Stipulation

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Can we all at least agree that "torture" doesn't become "not torture" by virtue of the fact that the victim provides information?

President Bush got on the world stage and said, "We do not torture".  Now, it is beyond all doubt that we did conduct torture.  The response from Bush defenders (and Cheney himself) is that we got good information from it that saved lives.

Well, then what is their argument?  "We do torture, but it's okay (since we get something from it)"?  If that's their argument, they should say so, even if it exposes Bush as a liar.  Why can't those few still supporting the interrogation tactics just say that?

By the way…. last week, conservatives were complaining Obama was establishing a socialistic fascist dictatorship.

This week, conservatives are complaining Obama does not want to torture his opponents.

Go figure.

UPDATE:  Publius echoes my sentiments:

Via Andrew Sullivan, Steve Chapman raises a really good point – there’s simply no way that the effectiveness of torture can solely justify its use.  And I think he poses a difficult logical problem for torture supporters.

Chapman notes that if “effectiveness” is all we care about, any form of torture would necessarily be ok.  One could, for instance, drag in a detainee’s child and begin torturing him or her in front of the detainee.  I assume that even the most hardened torture advocates would draw a line there.  If they didn’t, that tells you pretty much all you need to know.

But if they do concede that certain methods go too far (i.e., that such things are relevant), then they’re stuck having to argue that the methods we used simply aren’t that bad.  In other words, if they concede a line exists, then they’re forced to argue that these methods don’t cross it.

And defending these methods seems very difficult, if not completely disingenuous.  I mean, it requires saying that heinous acts like slamming heads into walls, waterboarding, stress positions, striking faces, and locking people up in small boxes are all ok.  And remember – those are just the formally legalized tactics.  They exclude the grotesque acts that these tactics inevitably mutated into – things like murders and electrodes to testicles at Abu Ghraib.

All in all, it’s a fairly clarifying debate – one that will be remembered for some time.