Torture propaganda

Posted in Canadian life, Politics at 8:58 pm by ducky

I don’t have a TV, so am not current with a lot of popular North American culture.

I knew that “24” was a very popular series, but was shocked to hear that torture is shown in almost every episode and that it is portrayed as being effective. If I were more of a conspiracy-theorist, I would suspect the U.S. military-industrial complex of being behind “24”. Maybe this would explain why Americans seem distressingly comfortable with torture. The Republican candidates (absent the one who was actually tortured) endorse “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

Some say that in the “ticking time bomb” scenario, torture is a good idea. I can maybe agree with my government torturing in the following circumstances:

  1. Nobody will ever ever find out that my government tortured the victim. If it becomes known that my government tortures people, then my life and the lives of people I care about get riskier. Not only will my enemies be more willing to torture in retaliation, but the torture will turn more people into my enemies.
  2. The victims are all guilty (i.e. is hiding secrets that will save many many civilian lives). If my government tortures innocent people, that will really piss off them their loved ones, their friends, their neighbors, their hairdresser, etc. It can also make allied countries less willing to cooperate with my government.  Furthermore, I am (and I presume you are) innocent.  If my government is willing to torture innocent people, what’s to stop them from torturing you and me?
  3. The victims will never give false or misleading information. If they fabricate information, that could lead to resources being spent unwisely.  And if you can’t be sure of what the victim tells you, why bother?

Point 1:  The only way that you might be able to hide the torture is if you kill them after you are done torturing them. You then have to figure out where to dispose of the body so that nobody finds it.  And, if you kill too many, people will figure it out anyway (witness the disappeared).

Point 1 is not possible.  You cannot have a systemic policy that encourages torture — or even one that only weakly punishes subordinates who torture — and expect people to not find out about it.

Point 2: Oh come on.  You can’t tell me that my government bureaucracy would never make a mistake?

Besides, they have demonstrated pretty convincingly that they can make mistakes — see the Maher Arer case.  So Point 2 is not possible.

Point 3: I am weak, I admit it.  It wouldn’t take that much beating to get me to talk.  However, I also believe that sadists gravitate to the job of torturer.  (If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do a very good job.)  I figure that it wouldn’t really matter what I said — that if they are going to hurt me they will either hurt me or stop with little regard for what I say.  And if I believe that I will give bogus information, why should I believe that people with stronger convictions than I wouldn’t do an even better job of it?

So Point 3 is not possible.

Let’s review: I’m only willing for my government to use torture only if all three points hold, and I believe that none of the points can ever hold.

No torture.  Ever.   It’s a supremely bad idea.

Comments »

  1. Best Webfoot Forward » On the record: torture is bad said,

    April 24, 2009 at 7:41 am

    […] wasn’t going to blog because I didn’t think any more needed to be said.  I’ve already discussed why I think torture is a bad idea.  (Never mind discussions about it being morally wrong, it’s still just flat a bad idea.)  […]

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