Was it worth it?



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar Tim Kowal says:

    Not worth it? That may be. But my guess is that you won’t see any such confessions so long as the principal moral objection to the interrogation methods is deontological rather than utilitarian.Report

    • Avatar Ryan in reply to Tim Kowal says:

      I think not only is this correct, but there will never actually be a compelling utilitarian case against torture. Torture makes Americans – especially a certain subset of neoconservatives (and some neoliberals) – feel really, really good. That’s all the argument they need.Report

  2. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    It seems quite clear at this point that the “utilitarian calculus” of torture wasn’t its efficacy in producing actionable information, but rather upon its ability to produce information which the party promoting its use wanted to see. That is, the means were justifiable because they helped produce an outcome they wanted. And while the shifting goalposts are great as a public consumption argument, I think we should just accept that the folks arguing in favor of torture at least from the previous administration were doing it not because of any profound process of believing in its value as an intelligence tool, but rather its utility as a political tool, both to scare the American public with what we’ve learned was in most cases information beyond “questionable” and to give the impression they were “tough enough” on terrorism.

    That is: We should stop debating utility or morality with these people and their apologists and call them what they rightly are. Criminals.Report

  3. Avatar medievalpoetry says:

    Does it even matter anymore? The administration has made it clear that no one will ever face any kind of charges. Well, a few low level grunts will apparently be ‘investigated’, or so the DOJ announced on the same day the NY Times was screaming about continued rendition on its front page. In light of this failure of basic justice, I just cannot afford to care anymore. Seriously, I cannot give a flying fuck.

    They should play this song on rendition flights, and pipe it into cells at the still operating Bagram airbase:

    • Avatar Bob in reply to medievalpoetry says:

      Continued use of rendition is a serious problem.

      Obama also seems to be going squishy regarding his stand on habeas corpus. In a May 2009 speech he set up five categories of prisoners that may be transferred from Cuba to a US prison. Politifact, see link, summarized the categories:

      “1. Prisoners who will be tried in the federal courts;
      2. Prisoners who will be tried through military commissions (though Obama said he intends to modify rules for military commissions set by the Bush administration);
      3. Prisoners who have been ordered released by the federal courts (Obama will honor those orders, he said);
      4. Prisoners who will be turned over to other countries;
      5. Prisoners who cannot be tried in court or through commissions but who will not be released.

      “It’s this fifth category that appears to potentially violate Obama’s promise on habeas corpus. During his speech, Obama said these would be the hardest cases to resolve[.]”


  4. Avatar Dan Summers says:

    I agree with Ryan, above. Americans aren’t appalled by torture because, at the heart of it, they believe the people suspected of being terrorists (that evil, faceless “other”) deserve to be tortured. I suspect that many people positively support the torture of terrorism suspects because they feel the torture is what they have coming.

    One need look no further than the latest Tarantino offering. The Nazis are bludgeoned and scalped and tortured, and we are meant to revel in it. Swap out Nazis and replace them with contemporary terrorists, and observe the audience applaud.Report

  5. Avatar Tim says:

    I don’t think Bush administration torture was just a neo-con (or neo-liberal) screw up. Following 9-11 there was a national rage and the torture regime was an aspect of that rage. It was always about revenge, not intelligence gathering. That’s why the failure of the policy to produce actionable intelligence and the advice of the country’s best interrogation specialists didn’t result in a curtailment of the program. Rage, even justifiable rage, is however no excuse for immoral or stupid policies. The torture policy violated basic ethical and legal principles, these principles developed over hundreds of years through crises and conflicts much worse than 9-11. The “9-11 changes everything” meme was ill advised and led to bad results. The torture policy endangers every potential American P.o.W. in future wars. The belief that this kind of thing cannot ‘blowback’ on American servicemen is the most dangerous form of arrogance and hubris. The North Korean murder of US PoWs in the Korean War led to few Korean prisoners surviving capture. This policy will lead to US service personnel being tortured. To make matters worse the policy has seriously undermined America’s reputation in a war where image is everything. To use a soccer term, it was an “own goal” in the war on terrorism.Report

    • Avatar muffler in reply to Tim says:

      The point here is that they took measured steps to justify and approve torture. This means they understood that it was illegal and immoral. They also knew that the results were scientifically proven to be mostly useless if at all, but they needed to go ahead anyway. There was no justification!Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Well, let’s say that your child was kidnapped and you found the guy responsible. Would you threaten him to get your child back? Beat him up, maybe? Shoot him somewhere with a large nerve center?

    Therefore it’s justified to waterboard someone picked up on the side of the road suspected of having ridden with the #3 guy in Al Qaeda two months ago based on a tip we paid $500 for.Report

  7. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    I feel the disappointment of the Left when their president continues the war in Iraq while expanding the one in Afghanistan. My goodness, could it be that he continues, secretly, to TORTURE the unfortunate Mujahadeen captives. Could it be that he’s yet another fascist, neo-conservative disguised as an affirmative action beneficiary?Report

  8. Avatar Consumatopia says:

    I might do all sorts of things, but some of those things would be both wrong and unlikely to help me locate my child.Report