Oh, about that torture thing

The problem with the torture debate is that everybody seems to take it from a law enforcement perspective.  Let’s try taking it from a war perspective.

What do you do in war?  Specifically a shooting war?  Generally, you find the enemy and relieve them of the need for oxygen.  If you relieve enough of them of the need for oxygen, they lose the will to fight.  In World War II, we did that by carpet bombing enemy cities rather indiscriminately, making little allowance for age or service status or even neutrality.  Through the Cold War we were prepared to do even worse, risking the wholesale incineration of societies.  Fortunately, we were not put into a position to test our resolve on that one.  But even in the current low scale operations, with detailed rules of engagements and long approval chains to get permission to fire, collateral damage aversion and hypersensitivity to adverse press coverage from enemy propagandists (CNN), it is still war.  We deal out death without trial, appeal or for the most part without remorse.  It is not enhanced law enforcement.  It is war which can almost be defined as the absence of law and order.  That is where all the current arguments against torture fail.

Argument 1: Anybody can be forced to confess under torture.

Counter:  They weren’t interested in confessions.  They weren’t looking for people to prosecute.  They were looking for people to kill in a war.  The perp has already been identified as an enemy.  By rights, if he were in the field, a sniper could turn his brains into a fine mist without a second thought.  If he were in a building, the perp, the building and all his compatriots could be reduced to small chunks with a bomb or artillery shell through the roof.  It’s curious that some people who think that interrogators are some horrible species of monster treat the sniper and the bomber pilot as heros.  The interrogator isn’t interested in killing his target.  In fact, if the right information is acquired, not only are friendly and neutral lives saved, but very possibly enemy lives can be spared as well.  Note also that these were not propoganda sessions, trying to force public admissions of war crimes as the North Koreans and North Vietnamese did.  These were interrogations purely for actionable intelligence.

Argument 2:  Torture damages the torturer.

Counter:  So what does sniping do?  What damage happens to the fighter pilot who puts the bomb through the roof?  The sailor who launches a Tomahawk?  There are people who make the case that those acts do damage people.  That soldiers returning from combat are irreparably damaged.  I work with lots of past and present combat personnel and I don’t see it.  The sniper motto is “One shot, one kill, no regrets.”  If you’re going to let it get under your skin, go find another line of work.  So how is engaging in “enhanced interrogation” different than staring straight into the eyes of you target through a scope, watching him sip a cup of Joe while passing the time with some cohorts; and then sending him back to his mother in a bag?  The interrogator just sends him back to his cell.

Argument 3:  It’s against the Geneva Convention.

Counter:  Actually, it’s not.  The Geneva Convention is only applicable between signatories of which terrorists are not.  And the convention is not binding if one of the belligerents stops complying.  It is not a one sided treaty.  Terrorists and other irregulars specifically fall under definitions in the conventions that exclude them from coverage.  That’s why spies in WWII dressed as civilians or as enemy troops could be executed.  They were excluded.  Many people who cry about violating the Geneva Conventions of War are about as knowledgable about the conventions as people who claim that any crime they want to commit is their constitional right are about the Constitution .

Argument 4:  Torture doesn’t work.

Counter:  Yeah, it does.  Saying torture doesn’t work is like saying killing doesn’t kill.  The flesh is weak and everybody has a breaking point.  If you don’t think so, let’s meet somewhere and I’ll convince you to change your mind.

Argument 5:  Torture is not necessary.

Counter:  Not losing is not necessary either.  Sure torture is undesirable.  So is killing an bombing and all the other horrors of war.  I’m not sure how it is that “enhance interrogation” is inherently bad, so we should avoid it at the risk of letting the dogs of war increase the number of broken and maimed bodies scattered across the landscape?  Let’s bomb a society back to the stone age so we don’t have to get our hands dirty slapping some sap across the face.  Yeah, that makes sense.

Argument 6:  If we engage in torture the other side will too.

Counter:  For the most part, the German military abided by the Geneva convention and American and British soldiers and airmen were interned accordingly.  They were the last ones to do so.  The SS and Gestapo did not abide by the conventions.  The Japanese did not abide by the conventions.  Now listen very carefully.  Not one of the countries or non-governmental elements that the United States has fought since WW II has abided by the conventions.  Period.  They have committed torture, summary executions and paraded our military personnel around for propaganda purposes.  The latest crop like to saw off people’s heads on video for publication.  Argument 6 is simply a non-starter.  We are fighting barbarians.  Sometimes that requires acting like one.

Argument 7:  Well…would YOU want to be tortured!

Counter:  Duh.  I don’t want to be killed either.  But history has shown that no matter what the US does, the people we are fighting against are eager to do both to anyone they can get their hands on.  Their whole modus operandi is to capture civilians, torture and kill them in as large numbers as possible and publisize is as widely as possible specifically to sow fear in the population.  The 9/11 highjackers specifically wanted the airliner passengers to call out so people could hear their voices as they were flown into buildings.

Argument 8:  Well, should cops be allowed to use torture?

No counter:  Absolutely not.  Cops are not at war.  Note that there is and never has been a War Against Crime, War Against Drugs or War Against Poverty.  Those are empty political slogans.  The goal of law enforcement is prosecutions to establish law and order, pretty much the diametric opposite of war.

The issue of torture has to first be put in the context of war or law enforcement.  They are different.

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2 comments so far

  1. […] guys and gals.  It’s real simple.  You can’t hold them.  You can’t ask them any questions.  If you oppress them and deny them anything you’re in trouble.  The liberals […]

  2. […] Perfect opportunity to recall* a perfectly reasoned post on the subject I ran before about that torture thing. […]


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