Torture and American Values

Torture is widely considered a poor means of obtaining information, with the information obtained from torture generally being unreliable. With multiple acts of torture people are going to talk, and somewhere along the way it is conceivable that some information will be obtained. Conservatives are using claims that torture did provide some information to justify the widespread torture during the Bush years, oblivious to the fact that regardless of the results the actions were both illegal and contrary to our national interests.

The New York Times looks at one claim of torture being effective which many Bush apologists are citing:

President Obama’s national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.

“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,” Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.

Admiral Blair sent his memo on the same day the administration publicly released secret Bush administration legal memos authorizing the use of interrogation methods that the Obama White House has deemed to be illegal torture. Among other things, the Bush administration memos revealed that two captured Qaeda operatives were subjected to a form of near-drowning known as waterboarding a total of 266 times.

Maybe some information was obtained, but Blair also conceded that this information might have been obtained by other means:

“The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means,” Admiral Blair said in a written statement issued last night. “The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.”

When Blair appeared before the Senate intelligence committee on January 22, he also said: “I believe strongly that torture is not moral, legal or effective.”

President Obama has also noted that the main issue here is not whether there is an isolated case of receiving information:

Mr. Obama’s team has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the harsh interrogations, but in a visit to the C.I.A. this week, the president did not directly question that. Instead, he said, any disadvantage imposed by banning those tactics was worth it.

“I’m sure that sometimes it seems as if that means we’re operating with one hand tied behind our back or that those who would argue for a higher standard are naïve,” he said. “I understand that. You know, I watch the cable shows once in a while.”

But he added: “What makes the United States special, and what makes you special, is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals even when it’s hard, not just when it’s easy.”

The great tragedy of the 9/11 attacks is that it has led many conservatives to ignore our values out of fear of terrorism. If we allow them to change the fundamental character of our nation in this manner, Osama bin Laden will have won.

Update: Why They Used Torture despite it being illegal, immoral, and ineffective.

1 Comment

  1. 1
    Ibari says:

    I am totally against the US’s actions. I believe the US  has always show that it do not care about anybody. The US is in serach of its own interest and it has lost of the moral values that  it had been admired for lon time. It is a pity that North American soldiers are torturing possible innocent people without giving them the opportunity of defend themselves. The US soldiers had behaved like profesional criminals. Hopefully the President Obama will solve this problem. Nobody should be private of her/his freedom.

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