Reimagining American Community
Apr
19

ScreenHunter_83 Apr. 20 08.23Earlier this week, the New York Times reported the findings of a bi-partisan task force indicating that the interrogation and detention programs of the U.S. government after September 11, 2001 were indeed torture. Simultaneously this week, the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing were identified as associated with fundamentalist movements in the Chechen region of Russia. Perhaps these two developments make the following dialogue of even greater interest. Note that it is purely fictional.

–The Editors

The Participants

Ambassador: Between stints at universities and think tanks, she has enjoyed several high posts as a political appointee. She identifies with the neo-conservative movement.

Professor (emeritus): A distinguished humanities teacher of the old school. His obscure essays appear in equally obscure philosophical-theological journals.

Talk Show Host:  An experienced journalist, her views reflect for the most part what in the United States goes by the name ‘mainstream.’

Scientist: A Russian scientist trained in the hard sciences but with wide interests in many fields.

~~~

AMBASSADOR.  Though I don’t endorse torture, I do agree that “no moral value held dear by the American people obliges us to sacrifice innocent lives to spare a captured terrorist from unpleasant things.”[i]  In any case, it is not as if torture was ever the official policy of the U.S. government. [Editor’s note: see New York Times article linked above.]

The real abuses, such as those at Abu Ghraib, were the actions of a few bad apples. Where else but America would those bad apples have been rooted out and punished?

SCIENTIST.  Excuse me, but what do you call it, then, when an employee of the U.S. executive branch performs torture while following explicit orders from the highest levels of the U.S. government to perform torture?

AMBASSADOR. [coughing, and lighting a cigarette] I suppose you are referring to the so-called ‘torture memos’?

SCIENTIST.  I suppose I am. But why “so-called”?  Torture is exactly what those memos authorized, and torture was what was performed, all in accordance with detailed White House instructions.  The memos explicitly call for the use of waterboarding, which the U.S. itself considered a crime punishable by death as recently as WW II; and they authorized sleep deprivation for up to ten days! Ten days!  Not even Stalin during the Moscow show-trials needed that much time to extract his false confessions!

AMBASSADOR. What you forget is that it makes a huge difference who is carrying out these orders, and in what spirit they are carried out. I have seen no convincing evidence that anyone was kept completely without sleep for an extended period. Probably it was more a matter of limiting sleep to only a few hours a day. And I am sure there are various ways of conducting what you call ‘waterboarding:’ varying the amount of water and the duration of the pouring and so forth. And after all, medical professionals were present …

SCIENTIST.  I guess if you get all your information from American news media propaganda it is no wonder that you should believe American torture is actually very kind. Well, Russian newspapers are not much better, at least as far as news about Russia is concerned. But even in Russia it is still possible, with a bit of effort, to find out what is actually going on, either on the internet [snickers from the others] or, … or on the Moscow Echo radio station, for example.

TALK SHOW HOST: Moscow Echo? I’ve never heard of it. But I must take issue with your statement that there is only propaganda in the U.S. news media. Certainly we have none of that on my show! And I hardly think Russia has a right to lecture Americans about human rights!

SCIENTIST.  Though I am a very large person, all the same I cannot boast of being an entire country. I am just an individual man. All the same, I agree that the Russian state has a very bad record on human rights, and it has no right to lecture anyone. But in fact it doesn’t lecture anyone, while the U.S. government does, even though American torture has been widespread and brutal and has been practiced for many years, beginning in Latin America during the 1980s if not earlier. And yet America still pretends that it has the moral standing to lecture other countries on human rights!  The torture of prisoners in secret CIA prisons is bad enough, but even worse are the cases of extraordinary rendition. Prisoners were sent to various countries around the world—Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan—with full knowledge of what was awaiting the poor prisoners there.  Egypt and Syria are bad enough, but what goes on in Uzbekistan—and I know Uzbekistan well, believe me—is beyond belief!

