I'm teaching a summer course (FYC) which has all the impossibilities about it and then some. But I suspect what really concerns me here would happen in any writing class. One student is Congolese and was imprisoned and tortured for his role in student demonstrations against Mobutu Sese Seko in 1990. This student describes being beaten, sleeping on a wet cement floor, enduring harsh daylight with no shade, etc. before he was released through pressure from Human Rights Watch. Rather than write the expected, an essay condemning the horrors of torture and arguing for humane treatment of prisoners, his essay is about his coming to the realization that torture is, under certain circumstances, necessary in that it promotes social regulation and control.
Now, my intention here is not to silence this argument. For whatever reasons, Pierre (pseudonym) needs to write this. However, the question is really one of my response. I have tried to be authentic and "me" in pointing out that my understanding of torture 1) harms the torturer (both individual and state) as well as the tortured, 2) has a specious connection with obedience and control, 3) opens up political questions about the individual relationship with the state, and 4) needs to be moire clearly defined in just about all of these cases, including Pierre's. There is rather wide-spread consensus in many circles (all circles but the Federal Government and Republican party, it would seem) that "enhanced interrogation" is torture. It also stands that Pierre suffered in several of the ways described. While he may not have experienced waterboarding, there are also no doubt other traumas he is dealing with. But where and how do we draw the line between torture and harsh punishment? Is there a difference? Does it make a difference that Pierre's case didn't seem to be tied to the extraction of any information?
More importantly, what effects does torture have on the torturer and the state which condones such activity on its behalf? When we oppose torture, when we try to negate it, we run the risk of its return. To put it another way, what is the ecology of torture and how should instructors act to stop its effects if not oppose it?