Adam Hosein (CU Boulder) has published an incredibly thoughtful and interesting piece on torture and prosecution in the Boston Review. Hosein argues against the idea that it is somehow undemocratic – or ‘criminalizing politics’ – to prosecute the clear violations of both domestic and international anti-torture laws that have come to light in the US. He also remarks on the under-discussed racial and cultural backdrop to these debates:
Along with most commentators, I have been talking about our reasons to prohibit and prosecute torture as a general matter. But I think this leaves out an important piece of the moral context. Less discussed, though also relevant, is what the actions described in the report express to Muslims and people from Muslim countries about their status. Those uses of torture imply that these people’s bodies are worthy of the worst degradation, treatment that would be inconceivable for white Americans. When Dick Cheney insinuated that pretty much everyone who got tortured had it coming, even though the report explicitly identified some innocent victims, he implicitly said that they had already committed the crime of having the wrong face, the wrong religion, and/or the wrong country. When thinking about impact on the public good, this racism may, as many people have suggested, make torture counter-productive, by aiding the recruitment efforts of terrorists. But it also harms innocent Muslims and people from Muslim countries by undermining their ability to trust their own government or the dominant power in the world.