Saturday, April 25, 2009

Senseless & Unjustified.

When it comes to coercive interrogation techniques like water boarding, regardless of whether it is torture or not, there is a legitimate discussion to be had about whether it is justified in a ticking bomb scenario. It is unpleasant but not seriously harmful so whether that outweighs the potential mass slaughter that may be prevented* by water boarding someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a dilemma. I am genuinely ambivalent about what has happened to him, I don't like the idea of subjecting prisoners to water boarding but I don't like the idea of letting hundreds of people be killed by the terrorist cells that he gave up.

That said most of the uses of 'enhanced interrogation techniques' were not for the purpose of preventing imminent attacks and saving lives, but instead used to confirm the Bush administration's preconceived notions of Iraqi - Al Qaeda links, which is both a retarded way to interrogate anyone and renders arguments over whether that the ends can justify the means rather moot, as there were no credible ends in the first place.

As I've said before I don't think prosecuting anyone makes much sense from a legal or pragmatic position, but the treatment of those prisoners really was shockingly incompetent and served no discernible purpose and those that thought it was a good idea should have to explain themselves to the public in full.

* I discount the idea that "torture doesn't work", as merely a slogan to avoid having to decide between two hideous alternatives. Torture can work, just today for example is an news story about a criminal torturing a hostage in order to get her bank details and various examples can be found throughout history.


Macheath said...

I agree that 'torture doesn't work' is an over-simplification. However, your hypothetical kidnapper already knows the bank accounts exist and has the means of immediately checking whether the victim is telling the truth.

In cases of suspected terrorism, things are far less clearly-defined. As comedian LLoyd Langford said on 'The Now Show',

"Simulated drowning is a very effective way of getting someone to confess to something; if you remember, it helped us to catch all those witches in the sixteen-hundreds."

Ross said...

The witches line is very good and it does illustrate why the way Al Qaeda prisoners were interrogated in the run up to the Iraq war was so senseless and devoid of merit.

Anonymous said...

There is a joke about torture.
"One nasty morning Comrade Stalin discovered that his favorite pipe was missing. Naturally, he called in his henchman, Lavrenti Beria, and instructed him to find the pipe. A few hours later, Stalin found it in his desk and called off the search. "But, Comrade Stalin," stammered Beria, "five suspects have already confessed to stealing it.""

DJ said...

The thing with waterboarding is this: if it's so bad, how come we can't stop liberals queueing up to have it done to them? How come they never protested South American juntas by having a cattle prod applied to their testicles?