AMBASSADOR: What does go on in Uzbekistan?

SCIENTIST:  If you want to know the truth, read the report by the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan at the time, in the first couple of years of the War on Terror, when most of these prisoners were being sent under the extraordinary renditions program. The British ambassador, his name was Craig Murray, got photographic evidence of prisoners in Uzbekistan who had been boiled alive. In other cases children were sodomized with broken bottles in front of their parents in order to extract confessions.  Murray complained about it so loudly to the British government that he was eventually forced out on some sort of trumped up charges.  In any case, the United States can’t claim it was unaware of the brutal torture going on there, because Murray brought it to their attention very insistently …

AMBASSADOR. I don’t trust a word this Murray fellow says. He was fired for womanizing, coming to work drunk, selling visas for sex or some such nonsense.  I don’t recall the exact details, but obviously has no standing to make declarations about morality.

SCIENTIST. The character flaws of Ambassador Murray are described in detail by Murray himself in his book – Dirty Diplomacy I think it was called in the U.S. edition …  I highly recommend it. Yes, he was a womanizer and a hard drinker, he writes all about it.  But all the charges of professional misconduct were dismissed, and in any case they were obviously just a way to silence him. He had always been a womanizer and a hard drinker, and no one gave a damn about it until he started complaining loudly about American and British use of so-called ‘information’ derived from Uzbek torture victims.  As for me, I’ll take the morality of a womanizer any day of the week over someone who approves of boiling people alive, even if it is in the interests of American security!

PROFESSOR.  In my opinion, the question of whether or not torture has been practiced by the American government, both directly and by proxy, is not very interesting, because we already know the answer. It was practiced.

TALK SHOW HOST.  I would be happy to accept that the question is now settled, just on your authority alone, professor, but I gather that not everyone else here is so easily persuaded. Perhaps you could expand a bit on your statement?

PROFESSOR.  Very well. I was so disturbed by the images of tortured victims that came out of Abu Ghraib that I decided to read everything I could on the topic. The best source I came across was a book called A Question of Torture by the respected University of Wisconsin historian Alfred McCoy.

What I learned is that, after WWII, the CIA spent several decades and several billions of dollars on perfecting a scientific and plausibly deniable – because it left no marks – form of torture, and then spread the results of this program all over the world. What most startled me was the revelation that the CIA was quite envious of the Soviet Union’s success in extracting false confessions. They had before them the notorious case of Cardinal Minsdszenty of Hungary, who confessed to all sorts of wild crimes during his trial in 1949, and of course, our Russian friend has just reminded us of the similar false confessions extracted during Stalin’s show trials of the 1930’s.  The U.S. decided that it must beat the KGB at their own game and figure out how to get innocent people to confess to crimes they had never committed.

SCIENTIST: Hah! So there is where the dog is buried! I knew it …

PROFESSOR. [looking with puzzlement at the Scientist, he continues] What the CIA researchers discovered from Soviet torture techniques was that the most effective way to destroy a prisoner’s self was through the use of isolation, lack of sleep, extreme temperatures, and chronic hunger. The KGB also made use of self-inflicted pain, such as that induced by making victims stand still for 18 to 24 hours at a time.  To this bag of tricks the Americans added a few others. They learned that a psychotic state could be induced still more rapidly by the use of sensory deprivation, which eventually led to the use of hooding and ear-muffs, as we can see in the pictures from Guantanamo Bay and so forth. Also, the removal of any reference to time, or, alternatively, blasting prisoners with constant noise. I should add that they also studied Nazi mind-control methods, but apparently learned little that was useful from them.

When CIA researchers looked at the KGB practices, they had no trouble labeling them as torture. It would seem odd to give them another name now, merely because their national origin has changed. By the way, what I have mentioned is by no means a complete list of techniques used. Various forms of beating or hanging people in painful positions for long periods also formed part of the new CIA torture playbook.

