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Towards Liberty
– by Jarret Wollstein –

Legitimizing Torture

– 02-18-05 –

     The frontline in the battle for the hearts and minds of Americans is our popular media – particularly TV and movies.

     Sadly, for decades the media model for a hero has been the rogue cop who lies, cheats, steals, bashes heads and generally trashes the rights and often the bodies of guilty and innocent alike, to catch some vile thug. From James Bond, to the Beverly Hills Cop, to the latest episode of "Law and Order," media cops have little use for such archaic concepts as "constitutional rights," "your home is your castle," or "innocent until proven guilty."

     What's more, in TV – and movie-land, these brutal tactics almost always succeed, usually just in the time to prevent some horrendous atrocity. Increasingly, the only difference between media cops and the criminals which they pursue, is that the cops have "good" intentions, while criminals have "bad" intentions. However, increasingly both use virtually the exact same tactics and both inflict massive collateral damage on the innocent.

     The message from media cop shows is quite clear: Showing respect for the rights, bodies or property of the innocent is outdated, wimpy, and even downright dangerous. Only unrestrained, brute force can save us, so long as it's wielded by a man (or woman) with a badge or uniform.

     Now, in the 4th and latest incarnation of their hit series "24," Fox Broadcasting has taken the evolution of the brutal cop even further, making their "heroic" Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) agents virtually indistinguishable from Nazi war criminals.

Here's the situation: Evil Middle-Eastern terrorists have gotten their hands on software enabling them to take control of America's nuclear reactors and cause meltdowns. Despite the best efforts of CTU – including their miraculous ability to instantly identify the terrorist ringleader, Navi Araz, with virtually no clues – six or seven nuclear reactors are on the verge of meltdown, which will kill hundreds of thousands of people. Only former CTU agent, Jack Bauer, now a rogue operative, can save us – and he will stop at nothing, no matter how many innocent people he has to brutalize, torture, or kill.

     Here are some of the more illuminating "24" episodes, each of which takes place in a one-hour, real-time period:

7-8 am. Jack Bauer knocks out a CTU guard so he can break in on a CTU interrogation of a suspect named Sherak. Bauer immediately shoots Sherak in the leg to force him to talk. Sherak reveals that U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Heller, is going to be kidnapped by terrorists.

9-10 am. CTU operatives grab Richard, the son of Secretary Heller, who has now been kidnapped by terrorists.

     Richard is taken to CTU headquarters, where he is strapped in a chair. CTU agents they proceed to torture him because they suspect he is withholding information concerning who he talked to about his father's movements.

     Even though it's made clear that the CTU operatives do not think that Richard is in any way in league with the terrorists, they never-the-less torture him for hours with drugs and sensory deprivation, causing him to scream in pain.

10-11 am. In order to delay the departure of a terrorist named Kalil, whom Jack Bauer has been following, Bauer poises as a robber, takes over a convenience store at gunpoint, assaults the totally innocent patrons, and threatens to kill them if they resist. Bauer seems clearly prepared to kill the innocent in the name of "protecting America."

12-1 pm. After Secretary Heller is freed by Jack Bauer, back at CTU headquarters, the Secretary is informed that agents tortured his son, who they think is still withholding information. Rather than reacting with indignation like any normal parent, Heller instead immediately authorizes more torture of his son until talks.

2-3 pm. More torture. CTU operatives arrest one of their own agents, a young female office worker named Sarah, who has been framed to make it appear that she is helping terrorists. CTU thugs take Sarah to the CTU interrogation room, strap her to a chair and torture her with drugs and electroshock to make her "confess." Sarah's torture is only halted when another agent says he has proof that she was framed.

3-4 pm. In the latest episode aired so far, Dina Araz, the wife of terrorist leader Navi Araz is apprehended by CTU agents. She has a bullet wound in her arm when they catch her. So what is the first thing a CTU agent does? He begins to torture Dina's wounded arm to get her to talk, causing her to scream in pain. Dina's torture is only stopped because Jack Bauer warns it might cause her to go into shock and die. Otherwise, it's made clear, torturing her would be fine.

The Message of "24"

     The clear, disgusting message of "24" is that torture is now a legitimate and even essential tactic in the war on terror, and that its fine to torture men, women and children if they don't cooperate with authorities. Innocent until proven guilty, the right to remain silent, and other necessities of civilized society aren't even considered. That would clearly make Fox's thug-heroes too wimpy and would mean the end of civilization as we know it.

     In reality, torture seldom works, but rather it usually generates lots of false and misleading information. People will say anything to make the pain stop, so they tell their torturers exactly what they think they want to hear.

     Nevertheless, if the public buys what Fox is now selling, legalized government torture will spread like a plague into every level of our society. In fact, it's already begun, with brutal U.S. treatment of Muslims arrested in the wake of 9-11, and even the treatment ordinary criminal suspects in the U.S. (See my books Surviving Terrorism, Shadow Over The Land, and Judge Andrew Napolitano’s new book, Constitutional Chaos: What happens when the government breaks its own laws, for some of the gory details.)

"24" does nothing less than legitimize torture. The real-world consequences of this continuing degeneration in America's moral standards can be seen in the tortures, maimings, and murders committed by CIA death squads and military interrogators at Abu Grahib, Camp X-Ray in Cuba, and the secret CIA prisons set up by the Bush Administration in the U.S. and throughout the world – all to the enthusiastic applause of many neo-cons and other pro-war Americans. Hitler would be proud.

     If you don't want torture to become the new norm in America, I recommend you contact Fox Broadcasting and let them know what you think of their legitimizing torture in the name of protecting us from evil terrorists.

To view back issues of Jarret Wollstein's Towards Liberty, Click here.



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