Monday, January 26, 2015

Torture Is Not In America's Best Interests

January 24, 2015

Americans are debating several complex moral issues:
o     Does torture produce essential information at a time of terror activity?
o     Does torture do moral damage to the torturers themselves?
o     Does imminent danger warrant violating US law?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. The 9/11 attack really frightened this country and the government went into emergency mode to find out if more attacks were on the way. This is the ticking bomb theory: do anything necessary to prevent more terror attacks.  And more terror attacks had been planned but were thwarted over the 13 years since 9/11.

When normal FBI or CIA vigilance can protect us as it has, we need to revisit “enhanced interrogation” (torture) as a means of getting information. There seems to be a majority view, even of operatives, that torture too often gets false information and the occasional truth could be obtained by other means. The Feinstein Report delivered on December 9 was a cry from the heart that America should not be doing such things and that we should admit we did, understand why, and resolve never to do it again. Her report was not advocating a witch-hunt against the intelligence community for what they did; torture had already been stopped by President Obama's order.

I agree with Feinstein's position, and it is obvious from some of her documentation that Americans charged with conducting torture were sickened by it. This speaks well for them because around the world, most other countries do not have such qualms. This was why most of this unpleasant business was outsourced to Lebanon or Egypt. The “World's” revulsion about the CIA's torture is pure hypocrisy!  Anti-torture zealots warn us that ISIS will read the report and use these tactics against hostages.  Baloney!  Isis uses a blunt instrument: decapitation. What information can they get from aid workers or tourists?

History of Torture.
Torture has been a judicial artifact from antiquity to today. From Assyrian times 4000 BC, we can see murals on their palace walls showing torture and decapitations. These were clearly propaganda tools to frighten anybody attempting resistance to their rule.

Rome used torture to punish people who threatened the state. Crucifixion was their public means of lingering execution, used after slave rebellions and most famously in Judea, when Jesus was swept up with other potential revolutionaries and crucified.

From the collapse of Rome to the 18th century in Europe, torture was a regular tool of the state to force prisoners to name accomplices or to ascertain the guilt of the prisoner. Trial by fire was such a mode. It was thought that an innocent person would not be burned. Obviously, there were no innocent persons.

There were periodic spasms of craziness in the late Middle Ages too: the Inquisition was the tool of the Spanish Catholic church to uncover insincere forced converts (Jews and once Muslims). After torture, the victims were burnt at the stake (further torture ending in death) with celebrating audiences watching. Eventually, the Inquisition deteriorated to torturing people accused by their jealous neighbors; the Church was also complicit because the accused's property could be confiscated.

The Protestant revolution brought with it a terror of witches. Hundreds of thousands of women---most old, some demented, and other victims of enemy neighbors---were hanged or burnt at the stake. The last case happened in New England: the Salem witchcraft trial. This spectacle sickened the new American colonists and it never happened again.

By the 18th century, along with a campaign to end the global institution of slavery (the Quakers did this) came a campaign to end judicial torture. Western civilization was the only place to do this. Torture remained in Islam, China, India, Russia. Torture returned hideously under the Nazis and USSR; the US disavowed this practice after the Cold War until 9/11. Fear made us revive it.

The greatest danger of any conflict is that the good guys start resembling the bad guys.  We must not let that happen. Our interrogators just have to be smarter than the terrorists they question. Torture, which is morally repugnant, is not needed.

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Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or    

Youth who seek “meaning” find it in bad places

Laina Farhat-Holzman
January 3, 2015

Intrepid TV journalists have managed to conduct interviews with some of the most puzzling Jihadis flocking to ISIS. It seems inconceivable that a French teen-ager raised as a Catholic in Normandy could choose to join ISIS and decapitate a prisoner on television. But when asked why he does this, he says that he hopes to die and go to heaven. He hates western civilization because it is corrupt, run by Jews, and full of shameless women who dare to show their faces and who do not defer to men.

Young women also flock to Syria where they babysit until selected by a “warrior” to become his sex-slave wife and bear his children, preferably boys. I can understand why young Muslim women would rebel against their oppressive home life and use Jihad as an excuse for a little adventure (and maybe sex); but it is more difficult to understand why any European woman with half a brain would convert to militant Islam. Even more puzzling are girls willing to become suicide bombers. Their status in Muslim Paradise is not a happy one. They will still serve men.

Why are these young people so dense?

o     Boredom and the search for adventure with the justification that it is religiously blessed.

o     Failure of the European host societies to integrate immigrants into their cultures, opting instead to keep them on the dole. These young people neither feel Muslim nor French, British, German, Danish, or Swedish. Becoming a Jihadi provides fellowship and solidarity, helped by serious brainwashing.

o     Reluctance of modern European countries to practice any sort of love of nation, believing that patriotism leads to war. However, without understanding the miracle of western civilization, students have the choice of believing in nothing or believing in a cleverly propagandized notion of the superiority of Islamism. ISIS makes a point of condemning national identity, creating instead an imaginary supra-nation, an Islamic caliphate. This gives them a flag they can salute, a black pirates' flag.

o     One cannot but wonder how much of this movement is the result of the terribly inbred first-cousin marriages preferred in the Muslim world, the consequences of which are producing anomalies and mental retardation. Don't they, and converts  from prisons, know that ISIS will kill them if they want to go home?

It is not popular among our teachers and intellectual elites to praise our own civilization. There is handwringing over Western colonialism that did such damage to the Muslim world while ignoring that the Muslim Turks colonized this region and retarded it for 500 years. It is not popular to note that Western colonial powers actually created nation states that had not been there before, and gave them the institutions to run them. India, for one, would not be a country without the British colonial administration.

The scientific revolution of the 18th century rose out of two millennia of western institutions: revival of the learning of ancient Greece and Rome, some dazzling Islamic science which flourished briefly and then died, and a religious reformation that permitted rational thought to supplant obedient belief.

The ancient institution of slavery (including the slavery of women) was only ended by Western civilization. Not enough credit is given, or taught in schools, about our emancipation of black slaves and women.

The UN's 2013 Slavery Index lists 29.8 million slaves worldwide, involuntary servitude, including children; enforced child marriage; and criminal sexual slave trafficking. Countries with the highest number of slaves are China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Congo, Burma, and Bangladesh. India dwarfs them all in sheer numbers.  But seven of ten countries with the largest percentage of slaves are Muslim. If all married women, not just underage brides, were included as slaves, the numbers would be even higher.

Since war has been declared on the Western world (as well as on the western-influenced Muslim world), we should revisit how we understand and support our own civilization. It may be chic to be a nihilist, but has never been smart.  We have a civilization worth fighting for. ISIS doesn't.

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Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or