Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Lost: One Moral Compass

The Wall Street Journal demonstrates American moral superiority by making fun of torture victims:
The Washington Post, meanwhile, quotes a former prisoner who says the exercise routine was too demanding and the music was unpleasant:

"The black sack the troops placed over his head was removed only briefly during the next nine days of interrogation, conducted by U.S. officials in civilian and military clothes, he said. He was forced to do knee bends until he collapsed, he recalled, and black marks still ring his wrists from the pinch of plastic handcuffs. Rest was made impossible by loudspeakers blaring, over and over, the Beastie Boys' rap anthem, 'No Sleep Till Brooklyn.' "

That some ex-prisoners are bellyaching about trivia does not, of course, mean that all was well in Abu Ghraib. [...] Enemy propaganda notwithstanding, this underscores the fundamental difference between America and totalitarian regimes like Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Evil is part of human nature, and Americans are as susceptible to it as anyone else. But in a civilized country like ours, the state uses its power to prevent and punish brutality.
"The exercise routine was too demanding and the music was unpleasant." You could trivialize anything that way, I guess. Attack dogs set on prisoners? "Apparently they weren't animal lovers." Sodomization with objects? "In the U.S., gay activists consider that a civil right." Sensory deprivation in solitary confinement? "I guess the decor wasn't to their liking." Imagine how the Wall Street Journal might characterize the Bataan Death March, had it been carried out by Americans: "Some prisoners complained that the hiking pace was too strenuous and the rest periods too short."

"The music was unpleasant." Sleep deprivation is a common and well-documented method of torture. It causes harmful hormonal, endocrine, and immunological changes to the body, profound mood changes, and eventually, psychosis. The U.S. State Department views sleep deprivation as torture, when other countries do it. According to warblogging.com, the U.N. considers sleep deprivation to be torture if it's done on purpose (as opposed to being a side effect of a long interrogation). Here are the words of a man who was tortured with sleep deprivation in a South African prison:
"I was kept without sleep for a week in all. I can remember the details of the experience, although it took place 35 years ago. After two nights without sleep, the hallucinations start, and after three nights, people are having dreams while fairly awake, which is a form of psychosis.

"By the week's end, people lose their orientation in place and time - the people you're speaking to become people from your past; a window might become a view of the sea seen in your younger days. To deprive someone of sleep is to tamper with their equilibrium and their sanity."
The WSJ, I guess, wants us to believe that our national moral outrage at the atrocities committed in Abu Ghraib proves that we're better people than Arabs are. And maybe that would be a compelling argument if they'd shown any outrage themselves. Mocking people who may have suffered permanent psychological damage doesn't exactly put you on the moral high ground.