, abhor, be sickened by, scorn and find odious nearly everything that the Coalition and their current leader stand for, but I don't hate them. Secular Humanists don't hate, Syd. They're too nice!

Ever watched hungry pigs at a trough, Syd? That's how I see much of Australia now, thanks to The Grand Little Pig's influence.

Ever read Animal Farm, Syd? Beware the pigs! Oink, oink!

The trough

Daniel Smythe, what's wrong with having your snout in the trough. Everybody is doing it. Here in NSW the Labor Party are experts at it and it is going to cost the people millions, a contract for flagpoles was given to mates oink oink.

Jenny: It may be unsafe

Jenny, It may be unsafe to make assumptions but we do it all the time. I was struck, as was Peter, by the lack of response given past experience not just for things I have written but for other articles.

I am not saying I am right and I doubt that Peter was either, merely making an observation. If, as you say, people do care and did not comment because it was a given, one could also assume that if doubts are raised then people would be quick to respond to put them to rest. That assumption will surely be tested.

I appreciate the fact that you take the time to read what I have written and that it is thought provoking... that is the aim. But, again, my response, and it has only been expressed after someone else came to a similar conclusion, was based on regular readings of contributions and responses. Most articles get very quick responses. Almost all seem to get one or two pretty much straight away. This seems to be a given. Some articles seem to trigger a lot of responses and some only a few but all of them seem to get a couple very quickly. This did not happen in regard to the piece on torture which makes one suspect that the issue was not as straight forward as one might have thought.

Or perhaps you are right and it just made people think and they needed time to think. I certainly hope that is the case. I take your comments as a compliment because I think there is too little thought-provoking material in the media in general and I think one of the fantastic things about sites like Webdiary is that it makes it possible to publish things which have detail and depth.

No, I did not read the article on live animal trade. One of my problems is that I lead a fairly nomadic life and have periods when I do not access sites like Webdiary for a week or more, at which point, as you know, things have moved on.

I don't think you can personalise my silence in regard to it. Surely the point would have been whether or not your article was greeted with silence. Was it? If it was, and sorry, I have no way of knowing but am sure you do then I would have made similar assumptions that people did not really oppose the trade. By the way, how long did it take to get a response? Did you get many? Were they all in agreement? I am curious if only because I too am opposed to it.

I agree with you completely in regard to the barbarity of it but would not have thought it registered greatly with the majority of Australians... the majority of any people actually. That does not mean it is not a worthy cause. But you would know better than I just how it is viewed by the public in general.

By the way, I do think the suffering and death of some 300,000 sheep is shameful and stopping it is important but I actually believe that the suffering and death of human beings is more important. In the best of worlds nothing suffers unnecessarily but if I had to choose a public awareness and it was between opposing tortureor opposing the live sheep trade then it would be human suffering I would tackle first.

But at the same time I think you make a very good point about how acceptance of the suffering of animals predisposes us to acceptance of human suffering. Ghandi may well be right but that would also mean that India has made poor moral progress given the appalling treatment of animals in that country. Yes, cows are sacred but that merely means you cannot kill them ... what you can do though is hit them with sticks, allow them to starve, throw rocks at them or mistreat them in any way. This is the reality of life in India. If you want to move a cow sitting in the middle of the road you do so with a lump of wood. And then there is the appalling treatment of camels which die in their dozens during the hot, humid season because they simply cannot stand the climate. And then there are the dogs, again, starved, beaten and killed because they are not sacred.

I think, actually, on reflection, given the appalling inhumanity to 'man' which I witnessed in India that you are right: You can look at how people treat animals and know that it has an impact on how they treat human beings.

And I cannot agree that the torture of animals is as bad, if not worse than the torture of people. It is bad, certainly, but the torture of a human being is far worse. That is an accepted given in any civilized society.

In a truly civilized society no animal would be tortured either and the world has actually come a long way ... nowhere near far enough but a long way ... toward compassionate treatment of animals. Well, the developed world has.

As to the world being so full of violence and cruelty, well, the truth is that there is less violence and cruelty in the world than there was a hundred years ago. So many advances have been made in terms of educating and raising children, medicine, the treatment of the disabled and the mentally ill, yes, the treatment of animals and the care of the environment ... that more people have a greater chance of living with less violence and cruelty than they ever did.