But something our Russian friend said earlier seems to me quite significant. “Not even Stalin needed that much time to extract confessions during the show trials.” This brings us back to the same question that was raised earlier: Why in fact has torture been practiced by the Americans over the past ten years?

TALK SHOW HOST. What do you mean, “What was the motivation?” Isn’t it obvious?

PROFESSOR. No, it is not. What do you think it was?

TALK SHOW HOST.  Why, to get information that would prevent another attack on the United States! We were attacked, after all!

SCIENTIST.  She is quite right, professor. It’s only common sense. What better way to get accurate information from someone than to deprive them of sleep for eight or nine days? It refreshes the memory like nothing else!

TALK SHOW HOST. I don’t think sarcasm is called for. You’re perfectly at liberty to disagree …

AMBASSADOR. I take strong exception to this suspiciousness about America’s motives.  Our motives were clear. We were attacked and something had to be done. The correct question to start with is not the motive, but whether or not torture – I still prefer to say enhanced interrogation – was justified under the unique and new circumstances of the global war on terror.

PROFESSOR.  Justified in pragmatic terms, or in the sense of just war theory?

AMBASSADOR.  Both.  I think the enhanced interrogations program was both morally justified and necessary for keeping us safe.  Just war theory recognizes that one may not always be able to use just methods in the waging of a war that itself is entirely justified, as this war clearly is.  C. S. Lewis somewhere says the same thing. It is unjust, after all, that innocents are inevitably killed during even a careful military assault that tries to avoid civilians. Why wouldn’t even torture, then, sometimes be part of a just war—in other words, a war whose aims are just? And let’s not forget what is at stake here. It is not just our own freedom: it’s also democracy, the rights of women, our very survival!

PROFESSOR. Do you then define a just war as one whose aims are just? Surely you realize that there are other requirements.

AMBASSADOR. Yes, of course there are.  If I’m not mistaken, it was Augustine who first declared that a just war has at least three pre-conditions. It has to be openly declared by a legitimate authority.  It must be a response to open aggression or a similar just cause. And it should only be fought as a last resort. It’s clear that the U.S. war on terrorism fulfills all of these requirements, including the last. The idea of negotiating with terrorists, after all, is preposterous!

SCIENTIST. [inaudibly to the rest of the group] And because Saddam Hussein was not connected to any terrorists, the U.S. government had to torture a few people into saying that he was …

PROFESSOR.  [Knitting his brow and turning to the Politician] You said earlier that during the waging of a just war, one may be obliged to commit specific acts that are not in themselves completely just. I agree. According to you, however, does this imply that any means at all may be used?

AMBASSADOR. Certainly not. But one’s choice of the means is surely connected with the magnitude of the danger. I can see what you are driving at, though; so let me put the question to you. Where would you set the limits to the violence that is still permissible during a just war?

PROFESSOR. Well, for one thing, I would not fight terror with terror. The firebombing of German and Japanese cities during WWII was intended to terrorize the civilian population of those nations. These were acts of state terror far worse than anything yet perpetrated by any individual terrorist. But I would add to your list of requirements for a just war another requirement that has only in the past 100 years or so come to the fore, at least as far as I know.

I first came across this new requirement in a dramatic dialogue written by the Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, a dialogue called “Three Conversations: War, Progress, and the End of History, plus a short story of the Anti-Christ.”

AMBASSADOR. Vladimir Solovyov! How interesting! I haven’t yet read him, but I have been meaning to, ever since hearing how Cardinal Giacomo Biffi gave a presentation about him to then-Pope Benedict XVI at a retreat a while back. From what I recall, the cardinal, quoting Solovyov, called the Anti-Christ a pacifist, an ecologist and an ecumenist!

