Thursday, April 21, 2005 at 10:54 AM
Last week, lawyers for six prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), Cuba filed yet another lawsuit against the US government alleging more incidents of torture and abuse. Of course, this case will only fuel the hysteria surrounding government efforts to prevent another terrorist attack on America.
Many Americans seem unaware that torture and police brutality feature prominently in the annals of law and order in this country. Indeed, their frequent use by government agents gave rise to the expedient pathologies of plausible deniability and the thin blue line of silence. But, where torture is almost always justified, police brutality can never be.
Informed Americans were not at all surprised (and many not even dismayed) by reports of torture at the Guantanamo and Abu Gharib prison camps. After all, torture as a tool of interrogation has a tradition which stems back to the prisoner of war camps at Andersonville and Fort Delaware during the American Civil War (and beyond). And, the only thing that has changed over the years is that technology and media saturation have increasingly exposed these tactics to an increasingly politically correct public.
Indeed, political correctness, moral relativism and cowardice have driven political leaders to absurd extremes to ensure plausible deniability even when torture is absolutely justified. (President Bush’s preferred ruse is rendition which usually involves deporting terror suspects to be interrogated in friendly “rogue” states like Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia where concerns about torture are not so quaint.)
But for those who think justified torture is an oxymoronic notion, consider the following scenario:
Reliable intelligence indicates that an admitted terrorist (like Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh) has critical information about a plot to detonate a nuclear bomb in New York City and FBI agents want to use any means necessary to get it out of him.
Now, what if that terrorist retains counsel who throws a battery of due process obstacles in the way of the FBI’s interrogation? Should agents play out the legal process – which could take years? Should they seek authorization to bypass legal procedures in the interest of national security – which could take hours, if not days pleading up the chain-of-command? But what if time is of the essence – 15 minutes to detonation – and advisers to the Commander-in-Chief insist they need at least 30 minutes to figure out the (politically) correct thing to do?
Would torture be justified in this case to extract that information? Too unrealistic?
What if FBI agents detain a criminal suspect who they believe has knowledge about plans for a suicide bomber to blow himself up at peak shopping hours in the Mall of America? Now, what if the agents don’t know whether that bomber will blow in 15 minutes or 15 days?
Would torture be justified in this case?
I submit that in both cases public safety demands decisive action. And, the private rights of that terror suspect must give way to any tactic that might prevent these imminent (or potential) disasters – even if it results in torturing him to death. Thankfully, human nature is such that only the most rabid virgin-craving zealots would welcome death by torture instead of coughing up information to save lives. And, alas, most terrorists (like Osama bin Landen himself) have no craving for celestial virgins. Mpreover, I think our collective conscience can live with those odds….
Let me hasten to concede, however, that not all detainees at Guantanamo and Abu Gharib were (are) suspected of possessing such critical terror intelligence. Indeed, it may be that the plaintiffs in this case have legitimate claims. If so, they should be compensated.
But when corroborating evidence indicates to a reasonable degree of certainty that a detainee has critical information that could prevent the loss of innocent lives, the government should not hesitate to use (and should not deny using) any means necessary to get that information.
Inexcusable Police Brutality!
On the other hand, police brutality – which often occurs not to prevent crimes but in retaliation against criminal suspects – is never justified! Take the case of Esteban Corpio:
Last week, Corpio was arrested for allegedly stabbing an elderly woman. As he was being interrogated, he somehow managed to disarm the detective and killed him with two shots to the chest. He then attempted to escape by jumping through a glass window and falling 3-stories down to the ground (providing for the police a fortuitous explanation for ALL of his injuries). But he was soon caught and, “after resisting arrest”, taken back into custody – this time for dead serious interrogation.
Now, there are no pictures of Corpio at the point of his capture. But the pictures above and below show what he looked like hours later at his arraignment in court. (Of course, incidents of police brutality are rarely caught on camera – the notorious Rodney King episode being one of them.).
Nevertheless, it does not take a forensic pathologist to figure out that fellow officers of that murdered detective took out their anger, frustration and embarrassment on Corpio. And, such police brutality is utterly unjustified!
(Indeed, just imagine how angry, frustrated and even embarrassed police in Atlanta were a few weeks ago when Brian Nichols disarmed one of their fellow law enforcement officers and then murdered four of them including a Judge.)
No public or law enforcement interest was served or even intended by beating this criminal suspect beyond recognition. And, it could only have been motivated by unadulterated vengeance and other such perverse emotions. But the police who inflicted this punishment are now no more than common vigilantes who should be criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!
What do you think?
Corpio’s close up: Looks like a screen test for the role of Hannibal Lecter’s adopted son…