I write these words not as a priest, nor as an American. I write this as a Human Being.
When people torture people or animals, they have committed a crime. When Governments torture prisoners, they have committed a human rights crime. When governments torture prisoners of war, they have committed a war crime.
And yet right now people ardently support the torturing of POWs – one of the most heinous crimes on the books – and they have even suggested that doing so is good, right and proper. Media people, such as the simplistically stupid Joe Scarborough; the senile closest-case Chris (Look at W’s bulge!) Matthews, the entire platoon of peroxided harpies on FOX “news” all publicly have argued that “if” torture works, it is something we must do. In fact, say these twisted people, it is an obligation. “IF” it works.
And this is how they have deftly changed the debate from acknowledging that torture is one of the worst crime on the books, to a mere debate of its efficacy. All the while they scream that the Senate report on torture should – MUST! – remain secret. Torture is good but… we don’t want people to know we did it? Sounds like way down deep, they know the truth. They know. But they, like the sociopath Cheney and his puppet “W,” believe that the ends justify the means. They have said so over and over again. You know who espoused precisely that belief? A fellow named Leon Trotsky. Is he the model of the New America? If so, then Welcome to the New USA… It is now the USSR.
Well let us discuss this issue that these criminals and their ardent defenders raise. Does torture work? No. History clearly shows that torture is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to get a false confession out of someone. In fact, the records now reveal that this is how the Cheney/Bush people got their highly coveted “information” about WMD. They got it by torturing people until somebody who could not take the agony said just what the torturers wanted to hear. And the world is still paying for it today.
Need more proof? Ask Senator John McCain, no “Dove” by any stretch of the imagination. We all know that McCain was tortured by those horrible North Vietnamese. And we know they are horrible because… they torture people. As “commies” they even went so far as believe that… the ends justify the means. Well, today Ho Chi Minh could host a show on FOX or any of the TV networks that have the gall to even hint that torture is a legitimate interrogation tool.
Yes, we all know that McCain was tortured. But what most people do not know is that under torture, McCain cracked. He broke. He gave in. John McCain signed false confessions, admitting to crimes and he even allowed himself to be filmed making false admissions. To end the agonizing torture, John McCain did what people invariably do: he lied through his teeth to stop the pain. McCain has freely admitted this. And there is no shame in what he did. Could you stand up to torture, day in and day out? McCain did exactly what thousands of people did when the Catholic Church – followers of the “Prince of Peace” – tortured them under the tutelage of the Spanish Inquisition. Under torture, people confessed to having made bargains with a totally fictitious entity called “Satan.”
How about Salem, Massachusetts? There too, under a delightful system called “crushing,” women falsely confessed that they were witches. False confessions came spewing forth just as they did from John McCain when he was tortured beyond all endurance.
This month, the United States Senate released its report on torture, and McCain’s conservative pals fought tooth and nail to cover up the illuminating document, which reveals the very things they claim America had every right to do. Have you ever heard of a politician, proud of his actions, hiding the light of his or her proud accomplishments under a basket? In this case they did. “What we did was right,” they say. “But we cannot let people KNOW about it or… they will think that America does these things.” Classic insane “logic.”
In response to this outbreak of wailing and gnashing of teeth, John McCain took to the senate floor and spoke in favor of releasing the torture report, and he also spoke about torture in general. I predict that McCain’s speech, his Stain On Our National Honor speech, will go down in history along side the Gettysburg Address and FDR’s Four Freedoms speech as one of the great orations in American History. If you have not heard this remarkable presentation, please take 12 minutes to do so now. McCain’s moving words, spoken from the heart and soul, will be remembered long after we are gone.
So we know that torture does not produce any workable results. In fact, we know that people died because of torture. Under the unimaginable pain and terrors of what the CIA calls “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” a craven and spineless euphemism if ever there was one, people popped out with any names they could think of to gain even momentary surcease from the agony inflicted upon them. Documentation shows that the CIA’s torture victims turned in innocent neighbors and acquaintances; just as people hundreds of years earlier claimed that they had seen neighbors with witches or the mythical “Satan.”
For some reason, in his festive season, all of this rang a very familiar bell with me. After a few moments of reflection, it hit me. This time of year, Christmas Time, millions of people enjoy a movie that actually shows the fallacy of torture as an effective tool. We all watch this film as a Holiday Ritual to celebrate the birth of a non-violent rabbi born two millennia ago. The movie is… “A Christmas Story,” and the torture victim who breaks and then names an innocent friend as the offender is none other than cute little Ralphie Parker.
We all remember the scene: At one point, innocently and out of sheer frustration, 9 year-old Ralphie says the word to end all words: he says “fuck” – only the filmmakers substitute the word “fudge,” just as the CIA says E.I.T. in place of “torture.” Hearing this attack on their values, Ralphie’s parents react with horror and shame and outrage! As the narration by grown Ralph relates it to the viewer, “I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word!” Ralphie immediately fears the repercussions, and even dreads a form of waterboarding! “It was all over,” grown Ralphie recalls in the narration. “I was dead. What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Hmmph. Mere child’s play compared to what surely awaited me.”
