Notes From Babel

I Can Deal With Some Psychic Pain

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Jason Kuznicki has this post over at Positive Liberty, on the subject of sleep deprivation as torture.  I posted the below in the comments:

On a similar note, I wonder what others, particularly those who are convinced that waterboarding absolutely is torture, would think about keeping a claustrophobic person in close quarters, or an agoraphobic person in open spaces, or other sorts of “Room 101” scenarios.  The idea is, if we try hard enough, we can find reason to sympathize with any recipient of an interrogation method.  One would hope that a suspect would “crack” under moral compunction, or the threat of life-long prison, or even death.  But the suspicion is that these are the sort of people who have been systematically stripped of all the usual pressure points common of the rest of humanity, and physical pain is the only  currency in which we can deal.  Of course, this is a thoroughly unsavory position to be in, but it is the particular job of our military and executive policy makers to deal with it.  Whatever physical pain is the least objectively reprehensible, the better.  But no course is going to make anyone comfortable.

I always  thought waterboarding was pretty tough to get up in arms about–quite a few steps advanced of the rack and all.  But if so many are convinced that it is torture, and that torture is torture is torture without any degrees of equivocation, then what about putting an obsessive compulsive in a cell with an odd number of bars?  Is the idea of imposing any level of psychic or physical pain tolerable for their ilk?

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Written by Tim Kowal

August 25, 2009 at 11:09 pm

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