Tuesday, March 22, 2005

And we're torturing them because...?

So, this is interesting. Put simply, torture doesn't work. But we're doing it anyway. Why?

Because if, like George Bush, you're not willing to take on the chemical industry and put in proper safeguards, if you're not willing to roll back tax breaks to pay for port inspections, you can't have people just talking about that. Every B-school flunkie knows that if you don't have the policy chops or the political courage to actually be effective, you need to look busy.

And nothing makes you look more busy than torture.

Torture is hard work. It keeps your intelligence guys busy--not just with the business of torturing (ropes! electrical prods!), but also busy analyzing all the "data" you're gathering. And even better, you don't have to capture more people in order to stay busy with analysis! See, a tortured man will keep changing his story, becuase he'll say anything to make the pain stop. So if, for example, you can't catch Bin Laden, you can still keep yourself busy analyzing the contradictory stories that his childhood gardener tells when you put the screws to him.

Also, torture gets you the right headlines. You get to make the terms of the debate about "who's soft" vs. "who's tough" instead of "who's effective" vs. "who's ineffective." This is good, because when people start talking about "effective," you're going to be in trouble because...you're not really doing anything (see above re: no policy, no courage).

Of course, there's a downside. You endorse the enemy's torture of your own people. You turn your soldiers into sadistic monsters who will one day come home. And there's the thorny problem of what to do with the innocent guys you pick up and torture--if they weren't plotting against you before, they are now.

Oh and also, it's evil. And if you think you can contain this sort of evil, that it's going to stay in a little box in Cuba...well, you'd best hope that it's never in anyone's political interest to leave your pretty little ass dangling from a hook in the ceiling.

When we allow political expediency to surpass inalienable rights, we've repudiated everything that we as a people hold dear. There's consequences to that sort of thing.

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