There are, it seems to me, four possible purposes for cruelty, torture, terrorism and other crimes against humanity.
The first purpose is that practised by the German Gestapo and in Russian goulags and in American jails like Guantanamo : to extract information. The American Vice-President and others in George W. Bush’s cabinet approved waterboarding (the extraction of finger-nails is torture; waterboarding, according to Cheney and Co., is not) to discover the names of post-9/11 suspected terrorists. The French, who had suffered atrociously in Gestapo prisons like Bourges and torture-chambers like those in the Rue Lauriston, did not hesitate to practise torture themselves during the war in Algeria. Military authorites in some countries still justify torture as an indispensable, if regrettable, tool for acquiring information that, they say, is essential for preventing further loss of life.
The second is vengeance. The carpet-bombing of Dresden and Berlin were motivated by the destruction of Coventry and the blitzkrieg on London. Family vendettas often include both physical and psychological torture.
The third is an appendix of vengeance : submission. Terror, like torture, can be highly effective in terrifying individuals and whole populations into blind obedience and the acceptance of a totalitarian regime.
The last is often associated with the other three : sadistic pleasure. The others are just as inhuman, but this one is irrational, pathetic, pathological evidence of totally self-centered, sick minds.
We are talking here of deliberate cruelty, not of what I call collateral cruelty. Every injustice, every crime, involves cruelty, to different degrees. Burglars deprive people of often hard-won possessions and valuables, but also of worthless bibelots, photos and souvenirs, the loss of which is experienced as outrageous cruelty. Drug dealers, swindlers, dishonest businessmen, dictatorial managers inflict damage that can cause terrible, undeserved suffering, though that, except perhaps in the last example, is not their primary purpose.
Terrorism is, without a doubt, the supreme example of consciously willed cruelty. The Black Friday attacks in Paris by Daesh on November 13, 2015, not only resulted in the death of over 130 innocent, unarmed people, but the excruciating suffering of hundreds of critically wounded victims, still fighting for their lives in emergency wards, as well as the unimaginably unbearable pain and trauma of their family and friends.
The slaughter was motivated explicitly by vengeance, but also by the desire to force France and the rest of the free world into submission to Daesh. In the short term the terrorists have succeeded, in spite of our brave denials, in terrifying us all. But not in making us submit to their demands. The world is about to discover a French Resistance that will be a model for the rest of the world. Whatever the cost, whatever new cruelty we have to face, we shall overcome.
” NE PAS SUBIR ” : ” NEVER GIVE IN “
— General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny (1889-1952)