Maddow Interviews Wilkerson on Cheney’s Claims That Torture Was Effective

There are a number of important questions about the Bush administration’s use of torture: Was it, in fact, torture? (Clearly yes. Anyone who maintains otherwise gets flagged by me as someone whose views can be safely ignored in the future.) Was it moral? Was it legal? Was it effective? Note that these last three questions are orthogonal. It’s possible to imagine something being any combination of moral, legal, and effective.

The effectiveness question seems to be the one the Bush supporters want to focus on at the moment. I don’t blame them; I think it’s probably the one question out of the three where the pro-torture position has any chance at all.

So let’s talk about the effectiveness of torture. Here’s Rachel Maddow interviewing Lawrence Wilkerson on the question of Dick Cheney’s recent claims that his use of torture produced actionable intelligence and, on balance, saved lives:

2 Responses to “Maddow Interviews Wilkerson on Cheney’s Claims That Torture Was Effective”

  1. shcb Says:

    Was it moral? Was it legal? Was it effective? Good questions, one of the problems I have with debating you guys is a seeming inability to separate legality from morality. Maybe it’s just my anal German heritage or my profession but I believe in precision of words. If someone says laws were broken or someone did something illegal, show me the law that was broken. If someone thinks the act is immoral but not illegal, tell me the law needs to be changed. This is how progress I made, it isn’t made by saying something you think is immoral and should be illegal is illegal. I get into this discussion with my friends that are pro-life when they say abortion is murder, murder is a legal term, killing isn’t, I can kill someone, I did once in an auto accident, but it wasn’t murder, neither is abortion.

    After reading these memos, the UN resolution concerning torture, the Geneva conventions etc. I don’t think the Bush administration did anything illegal. Was it immoral? That is up to an individual to decide, same with effective, we all have our own benchmarks for that. One thing I noticed with this interview is both people wanted to discuss how effective torture is perceived to be based on their understanding of the subject but neither seemed to want to talk about how effective it was in this particular case. Victor Davis Hanson said last week that torture isn’t effective for a confession because the subject will tell you what you want to hear to make the pain stop, but it is effective for intelligence gathering because you can verify the results.

    Assuming what they did was both legal and effective (or not legal and effective) we still need to decide where to go from here. It seems to me that water boarding and tossing someone against a rubber wall is sort of torture light. But what about real torture? Is it worth pulling someone’s fingernails out to save a half million people in San Francisco? 500 in a small farm town? 1 small girl? 1 nasty looking sex offender? Individually we are all going to have different answers as to the morality of those questions, varying from none of the above to all the above. So how do we balance those moralities into public policy, one variable is the effectiveness.

  2. enkidu Says:

    torture is wrong.
    we no longer torture.
    thx Obama

    The ugly truth is the wwnjs bent or broke the laws/moral standards of civilized nations. You don’t beat the Nazis by becoming the Nazis.

    This whole Jack Bauer ‘if you KNEW the shlub you stopped at a traffic light KNEW where the ticking H-BOMB was, why you’d torture him to death to save millions!’ stuff is beyond ludicrous. That situation is a sheer and utter fiction – you NEVER know when you have that one super duper Bad Guy. And so you start torturing as a matter of course… as a matter of policy. Even the Israelis say torture NEVER works. You get better info from steady, patient humane interrogation.

    The damage you have done to America greatly increases the likelihood we will be hit with a WMD, not lessens it.

    We executed japanese torturers during WWII for waterboarding our soldiers.

    The stain will be a long while in coming out of the fabric of old glory.

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