Torture Works? Again, No.

Torture Works? Again, No.


Everybody’s abuzz about the new Wash Post story today that starts off with the idea that Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) was turned into some type of “terrorist professor” because he was waterboarded.

And away we go…

The debate over the effectiveness of subjecting detainees to psychological and physical pressure is in some ways irresolvable, because it is impossible to know whether less coercive methods would have achieved the same result. But for defenders of waterboarding, the evidence is clear: Mohammed cooperated, and to an extraordinary extent, only when his spirit was broken in the month after his capture March 1, 2003, as the inspector general’s report and other documents released this week indicate.

Over a few weeks, he was subjected to an escalating series of coercive methods, culminating in 7 1/2 days of sleep deprivation, while diapered and shackled, and 183 instances of waterboarding. After the month-long torment, he was never waterboarded again.

“What do you think changed KSM’s mind?” one former senior intelligence official said this week after being asked about the effect of waterboarding. “Of course it began with that.”

Yes, of course it began with that. Why? BECAUSE IT BEGAN WITH THAT.

Also, KSM didn’t start giving these terrorism lectures until a full 2 YEARS LATER. The waterboarding lasted one month. Think maybe building rapport and trust with him over the next couple years did more than making him feel like he was drowning?

Not only that, during this early period KSM gave us a bunch of false information…

Mohammed, in statements to the International Committee of the Red Cross, said some of the information he provided was untrue.

“During the harshest period of my interrogation I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop. I later told interrogators that their methods were stupid and counterproductive. I’m sure that the false information I was forced to invent in order to make the ill-treatment stop wasted a lot of their time,” he said.

When will people begin to understand that there is an inherent paradox in the idea of torture: you don’t know what you don’t know. So somebody can make up ANYTHING to get you stop torturing them and you’ll waste your time.

Of course the vast majority of interrogators will tell you this time and time and time again, but the opposition finds a few people who were able to beat some actionable intelligence out of somebody and that makes it alright for us to do

And that gets me to the real point of this post. Torture works? Again, no. Because it completely undermines the values that we’re fighting to defend. America is not a TV show. Fighting terrorism doesn’t work like that. And if you don’t understand that having policies that allow us to kidnap and torture anybody we want makes us look like the big bullies they accuse of being, makes it easier for more people to hate us and therefore makes us less safe, well, please think on this some more.

Seriously, really dig into the cause and effect of what we’re doing. Because “blowback” is real, and I fear that if we don’t stop what we’re doing we’re in for yet another round of it.

  • mw

    Anyone else find it odd that the Glenn Beck faux pas post immediately prior gets 20+ comments, stirs up all kinds of controversy and emotion, but this one gets bupkus? Any theories?

  • mw

    BTW – McCain agrees with you, as do I. That’s two agreements in one week. I’m losing my edge.

  • kranky kritter

    Perhaps something to do with this being the umpteen hundredth time Justin has flogged this dead horse. If no one ever got useful information from enemies via mistreatment, few would bother? I don’t like torture, and I think it belongs illegal.

    But I am not so silly as to presume that it has no ultility because it is morally objectionable.

  • Justin Gardner

    kranky, if torture apologists continue to try and make the case that we should do this, I’m going to keep pointing out why we shouldn’t. But yes, it’s not like this is new.

    Also, and as I point out, I’m sure we get actionable intelligence via these methods, but it seems pretty clear to me that we get much more by not employing them.

    As for losing your edge, yes, that post where we agreed will be your downfall mw. I think readers are already starting to respect you less. :-)

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    I’m sure we get actionable intelligence via these methods, but it seems pretty clear to me that we get much more by not employing them.

    Crystal clear.