Sunday, July 08, 2007

Interview with a torturer

Correction - an "enhanced interrogation technician", I suppose. The BBC link, sent to me by a friend, is for an Owen Bennett-Jones interview with Tony Lagouranis, a former US army interrogator in Iraq who has written a book about his experiences. I shall put it out here for your use, if you have 26 minutes and 30 seconds to spare. Don't, however, expect it to brighten up your Sunday mood.

What really does me in is the fact this is a man who did his college degree in Ancient Greek, philosophy, mathematics, and joined the army to "learn Arabic and pay off his student loans" (an advert for free university education if ever I heard one). In other words, not exactly someone you'd immediately have down as a person who'd enjoy - or even agree to - inflicting pain and terror on another human, for a living. Only following orders, yes. He says that. My worry is most of us are like this - that there is no inherent moral stance which we adhere to, that if and when put in a position, we will just follow orders.


lavenderblue said...

Oh No AnnA1
Bollocks to 'following orders '.
You don't , I don't.

Anna MR said...

Hei Lavender - yes, I would like to think that. Thing is, I can't be sure - and must just pray to the god of all agnostic atheist types with spiritual leanings that I am never put to the test. What if I found I was the type who buckles under pressure? So many others have.

Sometimes I just wish to disappear and become, I don't know, a pixel maybe.


NMJ said...

Anna MR, You are so funny in that response to Lavender - being a pixel, sounds quite soothing . . . I will grit my teeth and go listen to this interview.


Anna MR said...

A pixel is little, linked to others, communicative in its small way, harmless, unnoticable, not fat. What else could I want of the state of being?

Pixeldom, here I come.


Merkin said...

I lived in Poland for a long time and had occasion to visit Auschwitz more than once.
One thing that always struck me is that the whole process was carried out by ordinary people on other ordinary people.
Paraphrasing W.B. Yates : 'if there was an Irishman on a spit there would be no shortage of other Irishmen to turn it'.
Sad but true.

Anna MR said...

Merkin - that is what worries me too, that it is not as if the perpetrators of horror are all unusually bad and evil individuals.

I have always thought it a feeble, if convenient, excuse to hide behind, the "these people are monsters" statement. I think that while there probably is a smallish percentage of people with a very poorly developed capacity for empathy and an overly-developed capacity for cruelty, and at the other end of the human spectrum, also a smallish percentage of people really incapable of inflicting pain and horror unto others, most of mankind, most of us fall somewhere in between. The real horrors, as you say, are committed by ordinary people against other ordinary people.

It is terrifying, it makes me sick. I need to cleanse my soul with something. Expect another post with nothing whatsoever to do with world affairs.


Fionna said...

Experiments have shown that yes, we will (almost) all follow orders and inflict pain, if the orders are given by certain people and if we think we can give up responsibility to them.

Prod me one day to look up sources for this - there are 2 or 3 relevant examples, but I'm too busy to look them up right now.

Anna MR said...

Fionna honey, how nice to see you here - welcome.

I am aware of some of these studies, I've read about them in psychology classes etc - you are talking e.g. about the wardens and inmates experiment, for one, and the inflicting pain on someone who is invisible but reacts with tormented shrieks, I take it?

In my view, the experiments really only show what we should be able to deduct both from history and the present day society around us. And all of this tends to prove my point on the "these people are monsters" issue, discussed above with the worthy Merkin...


R.H. said...

I've read those studies too, but they're different from actual means-to-an-end conditions, e.g. Communism and Fascism. People will eat their enemies.

Anna MR said...

Hei R.H. - yes, people will eat their enemies, but acts of human kindness and altruism to the point of risking one's own life have also taken place. I need to focus my mind on the possibility of those at the moment. Sorry if this sounds weak - but I just need to, for my own sake. They are rarer than cruelty but no less real for their rarity.