Sunday, June 24, 2007

The US should not torture detainees

This post is not about the morality of the use of torture. If a person thinks that torture is acceptable under certain contingencies, there is very little I can do or say that would convince them otherwise. Never mind whether or not it's right or wrong for now, would torture make us safer?

The US already has a reputation for inhumane treatment of "detainees". This is hurting our efforts in the war on terror for two reasons.

1.An enemy is that much less likely to surrender if he thinks he's going to be badly treated. Normally, when a combatant is surrounded and there is no hope for victory or escape, then it is considered advisable and acceptable to surrender. But if he thinks he is going to die anyway, or suffer a fate worse than death, then he will likely decide to take down as many of his opponents with him rather than surrender. Remember that the closing days of WWII, the Germans stood and fought against the Soviets but surrendered to the Americans and the British. Having a reputation for savagery might deter people from going to war against you in the first place, but once the war has already started they will that much more resolved to defeat you. All wars end when one side or the other (sometimes both sides), loses their resolve. Our goal should be to weaken enemy resolve and not strengthen it.

2. It's bad PR. How our allies view us matters. How potential allies view us matters. But how our potential enemies view us matters most of all, because we want them to remain just potential enemies and not actual enemies.

Proponents of torture point out that Allied operatives during WWII carried poison capsules in case they were captured, so that they would avoid being tortured. They argue that the Nazis used torture during interrogations because it worked. But intelligence gained during torture sessions has been established to be faulty. The Nazis used torture because they were sadists. Are we sadists too?

17 comments:

Tim Zank said...

Robert, "The US already has a reputation for inhumane treatment of "detainees"." may not be completely accurate. That's based on the assumption the vast majority of the world is in fact as dumb as a box of rocks.
I'd like to think most reasonable people can see the difference between the unfortunate, yet rather benign actions at Abu Grahib and the seemingly more horrifying sight of US contractors being burned alive and hung from bridges, or the occasional beheading of a journalist on TV. Oh, and let's not forget the occasional faithful muslim strapped with dynamite blowing himself and 200 innocent club patrons into Allah's private virgin heaven.

I would suggest our "reputation" is probably not nearly as tarnished worldwide as CNN, MSNBC, CBS,ABC,NBC, The NYT etc would have us believe. After all, if they ever ran a story depicting anything positive about us, it wouldn't exactly reinforce the belief we are the "bad guys".

We're not sadists, we're the good guys, but our entire populace is bombarded 24-7 by the news media with the equivalent of a bad television commercial jingle. If you hear the same thing over and over and over again, it just sinks in. There's a lot of people in this world, I find it hard to believe most of them hate us, but I find it easy to believe the microphones and cameras are pointed constantly at the ones that do hate us, thereby reinforcing that idea.

Robert Enders said...

I certainly agree that we are the good guys. I was merely pointing out that we should refrain from one tactic. The US conduct of the WOT has gotten some bad press. Some of it deserved, much of it isn't.

The unfortunate events at Abu Graib did not have official sanction. However, at one of the debates, most of the announced GOP candidates for president said that they would support the use of torture. Only John McCain and Ron Paul said that they do not support the use of torture. There is a distinct possibility that torture will become an accepted practice.

Tim Zank said...

If you play back the debate, no one said "torture". It was a very artfully worded (and loaded) question, which gave the ASSUMPTION that the guys that said they support "enhanced interrogation" were in fact in favor of torture. Not so.

Another media enhanced perception.

Robert Enders said...

Fair enough. What constitutes "enhanced"?

Tim Zank said...

Sleep deprivation, waterboarding, hoods on heads, that type of stuff.

Not exactly bamboo chutes under the nails or cigarettes in the eye.

Hell, the interrogation rooms are probably smoke-free anyway!

Tom Wolf said...

The idea of a "fair fight" went out the window on 9/11 when the terrorists decided to hijack civilian airliners and fly them into the twin towers. Personally, if it prevents another 9/11 and we have to get down to their level and use "enhanced interrogations" I'm all for it. Just don't keep it from the people, we can handle it if you tell us the reasoning. At this point I wonder if we could have won WWII if every paper and radio report started off with the number of troops killed everyday. The next guy elected to the oval office should remember this: If you're going to commit American troops to battle, give them everything they need to win and send everything we have. We're the greatest Republic on Earth. It's time to act like it and end this now, end it soon and it it with a clear and concise victory.

Kody Tinnel said...

If we are the good guys then we should set a good example by not using torture. We need to strengthen our reputation and do all we can to show the entire world that we will not sink to the level of terrorists.

Robert Enders said...

Tim,
Do you think that waterboarding will be as effective in obtaining information as electrodes attached to testicles?

Tim Zank said...

Trick question??

I think waterboarding has been proven effective.

Bartleby said...

"Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever." -- Thomas Jefferson

Sorry for the interruption, boys ... now, back to your wankfest.

Robert Enders said...

We now bring you back to your regularly scheduled wankfest.

Tim, if our enemies are as fanatical as we make them out to be, is waterboarding going to do any good?

Anonymous said...
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Jeff Pruitt said...

None of the military leaders I've heard support torture and that should tell the rest of the 101st Keyboarders something...

Tim Zank said...

Robert & Jeff, We don't sanction torture, we don't condone torture. If waterboarding, hoods on heads, sleep deprivation and playing loud music is torture, we may as well just give up now.

Bartelby, I'm thrilled you were able to send a message down from that lofty perch you use to gaze upon on us lesser folk.

Jeff Pruitt said...

Waterboarding is torture Tim.

It violates the Geneva Convention and US law.

The Army Field Manual prohibits waterboarding by the military

We've used waterboarding as an example of torture to chastise other countries' human rights abuses

We convicted a Japanese officer after WW2 for using waterboarding

I would argue that if we have to resort to the same tactics used by the enemy then we have already lost. Why not just adopt terrorism and beheadings while we're at it?

Anonymous said...

Off topic. Where did your link go on FWOb? That's how I always got here and now it is gone. :(

Tim Zank said...

Hey, one mans torture is another mans interrogation.I just can't get that worked up about waterboarding a terrorist.

It worked with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I don't want another 9-11 and if an occasional "enhanced bath" will save lives, I'll take that trade off anyday. These guys will slit your throat, slowly, from ear to ear, in front of your kids, on television,without provocation, simply for being a non-muslim, an infidel. I'm not gonna lose any sleep over the occasional game of "bobbing for terrorists"...