In the Greek myth when Heracles faced the Hydra he discovered that no matter how many times he decapitated the beast another two heads would grow back. The creature’s only weakness was that only one of its heads was immortal and so Heracles was faced with the issue of trying to figure out which head to cut off. We are faced with a similar dilemma today. Where does this opening for torture to occur stem from?
Alan Dershowitz in his article Should we fight terror with torture? states his belief that the issue lies with the old outdated laws that are in his words “near useless.” Dershowitz describes the problem as a “black whole” in international law that our government is in turns hindered by and takes advantage of. This same idea was echoed in a Q & A session I attended last night with Reza Alsan. Aslan stated that the Obama admiration was making a complete mess in the Middle East because they are still subscribing to old ideas that don’t play with the current situation.
From all I have read thus far I have to agree with Dershowitz and Aslan that international laws and our government’s foreign policies need a serious update in light of the drastic change in global security today. Everything I have read also supports the idea that the torture of prisoners was not, for the majority, enacted by governments but by individuals and groups.
In Regarding The Torture Of Others by Susan Sontag, Sontag argues that this torture is a result of American Society. From “video games of killing” to “hazing” to “torture” America has turned into culture of brutality where this is all good “fun.” The blame Sontag lays on the government is for encouraging us to ignore and essentially “normalize” this brutality.
All these writers make good points but I must agree most heartily with David Aaronovitch when he states, in his article The trouble with Sontag’s story, “it isn’t about ‘them’ but ‘us’.” Aaronovitch argues that to make the issue about society and not about us as individuals inadvertently gives us permission to ignore the issue. The battle he says is within ourselves “always reexamining, always questioning.”
We are humans we have had brutal instincts throughout our past and we will continue to have them in the future. This is fact. Just as it is fact that we also have the instinct and (hopefully) the desire to fight these urges. We must do as we have always done and work within ourselves. It is the person would builds society and societies that build governments. In this case Heracles dosnt need to figure out which head to cut off he needs to go back home for little spend a little more time working out his own issues and then get back to Hydra.