Balkinization  

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Does Torture Save Lives?

Marty Lederman

Don't ask me. I'm hardly an expert. But if we're going to authorize cruel treatment in violation of our treaty obligations, then at the very least the case for its effectiveness -- for its necessity -- would have to be established fairly conclusively in public debate (although I'd argue that such a showing is far from sufficient to justify such a momentous and horrific step).

That's the task the Preisdent set for himself in his speech yesterday -- to convince the public that without torture (oops, I mean "alternative techniques"), we can't obtain valuable information necessary to prevent future attacks. As I mentioned below, one inconvenient little problem is that the experts over at the Pentagon had just gotten through vociferously denying what the President was trying so hard to establish: "No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices," Kimmons said. "I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the past five years, hard years, tells us that." More from Mark Benjamin on this Pentagon/White House Jekyll and Hyde routine here.

As for the President's examples: Ron Suskind calls into question some of them, including the Abu Zubayda narrative. And Spencer Ackerman goes further than that: "The idea that Abu Zubaydah's interrogation tipped off the U.S. to the existence of Ramzi bin Al Shibh is just an outright lie."

Comments:

Marty, does the president describe the "alternative techniques" as "abusive"? Did the Pentagon describe them thus? I think you're simply adopting one reading over another, without any basis at all for the choice.
 

Torture arguably costs lives, if Zawahiri's and other pre-9/11 conspirators' experiences had anything to do with their radicalization, which led to the 9/11 attacks and subsequent warfare. Who knows how many seeds like Zawahiri we've sown over the last several years.
 

The military apparently thinks it puts our own soldiers at risk. From the Houston Chronicle:

"Testifying before a House panel, the service's judge advocate generals said the plan could violate treaty obligations and make U.S. troops vulnerable.

'While we seek that balance' of fairness and security, 'we also must remember the concept of reciprocity,' said Brig. Gen. James Walker, staff judge advocate for the Marine Corps. 'What we do and how we treat these individuals can, in the future, have a direct impact on our service men and women overseas.'"

I trust the guys who are at actual risk, not the ones who spend their time fantasizing that they're Jack Bauer.
 

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