Torture and the Meaning of Words
The Smoking Gun describes the instructions contained in an al-Qaeda torture manual found by US troops in a raid on a safe house in Iraq. (Warning graphic drawings)
In a recent raid on an al-Qaeda safe house in Iraq, U.S. military officials recovered an assortment of crude drawings depicting torture methods like "blowtorch to the skin" and "eye removal." Along with the images, which you'll find on the following pages, soldiers seized various torture implements, like meat cleavers, whips, and wire cutters.
What? No humiliating body searches by women or the disrepectful handling of Korans?
The problem with the fake is that it is always shown up by the arrival of the Real Thing. The difference between the two is often so manifest that it seems ridiculous to think that anyone could have been fooled -- even momentarily -- by the counterfeit.
The problem with the word "torture" is that it has been so artfully corrupted by some commentators that we now find ourselves at a loss to describe the kinds of activities that the al-Qaeda interrogation manual graphically recommends. Now that the term "torture" has been put in one-to-one correspondence with such admittedly unpleasant activities as punching, sleep deprivation, a handkerchief pulled over one's face and loaded with water, searches by women upon sensitive Islamic men or the disrespectful handling of Korans -- what on earth do we call gouging people's eyes out?
Answer: we call it nothing. My fearless prediction is that not a single human rights organization will seriously take the matter up. There will be no demonstrations against these barbaric practices, often inflicted upon Muslims by other Muslims, in any of the capitals of the world. Not a single committee in the United Nations will be convened nor will any functionary in the European Union lose so much as a night's sleep over it. The word for these activities -- whatever we choose to call it -- will not be spoken.
Harry's Place notices that groups -- like the International Solidarity Movment or RESPECT -- which claim to be concerned about the welfare of Palestinians don't even acknowledge the deaths of 200 Palestinians in recent internecine warfare in Gaza. "It is as if these Palestinians have not died at all, or that their deaths are simply unimportant and not worthy of note." And the indifference, the quiet that you hear is a very special sort of silence. It is not the reserve of diplomacy, nor the reticience of wisdom. It is the emptiness of a slaughterhouse. The palpable peace of problems we have left to solve themselves. That's the kind of intellectual silence that it is. The silence of the lambs.
Hannibal Lecter: Then something woke you, didn't it? Was it a dream? What was it?
Clarice Starling: I heard a strange noise.
Hannibal Lecter: What was it?
Clarice Starling: It was... screaming. Some kind of screaming, like a child's voice.
Hannibal Lecter: What did you do?
Clarice Starling: I went downstairs, outside. I crept up into the barn. I was so scared to look inside, but I had to.
Hannibal Lecter: And what did you see, Clarice? What did you see?
Clarice Starling: Lambs. The lambs were screaming.
Hannibal Lecter: They were slaughtering the spring lambs?
Clarice Starling: And they were screaming.
Hannibal Lecter: And you ran away?
Clarice Starling: No. First I tried to free them. I... I opened the gate to their pen, but they wouldn't run. They just stood there, confused. They wouldn't run.
Hannibal Lecter: But you could and you did, didn't you?
Clarice Starling: Yes. I took one lamb, and I ran away as fast as I could.
Hannibal Lecter: Where were you going, Clarice?
Clarice Starling: I don't know. I didn't have any food, any water and it was very cold, very cold. I thought, I thought if I could save just one, but... he was so heavy. So heavy. I didn't get more than a few miles when the sheriff's car picked me up. The rancher was so angry he sent me to live at the Lutheran orphanage in Bozeman. I never saw the ranch again.
Hannibal Lecter: What became of your lamb, Clarice?
Clarice Starling: They killed him.
Hannibal Lecter: Well, Clarice - have the lambs stopped screaming?