Press "Enter" to skip to content


I wonder why I am so obsessed with the torture issue in the US (and elsewhere of course). I think it’s because of how quickly mainstream US society (and I guess to a lesser degree Canadian society) just accepted the change from being a country that abhors torture as a categorical evil, to a society that thinks: “You know what? Maybe torture isn’t so bad after all, as long as the good guys are doing it, for good reasons.” It’s a remarkable moral turn-around, one unimaginable 15 years ago … but here we are. It, along with many others similar fundamental changes in official public morality (ie doctrine of preemptive war), seemed such an easy switch to flick.

And it seems to me that, given people’s conception of what is morally acceptable is so easily flipped, the more effective argument against torture is that it just doesn’t work all that well. (Which doesn’t change my moral opposition to torture). In the clip below:

Former FBI Interrogator Jack Cloonan explains that regular interrogation tactics work well on even the worst terrorists, that there’s no such thing as a “ticking timebomb” scenario, and that waterboarding has done much more harm than good.

I think from Taxi to the Darkside?

And it seems to me that shadowy terror orgs would be smart enough to make sure there is all sorts of phony information in the heads of people likely to get caught and interrogated anyway … so torture, really, is a form of punishment and terror, rather than a useful interrogation technique. I’m no expert though… Jack Cloonan seems to be.

I wonder if we could see some evidence that torture really is a good interrogation technique?

[via boing]

UPDATE: 37 Short Essays about Torture, written by, among others these people (random selection):

Brigadier General Steve Cheney, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), served nine years on the Marine Corps’ two Recruit Depots, including a tour as the commanding general at Parris Island. He was also the inspector general for the Marine Corps. Brigadier General Cheney retired in 2001; he is now the president of the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas, and is on the board of directors for the American Security Project.

Kenneth M. Duberstein is chairman and CEO of the Duberstein Group, an independent strategic planning and consulting company. He was chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan. Richard Armitage is president of Armitage International and served as deputy secretary of state from 2001 to 2005. Both Duberstein and Armitage are members of the board of the American Security Project.

John Hutson is a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, attorney, and former judge advocate general of the Navy. He is the current dean and president of Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire.

William J. Perry was the nineteenth U.S. secretary of defense.

Thomas G. Wenski is the bishop of Orlando and chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, U.S. Army (Ret.), was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005. He is now the Pamela Harriman Visiting Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William and Mary.