In high dudgeon, Ralphie’s parents demand to know where he heard that vile word. Under interrogation, Ralphie finds himself in a bind. He has heard the word every day of his life from his father (who hypocritically claims one set of values while living another set). But Ralphie cannot tell his parents this without revealing their two-facedness. In this bind, Ralphie experiences pure separation anxiety, for without his parents a small child will die. But Ralphie cannot or will not say a bad word about his dad. This early childhood anxiety sometimes never leaves a person and it forms the root of all knee-jerk, unthinking, no exceptions patriotism.
And so, to get to the truth… Ralphie’s parents apply torture. Until he tells his parents what they want to hear, the little child is forced to sit in isolation with a bar of soap in his mouth. And not just any soap, mind you! The filmmakers go out of their way to impress upon the viewer that this is Lifebuoy Soap. We may not recall it now, but back in the 1940s, Lifebuoy was the very first deodorant soap on the market, and it was, at the time, made with Carbolic Acid. In order to force the truth out of him, Ralphie is poisoned by his parents. And they do it deliberately, for out of all the soaps available to them, they select this one – and Ralphie knows what awaits him for, reviewing the selection, he thinks, “Lifebuoy, on the other hand… YECCHH!” Clearly they had tried other soaps in the past and found this one works to their satisfaction.
The symptoms of Carbolic Acid poisoning are horrific. They include, but are not limited to: severe abdominal pain, bloody stools, diarrhea, nausea and bloody vomiting, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, deep rapid breathing, wheezing.
Under this torture, Ralphie does as all torture victims do; as John McCain did and as the 17th-century nuns at Louden did: Ralphie lies. Under pressure, Ralphie names an innocent friend as the culprit just so the torture will stop. Ralphie’s “Father Grandier” turns out to be his friend Schwartz who promptly gets an undeserved beating so harsh and so revolting that even Ralphie’s mother cannot stand to hear it. As Schwartz’s screams mount in intensity, Mom simply hangs up the phone and turns away – as the conservatives of today are doing when they attempt to hide American torture.
And now, I cannot see Christmas Story without thinking of Schwartz and McCain and victims of torture through the ages. The victims and the sick, demented people who supported torture hover over this film.
History is unequivocal and explicit on these points: Torture is a crime. Torture is useless. Torture is Un-American. Torture is even cited by the bloodthirsty neocons as one of the crimes of the dreaded Sadaam Hussein, and they cited it often as a justification for their war of choice on the people of Iraq.
Out of fear and insane patriotism, America hypocritically did it exactly what we convicted WW2 soldiers for doing: waterboarding. We tried, convicted and hung enemy military for waterboarding Americans. The torturers died for what they did. Yet here, in the New America, now, today, people go on TV to say, as the feculent Dick Cheney did, “I’d do it again in a minute.” The words of an earlier CIA criminal, Howard Hunt, referring to Richard Nixon, genuinely apply to Cheney: “He’s the darkness… reaching out for the darkness.”
The whole world agrees that torture is a crime. The world agrees that torture provides no useful information. The world agrees that torturers should be put to an ignominious death. But Cheney would do it in a minute. Chris Mathews defends it. People who denounce it are treated like criminals. The only person in jail over this is the whistle-blower who revealed it all.
So thanks to Cheney and his criminal cohorts for turning the USA into the very people we were trained to hate: Sadaam Hussein and Leon Trotsky.
And thanks for ruining one of the sweetest and funniest movies to come down the pike in years.
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All that was needed for the government to violate international law was… FEAR. Fear is the tyrant’s greatest tool. When people are scared they cede all power in their cowardice. And what is the media of today for if not to scare you? Just turn to the fake Ebola horror. Some Americans are STILL scared that they will die of this disease. Just as I hear from people who still fear the now gone USSR. Or they fear Cuba. Just this evening, I saw a middle-aged person saying on social media that America is moving “one step closer to communism.” Communism! It still scares many people. This is a demonstrably irrational fear that some people, warped by constant childhood brainwashing, now willingly submit themselves to.
In the early 20th Century, a book appeared which delved into the issue. That book is UNMASKING FEAR.
If anything, in the nearly 100 years since this book appeared, it has gotten worse. In the days before the invention of corporate controlled mass communications media, who could have envisioned people going into hysteria over a radio broadcast dramatizing a Martian invasion? When Orson Welles turned out the radio show The War of the Worlds in 1938, you can bet your bottom dollar that the power structure took notice. Here, at last, was the Shepherd’s Crook needed to keep people in line: Mass media!
That classic 1919 book is now reissued with new introductions (by me!) which put this important work in historical context. There is no reason to live your life in fear! Beware of those who would mislead you about this book! Fear is all they have and they will use fear to stop YOU from reading this liberating volume. The new introduction puts the book in its historical context and shows why it is still relevant today. CLICK HERE or on the image to see this book at Amazon.com