Thursday, September 21, 2006

Woo! Controversial!

Now here's a controversial post from His Imperial Majesty.
“Torture” works wonderfully well or, as I like to call it, “coercive interrogation techniques.” Not because of some weird squeamishness on my part, I had my squeam gland removed surgically at the age of 5, but because it’s important to make a clear distinction between splinters under the fingernails, chopping off of body parts, poking out eyeballs etc. and the highly sophisticated, NOT damaging methods used by interrogators who know what they’re doing.

But can this be possible? After all, we are constantly told that information extracted under "torture" is always unreliable.
And those methods work. They work wonderfully well, but don’t take my word for it.

Take Brian Ross, chief investigative correspondent for the ABC (not exactly a Bush-shilling propaganda network)’s word instead. He’s been in touch with CIA sources, some of who actually oppose the techniques, who’ve told him the following:
  1. Out of 14 top terrorists interrogated, 14 broke under interrogation.

  2. The information they provided was useful and helped roll up terrorist cells, averting further attacks on American civilians

  3. Most of them broke as a result of mild techniques, such as the “cold room” and “sleep deprivation” methods, only a few had to be subjected to “waterboarding”, where the detainee is led to believe that he’s drowning, without being in any actual danger at any point. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind 9/11, lasted almost three minutes. He was the toughest case

None of the suspects were physically damaged in any way (not that I really care), but they all broke. Without exception.

The intelligence gathered saved lives.

Now, I don't know much about US TV networks and their bias, and nor do I know how much faith I put in the words of "CIA sources", but are there situations in which "robust" interrogation techniques are valuable and acceptable?

My own feeling is that there probably are, in extremis. When this debate was raging earlier in the year, "torture" was spiked on the twin prongs of moral outrage and unreliability of information. If, however, the information extracted is reliable (and I really don't think that we would continue to use these techniques, given the potential outrage, were it always totally useless), can these techniques then be justified.

As His Imperial Majesty points out, none of these people were physically damaged—we are not talking about resorting to the methods of certain countries, such as being immersed to the armpits in boiling water, here—but of methods that, quite sensibly, leave no physical scars.

So, over to you guys...


Mr Eugenides said...

I am against legalised torture.

I accept that in extremis there may be situations where I would reluctantly accept the use of torture - the old "ticking bomb" scenario. Nor am I squeamish, or overly concerned with terrorists' "civil rights" - as far as I'm concerned, they don't have any.

As for the danger of gleaning inaccurate information through torture, well, maybe. That argument convinces me less. I do seem to recall, though, John McCain saying somewhere that he would have, or did, name random American footballers when asked for the names of superiors that he couldn't remember, just to stop the pain.

My objection to torture is twofold;

1.Who decides who is to be tortured, and what guarantee do we have that they are guilty? Yes, I don't believe that the parade of "innocent" detainees released from Gitmo were all in Afghanistan on holiday either, but if we're going to attach electrodes to their genitals, I want more than simply a presumption of guilt.

2. This war is largely about ideas - the idea of a free liberal society versus the idea of a extremist religious "command society". This is one of the reasons, though not the only reason, why civil liberties are so important. Yes, we can try to defeat individual groups of terrorists militarily (though that's not going so well), but in the long run the only way to win this war is to prove that our way is best.

The only was we'll do that is to maintain the moral high ground, and too much of what's happened in the last 5 years has undermined that position. Of course there is no moral equivalence whatever between Halabja and Abu Ghraib, or between 9/11 and Jenin, no matter what the morons in the left-wing press may maintain; but that does not mean that I want my free society to pull people's fingernails out as a matter of policy. If my refusal to sanction that makes another 7/7 more likely, so be it. There may be a point at which the balance shifts, and the existential threat to our way of life demands a change in policy. But I don't believe we're there yet - nowhere near.

Not, as they say, in my name.

PS Mind you, that Anjem Choudary - I'd happily see splinters of glass shoved in that cunt's eyes, ticking bomb or not.

Soupdragon said...

I say if they won't talk, beat it out of em. It's the only way to be sure.


wonkotsane said...

How can we (non-muslim western world) claim the moral high-ground if we do the things we criticise Islamic regimes for?

Tim Newman said...

I wrote at length on the subject of torture here, although it's more to do with the abuse of the word itself than a discussion on what works and what doesn't.

Anonymous said...

I recall an interview by one of the British men accused of murder in Saudi Arabia a couple of years back. They were systematically tortured to obtain "confessions". As he pointed out, he said what his captors wanted to hear just to stop the pain. Given that he has been through the experience and takes the stance that such "evidence" is unreliable, I'm inclined to believe him.

I also take the same stance as Mr E on the high moral ground. You can't claim it if you don't adhere to its principles - and civilised societies do not torture captives.

Anonymous said...

Bugger, that was me - how did it switch back to anonymous?

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