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No Argument, Moral or Pragmatic, on Torture

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: Politics, Cheney, Stalin, torture, pragmatism, American Conservative,

Cheney on TortureWhen Dick Cheney and his minions defend torture saying, “it worked,” they are channeling Joseph Stalin, according to Andrew Brown in the American Conservative. “One of the first disconcerting things to discover when you inquire into the interrogation habits of the KGB” Brown writes, “is that their practices weren’t defined as torture at all.” Leaving aside the infamous waterboarding, practices like sleep deprivation and stress positions were cornerstones of both the KGB’s terror and that of Bush and Cheney.

Of course torture “works” in getting information, Brown concedes, but that information is inherently unreliable. The confessions extracted from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other targets of U.S. torture have the same evidentiary value as confessions that Trotskyists were responsible for sabotaging the Soviet economy in the 1930s. Brown writes, “Torture is a means of forcing people to lie to us, under circumstances that compel us to believe them, because otherwise we would have to face the truth about ourselves.”

The arguments made for torture, including the ones made to the continuation of torture policies under President Obama, are couched in the language of pragmatism. “Pragmatism is not a substitute for philosophical rigor, however,” David Schimke wrote for the latest issue of Utne Reader, “and it cannot be used as an excuse to ignore the past.” In this case, an absolute abolition of torture is both pragmatic and moral, since torture cannot reliably deliver the truth and undoubtedly serves to hurt the U.S. moral standing in the world.

Sources: American Conservative (subscription required), Utne Reader 

tom cannon_2
7/6/2009 4:37:58 PM

We tried Nazis for this after WW II; the fact that Soviet judges were on the panel at Nuremberg was considered an affront then, but an important precedent was established about individual behavior and responsibility even in the midst or mortal war. We've let the terrorists get under our skin in ways that Nazi Germany and Tojo Japan never did. It's time to rethink what we are about in this world and how our rhetoric and actions have parted.


marke.
7/2/2009 5:37:33 AM

There is the so called due process, I just can't understand why some authority implement the torture where in fact, the information that they might be getting are not reliable.Torture has been criticized on humanitarian and moral grounds, also on the grounds that evidence extracted by torture can be unreliable and that the use of torture corrupts institutions which tolerate it. The suspect are deemed to be innocent,until a strong evidence had been shown, so torture would be an unfair means of getting the necessary information.By the way have you gheard about the repel on the 22nd Amendment?The 22nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that no U.S. President shall serve more than two terms. A repeal amendment has been introduced by Representative Jose Serrano (D – NY), which he has done every two years since 1997. It doesn't matter how many cash loans he throws at it, it won't pass. The amendment was passed after the Presidency of FDR. For more info visit: http://personalmoneystore.com/moneyblog/2009/06/30/22nd-amendment/