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Discussion Question: Why This Desire to Torture, Anyway?

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It seems widely agreed that torture --besides being immoral-- is a terrible tool if what one wants is to obtain good information. The U.S. military so determined not many years back, as I recall. And just the past week or two, we've heard the story of the Canadian citizen, rendered to torturers in Syria, who "confessed" under the pressure of torture, to having trained as a terrorist in Afghanistan, whereas it turns out that in fact he'd never even been in that country.

So if it yields no good information, how are we to understand the insistence of the Bush administration on its having the right to engage in it as part of its "war on terror"?

Before opening the question for your thoughts, let me lay out a few possibilities for consideration.

1) The Bushites somehow do not believe that it doesn't work.

2) The Bushites are so deeply possessed by their lust for power that they are drawn to torture for the sadistic jollies they get from exercizing such utter power over other human beings.

3) The Bushites think it strengthens them politically for the president to posture as the guy who will do anything --WHATEVER IT TAKES-- to protect the American people from the bad guys.

4) The Bushites have a strategy for achieving unchecked power, and that strategy involves attacking any taboo that they think they can knock down, with the belief that as limits to power such as (even) the ban on torture are eliminated, then the possibility of them being limited by anything else is greatly diminished. (I once heard it said that the reason the Bushites are so keen on drilling at Anwar is that they believed that if they could beat the environmentalists on that pristine ground, the environmental barriers to their plunder would be weakened across the board.)

Those are some possible lines of explanation.

What do you think explains the push for torture? And what is the evidence that supports that explanation?
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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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