Carbohydrates and kindness

We already know that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Most of us also know that to get our questions (or phone calls/emails/letters) answered, an attack is not the way to start a conversation. Not the conversation that will get anyone anywhere, anyway. I haven’ t been blogging much recently, but this point about human decency has appeared in a few media stories lately. Two of my favorites:

1 – Torture: when we have had questions in urgent need of answers, those who were supposed to be in charge of communication for all of us  decided to take the approach most likely to alienate. We know that torture doesn’t work (despite Dick Cheney’s statements to the contrary). It turns out that if if being rude doesn’t help you get what you want – waterboarding someone 83 times really won’t help them feel inclined to talk to you.

Surprise! It turns out that not being a barbarian is a more promising approach. In fact, when we recognize the humanity of those people with whom we are trying to engage, they might even be willing to talk to us.

Especially if there are cookies involved.

Take-home quote:

“If you have to inflict pain, then you’ve lost control of the situation, the subject and yourself.” – Army staff sargeant Eric Maddox

Read about Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent and top interrogator who speaks quite unequivocally against torture – which he says is actually likely to produce false testimony from individuals desperate to stop the agony of the violent — excuse me, “enhanced” – interrogation. It seems so obvious, doesn’t it?

2 – Mercy: Mohammed Sohail gets my “favorite person of the week” award, for sure. This is a guy, who, while working late at his convenience store – experienced what would likely scare the pants off of most people. A robber entered, wielding a bat and demanding money.

Here’s the amazing part. By the end of interaction, Mr. Sohail had given the robber both sustenance and faith:  recognizing the desperation of the would-be-robber, he gave him $40 and a loaf of bread. The robber (whose identity we do not know) was so moved by Mr. Sohail’s mercy that he asked the storekeeper to help him convert to Islam. Finally, Mr. Sohail went to retrieve additional groceries for the man’s family – but returned to find that the fellow had fled. Read the story here, and click here to see Mr. Sohail tell the story himself.

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Rudy Giuliani: If it was good enough for Pol Pot, it MIGHT be good enough for me!

Rudy Giuliani “isn’t sure” if waterboarding – a simulated drowning technique allegedly used by the United States armed forces in the war on terror – is torture. Waterboarding induces the feeling of imminent death – see also, mock execution – which is illegal under international law. Used during the Spanish Inquisition and in the Cambodian genocide, waterboarding was considered a war crime in WWII.

Giuliani alleges that the “liberal media” portrays the technique inaccurately, and says the line between what is torture and what isn’t is “very delicate and very difficult”. However, even a key player in his own party, Senator John McCain (who served in Vietnam and survived torture himself) sharply rebuked Giuliani’s statements:

“Anyone who knows what waterboarding is could not be unsure. It is a horrible torture technique used by Pol Pot and being used on Buddhist monks as we speak… people who have worn the uniform and had the experience know that this is a terrible and odious practice and should never be condoned. We are a better nation than that.”

Bottom line? Giuliani thinks torture is ok… sometimes. For instance, it’s ok when it is part of “aggressive questioning of Islamic terrorists”. Just Islamic terrorists, Rudy? I suppose I should appreciate that he can be sure about something.

To further open mouth and insert foot, he equated long hours on the campaign trail to sleep deprivation – another form of torture used in interrogation processes and condemned by the European Court of Human Rights and the Supreme Court of Israel. He must have confused his penchant for luxury, waterfront hotels – which he reaches via private jet – with Guantanamo Bay.

With even experienced military men like John McCain not just condemning, but also questioning the efficacy of “methods” like waterboarding, Giuliani’s credibility takes a shot. But to put any sort of fuzzy conditions on torture? Reprehensible. I can hear Giuliani squirm as I say that he needs to take a page from Nancy Pelosi’s book. In her explicit condemnation of the Armenian genocide, she said:

“Some of what harms our troops relates to values – Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, torture. Our troops are well-served when we declare who we are as a country, and we declare it to the rest of the world.”

Rudy, torture is torture. And if you can’t stomach Pelosi’s principles, didn’t you once say that relying on God’s guidance is at the core of who you are? Surely spiritual reflection would guide one to the realization that there is never any condition which makes torture excusable.