“She preferred the timid touchings of the eunuch to the ponderous bollocks of the Roman Emperor,” said Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a metaphor for the empire’s descent from barbarian virility to effete decadence. And we are learning nothing from history, because MI6 recently admitted that it regards torture as illegal and abhorrent, and I’ve been left yearning for those golden days of redneck vigour and bigotry, when Ad extirpanda, a papal bull promulgated in 1252, authorised the use of torture by the Inquisition, and more recently, when George Bush approved waterboarding.
But despite Pope Innocent and Dubya being cool with it, torture gets a bad rap from the liberal media. The term itself is pejorative and unnecessarily emotive, and I prefer “inhuman and degrading treatment,” as suggested by the European Court of Human Rights.
One method, used in Guantanamo Bay, involved putting prisoners in a box with an insect—after first reassuring them that the insect had neither a venomous sting nor bite. I’ll bet the terrorists were shaking in their shoes: “Please don’t throw me in that briar patch, Br’er Fox,” they’d be singing. Could there be a more instructive symbol of the feebleness of the West? If it was up to Barack Hussein Obama, when the terrorists attack we’ll all be sitting around in a circle, holding hands, and singing Kum bay ya.
The Yanks could learn from the British army; those chaps know a thing or two about extracting enthusiastic confessions, perhaps a hangover from their times in public school. Joe told me how, during the Troubles, when they were throwing people in prison for serious crimes such as being called Paddy or Seamus, the army blindfolded him, took him up in a helicopter, then pitched him out through the door. Only when he landed did he realise that the helicopter had lifted just a few feet off the ground; which was very thoughtful of the army, obviously they didn’t want anyone to get seriously injured, a few minutes of mindless terror never hurt anyone. But Joe was unlucky; he sprained his left pinky and had to hobble around for hours, another Martyr For Old Ireland ( I think someone write a song about it).
“That was real torture,” he said, misty-eyed (sometimes nostalgia has no limits), “We might have been enemies but, dammit, we respected each other, more substance in our enmity than in our love.” Taking a degree was quite de rigeur among the Republican prisoners, Joe had read English lit and never flinched from displaying his scholarship. “You’d have told them anything, just to see their smile; great people, the British.
“But those were hard times,” he added. “The memories still haunt me through the dark watches of the night, the world more full of weeping than you can understand.”
“You’re still not getting any sleeping tablets,” I said.