PROFESSOR.   Is that what he said, truly? How odd. I have always considered Solovyov the patron saint of ecological thought.  No doubt what the cardinal meant to say was that no set of values, even the highest, can be a substitute for the living inspiration of the good, which alone can inspire us in the present moment and thereby help us avoid becoming formulaic and rule-bound. But in fairness to Solovyov, you should know that his Anti-Christ, I mean, the Anti-Christ depicted in his story, was a capitalist, an imperialist and a militarist.  And he is finally defeated by an ecumenical army.

AMBASSADOR. Well, I haven’t read the story so I couldn’t say. So why again did you bring this Solovyov fellow up?

PROFESSOR.  Because he added an important condition to what makes any given war just: namely, that both parties must be at risk. A similar point was made, albeit more weakly, by Yale professor Paul Kahn after the NATO conflict in Kosovo.  Kahn found it extremely odd that in a campaign supposedly concerned with the Kosovars’ human rights, it was deemed altogether unacceptable to risk the life of even a single NATO soldier in saving those same Kosovars. But, Kahn asked, if human rights are about the fundamental equality of all persons as such, how can one justify such obvious discounting of the lives one is supposedly so concerned about?  As it turned out, NATO had such complete superiority that it didn’t suffer a single casualty during that campaign.

TALK SHOW HOST.  But this makes no sense to me at all! If our enemies are in the middle of some terrible act, such as Serbia’s persecution of the defenseless Kosovars, why is it necessary that we put ourselves at risk for fighting our enemy to become moral? Doesn’t it only add to the sum of evil if our own soldiers are killed, when that might have been easily avoided?PROFESSOR. You are missing Kahn’s point while shedding light on Solovyov’s.  In Kosovo, Kahn said, NATO forces should have been willing to intervene even at the risk of losing some of their own lives if they were truly so committed to the notion that Kosovars are fully human. Kahn said that such willingness to sacrifice on the field of battle is an act of remaking the boundaries of community.  It is like Kennedy saying that he too is a Berliner, only this time one would be saying “Kosovar” or “Jew” or “Palestinian,” depending of course on the specifics of the case.

AMBASSADOR. That’s all very well if you are referring to Kosovars, who in this case were entirely innocent …

SCIENTIST.  What a bunch of nonsense! And you (turning to the talk show host) say America is free of propaganda!

AMBASSADOR. Or, or at any rate, were substantially more innocent than the Serbians in this case …  But it sounds like you are you trying to claim a moral equivalency between the U.S. and its closest allies on the one hand, and our enemies on the other. But that is a complete fallacy.  There is no moral equivalency between America and its terrorist enemies or, for that matter, between Israel and its various fanatical foes.

PROFESSOR. But morality is not what I am talking about. Or rather, it is not the only thing I am talking about. And neither was Solovyov.  Neither of us would make our decisions about how we fight depend on whether the enemy is more or less ‘good’ than we are.  Let us hope that our enemies are always somewhat ‘less good’ than we.  But even if a given enemy is utterly barbarian – as were the Nazis during WWII – it changes nothing in one crucial regard. In fact, in Solovyov’s Three Conversations – to be precise it was the first one, called War – this very point is addressed.

In each Conversation, a different character takes the lead and expresses some portion of a larger truth. In the section on war the lead is taken by a Russian General, and he describes the enemy he confronted during one of his campaigns in the Caucasus (this is all taking place during the Russo-Turkic War of the late 19th century) as veritable “devils.”  These so-called devils – none of whom are Muslims, Solovyov emphasizes, by the way – are mercenaries from some tribe or other and they have just completed the massacre of an entire Armenian village. They impaled babies on poles and then lit them on fire before the very eyes of their mothers, who were tied to cartwheels and forced to watch. The Cossack regiment commanded by the General gets word that this same detachment of irregulars – which heavily outnumbers them – is on its way to another village where it will certainly do the very same thing.  The enemy force had left on horseback an hour earlier and there seemed no way to stop them from succeeding …

TALK SHOW HOST.  My goodness, what a story! Has anyone made this into a film yet?

PROFESSOR. Not to my knowledge. Should I tell you how it turns out?

