Thursday, August 24, 2006

Can we now stop hearing two lies about torture?

A report came out last week that one key to breaking up the terror-planning cell of British Muslims was the arrest the previous week of a Briton, Rashid Rauf, in Pakistan. Immediately, the left-wing Guardian connected the dots.
Reports in Pakistani newspapers yesterday that Mr Rauf had "broken" under interrogation were described by a Pakistani human rights group as confirmation that he had been tortured. Asma Jehangir, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said that it was obvious how the information had been obtained. "I don't deduce, I know - torture," she said. "There is simply no doubt about that, no doubt at all."
At face value, that is less than persuasive. How does she know? And there are quite legitimate caveats about MSM eagerness to discredit "the 'so-called' war on 'alleged' 'terror'," and the particularly nutburger politics of the Guardian. But with all that duly noted, it is beyond debate that Pakistani officials routinely use at least the "rubber hose," and Rashid Rauf would not have been considered a routine case. Not QED by any means, but the better bet is that Rauf was tortured.

The results seem to have found plenty of smoking guns against most of the initial 20 arrestees -- like martyrdom videos. From the LA Times:
LONDON — In the first unveiling of evidence in the alleged plot to down U.S.-bound airliners, British authorities said Monday that their searches had turned up "martyrdom videos," suicide notes, bomb-making equipment and maps.
The evidence, offered to bolster charges filed Monday against 11 suspects, hinted at a trove of material and leads yet to be examined.
Now there's been debate about the timing of the planned attack -- initial reports were that a dry run was planned within days and the attack could happen days after that. There has been some doubting of that since. But nevertheless, it IS clear that the plot was in motion, and that D-Day would be sooner rather than later. In other words, a ticking time-bomb scenario. Whether the fuse was 6 days long or 6 months is neither here nor there -- luck plays a big role in these things and it pays no attention to calendars.

Does torture always work ... in the sense of always getting good, actionable information? No ... which distinguishes it from no other human action. Can it be abused? Absolutely ... which still doesn't distinguish it from any other human action. If one simply wishes to fiat a priori that any interrogation or coercion is always intrisically evil, that's at least coherent and clear -- make your case. But don't lie -- don't say (1) that torture categorically cannot work -- of course it can; or (2) that the "ticking-bomb" scenario is only for people who watch too much 24 -- as the head Torture Pharisee™ at St. Blogs regularly sneers. This case (redundantly) undoes both notions simultaneously.

1 comment:

Joe said...

The problem with both 1) torture doesn't work and 2) the ticking time bomb scenario never happens, is that they are both questions of prudence, not ethics. They're trying to argue around the situation, because they would rather not have to argue that torture is intrinsically evil.

Torture is wrong, in my view, for the same reason that murder is wrong; because wrongness is part of the Catholic definition of the word torture. It's defining what is and isn't torture that is the real question, just like defining what kind of killing is and isn't murder.

Others, of course, would rather define who is and isn't truly Catholic than define what is and isn't truly torture.