Thinking about Torture

The Senate CIA Torture Report came out last week and has been the topic of discussion since, in ways that are simultaneously informative and unsettling. It is both informative and unsettling that there are quite a few people who believe they can do whatever they deem is necessary for whatever reason as long as they believe that reason to be right. They are convinced of their righteousness. Much like Jihadis are of theirs.

Yet they do not wish to talk about the Senate Report because somehow that is seen as grotesque. These same people who have no qualms about torturing people don’t think we should talk about torturing people. It seems the act of torture is less repugnant to them than the act of talking about torture.

But since they must, they have pulled out all the stops in defending torture. As I’ve said, they are convinced of their righteousness. Bryan Fischer, that paragon of moral values who hates Gays for being Gay and everyone else for not following the tenets of The Bible to the letter and calls himself a devout follower of Christ, believes that Jesus Christ would have no qualms about torture. Christ would be OK with it. In fact, he would condone it. Wonder if Christ has anything to say about that?

This, by the way, is the same Bryan Fischer who would condemn Muslims for violence in the name of their religion. Hypocrisy, it seems, knows no bounds.

Not even going to mention Dick Cheney. There is no defense of him or his position. If you believe there is, your moral compass needs to be recalibrated. Suffice it to say that if you believe as he does that anal rape is not rape, perhaps you and he should volunteer to have it done to you.

It’s difficult now for us to claim the moral high ground, given that we no longer can. We know what we did is morally wrong. We cannot argue that we did not know.

Yet there are more nuanced defenses of torture; one of these being degree. In this defense, it’s not really torture, it’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. Water-boarding isn’t torture, as Dick Cheney clearly will tell you. Why, it’s only like getting your face wet or swallowing wrong. Never mind that the US did indeed put on trial and hanged Japanese officers who used water-boarding on Allied troops during World War II. Water-boarding just isn’t torture, not like getting your fingernails torn out or whatever. Of course, these apologists for torture don’t mention anal rape and freezing to death. As if there is some level of torture that falls below the threshold of moral culpability.

Then there is effectiveness. Torture may be morally repugnant, we shouldn’t do it if we can avoid it, BUT… But what if there’s a ticking time bomb, and we need to immediately get information which could save countless lives? Tick.. tick… tick…

The obvious question no one seems to ask is just how likely is it we will capture someone at just the right time before an event that torture might actually be effective? Think about it: the conditions have to be perfect for this scenario to make any sense. We need to be just early enough that torturing someone will be effective in getting the needed information out of them in time, but not so early that other methods would have worked just as efficiently and would not have required that we discard the very principles we are supposedly working so hard to protect.

If we’re too early, normal interrogation techniques that appear to be more effective at getting actionable information would suffice. If we’re too late, all the tortured individual has to do is hold out until the bomb goes off or send security services on a wild goose chase until it does. And let’s not pretend that this individual isn’t prepared for this very scenario. This scenario requires that all the planets align in just the right order, just the right time, and just the right outcome.

The reality is torture doesn’t work. Those that say it does are simply apologists for those who torture.

Torture is just lazy terrorism.

Postscript: It seems that Americans don’t really believe in any of that moral high ground we claim. By a 2 to 1 margin, we don’t care about torture. Given that many consider this a Christian nation, that means there are a good many followers of Christ who simply don’t understand or choose to ignore his message.

We are lost.


One thought on “Thinking about Torture”

  1. “The idolatrous transformation – of the relative into the absolute,
    and the all-too-human into the divine – makes it possible
    for man to indulge his ugliest passion, in the firm belief
    that he is working for the highest good.” – Aldous Huxley (The Devils of Loudon)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s