The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Consider the following lines, spoken by Fredrickson in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest [p. 64 in the paperback]:
"The Shock Shop, Mr. McMurphy, is jargon for the EST machine, the Electro Shock Therapy. A device that might be said to do the work of the sleeping pill, the electric chair, and the torture rack. It's a clever little procedure, simple, quick, nearly painless it happens so fast, but no one ever wants another one. Ever."
Does this, if true, necessarily imply that EST for nonmedical purposes is torture? I believe so. We do not need to understand the mechanism, once we know the effects.

If you had eleven "high-value" al-Qaeda operatives detained together, and you broke all their fingers one joint at a time, how many would "become cooperative"? I would guess roughly half. These are fanatical men, who may have come from privilege but have chosen hardship.

Waterboarding, because it works through terror rather than agony, has its defenders. But a look at the results should not embolden, but silence them. Ten out of ten detainees broke immediately under waterboarding; the eleventh did not experience it. That means that ten out of ten hard, experienced killers decided that it was the worst thing they had ever experienced.

Having to relinquish a tool because it works too well is a bitter pill. We should do it anyway.