A reader writes:
Torture really is a slippery slope. First it was the 'ticking timebomb' where torture was OK. Now it's an ordinary 'panty bomber'. It's only a short hop skip and a jump to use torture on US citizens suspected of 'heinous' crimes such as multiple murders or child kidnappers. From there what about torturing those who smoke pot to find their suppliers.Once we are used to it and accept it it will be used whenever we feel like it.
One question no one, that I've seen, has ever asked those who advocate torture. What happens if you torture an innocent person by mistake?
Well, we have tortured people by mistake. And what happens when you do is that you are tempted to find a way to hide that mistake. And since you have the power to torture, and torture can coerce evidence of guilt, you simply torture some more to get the right answer, or you torture someone else to get corroborating evidence. This has already happened in America.
This is why the naivete in this debate is not with those of us who oppose all torture. Au contraire.
The truly naive are the Krauthammers and Thiessens and McCarthys who seem to believe - against all history and human nature - that torture can be controlled, that it can be sealed within a very tight box, used only by good people, never abused, never allowed to spread. But this has never happened. We know very well from brutal historical experience that the power to torture even one person always metastasizes. And we have seen it with our naked eyes in America. What was Abu Ghraib if it wasn't proof that orders to torture from the very top instantly spread through the system so that a handful of torture victims becomes hundreds in a matter of weeks; when torture is allowed the CIA and the military, it instantly spreads, as we have seen, to every theater of war, to every branch of the armed services, from Navy SEALS to special ops guys openly torturing mere suspects under the watch of Stanley McChrystal.
And yet the noecon response to this horror is to urge more of it, as routine, past ticking time bombs scenarios, past imminent threats ... on and on to waterboarding a suspect whom even the Bush administration, in an identical setting, decided to prosecute using criminal law.