[Marxism] Scarborough interviews Dershowitz

DLVinvest at cs.com DLVinvest at cs.com
Wed Jun 9 00:53:01 MDT 2004

The laws of war, including the agreements against torture of prisoners of 
war, are contradictory, but the defining element in torture as distinct from 
other forms of cruelty is that the victim is defenseless, at the mercy of the 
torturer, whose only limit is what conscience he or she has been imbued with, in 
which one human being recognizes him or herself in another, or lacking that 
ethical inhibition, the deterrent effect of fear of punishment.

If the person desiring to inflcit pain has to weigh the risk of retaliation, 
he/she might yet inflict terrible pain and injury, even death in order to 
annihilate the opponent and avoid any chance of retribution. But the laws of war 
and the convention against torture exist in recognition that individuals acting 
in the name of states, and especially when they do so under military 
discipline, require some greater ethical compulsion.

The US invasion of Iraq was a war of aggression under international law -- 
even though such law is at any moment is a vector of all the accumulated forces 
of imperiliast rivalry and popular resistance that make up concepts of law and 
claims to rights. It's notable that Dershowitz quibbles over what level of 
cruelty constitutes illegal torture but does not raise the point that the 
victors in World War II hung the Nazi politicians and generals for the crime of 
aggressive war. All that follows from such aggression is criminal conduct. What is 
illegal about the acts of humiliation and cruelty against the prisoners 
begins precisely with their statuss as defenseless, completely at the whim of their 
captors, without any legal limitations on their will to harm, without 
restraint on their power of life and death. Any form of interrogation under such 
circumstances is torture because it is based on the understanding of both torturer 
and victim that their are no legal limits to what the former may do to the 

Douglas L. Vaughan, Jr.
for Print, Film & Electronic Media
3140 W. 32nd Ave. 
Denver CO 80211

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