DERBYSHIRE ON TORTURE

I’m glad NRO’s curmudgeon just linked to an old piece of his on torture. That it was written in November 2001, at the height of our post-9/11 fears, speaks a great deal about the integrity of the argument. Torture, of course, is not restricted to cliches about finger-nails or electrodes. Derbyshire writes of one of the techniques deployed by Communist China:

Ian Buruma gives some similar pen-portraits in his new book about Chinese dissidents. Chia Thye Poh, for example, was kept in solitary confinement for twenty-six years by the Singapore authorities for having resigned his seat in parliament to protest the policies of Lee Kuan Yew. In their attempts to get him to sign a confession that he was a Communist, which he wasn’t, Chia’s jailers inflicted on him such peculiarly modern tortures as forcing him to stand naked in a freezing room with the air-conditioning going full blast, and piping loud Muzak into his cell day and night. Chia never cracked. Why not? asked Buruma, at a meeting with Chia. “He was much too polite to say so, but it was clear my question had baffled him. I wished I hadn’t asked. ‘How could I have signed?’ he said, very softly. ‘It wasn’t true.'”

Those techniques – of freezing or heating detainees into despair or pain or psychological collapse – have now become part of the U.S. government’s armory. This must end. We can win this war without destroying the very civilization we are fighting for. We can win without losing our soul. Any other kind of victory is a euphemism for defeat.

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