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LONDON, 17 June 2004 — Donald Rumsfeld holds that torture isn’t torture if causing pain isn’t the objective.
For some time now, I’ve been trying to find out where my son goes after choir practice. He simply refuses to tell me. He says it’s no business of mine where he goes after choir practice and it’s a free country. Now it may be a free country, but if people start going just anywhere they like after choir practice, goodness knows whether we’ll have a country left to be free. I mean, he might be going to anarchist meetings or terrorist study groups. How do I know?
The thing is, if people don’t say where they’re going after choir practice, this country is at risk. So I have been applying a certain amount of pressure on my son to tell me where he’s going. To begin with I simply put a bag over his head and chained him to a radiator. But did that persuade him? Does the Pope eat kosher? My wife had the gall to suggest that I might be going a bit too far. So I put a bag over her head and chained her to the radiator. But I still couldn’t persuade my son to tell me where he goes after choir practice.
The March 6 memo, prepared for Rumsfeld explained that what may look like torture is not really torture at all. It states that: If someone “knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith”. What this means in understandable English is that if a parent, in his anxiety to know where his son goes after choir practice, does something that will cause severe pain to his son, it is only “torture” if the causing of that severe pain is his objective. If his objective is something else — such as finding out where his son goes after choir practice — then it is not torture.