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Torture: A modest (satirical) proposal

Advice to readers: Read all the way to the end!

I have expended a lot of energy condemning torture. Not because of the efficacy argument (it doesn’t work), but because of the morality (it’s obscenely dehumanizing to everyone involved). I painted a portrait of the CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou – still the only high level person imprisoned over U.S. torture policy and he was the one who exposed it. Kiriakou said:

John Kiriakou Awtt Portrait

“Even if torture works, it cannot be tolerated – not in one case or a thousand or a million. If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sorts of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable. I may have found myself on the wrong side of government on torture. But I’m on the right side of history. . . . There are things we should not do, even in the name of national security. One of them, I now firmly believe, is torture.”

But what if Kiriakou was only half right? What if the problem is that the wrong people have been tortured with the wrong intent? Maybe it’s time to frame the argument differently. Maybe torture should be done to people who affect the security of this country and the world in an undeniable way. But if I were Dick Cheney, who would I decide to torture? Well, the only issue that really rises to that level of alarm, that truly threatens not only our world-bestriding Empire but the world, that scares me that much, is Climate Catastrophe. Therefore, it’s the climate deniers, the climate obfuscators, and their profit reapers who should be tortured.

Climate torture is not about confession. There’s really no need to use up all that sadistic karma to get false information. With terrorism we torture to get information we don’t know. With Climate torture we merely demand action on science we do know. That’s progress! Not uncovering nefarious plots, but merely having the victims sign public documents that will save the planet. This may sound like brutal cops forcing suspects to sign false statements. But these statements are true! All we need is for the powerful fossil fuel CEOs and on-the-take politicians to sign binding CO2 reduction agreements. They need a little extra push. With torture, it’s a piece of cake. We’ll all be safer for generations to come.

Instead of those troublesome Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, we’ll only be doing Enhanced Persuasion Techniques (EPTs). Some like to call them Enhanced Peacemaking Techniques, but that sounds a little too Orwellian to me. Ours is a pragmatic, can-do nation where morality is the caboose that follows the locomotive. Exceptional people know that when the smoke clears and the blood dries, values adjust. And we really don’t have any time to waste. It’s simple: what works is good. Climate torture will be the Balm in Gilead, will be oil on the waters of the perfect storm of insecurity and fear.

We won’t need to drag Mohammed-al-Somebody out of a cave in Bora-Bora and ship him, duck taped, in a freezer container to Guantanamo to force him to admit to something he knows nothing about. Nor waste another missile from a drone to blow him and his wedding party away. We know who the Climate blockers are. All we need to do is hand them the pen when they’ve been softened up, when they “agree” to carbon taxes, steep reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and rapid transfer to green energies. When pain is more persuasive than profit, the world wins. Not just you and me, but the trees and spiders, warblers and worms.

The only questions remaining are about the particular techniques, possible venues, and who will be the torturers.

Torture Techniques

I suggest we replace water boarding with oil boarding; oil is far more suffocating than water and fewer reps will be necessary. Flaming oil boarding would be going too far and could undermine the claimed morality of the procedure – so, only employed as a last gasp (so to speak) for reluctant victims. Another effective method will be the rapid acidification of the bloodstream. Oxygen deprivation does that little trick. Introduction by slow drip of 80,000 untested chemical toxins will cause mass extinction of the body’s flora and fauna – massively disruptive, but reversible, as we all know, with a timely infusion of probiotics.

Some techniques from the past seem usable here – extreme thirst (drought) and extreme temperature fluctuations. Each technique will be be a metaphor for a climate issue. An infestation of fleas, bedbugs, and lice – vermin – will be used to represent the climate refugee problem.

Super Torture Sunday

It’s time we get back to doing the country’s security business in public. Public hangings, the French with their guillotine parties, tar and feathering. These were all good for public morale and community involvement. Just because some weak-kneed naysayers think torture’s morally untidy doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be transparent. Relegating torture to secret black sites creates an air of sinister nastiness way out of proportion. Bring it out of the shadows. Do it public! Do it big! And – why not? – commercialize it! Taxpayers pay for it now, why not push the cost to the sponsors?

Spectacular Super torture events will be staged on Sunday evenings, under the lights, during primetime in football stadiums (MetLife Stadium, AT&T Stadium, Bank of America Stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium, First Energy Stadium) all around the country. The networks will flip from stadium to stadium for highlights. Jumbotrons will be flashing replays of the really good bits, close-up, in slo-mo, 150 decibel screams. Crowds will go wild – of course they will. They love this stuff. It’ll be better than a video game. Exactly what fuels crowd ecstasy will be dissected endlessly by the torture pundits: Is it love of violence? Revenge at the hypocrisy of rich climate deniers? Jubilation over enhanced security? The “anybody but me” syndrome? The alleviation of climate fear? Human nature? All of them?

Advertisers will pay millions to underwrite these torture entertainments, even when their own CEOs will be the torture subjects. They won’t be able to miss an opportunity like this; some people will tune in just for the commercials.

And, remember, at the end of each session and the victorious signing ceremony before the one billion people worldwide who tune in, the powerful signers will be issued new Armani suits and sent back to work with a clean conscience. Even a lot of 99%ers will have to admit that these CEOs have finally earned their multimillion dollar bonuses.

Who Should do the Torture?

This is the most difficult question. But being convinced of the positive morality of torture makes it easier. Who has the largest stake in a future without climate catastrophe? Children, or course. The torturers will have to be children. Skin in the game. I would suggest an assortment of 9 to 13 year olds, boys and girls, ethnically diverse – the true face of the future. But we’ll leave the precise age range up to trusted torture psychologists. Instructed by qualified intelligence agents, the kids will have no trouble with the procedures nor second thoughts caused by the likely resistance of the subjects. The children’s innocence authenticates the morality of the torture just as their critical stake in the future necessitates their action.

The biggest problem for the “torture children” will be their newfound celebrity status. If they are shy or have parents who do not think it healthy for them to capitalize on their celebrity, they can wear masks. Another bonus! Every kid in America will want to wear a t-shirt with the logo of a masked child torturer.

Kids can do this. We just have to show them the way. Bring it on!

Wait a minute. You see what I’ve done? I’ve fallen into the trap of John Kiriakou’s logic: “If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sorts of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable.” Child torturers! Torture as entertainment and spectacle? Flaming oil boarding! An obscene punishment rationalized by an obscene crime. This is no different really than a culture that recruits children – or any person – for suicide bombing. There is no way, even using the innocence of children, to justify torture.

Even if we desperately need to save the planet from ourselves.

The justifications authenticate the moral depravity of the torturers as we choose a culture of hate and cruelty over a culture of understanding and love.

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