Friday, May 29, 2009

How to Make a Terrorist Talk

Americans have for centuries been willing to sacrifice our comforts and even our lives for our principles and morals. We believe that freedom, dignity, and human rights are important enough to fight for, and even to die for.

One of the greatest embarrassments of my lifetime is that my country used torture in the name of freedom and safety for Americans. The men (and a few women) who carried this out believed that possibly saving American lives was more important than saving America itself. For what is America, if we've forgotten our principles? Being an American means being willing to take risks and make sacrifices to protect our principles. These torturers are not true American patriots – they're nothing more than cowards who have turned tail at the first sign of danger. Only they're not running from battle, they're running from what it means to be an American.

That's why I was so moved by How to Make a Terrorist Talk in Time Magazine. Normally I write about topics related to religion, irrationality, atheism and related topics, but today I was so impressed by in Time magazine I had to share it.

It turns out that not only is torture un-American, it's also ineffective. Some of the strongest, and now most respected, critics of torture are the CIA and FBI's senior interrogators, the very men who have gotten real, useful information without resorting to torture. The Time article quotes Eric Maddox:
"There is nothing intelligent about torture. If you have to inflict pain, then you've lost control of the situation, the subject and yourself."
And Maddox should know: he is the Army staff sergeant whose interrogations led to the capture of Saddam Hussein himself.

According to the Time article, and many other articles I've read, torture has not led to one documented case of preventing a terrorist attack, whereas traditional interrogation, which employs psychology, not cruelty, has resulted in many, many critical pieces of intelligence that led to the capture of terrorists. It may be that torture worked in a few cases that are still classified; maybe we'll know some day.

But at what price? The use of torture has weakened America itself. We're reviled around the world, and we've lost the very principles that make us Americans. It will take a long time to get that back.

1 comment:

Dear readers -- I am no longer blogging and after leaving these blogs open for two years have finally stopped accepting comments due to spammers. Thanks for your interest. If you'd like to write to me, click on the "Contact" link at the top. Thanks! -- CJ.

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