Regarding torture, I have three reasons to be against it.
FIRST, I think it violates positions we hold true, such as the Bill of Rights and other concepts that have come to us through Common Law and the rulings of the US Supreme Court.
- Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
- Fifth Amendment – due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain.
- Sixth Amendment – Trial by jury and rights of the accused; Confrontation Clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel.
- Seventh Amendment – Civil trial by jury.
- Eighth Amendment – Prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.
- Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
These all add up to protection of the rights of individuals.
SECOND, I think it puts us in bad company, along with the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, the French in Algeria and the North Vietnamese. While it is easy for those with an isolationist bent to say we shouldn't care, in fact we can't be isolationists and in fact our reputation does us a lot of good out there, notwithstanding all the polls we read.
It is easy for an otherwise civilized nation to fall into bad habits. Look at the French in Algeria. Henri Alleg, a Communist, smuggled his short memoirs out of prison, to be published in late 1958 as La Question. The book was about French torture in Algeria, which the French Government denied. The book ended up being banned in France, along with articles published about it. A translation in English was published in the United States, where I read it before I graduated from High School in 1960.
More recently, retired French General Paul Aussaresses published his memories, The Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Algeria 1955-1957. This slim little book cost him his reputation and his Legion of Honor. Interviewed in November of 2000, he said, ""I never liked the use of torture. But I resigned myself to it when I arrived in Algeria, by which time it was already commonplace." On the other hand, one of the responsible commanders, now 92 year old paratroop commander General Jacques Massu says: "Morally, torture is ugly."
Here is an ugly side of torture. General Aussaresses, in his book, says that information must be obtained within 24 hours (where have we heard that before) and after that the prisoner is useless and should be killed as he or she has been tortured too much to release. Not good.
We are the "City on the Hill," as John Winthrop said as the Puritans were about to disembark in Massachusetts:
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.If you are uncomfortable with the idea of God intervening in the affairs of man, consider that the basic idea caught on and was repeated by President Elect Kennedy in 1961 and by President Reagan in his farewell address to the nation in 1989. We are that "City on the Hill" and we shouldn't be dealing falsely in this work that has been given to us God or circumstance or both.
THIRD, it doesn't work. Even if you thought that we needed to torture everyone we captured, the truth is it usually doesn't work, the results are unreliable and there are better ways.
Take this WashPost article from January 2005. It quotes the late Air Force Colonel, John Rothrock as saying torture is not the answer. I knew, respected and admired John. He was a right winger for sure. And a straight shooter. His testimony would be sufficient for me. You, unfortunately, did not know John Rothrock. It would have been an honor to have known him.
Sticking with the Air Force, we have this book, How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq. The author, Matthew Alexander, a pseudonym, tells of how he used appropriate techniques to track down Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq. I like this quote from the Amazon review: "We don't have to become our enemies to defeat them."
This long war is a war of ideas, not grievances. Our ideas have to be better.
Regards -- Cliff