I have been meaning to say something about this for a while.
I have studied ethics, both in secular university classes and in seminary, and those classes and more recent reading have been a useful background. But I have not had time to do the further reading and thinking I need to do to be confident of what I say. I don’t yet have enough information to have an opinion.
There are three basic questions.
First, do the ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques used with three Guantanamo prisoners constitute torture? I have not been helped by the certainty of some commentators that they were, that everybody really knows they were, and that anyone who disagrees is therefore either lying or morally bankrupt.
Second, if those enhanced interogation techniques were torture, could the use of such techniques ever be justified? Just saying ‘no’ is not an argument.
Third, if the use of torture can be justified sometimes, no matter how rarely, was it justified in the case of the Guantanamo prisoners?
I hope to get my thoughts together over the weekend, and write something more substantial on Monday – normally my day off from the shop.
In the mean time, Ann Coulter has written a typically funny and pull-no-punches column about what she might call the CIA’s Fisher Price approach to interrogation, including the dreaded ‘Caterpillar.’
This involved putting a live caterpillar in the subject’s room. The horror! Although, as Ann notes, the effectiveness of this method was probably diminished by the refusal of Justice Department lawyers to allow interrogators to trick the terrorist into believing the caterpillar was a “stinging insect.”
Ann’s approach to this is entirely different from mine, but it makes refreshing reading after the loud, self-conscious, and complacent breast-beating of some liberal commentators and mainstream news outlets.
Here’s an excerpt, but it is worth clicking the link above and reading the whole thing.
As the torments were gradually increased, next up the interrogation ladder came “walling.” This involves pushing the terrorist against a flexible wall, during which his “head and neck are supported with a rolled hood or towel that provides a C-collar effect to prevent whiplash.”
People pay to have a lot rougher stuff done to them at Six Flags Great Adventure. Indeed, with plastic walls and soft neck collars, “walling” may be the world’s first method of “torture” in which all the implements were made by Fisher-Price.
As the memo darkly notes, walling doesn’t cause any pain, but is supposed to induce terror by making a “loud noise”: “(T)he false wall is in part constructed to create a loud sound when the individual hits it, which will further shock and surprise.” (!!!)
If you need a few minutes to compose yourself after being subjected to that horror, feel free to take a break from reading now. Sometimes a cold compress on the forehead is helpful, but don’t let it drip or you might end up waterboarding yourself.
The CIA’s interrogation techniques couldn’t be more ridiculous if they were out of Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch:
“Cardinal! Poke her with the soft cushions! …
Hmm! She is made of harder stuff! Cardinal Fang! Fetch … THE COMFY CHAIR!
So you think you are strong because you can survive the soft cushions. Well, we shall see. Biggles! Put her in the Comfy Chair! …
Now — you will stay in the Comfy Chair until lunchtime, with only a cup of coffee at 11.”
Further up the torture ladder — from Guantanamo, not Monty Python — comes the “insult slap,” which is designed to be virtually painless, but involves the interrogator invading “the individual’s personal space.”