Friday, May 22, 2009

Torture and the American Way

Torture has been used in our legal system for two centuries. Sleep deprivation, isolation, light 24 hours a day, repetitive sounds... and it's been questionable at best. It elicits false confessions and causes a whole host of problems. It's antithetical to the American Way in that we have that pesky presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

The war isn't our legal system, though, but it's fought on two fronts: 1) the battlefield by our military and 2) investigations by the CIA. In the first, presumption of innocence isn't really a question. People shooting at you are the enemy and the enemy may have information that will save lives.

Remember that Colonel who threatened an Iraqi prisoner of war and then pretended to shoot him in the head but instead shooting past his ear (no contact, just a really loud BOOM). The guy wet his pants and gave up the bad guy's plans, averting a costly battle. That Colonel was reprimanded and retired, as I recall.

How silly. Give the guy a medal. The Iraqi was caught in the act of war; waterboard his head already!

The CIA, on the other hand, bags guys they strongly suspect are terrorists. Even if they are, they may not know anything and torture may give false information that can be just as dangerous as no information. Occasionally, though, they have guys they KNOW are guilty and have information we need.

And that's where I have a problem with torture. Allowing the CIA and the military to use torture "only when it's called for" allows them to use it even when it's not necessary. It could be used out of incompetence, revenge, etc. Torture for the sake of torture is wrong, but how do we trust fallible people to torture only when it can save lives? We can't.

Still, the thing I have not heard in the media is how often torture has been used and saves lives as a result. We see the abuses; something tells me we don't see the successes partially because the media doesn't want us to and mostly because the CIA really doesn't want us to.

So; I am not against torture on principle (the enemy is the enemy and if they have information, they're a fair target... of course, that presumes who the torturer says is the enemy really is the enemy); like the death penalty, which I'm against only because we don't carry it out well (though some folk just needs killin'), I'm against torture because we can't be trusted to do it "properly."

How frustrating is that?


Lee said...

False information is worse than none at all.

4girlz said...

Is death really a torture? If it's a quick one and not slow and agonizing, (and assuming I'm a terrorist) I'd rather die quickly and let God deal with me instead of having two awful things to look forward to.