TALK SHOW HOST:  Yes! [the others chime in, urging him to continue]

PROFESSOR. Well, the Russian General and his Cossacks come across an old man who had hid in a well during the massacre, and he shows them how to cut off the enemy by taking a little-known route through a narrow mountain gorge. The General and his troops manage to emerge, single file, on the other side of the mountain just in time to set up a few cannons and confront the enemy, the aforementioned ‘devils,’ in battle …  Wait, let me correct that. The general first sets his men to mask his three cannons from view and then sends a small detachment of Cossacks on horseback to engage and bait the enemy. Several Cossacks fall, shot by the enemy, but they continue forward until, suddenly, exactly according to plan, they wheel their horses around and beat a hasty retreat.  As the Cossack horsemen approach their comrades the General gives the signal: the Cossack horsemen immediately scatter left and right and then all three cannons discharge at once. The surprise effect turns out just as the General had hoped. The enemy flees in disorderly retreat, the Cossacks counter-attack and saber them to the last man!

Now listen. Solovyov, through the General, makes it very clear that had the Turkish irregulars, those so-called devils, continued their charge after the initial cannonade, the Cossacks would themselves have been massacred to the last man. They would never have had the chance to re-load. But instead, the bad guys retreated and the Cossack cavalrymen finish them off. After which of course the Cossacks, whom the general describes as scoundrels, pilfer the dead for anything they can steal. In other words, both sides are morally questionable, but under the circumstances, it was clearly preferable, in the moral sense, that thieving Cossacks should have won, and barbarians who roast babies alive should have been stopped.

AMBASSADOR. Wait a minute. I thought you said the point was all about not making moral comparisons, but now it sounds like this is precisely what you are doing! The Cossacks, though imperfect, were morally superior to those barbaric mercenaries, which is why we are glad that the former and not the latter won the battle. Am I missing something here?

PROFESSOR. Only one thing, and if you will continue listening I will tell you what it is. Even given the extreme barbarity of these irregulars, Solovyov still considered it a condition of justice—in other words, of a just war—that both sides be at risk.  If these ‘devils’ had been captured and disarmed, or had been caught in their sleep, it would not have been the same at all. What Solovyov was saying is that human community extends beyond all moral comparisons. Kahn affirmed a community of human equality between the Kosovars and the NATO troops, presumably because he felt that the Kosovars in this situation were in the right. But Solovyov’s logic goes beyond that. Even where, in the moral sense, there is complete inequality between  the two sides, universal human solidarity is not negated, because human equality is in the first instance an ontological, and not a moral category.

TALK SHOW HOST.  [muttering, though audibly] Once you get these intellectuals talking you can’t make heads or tails of what is going on … What is with this ontological business?

SCIENTIST. Ontology has to do with ‘being.’ It refers to what actually exists, as opposed to what only appears to be. In this case, he is simply referring to what a human is … [turning to the Professor] But please continue!

PROFESSOR. As I was saying, for Solovyov, to be human means ‘to be in solidarity,’ which implies recognizing the infinite value of all human beings regardless of their behavior, even if it is quite bad. His principle that, in a just war, both sides must be at risk stems from recognition of this solidarity as an ontological requirement.  So does the principle that one not torture captured prisoners. The prisoner is, by definition, defenseless, which means that the captor is not at risk, even potentially. To deny mercy even here means we are losing the only thing, spiritually speaking, that separates us from devils.

AMBASSADOR. You say that both sides must be at risk. Very well. In the case of the ticking time bomb, both sides are at risk. And unless the terrorist is tortured (if you insist on using that term), innocents, perhaps many thousands of them, will suffer death and dismemberment. Why shouldn’t we be just as concerned about their welfare as your Solovyov was with those Armenian villagers?

PROFESSOR. Are you talking about a ticking time bomb in the present, or in the future?

AMBASSADOR. What do you mean?

