Trapped by Torture in Enmity with the World

hand door

Reading over more details about the Torture Report, I was reminded of a passage I'd just read in Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, in which Jonathan Shay tries to put his finger on just what it is that makes torture an abomination, rather than ordinary roughness or ill use: American soldiers literally felt tortured by their Vietnamese enemy. Prolonged patrolling in Vietnam led to a decomposition of the normal, the familiar, the safe.  Every familiar item of the p … [Read more...]

Torture Report Details Wounds to Prisoners and Guards

water-boarding

The torture report (well, the unclassified executive summary) came out today, and the news is grim and gruesome.  The Daily Beast has aggregated some initial lowlights: In Nov. 2002, a detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to the floor died, apparently from hypothermia. This case appears similar to the that of Gul Rahman, who died of similarly explained causes at a Afghan site known as the "Salt Pit," also in Nov. 2002. The site was also called ‘The Dark Prison’ by former captive … [Read more...]

A Lens on Killing and Forgiveness

06rwanda_ss-slide-YIU0-superJumbo

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, and, over at The New York Times Magazine, a photographer has put together a series of portraits of Rwandans who have reconciled with the people who killed their friends and families. The people who agreed to be photographed are part of a continuing national effort toward reconciliation and worked closely with AMI (Association Modeste et Innocent), a nonprofit organization. In AMI’s program, small groups of Hutus and Tutsis are co … [Read more...]

Warfare “as obscene as cancer”

gas mask

During the debate over the proper response to Syria's use of chemical weapons, I kept waiting for articles to quote Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est" and, eventually, I decided to write one myself.  I'm over at The Huffington Post today talking about why we find chemical weapons uniquely horrifying, and whether more types of warfare should provoke that same kind of visceral revulsion. Death by IED or drone has perhaps not yet found its poet. How do we weigh the suffering of a victim … [Read more...]

Now we shoot through a screen, darkly

b17-flying-fortress (1)

Via Mark Shea, Time has a lovely story about a German pilot who couldn't find it in his heart to shoot down a crippled American bomber during World War II. As Stigler's fighter rose to meet the bomber, he decided to attack it from behind. He climbed behind the sputtering bomber, squinted into his gun sight and placed his hand on the trigger. He was about to fire when he hesitated. Stigler was baffled. No one in the bomber fired at him.He looked closer at the tail gunner. He was still, his … [Read more...]

What Freedom from Moral Sensibilities Feels Like

Writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Kevin Dutton underwent transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to damp down his amygdala and explore the way some brain scientists think psychopaths feel.  (It's the Dark Side version of a moral jump discontinuity).  I've read some scientific literature on this hypothesis before, but it was really interesting to read his subjective experience. It isn't long before I start to notice a fuzzier, more pervasive, more existential difference. Before the e … [Read more...]

Offering Loving Resistance [Sequence Index]

In July 2012, Patheos sent me a copy of Logan Mehl-Laituri's memoir Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism & Conscience to review, and thus was sparked a wide- ranging (unusually book-heavy, even for me) discussion of just war, martyrdom, the courage of enemies, and whether Hamlet is the worst person in Hamlet.  I've collected all those loosely linked posts here.Can Lethal Resistance be Loving? - The initial book review, discussing Laituri's decision to become a … [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X