Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Apparently in the wake of bin Laden's slaying we have re-opened public debate on the policy of "enhanced interrogation," which those of us not living in an Orwellian dystopia are likely to refer to as "torture." I actually had not considered this possible ramification of bin Laden's death, only really noticing it when I read a New York Times article on the subject. Within the article a retired C.I.A. agent is quoted as saying, in regard to torture, "most felt it was un-American and did not work."

I have a problem with such statements, as they blithely link an issue of value with one of efficacy. It seems as though it should be enough to say, torture is un-American, or more accurately in my opinion, an offence against our humanity. If one feels it necessary to add, "oh, and it also doesn't work," it seems to leave the door open for debates on what level of efficacy would justify torture.

To condemn torture purely on the grounds of efficacy seems tantamount to saying that 9/11 was immoral because it failed to secure peace in the Middle East, rather than because the act itself was a monstrous failure of humans to be human. On the other hand, this argument of efficacy provides an unsettling explanation on how 9/11 can be differentiated from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I guess the first casualty of war is usually humanity, rather than humans (more on that if I ever finish my second Hunger Games post).

Granted, the bomber and the 100% accurate torture does make an interesting thought experiment. However, out here in the real world I think I can safely conclude I am 100% against torture. Intellectually at least, there are times when my emotions say different, but my humanity is damaged just like everyone else's.


elfarmy17 said...

I think they make sure to add in the "also it doesn't work" bit to show the American people that they're not refraining from doing something that would help in the war effort just because there are some ethics issues involved. They're saying "Also, don't be mad at us for not doing this, because it wouldn't help anyway!" Because you know someone would start a stink about how they're not doing everything they can.

Kenny said...

But phrasing it that way opens up the discussion as to whether or not it is effective, which ought not be the point IM(not so)HO.