So a friend asks me the big red herring "what if" question that presumably justifies torture:
"(I am) in charge of interrogation of this suspect named Osamabama Bin Laden. He has been captured and is boasting, backed by other evidence sources, that his group will detonate a nuclear device in a large American city in 24 hours. He absolutely knows the details. If you f*** this up, millions of Americans will die, not 3 thousand."
Here's my response......
First and foremost, I'm not an expert on interrogation tactics. I doubt that anyone reading this is, so none of us are qualified to make decisions about what to do in this situation.
What is absolutely certain is that torture is illegal, immoral, unethical, and according to experts, completely ineffective. I offer the following which do a far better job than I ever could in making the case against torture:
Now for my opinions.
Torture is barbaric and something that civilized people do not condone or engage in. As for the scenario you offer, not only is it totally debunked in the above, all I can really say is, "Oh brother." ;-)
You've presented classic fear-mongering and red herring material. I'm not trying to be insulting, but I see this kind of argument as pure drivel. It seems to me to be meant purely to sway the unsophisticated, uninformed, and uneducated. It's served up on daily basis by the likes of el Rushbo, Doyle, Hannity, Coulter, Robertson, and every other right-wing, war-mongering, xenophobic, neo-con, nut-job mouthpiece who either is already working at or auditioning for a spot on Fox, EIB, or CBN.
Ok, I admit that that's pretty harsh, but it sums it up for me.
The basic premise of your scenario is like most everything else that comes from the above sources; ridiculous in the extreme. Let me make sure I have this: So we capture a terrorist and they start playing "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" about a pending nuclear detonation? Come on.
Even if this were remotely plausible, do you really think that someone capable of being involved in such a despicable act is going to all of the sudden tearfully and truthfully confess because we waterboard them, connect a car battery to his scrotum, or whatever it is good Christian soldiers in the U.S. intelligence community were told was ok to do by the Bush administration and their appointed thugs?
Maybe you can answer this question for me. If torture is ok and so damned effective, how come the CIA voluntarily stop doing it in 2005?
(Note that this comes from Fox News, so I don't think you can accuse me of offering some biased liberal media source. If you want to accuse me of offering a biased news source, that would be correct, but it's just not a liberal bias in this case!)
The big mistake - the red herring - of your scenario and any other scenario like it that is used to try to justify torture is the belief that:
a) you can predict how people will respond to torture,
b) everyone responds the same and,
c) some degree of normal and rational thinking and behavior can be expected from someone who is clearly neither if they are a terrorist.
You can't expect, for instance, that a terrorist would respond to the possibility or reality of torture the same as, say, you or I would. Let's not forget, you're presumably referring to people famous for wanting to die for their cause so they can get to heaven and the 57 naked virgins or whatever the big reward is they expect to get in some after life. They aren't going to be scared or tortured into telling you anything of value. Hell, I'm betting they're sitting there thinking, "Bring on those jumper cables, you capitalist dogs! I'm going to spend eternity getting laid!"
No matter what you do to them, they aren't going to tell you where the bomb is planted. And please don't try to say that it's at least worth a try.
No matter what - and I mean, no matter what - the minute we stoop to torture we lose every shred of decency, integrity, legitimacy, and whatever moral high ground we think we can stake a claim to as a democracy and a nation of laws. When we torture - and it seems painfully obvious that we have - we have become a terrorist nation.
Let me say that again. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ashcroft, Gonzales, and the rest of that administration turned the United States into a terrorist nation. The only way to rectify that is to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute, try, and punish those responsible for the policy, authority, and commission of torture.
And don't give me that, "The security community is in shambles and looking over their shoulder now," bullshit, either. The men and women working in the intelligence community are not without morals, ethics, and decency, too. Yes, there will be some who will burn for this and they should. But I think the message that it sends will be embraced and well-received by the overwhelming majority of the military and intelligence communities as confirmation that we are a nation of principles and of laws. No Nuremberg defense should be allowed. Agents who were involved in "extraordinary interrogations" knew they were doing wrong. A memo from the boss doesn't make it right.
So let me ask....
Do you really think that there's a difference in the ethics, morality and legality of an act based upon who commits it? If it's wrong for our citizens to be tortured then isn't it wrong for us to torture?
Do you really believe in your heart of hearts that we have some sort of ......I hate to use this term, but I know it has meaning for some of you... God-given right to torture someone? Are we somehow above everyone else? Can we claim to hold some special status by which we're exempt from the same standards as everyone else? What would Jesus do? (Had to throw that one in.)
Where does it end? How do we look future generations in the eye and tell them that we were good people while we condoned torture? How does hatred, violence, and war ever have a chance of being swept from our lives if we as citizens of the United States of America condone torture?
Have we not evolved at least culturally to a point yet where such actions are universally condemned? Have we learned nothing from the Spanish Inquisition, Salem witch trials, the Armenian genocide, Nazi concentration camps, the Rwandan genocide, and the genocide that's going on in Sudan?
Doesn't look like it, does it? And our chances don't get any better if we as citizens of the U.S. give our government officials a pass on torture.
If we're going to continue to think and behave like barbarians, then we shouldn't act surprised or be repulsed the next time a hate group kills a gay man for being gay or drags a black man behind their pick up truck in Texas because he's black. Don't forget, the Klan used to hang Catholics, too.
If we don't demand the investigation and prosecution of government officials who approved torture, then we may as well embrace hate groups and bring back public hangings....maybe beheadings could be started, too. Hell, let's start torturing suspected terrorists in the town square - make sure to bring the kiddies and make a day of it!
In a democracy, it's up to us to decide what our society looks like. We elect our leaders. We need to hold them accountable. If we stay silent on this issue of torture, we send the message that we approve and support torture and that tells the nut-job fringe elements everywhere in the world that ours is a society that has truly declined to a state of barbarism.
I know some of you won't accept this perspective, either, but what if the shoe were on the other foot? Let's pretend that you're General Bruce in charge of the North Korean secret service. You've just captured an American intelligence officer. You're convinced he has knowledge of a pending air strike on a nuclear enrichment site. He's not talking and you know that that air strike is coming. Your wife and kids live close enough that they and lots of your family are sure to be killed along with lots (how do you define that?) of your fellow citizens.
Same basic scenario, just different uniforms.
I'm not willing to throw away one of the most basic principles of this nation - that we are a nation of laws that apply equally to everyone.
I'm not willing to surrender so much authority to elected officials and their appointees that they no longer feel accountable to me, my fellow citizens, and the citizens of the world. If laws were broken, then investigations are called for.
Hey, if it was so damned important to Republicans that the world know if Slick Willy lied about his affair with Monica, then I dare say that the question of torture is exponentially more important and worth investigating.
I'm not willing to allow the moral and ethical foundations of this great country, its history, and the heritage we leave to future generations to be weakened by saying, "It's ok to torture if we think it's necessary because, hell, we're Americans and we can do whatever we think is best and the rest of the world can go f*** itself."
So, no, I don't torture even if the guy sitting in the chair is thumbing his nose about a nuclear device. Torturing him won't get the information needed AND IT'S AGAINST THE LAW!!!!!!
Anyone wishing to add their voice to the cause should consider visiting www.IndictBushNow.org