Yet More Still On Torture

April 26, 2009

Matt Yglesias raised another interesting point about the torture “debate.” If it is true, as most conservatives seem to think, that (A) stress positions, days without sleep, slapping around, waterboarding are not “torture;” and (B) these not-torture-but-“enhanced-interrogation” techniques work, in the sense that they get wrongdoers to reveal useful information, why are we not using them EVERYWHERE?

We have some low-level mob flunky? Enhance-interrogate him to get dirt on the big bosses. We have a serial killer and want to know where the bodies are buried? EIT him (Enhanced Interrogation Technique). A bank robber stashed the cash? A drug possessor won’t reveal his dealer? The burglar won’t give up his co-conspirators? Bernie Madoff won’t spill the beans? EIT.

If it’s not torture, not illegal, yet very useful, what exactly would be argument against doing this? Every police station in this country should have a torture, er, I mean, EIT chamber.

Another quick question: if these techniques are not “torture,” WHY are they so (supposedly) successful? If waterboarding isn’t so painful or damaging or horrible so as to warrant the term “torture,” why on earth would it get anyone to give up information?

A real torture regime exposes the victim to unending, intense suffering, with the promise that the suffering will stop once the secret information is revealed. The more intense the suffering, the more the victim believes it will not end without (and WILL end with) revealing secrets, then the greater the chance those secrets will be revealed. If what goes on at Gitmo doesn’t rise to the same level of unending suffering, exactly why and how would it work? For it to work, wouldn’t it HAVE to be, by definition, torture? I mean, why else would anyone believe these guys would give up information after waterboarding (183 times in a month)?


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