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Torture is bad for an entire host of reasons that you can take your pick from. It incites hatred abroad and aids enemy recruiters, it produces unreliable intelligence, and as a nation I'd think we would declare it as an immoral way to treat prisoners. Oh yeah, and it's illegal.
Matthew Alexander, a military interrogations officer, doesn't think torture is necessary to get good information, in fact he thinks quite the contrary that torture hardens resolve and produces unreliable intel. He told an interesting anecdote about a suspect that he interrogated. He said he walked into the room and the suspect said if he had a knife he'd cut his throat (this suspect was caught blessing suicide bombers), but after showing respect to the suspect's culture and religion he was able to get reliable information on bomber safe houses.
Wow. Imagine if he ended up in the hands of another officer who didn't mind torture tactics. Torture is a great tool for recruiters, it drums up hatred and calls for action to right such an obvious wrong. So every time something like Abu Ghraib unfolds it's an automatic trigger for more enemy/terrorist recruits, making our country and citizens abroad that much more unsafe.
The intelligence is often unreliable as well. When you think you're on the brink of death you'll probably say anything your tormentor wishes to hear. What good is that info? It wastes time and resources.
I can't imagine someone would argue that it isn't immoral. The picture one would paint in favor is that if there's an imminent danger, then wouldn't you do anything to get that information? What if your own mother would be the victim? While those are somewhat valid questions and scenarios, the reality is that we don't live in Kiefer Sutherland's "24", where breaking a finger automatically gets you the code to deactivate the nuke. More importantly, we're not talking about what we do as individuals, but as a government body, because that has a far greater affect nationally and internationally alike. It simply isn't something we as Americans should tolerate as part of our ideology, we say that we are the standard for the rest of the world.
It's illegal. It may not be a tough argument to weasel out of the Geneva Conventions, which declare that if a signed nation is in conflict that it must abide by the international treaty, but you cannot escape that it's Federally illegal, no matter where you are, and even if you aren't doing the actual torture, conspiracy to torture is also illegal. Indictable up to 20 years in prison, or even the death penalty in cases where torture resulted in death.
You should not be so naive to think that "But it's a terrorist! Have no pity, because they had none." There is an inherent fallacy with that which is: how do you declare someone a terrorist? Who gets to make that claim? Based on what? Do not be so hasty to throw away anyone's rights, even those labeled a terrorist, because all it takes is a label, and God forbid that this label somehow falls on you. Did you know that if the government declares you a terrorist that it can assassinate you without due process? You're a citizen!! Yet there is no regard for your rights as a US citizen. This point isn't hypothetical. President Obama authorized an assassination of a U.S. citizen on sight, no matter the location, near or far from the field of battle, sleeping or awake, without a trial, without any protection of the US Constitution. This is clearly wrong. If he has committed treason then capture him, try him and execute in accordance with the law, but do not make the mistake of thinking this philosophy cannot bleed over into your life and affect your rights.
Torture is a great promotional tool to recruit enemies, it doesn't produce reliable intelligence, it endangers our rights by extension, it's immoral, and it's unAmerican. Frankly, I'm ashamed I didn't come around to this conclusion sooner.
part 1: Blowback
part 2: Sanctions
part 3: Just-War
part 4: Preventive War
part 5: Declaration of War
part 6: Torture
part 7: Finances
part 8: CIA
part 9: War on Terror
part 10: War on Terror part 2, Suicide Terrorists
part 11: Conclusion