Debating Torture

“Torture” seems to be the topic of the week.

In all this “debate” it is important to keep in mind that we are really discussing at least three connected but distinct issues (none of which is what the U.S. did, a set of interrogation acts no longer in dispute).

Issue one is whether or not the U.S. sanctioned and committed acts of “torture” in the legal sense of the word.  This is a legal debate, one hinging on the interpretation of both domestic and international law.  Regardless of what that answer is, another issue is whether or not these practices were a good idea.  This is the debate about what information they yielded, whether that information could have been obtained through other means, and, considering how it was obtained, whether or not it could be trusted.  A corrollary of this debate is the “cost” of such practices.  Does their use weaken our public image?  Does it put future U.S. prisoners at greater risk?

The final issue, and the most important from my perspective, is whether or not these acts are ethical.  This is not a crude “ends versus means” debate.  No matter what the answer is to both of the above sets of questions, this is about power, humanity, and maybe even morality.

Seeing both the intersections and the distinctiveness of these related debates is the only way for this moment to be useful.  This is the only way for it to have a lasting, historical impact.  The technique of blurring these lines—one currently being employed by Dick Cheney in his almost daily interventions into the public discourse—is, I believe, the technique of maintaining the status quo.  It limits our ability to act in relation to answers we have to any one of them by creating a false sense of singular simplicity, letting any answer to any element of any of the debates stand in as “conclusive.”

Even if successful, there may be a bright side: the fact that Dick is leading the “defense of torture” side of the debate speaks volmes about “the Right’s” current state of upheaval.


3 thoughts on “Debating Torture

  1. The question I seem to constantly struggle with is ethics vs. safety. There is an old saying that Defense attorneys always end in their closing summation in a criminal trial: “Its better to let 100 guilty men go free than 1 innocent man found guilty.” I believe in this quote. Theoretically, our justice system is based on the value of the individual, not on some cost/benefit analysis where the justice system’s effectiveness is based on its efficiency of finding guilty men vs. the number of mistakenly found guilty men. But the government in the last few years has lost its ethical rudder purely out of fear. We view everything with the bottom-line in mind, a “what’s in it for me” mentality. For me, torture has no place in our constitution or in our government. The enemy has won if we have chosen the way of the enemy.

  2. And there’s the conundrum, right? The Bush Administration (and, in fairness, most late 20th century administrations) have chosen “safety” over ethics and all other priorities and values. At the same time, it has arguably made us less “safe.” If we think about safety/threat in terms of the protection and maintenance of the “nation,” then the point is far less debatable. We’ve done their work for them; or, as you so eloquently say, “The enemy has won if we have chosen the way of the enemy.”

    Thanks for the comments.

  3. Coward Terrorists acquitted in Horrible Murder

    Complicit Complacency of Juries and Authorities with Sadistic Racial Murder

    Miscarriage and Perversion of a Racist Justice System

    Luis Ramirez was killed for Racial Reasons in Shenandoah Pennsylvania, in July of 2008. The conduct of many people in the town afterwards was of sheer BASTARDY, RACISM and SADISM. The Topmost in TERRORISM.

    Instead of feeling ashamed, they have become more violent, brutal, racist and sadistic.

    People applauded and cheered the Coward Terrorists in court. Great Enthusiasm for Racism, Sadism and Bastardy.

    The man Luis Ramirez ( not an animal but a man ) was kicked to death while being unsconscious on the floor, he was kicked on the head by the Coward Bastards.

    Complicit Complacency, Leniency and Impunity beget more murders.

    Vicente Duque

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