Rape and Torture

May 11, 2009
Andrew Sullivan, blogger for The Atlantic, has been relentless in advocating for the prosecution of government officials who sanctioned the torture of detainees during the previous administration, a position the Obama Administration has resisted.

Torture opponents seeking to defend human dignity cannot rest now that the Administration has ended the use of torture via executive order. In order to prevent a relapse by a future administration, we need to advocate for a truth commission or investigation that will bring the crimes to light. Torture supporters and apologists who want to prevent such investigations have devised extravagant thought experiments with ticking-time-bomb scenarios to castigate torture opponents. 

So, Sullivan concocts a thought experiment of his own:  

One way to look at how the Bush administration redefined torture out of existence, so that it could, er, torture human beings, is to compare their criteria for "enhanced interrogation" with those for rape. Raping someone need not leave any long-term physical scars; it certainly doesn't permanently impair any bodily organ; it has no uniquely graphic dimensions - the comic book pulling-fingernail scenarios the know-nothings in the Bush administration viewed as torture; and although it's cruel, it's hardly unusual. It happens all the time in regular prisons, although usually by other inmates as opposed to guards. It barely differs from the sexual abuse, forced nudity and psychological warfare inflicted on prisoners by Bush-Cheney in explicit terms.

Recall that smearing fake sexual blood on the faces of victims was regarded as brilliant interrogation by the Bushies in Gitmo - and its psychological effects were supposed to be heightened by Muslim sexual sensibilities. And male rape would be particularly effective in destroying male Muslim self-worth and psychological integrity. Rape almost perfectly fits, in other words, every criterion the Bush administration used to define "enhanced interrogation."

So ask yourself: if Abu Zubaydah had been raped 83 times, would we be talking about no legal consequences for his rapist - or the people who monitored and authorized the rape?

Claims that torture truth commissions or torture prosecutions should be avoided because we should look forward, not backward, value political expediency and comfort over justice. All
criminal prosecutions are about both looking backward, at the crimes allegedly committed, and forward, at the prevention of future crimes.

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