Monday, June 08, 2009


General Petraeus, the leader of the coalition forces in Iraq, recently did an interview with Fox News explaining some of the mistakes the US made after 9/11. One of them, he states, is that "the existence of Gitmo has been used by the enemy against us". Evidence that torturing prisoners has actually made us less safe. These "alternative techniques" are not necessary and as Petraeus points out, the "Army Field Manual is all that we need to use to interrogate prisoners." Here's a snippet from the manual:

The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor. condoned by the US Government. Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear. However, the use of force is not to be confused with psychological ploys, verbal trickery, or other nonviolent and noncoercive ruses used by the interrogator in questioning hesitant or uncooperative sources.

In the interview he suggests a responsible closure of the infamous Gitmo prison and trying the prisoners in American courts. That latter part is an important idea. We must trust the legal system that we are fighting to protect. We cannot be proponents of the rule of law overseas and ignore the Geneva Convention (Petraeus says we have) at home. This is especially true given the evidence that torture has been used not to protect American people from future attacks, but to justify past military action (hat tip to Justin). Even though the most talked about technique, waterboarding, has only been used three times, it should not be doubted that it is torture. If you're unsure, watch this video of someone being waterboarded.


  1. I'm back and forth on torture. I think that if someone has useful information for our country and he/she is a terrorist, we should torture him/her IF that torture would actually elicit the information.

    I'm not sure I have a problem with torture from a utilitarian standpoint. If something else works better, then use the more effective technique. But if torture (once again of terrorists/enemy spies etc. and not civilians or POW's) works, use it. I think the world is getting too PC. If I were an international spy and I was caught by an enemy government, I would be fine with them torturing me. It's the nature of the game. That's not to say that I would enjoy it by the way.

  2. You don't think torture is at the very least morally ambiguous?

  3. KevLar12:49 AM

    Morally ambiguous? It's pure sin! It's putting love of country above love for God and other people. Love thy enemies... not just when it's convenient.

    Peter could have saved the Son of God with the sword but Jesus told him to put it away. If it wasn't ok to save Christ with the sword, how can it be ok to use the sword to save anyone?

  4. Duuuuude, we are so going to have some pool chill time. We'll drink girly drinks and talk about history and how we hate vacuuming and stuff. Gonna be awesome.

    I've never really viewed torture as morally ambiguous. I've always thought of it as an "ends justify the means" situation. Give me a day and I'll see if my opinion shifts.

    Perhaps I do watch too much 24.

  5. Stephen J.12:49 AM

    So let's say we do stop the torture and shut down Gitmo, what do we do with the terrorists? I feel like the, "Is it torture" question is important, but I'm wondering what it's going to be like to have all these terrorists in random jails all over the country.

    Could this actually give more intelligence to these spies? Could anti-American sentiments be evangelized in this setting?

    I feel like this is a huge problem and I haven't heard any good ideas.

    So... let's hear em.

  6. I'm with you Kev, torturing another human being is wrong.

    "So let's say we do stop the torture and shut down Gitmo, what do we do with the terrorists?"

    We do what we are planning to do, try them in American courts. And we don't trust our courts to decide the correct verdict then maybe that's a bigger problem than torture.

    "I feel like the, "Is it torture" question is important"

    Me too. Watch that video I linked at the end of the post and tell me that's not torture.

    "Could this actually give more intelligence to these spies? Could anti-American sentiments be evangelized in this setting?"

    Although I can't say for sure, I don't see those things happening. There doesn't seem to be too much intelligence to be found in prison. As for anti-American evangelism, I don't know if poor criminals will be open to the get America out of the Middle East debate.

    "I feel like this is a huge problem"

    The main problem for me is America's standards compared to those around the world. Yes, Saddam Hussein would not have hesitated to torture to gain information, but that's one of many reasons why he was a "bad guy". Not to say America is the "good guy", but we should take a note from Batman and be weary of the force we use.

  7. Harrison, just wanted to say I thought this was a great post and I agree with you - waterboarding is torture and our country is greater than that. Torture violates our beliefs as a nation, our national character, individual moral law, and historical precedent. Less significantly, it doesn't work.

    For more on this issue, I highly recommend this:

  8. Stephen J.12:50 AM

    Oh, I definitely think waterboarding is torture and immoral, but I do think you are underestimating the power and influence of "poor criminals". The fact is, these "poor criminals" are often well educated and fiercely devoted to their cause. In a post-everything setting like the US, people are desperate for purpose. Prisoners in particular are ripe for being influenced by a cause that is greater than themselves. If I was in prison and met someone who was not phased by death and actually believed that he would be rewarded with virgins for his holy death, I would honestly be intrigued.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.