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State-Sanctioned Torture: A Clear Road to Tyranny

Finding the correct solution to a problem is often not so much a matter of stating an answer as it is a matter of asking the right questions.

waterboardingOn the issue of state-sanctioned torture, the real question isn’t whether waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques constitute torture; it’s whether the state should be allowed to exercise such powers in the first place.

Historically, those governments that have been allowed to exercise the power to torture certain unpopular segments of their society have eventually rationalized the expansion of their use of torture to include virtually every segment of their societies.

Once out of the bottle, the genie of abusive state power is notoriously difficult to contain.

Even when such activities are performed under the color of law or cloaked in euphemistic legalese, institutionalized abuse at the hands of government agents is a sure recipe for corrupting those agencies and personnel who do the dirty work.

This is especially true when the state offers immunity from prosecution to those responsible for putting such techniques into practice.

No one who has read Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago would be tempted to dismiss the use of sleep deprivation, stress positions and extremes of cold and heat as mere “hazing” or “softening up” of suspected wrong-doers.

Such methods were clearly favored torture techniques of a regime where ruthlessness reigned.

It was the Nazis who first used the language of “enhanced interrogation” to describe their preferred means of making people talk.

Japanese captors who waterboarded Lt. Chase Nielsen in WWII were rightly prosecuted following the war for torturing the B-25 navigator in an effort to get useful information from him.

How ironic that today we have no apparent shortage of those who, lacking any historical perspective, would excuse identical behavior on the part of our own government.

The pitiful, blustery justifications offered by various torture apologists in the media invariably include the hypothetical “ticking bomb” scenario in which thousands of lives might be saved if only the authorities can get the information out of the bad guy by whatever means necessary.

It’s noteworthy that proponents of torture lack a single documented case in which this has actually occurred.

Even the highly-touted case of Khalid Sheik Muhammad’s waterboard-inspired “confession” of an impending 9/11-style attack on L.A. turned out to have been sweated out of him nearly a year after the plot had already been foiled.

Talk radio parrots endlessly squawk about how refusal to engage in torture is a sign of weakness and will end up costing American lives.

But their argument is built upon a false dilemma that equates refusal to abandon moral and ethical principles with open appeasement of one’s enemies.

They fail to recognize that the very same restraints that proscribe state-sponsored torture of political undesirables serve to protect our own inalienable rights from being arbitrarily abused in the name of national security.

Liberty’s days are surely numbered when a society’s hatred and fear of their enemies proves to be stronger than their love of freedom.

Photo Credit: isa e


bryanhyde1Bryan Hyde is a radio host, husband, father, graduate student at George Wythe University, and seeker of truth. He does professional voice work through his company One Clear Voice.

Bryan blogs at The White Rose Society and writes firearm reviews for The Truth About Guns. He and his wife Becky are raising their six children in Cedar City, Utah.

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  1. […] Does the expansion of government at every level continue to intrude further into our personal lives even as our liberties diminish in the name of security? […]

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