History is the teacher in that instance. Read about life for children and women for instance in London in 1906, or New York, or Sydney or Paris ... life has improved for many people. There are far more checks and balances which make violence and cruelty less likely.

There is still much terrible suffering in this world and I do think we are going through a time where compassion is lacking but the world is still better,  in general, now, than it has ever been. Progress may be slow but it is progress.

You said: However, if that smiling Amrosi had murdered my mother, or my child I would probably have some difficulty objecting if someone told me he was going to be tortured.

A natural response I would have thought but a civilized person does not respond to the visceral eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. What makes us civilized is the use of reason to help us reach the best that we can be not the most base.

And what do you know of Amrosi? Do you know that psychologically some people smile when they are frightened? I am not saying he was but merely pointing out that you know little of him, of how he grew up, of what he has experienced, of how he has suffered, of what capacity for reason he has or does not have.

Would torturing a murderer make anything better? Would it bring back the dead? Of course not. It merely reduces you to the same level as the murderer and adds yet more violence and cruelty to a world which you already consider to be too cruel.

People are more damaged than evil and more frightened than cruel in my opinion. By all means, condemn the crime, punish those who have offended, but do so with justice and compassion and look to the causes of their behaviour to really bring about change.

Because, at the end of the day, torture exists because people want revenge; because people want to inflict pain; because people want to punish; because people want to feel powerful .... we are all, as you say, capable of condoning torture. That's the point.

Time is the essence...

Roslyn, I don't agree on everything you said but have to head north today, so will think about it a bit more. I think it is information overload as there are so many articles on Webdiary, all worthy of consideration, but very very time consuming!

Before I got onto Webdiary I was a nagging wife as nothing much got done while Ian blogged on day and night for three years until one morning he was literally in shock. I have never seen such a miserable sight. Margo had tossed in the towel. I had never even looked at the site in all that time and confess I secretly cheered as I thought, at last, life is back to normal. Too late for the painting the house. I had already called in contractors over his head. Just as well, for this guy Hamish suddenly appeared, and yours truly was off at it again. I gave up and said well, clearly you would rather blog than chop burrs on the north west plains, well that is OK. I surrender. We'll sell the farm up north and I will never nag at you again for blogging.

That was blackmail. He loves that place. So out came the hoe. I made the mistake of having a wee peek in his absence. Now the tables have really turned on him and he is doing the nagging. So forgive me, I dare not stay here another minute.

Oh yes, before I go, the live animal export article. I have not looked at it lately. Scroll down to bottom of home page, and go to page 2 or it may be 3 now in the list of previous articles. its called live animal exports in heavy seas again. Have a look at the first and last link I give. They are the most revealing.

Yes yes, dear! Stop nagging. I will do the washing up, and maybe you will plumb in that dishwasher that has sat there waiting for the past three years!!! See what I mean Roslyn.

time consuming

Jenny, it is time consuming. I think people pick and choose. No one reads everything and few have an interest in everything. I had a look at your piece, well done, and you got a reasonable response I would have thought.

It sounds as if you are very busy with a farm and a life to run. I know what that is like.

Some good points

Robyn, I think you raise some interesting points. I guess my assumption is based on the fact that there have been countless instances where Webdiary posters have 'affirmed' a position that one would have believed was a given. It is interesting that in this instance they do not.

People often write and say: Absolutely. Spot on. Needs to be said. Whatever. There is something in the deathly silence.

I guess I am not quite so confident as you are but then I am relatively new to the Webdiary.

Different sounds of silence

Roslyn, I think there are explanations for the silence this article has met other than the conclusion that, in private, Webdiarists condone torture. Some possibilities which occur to me are:

1) Your article is pretty comprehensive and most people agree with you, therefore they have nothing much to add. I think publication here of Mirko Bagaric's paper on the use of torture would see a quite different response.

2) Webdiary is going through a quiet patch in general.

3) People have come to expect overall progress on human rights and find it difficult to believe torture happens. A state of denial is more comfortable psychologically, especially denial that torture is perpetrated by modern Western democracies. The "few bad apples" theory means the problem is not serious enough to engage with personally.

4) People accept that torture happens but feel there is nothing they can do to stop it, so discussing it here seems pointless.

I am confident that most of Webdiary's regular contributors are strongly opposed to torture.

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