Thursday, April 10, 2008
America's Image on Torture
It is not only the military that needs examination
I have three points to offer:
Point 1: Has anyone ever surveyed or done a deep investigation of US police departments’ treatment of captured offenders? We have seen isolated Vcam instances on TV, but I suspect such behavior is far more rampant.
As to publicity of such actions, we have shipped overseas many films that depict just such actions by our police every year, for the “enjoyment” of foreign audiences. Even in Holland, a number of Dutchmen have commented on the brutality seen over and over in flim after film, and have asked if such behavior was the norm in the US. The point being that if the films are a success at the box office in the US, what does that say about the public’s thirst for brutality?
Yes, it is most often a fictional portrayal that they see, but to see these films year after year raises questions. Are we really this brutal? Does this happen often? Why does the film industry spew out ths sort of thing in volume every year? It sells.
The America haters seize on our penchant for brutality in films as evidence of a failed culture, and they are not at all surprised to see evidence coming from Iraq (and from the US, too!) that we do in fact practice forms of torture and brutality, though they have been shocked by it—for sure. This only confirms what they have suspected all along, I suggest.
We therefore have fostered a negative image in many places that has been nutured by our export of films showing lawlessness, brutality in jails, and violence on the streets, and then confirmed it all by published scenes from our overseas prisons in Iraq.
The bottom line is that we have a lot of cleaning up to do to reverse this image of brutality—and the fact of brutality—in the US. However, I sincerely doubt that we can shift the film industry, and the public, away from their current love of violent films.
Point 2: The next President should not only have the Justice Department investigate and prosecute US violators of the laws regarding real torture in the US and in overseas theaters. He should also have them perform deep investigations nation-wide into our police departments and their violations of the rights of citizens and others in their custody.
Point 3: Of course, I have left out the definition of “real torture,” but it most certainly must include serious bodily harm. I reiterate my previous position, however, that regardless of the definitions, investigations, prosecutions, and the laws passed, some forms of torture will continue to be practiced as the situation warrants it—but now by using far more circumspect and secret measures.