Monday, February 15th, 2010
This journal takes no pleasure in printing this disgusting screed, but since it has appeared in a major British daily, it demands a reply. And the reply is simply this: that, philosophically, there is no dichotomy between fact and value. There is no daylight to be found between the failed pragmatic calculation Mr. Anderson makes and its absolute immorality. Let us leave aside for the moment the knowledge that much of the terror being carried out today is backed by Western governments, which wholly moots Anderson’s factual assertion of some vast Islamic threat. Torture is still wrong because it is the opposite of human value: the sort of coercion that will destroy a man’s ability to control his bodily functions, to control the operation of his mind, to make him state that 2+2=5, will be of no practical use because the victim will simply tell you what he or she thinks you want to hear in order to stop the torture. You have no verifiability, you will fail in achieving your end, and you will destroy the moral basis of your nation’s existence in the process.
War is a dirty business to be sure, but it remains that the only justification for the use of force is its employment in the service of self defence. This however is not the nature of torture. Torture is naked destruction for its own sake. If it is your interest to stop a man’s actions, you do not torture him: you restrain, incapacitate, or kill him. If it is your interest to engage his mind, it is not destructive force that you employ. This is the wrong tool: brute physical coercion is the opposite of the free choice required for the use of one’s mind, and the only way to obtain the knowledge you want is through the cooperation of your prisoner. You require, at least, for them to believe they wish to cooperate with you. It is persuasion via interrogation, not torture, that is the appropriate tool here. Under the ‘life or death’ scenarios outlined below, deception, drugs, or psychological manipulation might be acceptable to create a cooperative situation in which the prisoner volunteers the information you desire. But even here, your prisoner could simply lie. If electronic mind reading techniques were ever be perfected, it is conceivable that technology might remove such a need for persuasion. But in the absence of such a technology, Bruce Anderson has created a moral case study in which there are no solutions. His entire argument is deceptive, perhaps deliberately so. And for this scumbag to suggest it is either practicable or moral to torture someone’s child in order to secure their cooperation is the worst sort of deception. To express it in print is to lay bare a naked evil on the page. Anderson’s torture apologia fails: it is torture, not terror, that is the threat to our way of life and our civilization.
Flashback: MI5 chief denies cover-up claims over detainees | UK Top judge: Binyam Mohamed case shows MI5 to be devious, dishonest and complicit in torture | Britain reveals details of Binyam Mohamed torture | US magazine claims GuantÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡namo inmates were killed during questioning | PM Harper downplays detainee torture scandal, prorogation | Ottawa won’t release Afghan torture documents | MPs vote public inquiry into Afghan detainees, Tories ignore majority motion | UK: Rights watchdog reveals Pakistani spies pressed by British to torture detainees | Colvin’s testimony true: former Afghan MP | UK: Move to withhold evidence in MI5/MI6 torture collusion claim | UK: New evidence in Binyam Mohamed torture case | UK: Secrets of CIA ‘ghost flights’ to be revealed | UK: CIA ‘put pressure on Britain to cover up its use of torture’ | Revealed — the secret torture evidence MI5 tried to suppress | Guantanamo’s closure window dressing — overseas CIA ‘black sites’ to stay | ‘If I didn’t confess to 7/7 bombings MI5 officers would rape my wife,’ claims torture victim | MI5 faces fresh torture allegations | UK: Government makes ‘unprecedented’ apology for covering up Binyam torture | Obama administration: Guantanamo detainees have ‘no constitutional rights’ | Tortured Guantanamo detainee set free | UK agents ‘colluded with torture in Pakistan’ | Obama backs Bush: No rights for Bagram prisoners | U.K. resident held at Gitmo alleges Canadian involvement in torture | Senior judges attack US over ‘torture evidence suppression’ | 24 star Keifer Sutherland opposed to torture, questions role of series in inspiring interrogations
Bruce Anderson, The Telegraph
February 15, 2010
Torture is revolting. A man can retain his human dignity in front of a firing squad or on the scaffold: not in a torture chamber. Torturers set out to break their victim: to take a human being and reduce him to a whimpering wreck. In so doing, they defile themselves and their society. In Britain, torture has been illegal for more than 300 years. Shortly after torture was abjured, we stopped executing witches: all part of a move away from medieval legal mores and their replacement with the modern rule of law. Until recently, at least in the UK, torture and witch-finding appeared to be safely immured in a museum of ancient atrocities.
Yet men cannot live like angels. However repugnant we may find torture, there are worse horrors, such as the nuclear devastation of central London, killing hundreds of thousands of people and inflicting irreparable damage on mankind’s cultural heritage. We also face new and terrible dangers. In the past, the threat came from other states. If they struck at us, we knew where to strike back. Now, we can almost feel nostalgic for mutually assured destruction.