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(DV) Whitney: The Evil of Torture and the Power of Non-Violence







The Evil of Torture and the Power of Non-Violence   
by Mike Whitney
October 5, 2005

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 “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.”

-- Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

-- Martin Luther King, from his Birmingham jail, April 16, 1963

Leftists and intellectuals have a tough time explaining the presence of evil in the world so they steer away from the topic like the plague. This is a big mistake and will eventually inhibit our ability to deal effectively with the present crisis.

Typically evil is understood in the context of spiritual belief and depends heavily on one’s acceptance of the ultimate division of reality into unseen forces of good and evil, God and Satan. The trouble with this analysis is that it completely eschews demonstrable phenomena that can help us understand the nature of the problem itself. There are things we can know about evil in a practical, provable way that provide both insight and remedy. These things do not require belief in a Supreme Being or faith in an afterlife.

The Leftist approach sidesteps evil altogether, looking instead for hidden psychological causes or deep-seated emotional problems to explain the erratic behavior of destructive people.

This is ridiculous. Evil exists, just not in the Manichaean way that George W. Bush chooses to characterize it. Let me give you an example. A few days ago the CounterPunch web site featured a brilliantly written article on torture, “The Invention of Porno Torture”, by Liaquat Ali Khan. “Porno torture” is a new addition to the Pentagon’s repertoire of abusive treatment of prisoners and takes place when sexual torture is “photographed, filmed, or videotaped.” These photos or films are then used to “degrade and torment Muslim men,” an effective tool in breaking down prisoners and extorting information from them. Khan suggests that the Pentagon is using porno torture for two reasons. First, there is some ambiguity about its legality under present treaty agreements (which gives the Defense Department a ”green light” to continue abusing inmates) and, secondly, because porno torture offends the “cultural-religious” sensibilities of its conservative Muslim victims. Both of these are correct, in some sense, but they miss the larger issue, the essential evil of torture itself, and its real roots in the heart of man.

We like to believe that we are reasonable creatures governed by the dictates of considered judgments and well-examined opinions that are grounded in objective observation and experience. In fact, we are quite the opposite. The German philosopher Nietzsche grasped this when he stated, “The ego is the mask behind which the instincts operate.” Man’s appearance as a reasonable creature is a pure sham, a protective outer-coat that conceals the darkly irrational tangle of instincts and appetites that drive his every action. Only the thin veneer of respectability and the law keep society’s thin thread from unraveling entirely.

Man is capable of great good; creativity, curiosity and compassion. But, that is only half the story. He is also capable of incalculable evil; torture, war and devastation. This evil seed in the soul of man does not emerge from a blighted childhood or some remote psychological disturbance. It is an integral part of his human make-up; a faculty for annihilation that is every bit as real as the gnawing hunger of a starving man. Evil and nihilism are a central part of man’s incomprehensible complexity; they cannot be dismissed as mere character flaws or aberrations.

The photos from Abu Ghraib express the unalloyed wickedness of torture. This is evil in the truest sense. The men who produced these horrors are not the victims of some unknown childhood trauma or buried dementia. They are men who take delight in inflicting cruelty and pain. This is important, because we are not looking to understand their twisted behavior, only for an effective way of stopping it.

Evil cannot be stopped by reason, but only by putting oneself in harms way and obstructing the perpetrator. Every act of non-violence diffuses the power of evil.

The heart of man reflects the vast and chaotic forces of the universe. It is pure egotism to think we can grasp this incoherent, labyrinth of primal appetites and infinite space. Non-violence puts these conflicted forces in line with a deeper sense of harmony, but it cannot be attained without great sacrifice.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at:

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Other Articles by Mike Whitney

* Why Not Torture Judith Miller?
* The Occupation of New Orleans
* Brownie's Comic Opera
* Apartheid Justice in America: Krugal vs. Padilla  
* The Impending Cakewalk in Iran
* Farewell to the Democratic Party

