The Contortions Of The Torture Defenders

A reader writes:

The comments by your dissenting reader and Abe Greenwald both contain a typical point made by the pro- "coercive interrogation" crowd. Namely, that the techniques used in the interrogations are not only not torture, but that they are barely mild annoyances, and that it's ludicrous to be making a fuss about them. Some have even gone so far as to apply that characterization to waterboarding, calling it merely a "splash in the face" or a "dunk in the water".

What bothers me about this viewpoint is that if these techniques are so harmless, then how do they even work?

 If a face slap is not big deal, then how does it result in information? If putting an insect in a cage with a prisoner is something to laugh about, why are they insisting that it works? Do they really imagine that enemy prisoners with incredible, ticking time-bomb information fold so easily?

Or might it take an extra slap or two? Maybe a bit harder to get to a level that is tougher to withstand? Maybe a few days with no sleep? Still nothing? Ok, then perhaps a stress position as well? Hey, are we getting some weeping? Good, now we're getting somewhere.

Step by step, pushing harder ever more slightly. Until the prisoner breaks, and we get some information. And if the prisoner doesn't break? Then we simply push even harder. After all, our country is at stake, right?

And this leads me to my second point. In the Hayden and Mukasey article today, they make a point that these interrogations are about getting information, not confessions. But what if the captive doesn't have the intelligence we want or has already told us all he knows? If he says he has no further information, do we believe him? Or do we start pushing a little, to see what else might be there? And when that yields nothing, what then? If we truly believe this person has critical intelligence, can we stop?

The soviets used these techniques to elicit false confessions. That is what they were designed for.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Just In