Saturday, October 14, 2006

This Is An Apple; This Is An Orange

The good ship Chris Shays, captained by the besieged Republican congressional representative who this year is defending his seat against former Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell, ran aground when Shays said, in an address before a Jewish group, that the guards at Abu Grab were practicing a perverted form of sex rather than torture on their prisoners. Shays was immediately attacked by partisan bloggers.

“What could he have been thinking?” was the general refrain. And soon the editorialists weighed in. It has been suggested in recent days that the failure to provide enemy combatants with habeas corpus protection is a form of severe deprivation, and Shays’ remark was taken by those in the United States who wish to wrap the torturers of Daniel Pearl in constitutional cellophane as, to say the least, intolerant.

Can a distinction be made between the torture of Pearl, a journalist whose head was sawed off by enemy combatants – the event was videoed and aired on Arab television – and the sexual perversions imposed upon prisoners at Abu Grab by, among others, Lynndie England, now serving a three year stretch in the brig? Pearl is dead; one of the conspirators in his kidnapping is the notorious Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was moved in September 2006 from a secret prison to the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba. Such distinctions are commonplace – and proper. But not in Connecticut during a partisan political campaign.

While imprisoned in Jordan, the terrorist Mohammed reportedly was subjected to the water boarding interrogation technique, considered by some to be a form of torture. He withstood what has been called “an extraordinarily effective form of interrogation” for upwards of two minutes, earning plaudits and respect from his captors, after which he spilled the beans.

The charming videotape titled “The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl" shows Pearl’s mutilated body and lasts an excruciating three minutes and thirty six seconds. In the first part of the video, Pearl is shown stating his captor’s demands. Images of President George Bush shaking hands with then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon flit by, along with pictures of dead muslims superimposed around Pearl’s image.

It has been suggested that Shays is incapable of identifying torture because he was imprudent enough made a distinction that would be instantly obvious to anyone who had seen the short but compelling video made by the non-combatants who sawed off Pearl’s head.

Apparently, the people who want to conflate the distinction between Pearl’s torture and the shameless and perverse treatment of Abu Grab prisoners are too busy to view videos. Perhaps the next time any one of them asks for an orange they should be given an apple, until they are made to confess – though not under torture, pray God – that there is a difference between the two.

In his original statement, Shays made two clear assertions: first, that he would oppose torture where ever it occurred, because torture should never be permitted; and second, that he felt certain torture had occurred, but not, in his opinion, at Abu Grab.

Under critical pressure, Shays amended his statement. He now considers sexual humiliation to be a form of torture. If so, it is a form that differs widely from the torture inflicted on the “spy-journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl.” A proof that torture did indeed occur at Abu Grab cannot be sustained by those who loudly condemn the lesser form of torture while winking, in their critical remarks, at the greater. Though both are fruit, apples are never oranges.

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