* Basra: Another Milestone in the War on Terror
* The Inevitable War with Iran
* Let Them Die Or Let Them Go
* Who’s Blowing Up Iraq?
* The Second American Revolution
* Hurricane Hugo at the UN
* Tal Afar: Crackdown in the Sunni Heartland
* John Roberts’ Role in the Guantanamo Hunger Strike
* Jose Padilla and the Death of Personal Liberty
* Rodney King in New Orleans
* Rehnquist Paved the Way for the Imperial Presidency
* The New Orleans Looters Are the Bush Progeny
* The Devastating Impact of Hurricane George
* “Transformation”: How Rumsfeld Smashed the National Guard

* The Lords of War
* Robertson’s Fatwah: “A Whole Lotta Smitin’ Goin’ On”
* Turning Cindy Sheehan’s Victory Into Defeat 
* “My Son Died for Nothing”
* "Shoot to Kill": Tony Blair’s First Trophy
* Greenspan’s Role in the Housing Bubble
* Failing in Iraq
* Revving Up World War III
* Pretty Hot in Crawford, Pretty Hot in Hell
* Straight-Shootin’ George Galloway
* “Operation Community Shield”: Comrade Chertoff’s Preemptive Crackdown
* Kristallnacht: What Happens When the Public Says Nothing? 
* Burying Blair: Post-Mortem for the British PM
* “Withdrawal” from Iraq?: Forget About It

* The Globalization of State Terror
* Tom Friedman: Fabricating the Roots of Terror
* Doomsday: The Final Months of the “Housing Bubble”
* John Roberts and the National Security State
* Guantanamo: the Calculus of Human Misery
* Did Greenspan Know About the London Bombings Two Days Before?
* Another Casualty in Rumsfeld’s Information War
* Genesis of an American Gestapo
* Bush's Orgy of Carnage
* Goodbye to Sandra Day O’ Connor . . . and Good Riddance
* The Rumsfeld Solution: “Liberating Iraq, One Journalist at a Time”
* Show Your Independence on the 4th -- Burn a Flag
* "Up in Smoke": Bush Flops in Prime Time
* More Rumsfeld Lies About Insurgent Meetings
* Incinerating Iraqis: The Napalm Cover-Up
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* The Bush Radio Address: More Delusional Blather While Iraq Bleeds
* The Friedman Solution: Reinstate the Draft
* Body Slamming the 4th Amendment
* Operation Desperation: Rumsfeld’s Baghdad Fiasco
* The EU Constitution: Don’t Believe the BS
* Protecting the Plutocrats
* What Was Laura Bush Doing at the Al Aqsa Mosque?
* Free Jose Padilla!
* Alberto Gonzales’ Kristallnacht: Purges for a Safer America
* Tom Friedman: The Imperial Chronicler
* Gods, Gays, and George Bernard Shaw
* A Tentative Strategy for Ending the War
* The Specter of Violence in America

* Free Speech in the Crosshairs
* Why America Needs to be Defeated in Iraq
* More Madness at the Bush News Conference
* Ratzinger’s Plan to Hide the Pedophiles
* Let’s Let Atheists Back into Politics
* Pope Ratzinger: More “Pie-in-the-Sky” for the Struggling Masses
* The Purveyors of Violence: The NY Times in Falluja
* Screw You, Paul Volker!
* Pope TV and the New World Media
* The Economic Tsunami: Sooner Than You Think
* Destroy Abu Ghraib!
* Terri Schiavo and the Battered Judiciary
* Railroading Moussaoui
* The Wolfowitz Appointment: A Red Flag for the Coming Wars
* “Economic Meltdown” -- Sorry, but We’re Toast
* John Bolton and the Road to Tehran
* Clearing the Way for the American Police State

* Challenging the Language of Violence
* Jose Padilla and the 10 Commandments
* Crushing the UN for a Stronger America
* Europe to Bush: “Hands Off Iran”?
* The Incredible Shrinking Dollar
* Assassinating Al-Hariri Fits Washington’s Plan
* Washington’s Plan to Foment Civil War in Iraq
* Condi’s Euro-Tour
* Folksy Tom Friedman and New Age Imperialism
* Government Without Consent
* The Desperate State of the Union
* Iraq’s Election Fiasco
* Boarding Up the “Window of Opportunity”
* KGB Chieftain Finds Home at Homeland Security
* Bush’s Grand Plan: Incite Civil War
* Pink Slips at CBS