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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Andrew Sullivan is doing great blogging on torture.

Torture is not only immoral and illegal, but also useless for getting at "truth".
It is useful for getting people to say whatever you want, which is an essential element of an authoritarian society.

I think Cheney likes it because of the power it gives you to force people to say whatever you want.

I think other neocons like Buchanan like it out of some ridiculous self-concept of macho. The 2001-09-11 attack was one of the rare cases where Pat Buchanan and other coddled white male pontificators could imagine an actual existential threat to themselves. Foreign wars are comfortably abstract, American towers destroyed all too concrete. Weak old men that they are, they know they cannot overcome attackers with physical force. In their houses, they imagine that a handgun will let them be the hero if someone attacks. In the wider world, they imagine torture as a way to impose their will on others.

If they weren't such weak little men, they would see that this is madness.

Andrew Sullivan - How Cheney Made America A Torture Nation - January 1, 2010

That's the line that defines torture. If you can impose enough mental or physical pain or suffering to make someone tell you something you want to hear you have forced them to say something, true or false, to get the torture to stop. The fact of the matter is: this is illegal under any rational understanding of domestic and international law. In fact, domestic and international law mandates that governments do not even contemplate such measures, especially in extreme circumstances.

Sullivan makes an important point, which is to get away from these insane parsing games. Torture is not some line, where 5 minutes of something is ok, but 6 minutes is torture, or unsupervised X is torture but if there are "experts" and doctors present it's fine.

Torture is intent to force someone to give you information. The details are irrelevant.

And it doesn't work. Once you are forcing, you will get anything. Truth, lies, a mix of whatever the target thinks you want to hear, in order to make it stop. It's morally repugnant AND useless. It's lose-lose-lose-lose. It destroys the tortured, it destroys the torturer, it ruins the national reputation, and it doesn't get you any intel. It is evil.

April 23, 2009 Torture is always only about power