Friday, May 6, 2011

He Should Know

Two different commenters have implied they're buying the desperate attempts of our home-grown war criminals and their RWS™ apologists to claim that torture played a key role in the killing of Osama bin Laden. I'll repeat a couple of things I've said in commentoid response, and add this, from John McCain, who knows personally the real value of torture; namely, to force false confessions, like the one he made from the Hanoi Hilton. (I would have, too, I'm pretty sure; I know you would have):

'I stand on the side of the United States and by the Geneva conventions,' John McCain said.

Sen. John McCain denounced “advanced interrogation” methods like waterboarding Wednesday amid a growing debate over its effectiveness reopened by the killing of Osama bin Laden.

McCain told reporters leaving an intelligence briefing for senators by CIA director Leon Panetta that he has seen no information so far to indicate that techniques like waterboarding factored significantly in the information gathering that led to bin Laden’s death.

The two memes rising like stink from a cesspool, and as fast as Sarah Palin to a twitter feed, are that torture works, and that Obama deserves no particular credit for finding bid Laden.

No doubt there's nothing to be gained by joining the battle over credit due; but the matter of torture is something else entirely. Our future could be at stake. Whereas we may never know exactly what information was or was not pried loose by torture in this particular case, and whereas we'll also never know if the information gained from torture could have been obtained from legal methods (and maybe even faster, taking less than 185 sessions!), there are a few things people ought to be able to recognize, even if they'll never admit it here.

First and foremost, as already mentioned, historically torture has had only one use, and its effectiveness in its purpose is inarguable: it gets people to confess to crimes they didn't commit. Whether during the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, in Hanoi or Cambodia, in Saddam's torture chambers or Ahmadinejad's, forced and false confessions have flowed like blood.

Second: from falsehood flows uncertainty. In the matter of revealing information, we know for sure people have produced erroneous data; in the case of "Curveball," it was used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Under torture, people lie. We know it. They may also tell truths. What we don't know at the time is which is which.

But here's the kicker, which, I'd think, would give the most pause to this guy I know and everyone who loves the idea of US presidents claiming legal authority to torture. Set aside that it can't be trusted, that in the "ticking time-bomb" scenario (at one time the main argument, now morphed into any time, any place, any body) getting untrustworthy information could be massively fatal. Just think about this: Given the effectiveness of torture at eliciting false confessions, how would the RWS™ advocacy group like the idea of, say, a secret Muslim terrorist president having the ability to torture, to wring a false confession from some patriotic white Christian Republican heterosexual native-born American and thence to use it to destroy him? Or her. I mean, sure: give Cheney a hose and a face-cloth, a pair of pliers -- who could see a problem there? But Obama? In a room with you???

After all, that's what governments have used torture for since its invention. That it's effective as hell is beyond conjecture. I simply can't reconcile the idea of torture-love with the same people who claim to distrust government. Like pretty much everything else from the mouths of RWS™ and teabaggers, it simply makes no sense.

1 comment:

Pieter B said...

I simply can't reconcile the idea of torture-love with the same people who claim to distrust government.

I can't understand why people who are fond of saying and writing "The government can't do anything right" are almost always staunch if not downright enthusiastic supporters of the death penalty.

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