Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is torture effective?

(If the link doesn't take you directly to the video click on "Alleged Victim Sues U.S.")

"They that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither." - Benjamin Franklin

Several posts this semester have commented on the controversy surrounding the U.S. using torture. The video from CNN tells the story of a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, who was deported from the U.S. on suspicion of attending an al-Qaeda traning camp in Afghanistan and sent to Syria. He was held there for over 10 months and tortured until he finally "confessed" to being affiliated with the terrorist organization. Upon his confession he was released from Syria and sent back to Canada.

Proponents of torture argue that it is a necessary evil in the struggle for national security. But exactly how is someone confessing to something they didn't do just to make the torture end making us any safer? Is this man's experience a price we're willing to pay for what supposedly will bring us increased security?


rugbyplayr said...

The issue of torture has been given increased media atention since the fact that the US uses waterboarding as a form of interrogation. However torture has been a means of getting sensitive information from "the enemy" for a very long time. How does it help increase security? Well, if you capture a terrorist, the only method some believe will be effetive in getting him to reveal the plans of his organization if by "severe interrogation methods". I think that torture is terrible and wrong but one question that I find myself unable to answer is if this is the only method that can be used to uncover a secret plan to attack civilians, and if not thousands would die, am I still adamantly against torture? Does that mean that I value the life of one over the lives of many, tens, hundreds, thousands?
The fli side of that argument however is will torturing that person make them tell you what you want to hear rather than the truth and further, nothing at all may be gained by the tactic if the person being tortured is innocent. Can we risk using this terrible method?
I am not answering the questions just giving food for thought.

Lukovica said...

You claim that "torture has been a means of getting sensitive information from "the enemy" for a very long time". First of all, cite your sources. What exactly allows you making a claim like that?
As to the hypotheticals you are giving, they are not very new not
We need to realize that you do not get credible intelligence by torturing people.
If you really attempt to think seriously about the issue, do some research, read the testimonies of the people who have been tortured or who have performed such interrogations and what they have to say about the effectiveness of it.
Rober Baer, former CIA officer

And for all of the people out there impatient to use some “enhanced interrogation techniques”, how about learning Arabic first? May be asking a person in his own language, knowing person’s thinking, culture, way of rationalizing things will actually work?
Take a minute to read this:


Torture is immoral, illegal (in any normal country), abhorrent and counterproductive. However, we seem to be all too eager advocate for it, basing our reasoning on arguments as flimsy and spurious as imaginary hypotheticals without even attempting of thinking about other ways of gathering intelligence that may actually work.
And they will work without a by-product of confirming certain people’s beliefs that we are ruthless, godless savages. It deeply saddens me that we have lost all of our moral capital, we are no longer in a position to condemn atrocities perpetrated in other countries, because we ourselves are complicit.
Also, making torture legally acceptable has very important long-term ramifications for the society. I suggest a really good paper on torture: Henry Shue “Torture”, in which he writes “Any judgment that torture can be sanctioned in an isolated case without seriously weakening existing inhibitions against the more general use of torture rests on empirical hypothesis about the psychology and politics or torture. There is considerable evidence of all torture’s metastatic tendency.” I think this is something we tend to ignore in this debate.
And since, I am running out of time,this is some food for thought for you: what might be these ramifications for a society as a whole if we accept torture as a reasonable policy choice?
Another good website: http://www.americantorture.com/

One last point: I think that the only thing ever gained from torture is sadistic pleasure.

You mentioned “severe interrogation methods”, which reminded me of something I learned today. Guess what was one of the main methods of obtaining confessions employed by Spanish Inquisition? It was called the toca, also known as tortura del agua, and consisted of … dare to take a guess? “introducing a cloth into the mouth of the victim, and forcing them to ingest water spilled from a jar so that they had impression of drowning”. Hm… reminds me of something…
Now, the Spanish Inquisition were the people who got TONS of useful information that way. They were also acting in the name of God.

Tigist said...

I do no think torture is effective at all. Methods of torture are going against our human rights. How do we even know the person is telling the truth? Torturing is not only a human rights violation, but also a wrong way of approaching a situation.

yrjb11 said...

Using torture, as a method of attaining what could be false information is not only a human rights violation, but also proves ineffective in many cases. One of the main arguments Iraqis holds that they hate Americans is because of the constant officially sanctioned torture that Americans are imposing upon Iraqis. Therefore, the hate that Americans are provoking with torture is making the country more susceptible to future terrorist attacks. Additionally, prisoners of war are protected by the Geneva Conventions. If the Geneva Convention is ignored than who is to say other groups won't be ignored? This can lead to laws and the Constitution being violated, as Americans may no longer take formal documents seriously. Victims of torture are forced to admit to crimes that they did not commit in order to end the pain. Overall, torture is uncivil and violates the human rights that every person is born with.