Thursday, April 23, 2009

Interrogator op-ed on torture

I just read this op-ed by one of Abu Zubaydah's interrogators. The release of documents has apparently allowed him to speak on the issue and think this is clearly worth reading. Instead of getting "spun" by those who think they know what went on, go straight to a primary source.

I've posted at least once previously regarding torture, or as seems to be the phrase of the day "enhanced interrogation techniques." To me this issue cuts to the heart of what this country stands for, and it's disappointing how easily we will drop our core values.

To start with, the debate about whether these "enhanced" techniques were torture or not are strained - a play on words. Its not as if actions that are wrong become acceptable if we legally manipulate the definition of torture. The simple truth is this: If these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were used by another nation on Americans there's no doubt in my mind we'd be outraged. So sadly the issue isn't necessarily whether torture is wrong - but somehow it's mutated into something closer to "when it's OK to torture?" It bothers me that much of the debate around torture seems to get stuck on the question of whether it was effective or not.

The acceptability of torture is not and should not be dependent upon its effectiveness. It's a simple issue of right and wrong, and we too easily complicate it. We should want no part of torture to be associated with our nation. I think these practices are in fact going to be a sad part of our national legacy that will take generations to live down - we just haven't had time to see the aftershocks yet. We've undermined in large part our national voice on the subject of human rights around the world by confusing the issue. We've lost credibility through hypocrisy.

Additionally I'm discouraged by pro-torture arguments that it's OK because "it protects us from further attacks." I can't accept that. If anything, I think probability that it creates more bad will and creates more enemies outweighs any benefits. That's what I meant by the "aftershocks" mentioned above. Yes, the world is a dangerous place and there are people that wish to do us harm. I accept that. But we must also accept that we can never have 100% security, and that our actions regarding torture have likely created a more dangerous world an new generation of threats down the road. Ultimately it's a battle of mindshare, and we don't win that battle by adopting practices that are in direct conflict with our core values.

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