Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.


Immoral, Illegal and Ineffective

Excerpts from two responses to Friday’s post:

  • I never encountered any U.S.-trained military interrogator who claimed torture was moral, effective or constitutional.
  • If torture had revealed information that might have thwarted 9/11, would you support it?

If the first is true, the second becomes moot. But let’s accept its possibility because it is the fundamental issue in the debate.

My answer is no, and here’s why:

The question seems to ask, would we torture one evil person to save 3,000 innocent lives? That seems a no-brainer – except that the chances the first guy you torture gives you what you need are about zero. But once you have tortured him, you can’t just say, ‘gee, that didn’t work.’ You have to keep torturing to justify what you have done. So, how many people, some of them innocent, are you willing to torture to get information? 10? 100? 2,000? 3,001? The question seems absurd, but it's where the numbers game inevitably leads.

There are only three questions to consider with regard to “enhanced interrogation:" Is it moral? Is it legal? Is it effective?

The Geneva Conventions sought to legally codify morality in war (which may not be a good idea in this Hobbesian world). They say nothing about effectiveness. But after 9/11, our government perverted our legal system to justify immoral acts, claiming they were effective. Effectiveness  became the only question that mattered. Legal had become legalistic. We were in the numbers game.

Yet that same government had enough information before 9/11 to prevent the attacks without torturing anybody.

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