13 January 2005

Torture is simply not a good way to get information

Pushing aside issues of moral, legal and consitutional merit, let's deconstruct the torture myth.
Given the overwhelmingly negative evidence, the really interesting question is not whether torture works but why so many people in our society want to believe that it works. At the moment, there is a myth in circulation, a fable that goes something like this: Radical terrorists will take advantage of our fussy legality, so we may have to suspend it to beat them. Radical terrorists mock our namby-pamby prisons, so we must make them tougher. Radical terrorists are nasty, so to defeat them we have to be nastier.

Perhaps it's reassuring to tell ourselves tales about the new forms of "toughness" we need, or to talk about the special rules we will create to defeat this special enemy. Unfortunately, that toughness is self-deceptive and self-destructive. Ultimately it will be self-defeating as well.

Still, the fact that it is not an effective means of extracting information does not weigh on me as much as the vile and barbaric aura it generates. It definitely is cruel and unusual punishment, and nowhere in the Constitution does it specify non-citizens are life forms devoid of humanity. While we may be battling savages who stoop to even lower levels of physical abuse to satisfy their goals of conquest, I don't believe that we must become monsters of an equivalent scale. We're supposed to be the good guys, who bring justice, not vengeance.

The Bush administration's nominated candidate for Attorney General sanctioned torture and fought to enable more of it, as the Abu Ghraib scandal has exposed.


Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice says, “The Senate Judiciary Committee will likely hold a vote on the nomination of Alberto Gonzales soon after the inauguration.” Ms. Aron stated that two issues have delayed the SJC’s vote:

1) Mr. Gonzales’ evasive testimony during the SJC’s January 6th hearing – he “failed to answer critical questions about whether the president has the power to authorize his subordinates to violate U.S. criminal laws and torture detainees (a blueprint for dictatorship), and he did not explicity repudiate waterboarding and other interrogation techniques that amounted to torture;” and

2) Bush administration stonewalling on documents – “… the White House has still not released documents necessary to evaluate Gonzales’ role in formulating policies relating to the treatment of detainees and the applicability of the Geneva Conventions.”

<b>The Leahy File</b>
Even as late as January 4th, two days before the hearings, Sen. Patrick Leahy continued to press for documents relating to Gonzales’ part in formulating the Administration’s policy for the treatment of detainees.
Leahy: Government Stonewalling on Release of Documents. December 22, 2004, http://www.senate.gov/~leah...
Leitch’s repy to Leahy, December30,2004 http://leahy.senate.gov/pre...
“… no claim of executive privilege is necessary to decline to produce such documents in response to such a request. “
Leahy Presses Gonzales on Accountability, Documents: January 4, 2005, http://leahy.senate.gov/pre...

Add to this Gonzales' role in development of CIA torture policies.
Sorry, AZ, I meant to title the last one:


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