Friday, January 05, 2007

The Use Of Torture

Tell them what you're going to say: The only legitimate use of torture is to supress freedom.

Say it: I've been kicking around again, looking for people to argue with. And James Biga, of Biga's Rants, has supplied me with with an epiphany. Today he put up a post entitled "Is The Use Of Torture Legitimate?" To his credit, he shows some ambivalence on the subject and indeed, decides that he wishes torture wasn't necessary. This is refreshing because he is so strongly anti-Muslim.

The main thrust of his argument is that sometimes torture is the only way to get information, and even if only 20% of the information you get from torture is accurate or useful, it's still wrong to not torture if it can save human lives. Call it the Bauer Doctrine, if you will. It's on this point that he and I differ. And good liberal that I am, I'm going to take the devil's advocate side and demonstrate the good use of torture.

Let's dispense with this information argument first. Pure nonsense. People will say anything to stop the pain. Sometime it's a betrayal of secrets, but surely in the vast majority of cases it's whatever the torturer wants to hear. Otherwise, why stop? So you're as likely to get dangerously wrong information ("the, uh, the bomb is.... under the bridge! Send all your men there before 4:00!") as useful.

I'm going to assume good motives on the part of the administration. Only super villains run for office to destroy the world. Bush and Cheney and Company are in politics to make a positive difference. I can't see putting yourself through the hell of politics just to secure an oil investment. So, assuming they're good at heart, and not stupid (also probably true), why throw away all that political capital and international good will by publically supporting torture?

Because torture, while being a lousy information extraction mechanism, is quite useful as a threat.

Sensible people, seeing dissidents kidnapped and then returned with burn marks and rope scars, will seriously weigh the options of speaking out. How important is it to say their leaders are wrong, really? Dying for an ideal is one thing, but enduring extended pain for it quite another.

I think that the neo-con agenda is aimed at calming the world, at creating peace through the United States' unprecedented firepower. For obvious reasons, this idea doesn't sell well on its face because it sounds so much like, you know, fascism. So instead, we are doing all this to "protect ourselves" from "terrorists", such as "the democrats". Ha ha, just kidding Ann C. And George B. And Karl R and Tom DeL. Guess I'll throw in Michelle M. while I'm at it, and I hope they keep that graphic up!

Since the idea of jettisoning liberty and privacy is distasteful to Americans, I can only assume the PNAC looked at the horizon and saw Islamofascism rising, and decided that their only good option was an American version. Am I right? I don't know, but this narrative sure makes more sense than the one they're putting out.

And no, I don't think it's a good strategy. Based on my myriad of assumptions here, this is a bold and unbelievably stupid strategy. I think the best way to keep islamofascism down (if there would ever be such a thing) would be to stop buying their oil, because their tourism and agricultural resources are somewhat more limited. But hey, what do I know? I'm on my way to an Atheist Camp any day now. I look forward to showing off my scars.

Tell them what you said: The administration is lying to us about why they want to use torture. They think they have a noble reason to do so. They are wrong.


Douglas V. Gibbs said...

Though torture is undesirable, and like James Biga, I would prefer it not to be necessary in this world of ours, I have trouble believing that simply asking for information works. The enemy won't talk, and if pressing them sometimes reveals needed data, then it's worth it.

Danielk said...

Oh, I don't think simply asking for information works, I'm just dead certain that torture doesn't.

Probably what does work is some kind of good cop/bad cop thing, which is a form of psychological torture but at least it is less prone to the kind of abuse we saw in those polaroids.