Friday, March 30, 2007

The American Inquisition

Andrew Sullivan

"Coercive Interrogation"

30 Mar 2007 09:03 am

Much ink has been split over what torture means. It isn't the first time. The original White House memo outlining the boundaries drew the line at death or failure of a major bodily organ. Hey: it's compassionate conservatism. But the exquisite ways in which human beings have found to describe torture that isn't torture or to call it something else or to place limits on it go back a very long way:

I don't know how much of your latin remains from your schooldays, but I just reread Ad Extirpanda (To Be Exterminated), the papal bull in which Innocent IV, feeling the Inquisition was not efficient enough in digging out heresy, introduced the occasional use of torture in extreme circumstances. At first, it was truly used this way. Within a few decades however, it had become the norm as legal strategy gave way to blunt force in the name of moral authority.

I found the terms used to explain what kind of torture was to be permitted to bee strangely familiar (translation mine):

"Extraordinary use of the question shall be limited to that which does not involve the effusion of blood or permanent mutilation."

John Yoo, meet your mentor.

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