FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

‘But That Would Be Torture!’

by DAVE LINDORFF

I just received an object lesson into how easily we Americans are able to compartmentalize our principles and our sense of basic human decency.

My father, David Lindorff Sr., who is 89, recently took a bad fall, hitting the back of his head on the bedpost and suffering a concussion that has temporarily left him with some periods of confusion. In the rehab facility where he was recovering, he would sometimes, when he was tired and half-asleep, get confused about his location, and would try to climb out of the hospital bed he was in, putting him at risk of another serious fall.

I asked the nurse in charge of the floor, and later also asked the head of the facility, if he could perhaps have a safety strap placed over him so that he would not be able to inadvertently hurt himself, and in both cases received a shocked reply: “We do not restrain our patients here. That would be a kind of torture! We are a restraint-free institution.”

The revulsion in the director’s voice at the notion of even gently restraining a patient like dad in a bed for his own protection was so evident I was struck by its basic sincerity.

And yet, this is in a country where most of the citizenry is cheering the ongoing torture of captives in the government’s trumped-up “war” on terror. A country that also routinely–and again with the enthusiastic endorsement of the public–tortures many of the millions of human beings it incarcerates every year.

How can it be that there is such widespread empathy in America for the old and the sick and such revulsion at the idea of restraining them (even for their own good), and yet when it comes to actually torturing people considered to be “terrorists” — even before these people have had a trial — or people who have been jailed, even for non-violent crimes, many of the same people are happy to see them water-boarded, hung by the wrists from the ceiling with only their toes on the ground, placed for hours in stress positions, slammed against the wall, deprived of sleep for days on end, or in the case of common prisoners, placed in solitary, sometimes for months at a stretch, and shackled like slaves when removed from their cells?

It’s the same kind of moral disconnect that has people weeping and becoming outraged over the abuse of animals — for example the case of the Arizona pound that killed a badly injured cat brought in by a homeless man for treatment when it got caught in barbed wire — but then shrugging it off when they hear that another man in Arizona, picked up on a drunk driving charge, was placed in solitary and then left there, without trial or even access to a lawyer, for a year, or when they hear that a number of the so-called “terrorists” held at Guantanamo, sometimes for years, were captured and stolen away from their families in Afghanistan when they were just boys as young as 14!`

One of those boys, Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was 15 when captured, has not only been held at Guantanamo for for over a decade now, but was tortured repeatedly as a child by his US military captors, and ultimately was forced, after a sham military “tribunal,” to choose between endless captivity at Guantanamo or an admission of “guilt” and an additional sentence of 8 years with one more served at Guantanamo and seven more in his native Canada (he chose the latter).  His “crime”? He allegedly tossed a grenade at US troops who were entering a Taliban compound which they had already called in an airstrike on. As the US soldiers were checking out the bodies of the victims of that airstrike, and by some accounts, finishing off the wounded, boy-soldier Khadr, badly wounded himself, is alleged to have tossed a grenade that killed one US soldier. Note that had an American soldier done exactly the same thing under those circumstances he would almost certainly have won at least a Silver Star, and maybe a Medal of Honor, but because this boy was fighting with the Taliban, he was instead charged with murder.)

Meanwhile, I can’t get a nursing home to gently restrain my father at night, either by putting up the sides on both sides of his hospital bed or by placing a lose belt over him as he’s sleeping, because that would be “torture.”

Is this a crazy goddam country or what!

Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He lives in Philadelphia. 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail