December 5, 2005


How much torture is OK? (Cathy Young, December 5, 2005, Boston Globe)

IT IS A shocking sign of the times that we are having a debate about the appropriateness of torture. Some would say that it's a sign of our democracy's moral decline; others, of the desperate times that have driven us to desperate measures. Either way, those of us who do not want the free world to lose its soul to terrorism must stand up and be counted. [...]

It is said, rightly, that torture degrades both its victims and its perpetrators.

Why? If you catch someone you were trying to kill and he has information that could save lives, why is it morally degrading to harm him briefly in order to obtain it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 5, 2005 6:56 AM

In those "ticking bomb" scenarios, you just do what is nercessary, but you cannot talk about it, before, during or after.

The Dershowitz plan for getting some kind of
torture warrrant is a non-starter.

One of the things which must be done is to establish that neither truth nor the gravity of the case is a defense to a security violation.

This should seem obvious, the greater the truth and the weightier the matter, the greater harm to national interests. That is not the way it seems to be shaking out presently. We are still waiting to hear that someone is in trouble for leaking that story about bad guys we have grabbed up being held for us in undisclosed locations.

If we stick the guy who leaked that one out beyond the orbit of Saturn, maybe in the same cell as Jonathan Pollard, there may be less reason to worry about torture warrants.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 5, 2005 10:51 AM

Keep torture illegal, but pardon people who do it if it turns out to have saved lives. If the risk is that great, someone is likely to do it anyway and accept the consequences. If the risk isn't that high, than torture isn't needed anyway to protect the people. If we make torture legal, the cost of torturing the wrong people goes down too low - we will see innocents tortured at some point.

Giving the govt authority to torture means they'll start torturing people. The idea that the govt would only torture bad people is absurd.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at December 5, 2005 11:56 AM

No, Chris. Why should an FBI agent or CIA operative or DoD interrogator risk his own neck to do something for us that we then turn around and wash our own hands of? No more scapegoating, no more self-righteousness, no more hanging out to dry. We put down on paper what we are and are not willing to do, and if it turns out that innocent people get tortured then so be it; and if innocent people get a building dropped on their heads because we didn't have the stomach for torture then so be it also.

Posted by: joe shropshire at December 5, 2005 1:22 PM

The McCain bill would ban cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. Proponents of the bill, when attacked, counter that opponents must favor torture. But there must be some ground between mere ill-treatment and torture. We can all agree, if only for the sake of argument, that torture is immoral and counter-productive, now that this argument is out of the way, can't we just smack the prisoners around a little, or make them dress up like the guest of honor at one of Andrew Sullivan's houseparties.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at December 5, 2005 5:32 PM