The self-preservation argument against waterboarding

By Will Chen on 5 November 2007 8 comments
Photo: rhys400D

There are a lot of arguments against waterboarding--it is immoral, it is unreliable, it encourages in-kind reprisals, etc.

But for those who are unconvined by these moral or strategic reasons, at least think about this from a self-preservation perspective.

According to Darius Rejali, a professor at Reed College in Oregon and author of a new book, Torture and Democracy:

Waterboarding reached the U.S. via a circuitous route. The Spanish exported the practice to the Philippines, which they colonized for centuries. It was then adapted by U.S. forces there at the start of the 20th century and, eventually, adopted by some police forces in the U.S. NPR article.

.... many decommissioned solders, when they came back to the United States brought with them knowledge of these techniques. When a soldier gets decommissioned end up becoming a policemen, many of these tortures appear then in the South especially as well as military prison lockups for conscientious objectors during World War I. [Second paragraph transcribed from All Things Considered 11/3/07]

One day, our tired and frustrated soldiers, national guardsmen, and Blackwater contractors will come home to become police officers, rent-a-cops, and crossing guards. Do we want them to have memories of having tortured another human being and the knowledge that our society, through our silence, sanctioned such torture? There are some lines you cannot uncross.

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Philip Brewer's picture

Torture is evil and should never be tolerated. I can't imagine that we've accepted it to the extent that we have.

If someone believes that there's a "ticking bomb" scenario, and thinks that torture is the only way to save lives, then I'm okay with him making that choice--and then turning himself in, losing his job, and going to prison. After all--aren't his career and freedom a reasonable trade-off for saving lives?

Frankly, I think prosecuting the torturers is the only way we'll preserve the rule of law in this country. There's no point in passing new laws against torture, as it was already illegal. We need to send a bunch of CIA and Army folks to jail under the old laws, and their bosses along with them. A willingness to see that done is what I'm looking for in our next administration.

Guest's picture
Patrick

"If someone believes that there's a "ticking bomb" scenario, and thinks that torture is the only way to save lives, then I'm okay with him making that choice--and then turning himself in, losing his job, and going to prison. After all--aren't his career and freedom a reasonable trade-off for saving lives?"

Very well put.

Will Chen's picture

That's something I'm looking for as well. 

I hope we will see some major changes soon.  However, I'm not too optimistic given the performance of the Democrats in Congress so far. 

Paul Michael's picture

in several papers (not just the liberal ones) that the current administration is trying to pass legislation that redefines what torture actually is. This is presumably because what we're doing now is in violation of the Geneva Convention. They are also including language in that legislation that prevents themselves from being prosecuted for using torture and violating the GC. It must be nice to know that if you break a law, you can just change the law.

Will Chen's picture

Great nations like us cannot be bothered with things like the Geneva Conventions Paul.

Paul Michael's picture

This is something I have an issue with. I hear more and more about the ends justifying the means, hence torture to save lives. But why is it tolerable to break one law only to stop someone breaking a larger one? A hypothetical: imagine you're back at school, and discover a bully is planning to beat up 4 kids after class. Is it OK to beat up the bully first in order to prevent this? You see, as soon as people who lay down the law start choosing which laws are fine to break and which are not, we're in a very dangerous place. All of a sudden, we're in a scary future situation where it's fine to read mail and tap phones without a warrant, and we wouldn't wa...oh, sorry, that already has happened. The Patriot Act - a wonderful way to strip you of your basic rights in the name of freedom.

And for an eloquent and powerful reaction to waterboarding, this clip below is essential viewing. Watch it, Digg It, get it seen.

http://www.crooksandliars.com/2007/11/05/special-comment-george-bushs-criminal-conspiracy-of-torture/ 

Guest's picture
robert coleman

Therefore we have not broken any laws or rules. I will be the first to say we should follow the GC as soon as the terrorists put on a military uniform and join the GC>

Guest's picture
guest

I generally hear and read liberals rant against the "evil" United States while, at the same time, are silent about the beheadings and other atrocities deliberately committed by Islamic terrorists. And just try to convince me the U.S. is the cause of the evil ambitions of the Islamic terrorists.

When confronted with a liberal rant about the evil U.S. I always remember these are the same people that believe it's okay to kill a child because they believe it's someone's right to privacy.