Saturday, September 23, 2006

Scott Simon: Poster Boy for Torture

Saturday morning's weekend edition made my skin crawl. There were two features in which Scott Simon reveals his comfort with the use of torture in the so-called "war on terror." In the "analysis" segment of the show Simon -- responding to Juan William's remarks on the proposed legislation on detainee treatment -- says (in his soft-spoken, sensitive tone) , "hmmm…one of those nettlesome questions that people who've actually conducted prisoner interrogations sometimes, ah, sometimes raise, is, um, is there some frailty in the system if people who are about to be interrogated know that the people interrogating them will abide by rules."

Incredible! What people who've actually conducted interrogations--let's name them! Frailty in the system? It is clear that Simon is implying that only if torture is a real and practiced threat will interrogations be effective.

Earlier, in the show Ari Shapiro, reporting on the proposed detainee legislation "compromise," states, " you’ve got this definition after definition after defintion after definition and when you get down to the very bottom there’s still this question remaining whether waterboarding, stress positions, hypothermia and so on are permitted, and some legal experts are saying 'Yes, in fact I think they are permitted under this legislation.'" To which Simon responds,

"This is something local police forces, uh, it must be said I don't know about waterboarding at local police forces, but they deal with this all the time, and that it's considered to be all right to deceive someone you're interrogating because that's transitory mental harm arguably, but not leave long term damage."

This incoherent non-sequitor is truly surreal. Local police forces? Comparing misleading a suspect in questioning [e.g. stating that a co-conspirator has confessed or that one has damning evidence] to near-drownings of detainees. I thought Shapiro might ask Scott what he had been smoking, but instead he responds, "that's right and because the argument goes, waterboarding only creates mental harm for a short period of time and it doesn't create long lasting harms for years and years to come, some legal experts are saying it might actually be allowed under this legislation."

This kind of soft-pedaling of the assault on the rule of law and on the integrity of human beings is really grotesque. For readers who want to explore the complications and problems with current detainee abuse policy I highly recommend this piece by Jane Mayer from the February 14, 2005 New Yorker. It is a bit long but really informative. If you don't have time to read it, at least consider the following excerpt from the article:

  • "Dr. Allen Keller, the director of the Bellevue/N.Y.U. Program for Survivors of Torture, told me that he had treated a number of people who had been subjected to such forms of near-asphyxiation, and he argued that it was indeed torture. Some victims were still traumatized years later, he said. One patient couldn't take showers, and panicked when it rained. 'The fear of being killed is a terrifying experience,' he said."


Anonymous said...

That comment by Scott Simon jumped out at me, too, this Saturday morning. Simon just makes my skin crawl in general; he's just a loathesome, phony creep.

BTW, knowing your interest in S.A. political economy, I hope you're listening in to Monday's Talk of the Nation.

Anonymous said...

update: Monday's 12:00 Talk of the Nation (part II) topic is... the difficulties in having a nanny in this day and age.

Who the fuck does NPR think its audience is?

This is probably the most disgusting TofN segment I've heard since... the last one which was pathetically classist/elitist, which wasn't too long ago actually.

Excuse me, now I must go and chastize Maria for making the martinis with too much vermouth while neglecting the children (once again), the stupid cow.