Monday, September 11, 2006

Is torture a necessary evil? I believe it is.

Torture. It's a terrible word. It invokes images of mideval dungeons with lots of sharp instruments for maiming, disfiguring, and mutilation. But after watching a Discovery Channel production with Ted Koppel tonight entitled "The Price of Security", I spent some time contemplating exactly what that word means and whether or not it is an unacceptable means to an end....that end being the extraction of vital information from terrorist suspects in order to protect lives. The particular issue discussed on the program was the Government's "definition" of torture specifically the Justice Department's definition which states that "Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." That's quite a broad statement, certainly prohibiting only the most extreme acts. No matter which definition is adopted, one must consider not only the legality, but the morality of whatever they deem to be "torture". When is it permissable?....when it will save a life?...10 lives?...100 lives? Is it ever permissable? Does its use undermine everything we stand for as a civilized and free democratic society where a man is innocent until proven guilty? Do these detainees, have any resonable expectation to rights afforded under the Constitution of the United States when they are, in fact, not US Citizens? Do they have any resonable expectation to any rights afforded under the Geneva Convention when, in fact, they fight under the flag of a religion and not a legally recognized nation?

It's a sticky subject. I personally have no problem with a CIA interrogator pulling the fingernails out of an al-Qaeda operative. They conduct inhuman acts and are therefore, to me, "inhuman" and deserving of absolutely NO humane treatment. But the issue remains, who decides which detainees are of high enough value to force information from via "alternative means". Given that it is a well known fact that information given under duress is often of little value, how do you know which prisoners actually have information to give? Shove a man's head under water, hold it there to the brink of drowning and, provided he knows nothing, he will admit to anything or concoct any story to make you stop. One must be reasonably sure that a prisoner's knowledge is a source of high value intelligence before attempting to extract that information by torture, inhumane treatement or otherwise coercive measures. I believe that if, by preponderance of the evidence, they are found to be an enemy, not representative of any recognized government who have either conducted, attempted to conduct, intend to conduct or directly support the conduction of terrorist acts upon the United States of America, its allies or its interests should be considered nothing more than a sponge and literally squeezed until every drop of intelligence is absolutely any means necessary.

I guess what concerned me about this program so much what what everyone kept referring to as "torture"...things like sleep depravation and exposure to temperature extremes, bright lights and loud music, solitary confinement and stress positions, immenent fear of death or injury such as guard dogs barking in their faces. Gimme a break! Sleep depravation and exposure to temperature extremes?? Go take a look at the Basic Underwater Demolition School, or BUDS as it is known in the Navy. We put prospective Navy SEAL candidates throught that very same treatment as a basic part of their training. I've personally been through SERE school (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape), the military's instruction to combat service personnel likely to be deployed behind enemy lines (usually limited to combat aircrew and special forces) on conduct and survival in captivity as a Prisoner of War. I endured cold. I endured sleep depravation. I was thirsty. I was hungry. I endured cramped confinement and stress positions. I endured prolonged uncomfortable proximity to my own waste. I was backhanded and punched in the stomach. I had a shotgun pointed at my head (I'll take a German Shepherd barking in my face anyday over a shotgun, thank you very much). Thankfully I didn't have to endure the waterboarding (the head dunking spoke of earlier) but I know of people who did. I can tell you that much of what these people consider to be torture, is crap. Does torture need to be "defined"?....yes. Does it's use need to be limited to high value captives who are extremely likely to contain information that can save lives?....probably. Does it need to be forbidden?...NO. Should being a war prisoner of the United States equate to a stay at the friggin Holiday Inn?...Absolutely not! Interrogation and torture is nasty is cleaning up the remains of innocent civilians killed and mutilated by these religious zealots who will stop at nothing short of our complete destruction.