I talked a bit yesterday about the recent release of a lot of documentation regarding the American torture system. In this post I want to make a more general point about torture .
Before doing so, I felt it should be emphatically pointed out that ‘ticking bomb scenarios’, and torture as the tragic but necessary last resort to save lives, is fantasy – in particular, the main point of torture in this case was to gain evidence to support the invasion of Iraq, whether or not that evidence was true.
Anyway, the conceptual point that interests me is that I think there is a tendency to think of torture as a temporary thing – unlike, say, amputating a hand, the purely ‘mental’ nature of torture means that although it’s incredibly unpleasant while it’s going on, after it’s finished the victim is basically the same as before.
For some lucky people this will be true, but in general I think this approach is too ‘Cartesian’, too prone to seeing the mind as something floating above and unlike the body. But minds can be cut into and dissected just as much as bodies.