Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Iron Fist Fallacy

Those who commit or support torture, either abroad, or in the US -- as I commented on in Chicago Police Allegedly Tortured During Interrogations -- are making the incorrect assumption that responding to terrorism or brutal crime with brute force will make us stronger and more secure.

While there are times when force is needed, the ego-driven use of force (we good, they evil) will backfire 99% of the time and can turn us into the type of brutes we call evil. Once we (whoever the we are) begin torturing, those involved need to rationalize like mad in order to maintain the illusion of "we good."

We also need to turn on those among us who point out the flaws in what we are doing. We call them traitors or enemy sympathizers even when they are attempting to keep us from crossing the line or attempting to get us back over the line. There's a reason whistleblowers need protection. They are vital to any open system that doesn't accept might makes right.

The irony is that when we are out of line and need whistleblowers the most, we can rationalize ourselves into hero status. To keep that illusion going the last thing we want is someone to shout out unvarnished truths about our actions.

So what should replace torture? Simply eliminating torture won't do the trick. As many police forces have learned, crime prevention, community involvement programs combined with ethical treatment of suspects can do more to reduce crime than turning an area into a police state ever can.

If the only or most promising career path is crime, entering the U.S. illegally or terrorism, then a larger number of people are going to choose those options.

We all benefit (the good and the evil) by treating even the most evil people with respect for their humanity (and our own) and with a clear and fair accountability for all criminal or unethical behaviors.

But if the current iron fist policies seem to be working, why should we fix something that ain't broke?

We need to fix the problem before the iron fists contribute to further escalation of the violence. As police forces have learned, new criminals pop up as quickly as the "scum" are swept off the street. As many U.S. cities have also learned, one violent incident by the police in areas that feel attacked by the police can set off a riot.

Freedom may be messy, but true freedom isn't moments of anarchy punctuated by moments of brute force.

Think about it this way, if you were in the group or area that has been labeled evil, how would you want the good people to treat you? The answer to this question matters because the truth is that we are all in a group or area that somebody sees as evil.



Blogger The Heathlander said...

Great post Marcella - its true that it can sometimes be inconvenient not to use torture or not go outside the law, but we must ensure that we do not give in to convenience. The very nature of our society as it is now depends on that.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Dr. Strangelove said...

Crooks & Liars has us listed on the Blog Roundup today. Heathlander, you should be seeing some traffic coming in. With any luck, we may get some new sponsors.

11:39 AM  
Blogger The Heathlander said...

Thanks for the heads up. Yeh, hopefully - I reckon the new target is $1400.

11:45 AM  
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12:35 AM  

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