A lefty magazine called MOTHER JONES has a brief article online (that you can find here), written by Julian Brookes, about a new Human Rights Watch — more like Human Left Watch — report which claims that “torture and other abuses against detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq were authorized and routine, even after the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal.” Here is more from the HRW press release:
In the 53-page report, “No Blood, No Foul: Soldiers’ Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq,” soldiers describe how detainees were routinely subjected to severe beatings, painful stress positions, severe sleep deprivation, and exposure to extreme cold and hot temperatures. The accounts come from interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch, supplemented by memoranda and sworn statements contained in declassified documents.
“Soldiers were told that the Geneva Conventions did not apply, and that interrogators could use abusive techniques to get detainees to talk,” said John Sifton, the author of the report and the senior researcher on terrorism and counterterrorism at Human Rights Watch. “These accounts rebut U.S. government claims that torture and abuse in Iraq was unauthorized and exceptional – on the contrary, it was condoned and commonly used.”
I, for one, am sick and tired of all this concern about torture. I say you have to break a few eggs to make — scrambled eggs. And I think anyone who’s watched a season of 24 knows that as well as anybody, and I’ve watched four seasons.
The “ticking bomb” scenario demonstrates that, really, almost everyone would support torture in at least that one situation. If you don’t know, the “ticking bomb” scenario was pretty much what season four of 24 was all about.
Let’s say you are Agent Jack Bauer, and you receive reliable information that a nuclear weapon will detonate somewhere in America in the next three hours. You also have followed someone working closely with a terrorist organization to a house boat. He meets with someone there whose name is Pelosi. You and your men are spotted and Pelosi kills the man you followed there, claims he was an intruder on his house boat (but you know better). You take him back to CTU, Los Angeles and there his “Amnesty Global” lawyer is waiting, smarmy — of course — and all liberally superior.
“We do things according to the letter of the law,” he emotes haughtily.
You question Pelosi with his lawyer present, but he says he knows nothing, and his lawyer won’t let you so much as pinch his nipples. You have three hours to locate this nuclear weapon. Do you knowingly break the law and find a way to covertly torture Pelosi by tricking his lawyer into leaving — and then break first Pelosi’s thumb, then his index finger, then his middle finger, all the time making a really cool angry face and saying, “Where is it, Pelosi? I’ll get the information the easy way, or –” crack! — “the hard way.”
Of course you do. Maybe not personally — I’m a little squeamish myself — but you have it done. That’s my point.
Now, sure, some people have “logical” responses to such scenarios. At the Amnesty International website there is a piece on torture, and it quotes William J. Aceves as saying:
[The ticking bomb scenario] falls apart upon careful scrutiny. It assumes that law enforcement has the right person in custody. That is, the suspect knows where the bomb is and when it is scheduled to detonate. What if there is only a 50 percent chance that the suspect knows the information? What if this number is only 10 percent? Second, it assumes that torture will be effective in gaining access to the critical information. In fact, however, torture is notoriously unreliable. What if there is only a 60 percent chance that the suspect will reveal accurate information? How about 20 percent? How low are we willing to go? How should we make the decision whether to torture? How many people must be endangered before the torture option can be considered?
Well, I have the answers. Here we go. If there is a 20% chance that he knows where the bomb is and a 20% chance he will talk, then you may torture him for 40 minutes. 20 + 20 = 40. I think that’s some math that even the liberal Dumbocrats can put together. For the sake of the math, we ignore how many people’s lives are at stake, and assume it’s “greater than nine.” Fewer than nine people, and torture is never justified — unless the guy just really has it coming.
But, one might argue, torture is illegal. According to the same Amnesty site cited above use of torture “would violate countless international agreements the United States has signed and ratified, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture.” But I think everyone knows that America doesn’t have to abide by international law. We are Agent Jack Bauer and the world is CTU, unwittingly hindering us by trying to get us to follow the “law.” We are the rogue agent who knows what really must be done.
I think that pretty well takes care of all the arguments against torture.
To sum up: Yes, innocent people are likely tortured — and sometimes permanently maimed. Yes, torture is notoriously ineffective, and has repeatedly proved to make innocent people admit to crimes they were incapable of committing, and evidentially did not. Yes, torture is illegal.
But Agent Jack Bauer is just so cool that none of that matters — sometimes it’s just the right thing to do, despite what the evidence might suggest. Despite any moral qualms having to do with innocence or guilt or fair trials.
Gosh, I wish I could meet Jack Bauer.