PROFESSOR. I’m simply asking whether this is the famous case of a ticking time bomb that we ‘know’ has been planted somewhere, and that we ‘know’ the captured terrorist can help us disarm, or are we talking about a theoretical bomb that might be acquired some years in the future unless we torture and kill people in order to prevent it?

AMBASSADOR. Well, both seem equally important in my opinion, but let’s start with the first.

PROFESSOR.  The first question to ask is this: how do we know that this alleged terrorist has planted a bomb? Did we catch him in the act? And if so, why didn’t we stop him? And if we did not see him, how do we know we are torturing the right person? After all, perhaps there is no bomb, and it is just a hoax. But let us assume, as the T.V. shows like to do, that these problems are miraculously resolved and we know that there is a bomb, and what kind of bomb, and that our captured terrorist knows all about how to disarm it.  How do we know torture will work better than the methods recommended by actual interrogators? It is not simply that all professional interrogators find that empathy, and not threats, is more effective, but that torture, in order even conceivably to be effective, must hold out the prospect of a prolonged duration.  But this is precisely what the ticking time bomb scenario does not permit! In the moments during which torture might even theoretically be effective, the determined terrorist needs do nothing but tell a lie to start a wild goose chase that ends with a boom.

As for the bomb-that-might-blow-up-some-time-in-the-future scenario, is that even worth discussing? On that logic, there are no limits to torture at all! The folly of torturing on the basis of hypotheticals was already described by C.S. Lewis in his novel That Hideous Strength.

AMBASSADOR. I’ve been meaning to read that one. Unfortunately never got the chance …

PROFESSOR. No matter. The salient point will take just a moment. The hero of the novel – a sort of linguistics professor and Christ-figure rolled into one – says that we are not allowed to be too prudent, lest we become like our enemies. What is the distinguishing trait of those who do evil? According to Lewis, it is to do precisely what is being proposed by those who say ‘we have to torture to prevent a bomb at some point in the future.’ In other words, to insist on taking the most extreme measures even when the danger is not yet fully upon us – in fact, while it is still abstract.

And Solovyov makes the same point. His Cossacks went to battle with an enemy that was actively on the march against defenseless villagers in real time. This was no preventative war, nor one based on guesses about what might happen at some vague point in the future.

AMBASSADOR. For my part, it is your own argument that I find too abstract. What if a CIA agent is using your supposedly more effective, empathic methods to extract information from someone whom we have good reason to believe (even if we don’t know one hundred per cent) can help dismantle an atomic weapon. But let’s say that, in this particular instance, the empathy approach is not working. What then? If enhanced methods are used, they may work. Nothing else has, and time is running out! Would you throw such an agent in jail for acting in good conscience in such a situation?  To my mind, he would be acting perfectly morally and patriotically. But by outlawing all uses of torture in advance you prevent him from acting in defense of an entire city!

TALK SHOW HOST. I’m glad you raised that question, because that is exactly what my callers would have asked. [turning to the Professor] What you said earlier about human solidarity is of course convincing, if you look at things from the spiritual perspective, as I do. But you know, not everyone shares the spiritual point of view. A lot of people are more interested in asking: what is going to work?  Even Mark Danner, who was on my show once – and he has probably published more articles criticizing torture than anyone – admits that the argument about torture stands or falls on whether or not it works. If it turns out that torture truly does keep us safe, then most Americans are going to be for it. I’m sorry, but that’s the reality.

PROFESSOR. Whether torture works or not depends very strictly on the specifics of the situation, and in particular, on the specifics of what one is trying to achieve. The real question is not whether or not torture ‘works,’ but what it works for. But to return to our friend’s question: He has framed a situation where nothing else has yielded the necessary information, and torture is now being proposed in a last, desperate attempt to avert the explosion in a city of a bomb of frightening force.  Should we still consider this torture an illegal act that must be punished criminally?  Yes, indeed we must, and for two reasons.

