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Right Intention: Torture

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


There is lots of discussion on torture in the blogsphere with the confirmation hearings of Alberto Gonzales coming up.

Here are my thoughts. I feel the same way about torture as I feel about capital punishment, which is to say that I don't really care one way or the other. With respect to capital punishment, I believe that some people through their actions have forfeited the right to live. But I don't believe the death penalty should be applied in every case where it could be. I'm more interested in the economics of the situation. Do whatever is cheapest. If it costs less to kill them, fine. If it costs less to keep them in solitary confinement until they die naturally, fine. I’m for whatever is cheaper for the taxpayer.

That's not to say that my outrage at the crime committed wouldn't sway me to say, "the heck with the costs, kill this person", because it does. A particularly gruesome murder, serial killer, etc would cause me to support killing this person, whatever the cost. But most of the time, I care more about making sure this person is no longer in a position to hurt society ever again in the most cost effective manner. I think life imprisonment in solitary confinement with one hour per day to go out and exercise is a great punishment. Let them suffer like that for 40 years.

Similarly, I don't really care about torture. And let's get this straight. Putting panties on a guy’s head and making him watch porn is not torture. Naked prisoner piles are not torture. Sleep deprivation and loud music is not torture. Real torture is what Saddam did. Cutting out people's tongues is torture. Throwing shackled people off of 2 story buildings is torture. Beating people until they are bleeding and then making them stand in raw sewage is torture. The far left is trying to blur interrogation techniques with actual torture because they believe it helps their antiwar agenda by undermining public support. Moral equivalency is an amazingly effective leftist technique.

Anyway, what I care about most is finding the most effective way to get the best information we can from a terrorist in the shortest amount of time. Simple. And let's pretend for a moment that the leftist position of what happened at Abu Ghraib was actually torture. If putting panties on a terrorist's head, then stacking him in a pyramid with similarly clad terrorists while making them watch porn encourages them to give us good information, fine. Whatever works. I care much more about winning the war than pleasing the far left.

That said, I thought what happened at Abu Ghraib was a dumb mistake. Not because of the dreaded "torture" accusation but because I can't imagine that the aforementioned was at all effective. I freely admit I could be wrong. Maybe it worked, but I haven't seen that anywhere. But it seems likely that the overreaction from the government to the screaming antiwar crowd has probably caused us to stop interrogation techniques that are effective.

But I do get squishy with actual, Saddam-type torture. I'd prefer we not do that, if we could. However, if it could be proven that actual torture was an effective way to get vital, truthful information from an Al Qaeda type that we could not otherwise get, then go for it. I care much more about saving our lives from madmen who want to explode a nuclear device in Manhattan, than whether we broke some of their bones to get the necessary information to prevent said attack. If actual torture yields nothing more than the rantings of a person in extreme pain trying to say anything to make it stop, then don't bother. The information gained is likely to be useless.

So it pretty much comes down to efficacy for me.


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