Torture

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Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves. ~ George Orwell
I was kept awake for many days straight. I was forced to remain in painful positions for hours at a time. These are things I do not want to write about; I want only to forget. ~ Lakhdar Boumediene
The American Medical Association and the Red Cross both condemn force-feeding as a form of torture. And yet, the U.S. government and the United Nations have both force-fed hunger-striking prisoners. The real problem? Most people probably don’t realize how complicated force-feeding is, and how much can go wrong. ~ Esther Inglis-Arkell

Torture is any act by which severe pain, whether physical or psychological, is intentionally inflicted on a person as a means of intimidation, a deterrent, revenge, a punishment, or as a method for the extraction of information or confessions.

Quotes[edit]

  • The American Medical Association and the Red Cross both condemn force-feeding as a form of torture. And yet, the U.S. government and the United Nations have both force-fed hunger-striking prisoners. The real problem? Most people probably don’t realize how complicated force-feeding is, and how much can go wrong.
  • If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.
    I would also want a God who would not allow a Hell. Infinite torture can only be a punishment for infinite evil, and I don't believe that infinite evil can be said to exist even in the case of Hitler. Besides, if most human governments are civilized enough to try to eliminate torture and outlaw cruel and unusual punishments, can we expect anything less of an all-merciful God?
    I feel that if there were an afterlife, punishment for evil would be reasonable and of a fixed term. And I feel that the longest and worst punishment should be reserved for those who slandered God by inventing Hell.
  • Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children. And if you don’t help us, who else in the world can help us do this?
    • Albert Camus, at the Dominican Monastery of Latour-Maubourg (1948); reported in Resistance, Rebellion and Death (translation by Justin O'Brien, 1961), p. 73.
  • Question: Films like Funny Games (2007 films) have a strong streak of sadism in them, with psychological as well as physical torture. For me, it’s one of quite a few ‘blow your brains out’ movies of the last eighteen months [Carpenter laughs]. Are we trying to rationalise and digest events in the middle-east?
John Carpenter: Yeah, that’s partially it. All the torture movies…well, you know where that came from. That’s not a mystery - look at the Abu Ghraib photos. ‘Oh yeah? Well we’ll get even with you’…Of course, it’s a big deal, it’s a part of our government now, torture. Please! So if they’re gonna do it, we can show it. It just became that. The war is grim; all war is grim.
  • Love the others and you will be loved!” is a saying that might sound as a terrible and unjust accusation against all the innocents that have been hated and perhaps even tortured and killed.
    • Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Simply Transcribed. Quotations from Writings by Fausto Cercignani, 2014, quote 58.
  • I want to make sure that if my government ever does this horrible, terrible, extraordinary thing, that somebody takes responsibility for it and that it be out there in the open and subject to accountability. … Though I understand the danger of legitimating something that should not be legitimated, on balance in a democracy, I prefer accountability.
  • Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God's name don't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you impure spirit!" 9Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many."
  • There are one or two rules of thumb which are useful in distinguishing sadism from exciting adventure in the comics. Threat of torture is harmless, but when the torture it’s self is shown it becomes sadism. When a lovely heroine is show bound to the stake, comics followers are sure that the rescue will arrive just in the nick of time. The readers wish is to see save the girl, not to see her suffer. A bound or chained person does not suffer even embarrassment in the comics, and the reader, therefore is not being taught to enjoy suffering.
    • William Moulton Marston as quoted in Olive Richard Bryne's, "Don't laugh at the comics", Family Circle, (Oct 25, 1940).
  • We will not torture... We will not torture people... It doesn't work, my friends. It doesn't work. If you inflict enough pain on somebody long enough, they're going to tell you whatever they think you want to hear to have it stopped... There are accomplished interrogators who can gain the confidence of the suspect and gain all the information that they could possibly want.
  • Stripped of its bizarre excesses, Cameron's experiments, building upon Donald O. Hebb's earlier breakthrough, laid the scientific foundation for the CIA's two-stage psychological torture method.
    • Alfred W. McCoy, as quoted by Klein, N., "The Shock Doctrine", p. 41, Metropolitan Books, New York, (2007)
  • Look, torture works on 24 and in movies because it has to. It’s a dramatic device to move the plot along, but ask terror experts and they’ll tell you it’s one of those movie tropes that’s got no basis in real life. Like a wedding being interrupted, or someone this handsome [Brad Pitt] feeling sad, or this character [Emma Stone in Aloha] being part-Asian. It works because it just says it does and we’re supposed to take it.
  • You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.
  • We are relieved that James Mitchell and John ‘Bruce’ Jessen abandoned their ill-advised effort to fight the lawsuit alleging that they were responsible for harming three men who were imprisoned and tortured in a secret CIA prison. However, this settlement in no way absolves them of responsibility for violating the ethics of their profession and leaving a stain on the discipline of psychology. We hope that the settling of this case gives some solace to the three plaintiffs and others who endured similar treatment.
  • The Porto Ricans (sic) are the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever to inhabit this sphere… I have done my best to further the process of extermination by killing off eight and transplanting cancer into several more… All physicians take delight in the abuse and torture of the unfortunate subjects.
    • Cornelius Rhoads as quoted by Truman R. Clark. Puerto Rico and the United States, 1917-1933, (1975), pp. 151-154.
