Remember when we were kids and all we had to worry about on a Saturday morning was getting up in time to see the cartoons? I loved watching Land of the Lost, Scooby Doo, and Loony Tunes. We had a huge psychedelic orange pillow in front of our 12″ inch black and white TV. My calico cat “Taco” (Yes even as a child I was politically incorrect) would sit next to me. She did not care about the cartoons, only the left over blue colored milk in my big bowl of Lucky Charms. I am sure the cereal was fortified with good stuff but Taco and I did not give a damn. She wanted the milk and I wanted those marshmallow symbols. Sometimes, I would pick the moon and stars out of the box without eating the cereal. Those were less stressful times indeed back when my cultural identity was tied to Cha-ka and Holly Marshall.
What did I learn from my past then? What am I learning from it now?
As I shake my head from daydreaming, I see that the bowl of Lucky Charms have turned into one of yogurt with wheatgerm. Taco is now a pedigreed Persian cat who would NEVER stoop to licking from a bowl that is not made of the finest bone china. The Saturday morning cartoon of choice today is FOX NEWS. Oh well at least a shred of the ritual is still intact…I am still learning stuff and eating healthy. There is still an emergency box of Lucky Charms in my cupboard.
Perhaps the biggest thing we all have learned from this past week is that the relationship between torture and its use as a means to protect our country is not that simple. Obviously, the big question of the week was…
“DO YOU CONSIDER WATERBOARDING AS TORTURE??? OR IS IT “ENHANCED INTERROGATION”?
Only after watching hours of media coverage and heated debates did I become aware that our conceptualization of torture is based on our political leanings. Now I get it. It seems that torture is now the victim of the semantics war- an ambiguous articulation which is manipulated by partisan structures. Is waterboarding torture? The answer is…it depends on who you are asking OR which TV network you are watching. Admittedly, it is a rather seductive argument and the media knows that all too well. Depending on who you listen to, torture entails multiple benefits or negative consequences. Torture can be seen as an abuse of power that is justified in order to protect our country; to diminish America’s feminine side, as caring and open; to prevent after 9/11 the view that we are a paper tiger- a country that is secretly weak. Torture is never tidy, humane or unproblematic but is it sometimes an abusive means to a safe country end?
Charles Krauthammer battles the beast in his Townhall.com column:
WASHINGTON – Torture is an impermissible evil. Except under two circumstances. The first is the ticking time bomb. An innocent’s life is at stake. The bad guy you have captured possesses information that could save this life. He refuses to divulge. In such a case, the choice is easy. Even John McCain, the most admirable and estimable torture opponent, says openly that in such circumstances, “You do what you have to do.” And then take the responsibility.
Some people, however, believe you never torture. Ever. They are akin to conscientious objectors who will never fight in any war under any circumstances, and for whom we correctly show respect by exempting from war duty. But we would never make one of them Centcom commander. Private principles are fine, but you don’t entrust such a person with the military decisions upon which hinges the safety of the nation. It is similarly imprudent to have a person who would abjure torture in all circumstances making national security decisions upon which depends the protection of 300 million countrymen.
The second exception to the no-torture rule is the extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives. This case lacks the black-and-white clarity of the ticking time bomb scenario. We know less about the length of the fuse or the nature of the next attack. But we do know the danger is great. We know we must act but have no idea where or how — and we can’t know that until we have information. Catch-22.
Under those circumstances, you do what you have to do. And that includes waterboarding.
Still ambiguous. No questions answered. I applaud Krauthammer for his attempt. Indeed torture is reflective and currently is a process that sets an agenda for retribution. The mainstream media derives its answer through its own liberal biased interpretation: It happened under the watch of the Bush administration. It will therefore be defined negatively rather than necessary: it will not be defined by reference to any life saving informational extraction or any properties of self preservation. By saying this, I am not admitting to agreement or disagreement with either side. I am experiencing mixed feelings on the issue. Don’t call me a sap. I am telling you the truth. It is not a conservative or liberal position for me. Etched in my memory are visions of medieval torture I would see in icunabula. I think it is open to interpretation and pragmatics and my cat is nudging me that she wants to be fed.
I will leave you with this video of Mad TV’s PUBLIC SCHOOL ROCK. Even cartoons have evolved with the times.
Autographed Letter Signed,