The first we have already discussed: to defend the very notion of ‘the human.’  The second reason is to defend the notion of the law. The problem with justifying torture even on the basis of the most extreme ticking time bomb scenario is that such justifications change the very meaning of the word ‘law.’  If torture is permissible, law disappears. It becomes simply ‘whatever the state declares necessary’ without any limit. Law by definition is a set of fixed and reliable norms, and a limit on the arbitrary power of the king or the executive.   The modern state already is practically unlimited in its actions, given all the secrecy and extra-legal rights it demands in the name of ‘national security.’ Armed with torture, and torture’s ability to extract false confessions and to produce false trials, this lawlessness becomes even more extreme. A criminal trial no longer means anything if evidence gathered under torture becomes admissible, as the United States proposes with its prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

What is more, an exclusive focus on one’s own security is ultimately self-defeating.  It backfires even in utilitarian terms, because a country that abrogates to itself the right to commit the worst of crimes makes many enemies where formerly there were none, or only a few.  That is why the War on Terror has become a self-fulfilling prophesy, as, perhaps, was always intended …

TALK SHOW HOST.  Are you saying that you consider the act of the CIA agent – I mean his use of torture even in the case where he believes it might prevent an atomic bomb explosion – to be immoral?

PROFESSOR. I did not say so. In this case, as in certain others, what is moral before God and what is legal among men must be distinguished.  This particular instance constitutes one of those tragic cases where what is moral may turn out to be in conflict with what is lawful. Or rather, and more to the point, it is a case where one absolute duty comes into conflict with another absolute duty. What are these absolutes? First, that one must protect innocents (in this case the residents of the city) if it is in one’s power to do so; and second, that one must not act cruelly to a defenseless person who is in one’s power.

Such tragic choices, when they do occur, are usually the product of a prior corruption of the political order. Be that as it may, torture, like rape, remains a crime of the first order and punishment of this crime should be welcomed by anyone concerned with justice.  If Socrates is any guide in such matters, and I think he is, punishment for the crime of torture should be welcomed most particularly by the person who has carried it out.  It is punishment, and punishment alone, that can allow the torturer to fully reenter human community. But the prospect of punishment is crucial for another reason as well. Those who contemplate committing torture should be aware in advance of the seriousness of the act, and its certain consequences. Those who intend to act, even if misguidedly, for the good of the city will not be deterred by such a prospect.

TALK SHOW HOST. Well, what a pleasure it is to speak with such intelligent people! I think we have covered the topic of torture quite thoroughly. In any case, it seems a shame to spend the whole day talking, even on such an important topic. I am a terrible tourist, I’m afraid, and I am dying to stroll about this beautiful place before it gets too dark to see anything …

PROFESSOR.  Certainly it is a good idea to take a break, though I disagree that we have exhaustively covered our topic…

[Editor’s Note: Part II is here.]



[i] From a speech by former Vice President Dick Cheney at the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009. (Link to full text: http://www.aei.org/article/foreign-and-defense-policy/regional/india-pakistan-afghanistan/remarks-by-richard-b-cheney/ ; last accessed November 21, 2012)

About the Author
Paul Grenier grew up in a working class northern California suburb. While his New England father was out building factories and shopping malls, his Austrian WWII refugee mother was instilling in him a love for Tolstoy. The result has been something of a split professional personality. Currently he does urban redevelopment work by day, and writes, translates or philosophizes with Russian friends by night. In the past he has worked as a simultaneous (Russian-English) interpreter and as a researcher and writer at a New York think tank. He has written for the Huffington Post, the Baltimore Sun, Godspy, and Second Spring, among other places (torture or city architecture being the most frequent topics). Paul enjoys re-reading Jane Austen and Harry Potter novels in Spanish. He gets a thrill from teaching teenagers at St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, D.C., a little gig he recently took on with the support of his wonderful wife and co-teacher, Svetlana. Despite his best efforts to be sociable, he often retreats into a (Platonic) cave and refuses to come out for tea.