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Commentary Last Updated: Sep 27th, 2006 - 00:54:25

The "Department of Information Retrieval"
By Kerry Tomasi
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 27, 2006, 00:52

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So now it comes to this.

I guess it wasn't enough to just arrest and imprison suspects indefinitely without trial. The president now wants the legal authority to torture them.

That's not what they're going to call it, of course. They're going to redefine it as "coercive interrogations" or something like that. But make no mistake, it's torture.

For those of you who doubt that it is, who buy into this semantic ploy, I guarantee that if you were to witness one of these procedures -- especially done to someone you knew personally -- you would be overwhelmed with outrage (well most of you would, not sure about that 35 percent 'Bush Base'). There would be no doubt in your mind what you were witnessing.

The odd thing about all this is that torture doesn't even work. It's been proven repeatedly to be the least reliable means of interrogation. Least reliable, that is, if your goal is to obtain truthful information. If not, if you're just looking for details that will fit a preconceived notion, or if a simple confession is the objective, then torture does work quite well. People can be tortured into confessing just about anything -- from having changed into a horse and galloped across the sky, to eating babies and copulating with demons. They can also be tortured into admitting having been to an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.

This 'training camp' confession was made in 2002 by Canadian Maher Arar while being held for over a year in a Syrian prison. In Sept of that year, Arar was detained by US authorities at JFK Airport, accused of being a suspected terrorist, then transferred to Syria to be tortured into confession. Problem is, he had never been to Afghanistan, had no connection to al Qaeda, and has since been completely absolved of any wrongdoing. That absolution, unfortunately, can do nothing to restore his shattered life. But hey . . . so what? He had a funny sounding name didn't he?

So how did an innocent businessman become a suspected terrorist in the first place? Turns out another Canadian (since proven innocent) had been tortured a few months earlier into making a false confession as well. When pressured to list his Syrian accomplishes in Canada, he named Arar. Now if only they could have gotten Arar into naming names (and they may have), this thing could have very well gone on indefinitely! We'd be nabbing "terrorists" left and right! Sadly, with thousands of 'suspects' all over the world being tortured this very minute, odds are it probably will go on indefinitely.

No, torture doesn't work, never has, and never will.

So then why is Bush & Co so adamant about being able to do it?

It's pretty simple really. They want to show you and me, and the rest of the world, that they can. Oh, they probably want to avoid being hit with a future war crimes charge as well, but the main reason is to show that they can.

This is just one more of those little steps on that path toward an authoritarian government. If they can openly demand the authority to torture whomever they want at will, and receive that authority from the American people, then they know they're just about home free. If we the people can be driven to accept the torture of suspected (i.e., yet to be proven guilty of any crime) terrorists or 'enemy combatants,' then what won't we accept? Could the torture of suspected murderers, kidnappers, and tax cheats be far behind?

When a democratic society embraces the principle of torture, for any purpose, that society is finished as a democratic republic.

I recently watched the1985 movie Brazil, in which director Terry Gilliam depicts a horrifying Orwellian vision of the future, but in his trademark semi-humorous over-the-top manner. In the movie the society is beset by mysterious and amorphous "terrorists." To deal with the 'terrorist threat', the government has employed extraordinary measures to keep the people "safe."

At the beginning of the film, due to a keystroke error, the name of a suspected terrorist "Tuttle" comes out as "Buttle". Shortly thereafter, as Buttle is enjoying Christmas Eve with his wife and children in his living room, the authorities burst in (again in typical Gilliam fashion) seize Buttle, and haul him off to be "interrogated" at the Department of Information Retrieval. He is then tortured to death (as most suspects are), and his wife receives a bill for his arrest and interrogation.

Twenty years ago, 10 years ago, even six years ago, this horrific scenario was complete and utter fantasy, unimaginable here in the US, regardless of any internal or external threat we faced.

Today, it is very close to becoming a reality. Practically everything that happened to the fictitious Buttle in the movie Brazil could theoretically happen to anyone in this country if the Bush administration and its GOP enablers get their way.

What in the world has happened to us?

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