  • I mentioned to one of the gaolers my sense of this hardship, as an obstinate guilty person might deny the truth, whilst an innocent one, less courageous, might very readily, to relieve himself from such a state of misery, make a false confession. His answer was laconic: "Lago confess" … "They soon confess."
  • Torture is senseless violence, born in fear... torture costs human lives but does not save them. We would almost be too lucky if these crimes were the work of savages: the truth is that torture makes torturers.
  • The one thing we know about torture is that it was never designed in the first place to get at the actual truth of anything; it was designed in the darkest days of human history to produce false confessions in order to annihilate political and religious dissidents. And that is how it always works: it gets confessions regardless of their accuracy.
  • But torture gives false information. And the worst scenarios that tortured detainees coughed up - many of them completely innocent, remember - may well have come to fuel US national security policy. And of course they also fueled more torture. Because once you hear of the existential plots confessed by one tortured prisoner, you need to torture more prisoners to get at the real truth. We do not know what actual intelligence they were getting, and Cheney has ensured that we will never know. But it is perfectly conceivable that the torture regime - combined with panic and paranoia - created an imaginationland of untruth and half-truth that has guided US policy for this entire war. It may well have led to the president being informed of any number of plots that never existed, and any number of threats that are pure imagination. And once torture has entered the system, you can never find out the real truth. You are lost in a vortex of lies and fears. In this vortex, the actual threats that we face may well be overlooked or ignored, as we chase false leads and pursue non-existent WMDs.
  • Particularly where it is associated with the more prosperous countries, or those that see themselves as bringers of civilization, torture may wear a humane, almost kindly face. It goes under euphemisms such as 'pressure', 'shock', 'stress' and 'duress'; and the perpetrators themselves will see a distinction between what they do and what they consider to be torture. However, this is as vicious a form of torture as any: it can leave people mentally and physically disabled—indeed, the practitioners acknowledge the potential to render people psychotic, in hours or days.
    The victim is typically subjected to physical punishments that do not leave obvious scars, and this means that, should the case ever come under legal scrutiny, physical evidence of torture may be lacking. However, many ways of causing extreme pain remain possible. The subject will be tightly handcuffed and restrained, often in a way that damages nerves and muscles; he may be suspended in painful postures, or forced to assume them himself, with damage to muscles and joints; he may be subjected to electric shocks. Typically, he will be kept in a small, dark, bedless cell, with inadequate food and variable toilet facilities, so that his own filth stains the floor and dampens his clothes. He may be exposed to extreme heat or cold, and perhaps forced to stare at the sun. Beatings with rifle butts and kicking with military boots can cause lasting damage; lashing on the soles of the feet can make walking painful for years. A doctor may well be present, persuading the prisoner that he is in the wrong and that all he must do is recant. The doctor may even provide medication—as a symbol of civilization, or to keep the patient alive (deaths in custody can be inconvenient), or to cause pain or disability.
  • How can people do this to one another? In society, few people are actively sadistic or psychopathic. To impose one's will on another, particularly with brutality, is possible only if one views oneself as wiser or more valuable; and this notion is fostered by creeds that exalt certain groups and denigrate others. People torture in the name of ideals that, in their culture, would be held to be unassailable—democracy, freedom, Islam. What counts is the label, not the reality of these doctrines. Milgram demonstrated the power of labels when, in his experiment, men in white coats persuaded volunteers to deliver what they thought were lethal electric shocks to screaming individuals (who were acting the part). The quiet priestly authority of 'progress' outweighed the volunteers' own consciences.
  • Human beings, regrettably, are easily conditioned to the notion that other sorts of people are different, inferior, intrinsically dangerous. Education is no protection against such conditioning—indeed, the leaders and propagators of political violence are commonly from among the well educated. But an intrinsic feeling of superiority, or necessity, is not enough: the torturer must be placed in an appropriate role. Zimbardo demonstrated the importance of this when he placed students in a mock jail, some as prisoners, others as guards. Within a few days the experiment had to be stopped, such was the treatment meted out to the prisoners by the guards. The torturer may see himself as a defender of humanity, when all the while his conduct is dominated by brutality and corruption. In areas where torture is well established, people are swept up off the streets on a suspicion or a word; bribery secures release, and maladministration results in detention or even execution of the innocent.

In fiction[edit]

  • Jason Todd: Ignoring what he's done in the past. Blindly, stupidly disregarding the entire graveyards he's filled, the thousands who have suffered, the friends he's crippled. You know, I thought... I thought I'd be the last person you'd ever let him hurt. If it had been you that he beat to a bloody pulp, if he had taken you from this world, I would've done nothing but search the planet for this pathetic pile of evil, death-worshiping garbage and then send him off to hell!
Batman: You don't understand. I don't think you've ever understood.
Jason Todd: What? What, your moral code just won't allow for that? It's too hard to cross that line?
Batman: No! God Almighty, no! It'd be too damned easy. All I've ever wanted to do is kill him. A day doesn't go by when I don't think about subjecting him to every horrendous torture he's dealt out to others and then... end him.

External links[edit]

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