The Torture Issue
April 22, 2009, 10:22 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

My position on torture is that torture is wrong.

However, that doesn’t mean I have to pretend that torture somehow metaphysically “doesn’t work”. It’s amazing. A kid will grow up on, say, the Upper East Side, attend Manhattan Country Day School, live in a Park Avenue apartment & vacation in the Hamptons, have a safe cushy childhood playing in parks supervised by nannies, a safe cushy teenagerhood smoking pot, end up at Harvard in a safe cushy dorm existence, get out and start paying his rent via “blogging”, and from all these hugely diverse life experiences he has built up by age, oh I don’t know, twenty-five, he someknow KNOWS that TORTURE DOESN’T WORK. No military experience, no law enforcement experience, no experience in the presence of terrorists let alone trying to get information from them – just the trust fund, and the doorman, and the skiing, and the day camps, and the pot, and the Harvard, and the “blogging” job. “Eureka! Torture doesn’t work!”

I can’t figure that out. I guess such guys must be just really really smart to have figured that out. (Me, I would prefer to have actual, y’know, observational evidence or facts or data – data not gleaned solely from television fiction, that is- before creating such a conclusion. But that’s just me. Apparently.)

Another problem I have with the torture debate is that there is a torture debate. Let me ask you something. Do you honestly think the CIA never tortured people prior to George W. Bush taking the oath of office? Of course they did. We just didn’t have a national debate over it. The notion of having Congress take a vote yea or nay on torture is ridiculous. Of course torture is wrong. There’s nothing to talk about. There’s nothing to vote on. There’s no reason to have Time and Newsweek assign their writers to write 20-page feature pieces on it. Torture is wrong.

But sometimes it works, too. One would think that these factors would count for something to people who are supposedly so ‘reality-based’, and ‘nuanced’. Remember how Bush was so black-and-white and cut-and-dried, and how ‘scary’ that was, because life was ‘gray’?

What happened to all that? Went away as soon as Bush left office.

Sometimes people in tough dilemmas have to choose the lesser evil. You want to prosecute the people who waterboarded Khalid Shaikh Mohammed? Really? I recognize that the CIA isn’t exactly a disinterested observer when they claim that doing so prevented a ‘Second Wave’ attack on Los Angeles. But suppose – just for a second, for the sake of argument – that it’s true. That without waterboarding KSM, an attack on LA would have occurred, killing many innocent civilians.

What exactly is the stance being taken here? That the attack should have taken place, and the civilians should’ve been allowed to be murdered, so that preening posturing “bloggers” can sanctimoniously demonstrate how moral they are. Because sometimes American citizens need to be sacrificed so that Left-Wing Thinkers can prove their superiority and wisdom over everyone else. (And, of course, have their guy win elections. You know, the one with (D) after his name. Because that’s the most important thing of all, always, forevermore: (D)s in office.)

UPDATE: Or, what Cobb said.

4 Comments so far
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I’m in a R. Chandler phase now, and tend to find an appropriate Chandler’s quote for everything I came across.
Your post reminded me of that place in “Long Goodbye”, where Marlow was kept locked up w/o arraignment and then given a final “frightening” spiel by a DA in hopes to extract info from him. He replies:
Now you’re on same pitch – trying to make me feel what a lot of power you generate in this cigar box you call your office. […] I’ve had 56 hours in a felony block. Nobody pushed me around, nobody tried to prove he was tough. They didn’t have to. They have it on ice for when they needed it.[…] Take the brass knuckles off before you start. If you’re big enough you don’t need them, and if you need them you’re not big enough to push me around.

On ice – for when they need it. The threat becomes empty if it’s never taken off ice. In some cases it should be exercised.

Comment by ETat

I’d say it even more conservatively than that – people need to think that in some cases it could be exercised.

This will not be possible if we continue to have this weepy national debate on the subject and because of the political calculus end up creating a sweeping ban on methods any worse than tickling-with-a-feather.

Mostly what I want is for everyone to stop talking about the subject. This may be an odd thing to say, but I strongly believe this is not a subject that should be debated publicly or decided democratically.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

“This may be an odd thing to say, but I strongly believe this is not a subject that should be debated publicly or decided democratically.”

I agree.

Also, the “torture doesn’t work” people almost always seem to think that we torture people to force confessions. And so we get confessions, but whether they are true or no we don’t know because it was coerced.

But of course, reality has nothing to do with their fantasy scenario. This is not Stalinist Russia, and there are no forced confessions for show trials. The only reason anyone has been “tortured” by us (and I use quotation marks because that term is used very loosely– see below) has been TO OBTAIN INTELLIGENCE information. We are not at all interested in obtaining confessions.

Finally, ALL of this so-called “torture” has been used on our own elite military units for training purposes– and probably worse in some cases; we just don’t know because this training is classified.

Your image of the comfortable 25-year old is apropos. He doesn’t know shit about torture, what it is, what it would be used for, and how it would be effective.

Comment by Useless Dissident

To be fair, it should be pointed out that most on the left recognize that coercion is not merely about confessions but claim, as part of their argument, that torture often produces false intel.

Still, too often you see them go the extra step and assert that torture never produces true intel – i.e., “doesn’t work”. I don’t see how that can possibly be true, but more to the point, I don’t see how the people who tend to say these things could possibly know these things.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

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