Ten reasons why we shouldnt accept the torture works argument following Osama Bin Ladens death
As the debate continues over "enhanced interrogation techniques" (ie torture) and how they have supposedly been shown to be effective because of Osama Bin Laden’s detection and death, here are ten reasons why we shouldn't accept the dangerous argument that "torture works":
1: We may be told that waterboarding and otherwise abusing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Abu Faraj al-Libi produced information that eventually led to Osama Bin Laden’s death, but this is often said by people seeking to justify torture. It’s essentially an assertion, made for dubious, self-serving reasons.
2: There’s mounting evidence that torture has been used extensively during the “war on terror” but there have actually been very few claims that it has “worked”. We can suppose that it has generally been a massive failure. Instead of “breakthroughs” it has very likely produced a lot of pain and useless information.
3: Information extracted from torture is useless in bringing people to justice as it will be inadmissible as evidence in the courtroom. Torture taints evidence and actually makes it harder to bring terrorists to justice, as Barack Obama has himself acknowledged.
4: Even if torture produces information that proves useful in an investigation it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have been arrived at via another route. Why make a special effort to justify torture, something generally reviled?
5: If we accept the case for torture in “special” cases like Osama Bin Laden it’s highly likely that we’ll go down a slippery slope toward accepting it for a range of cases – from “ordinary” terrorists, to serial killers, one-off murderers and even petty criminals. Normalising torture is extremely dangerous.
6: If it is “normalised” through cases like Osama Bin Laden’s then a torture “culture” is liable to grow up within the law enforcement or security forces that seek to justify it. You start off with the CIA and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and end up with Abu Ghraib and low-ranking soldiers torturing for sport.
7: Every time it becomes known that countries like the US or the UK have been involved in torture it becomes harder to criticise it in places like Iran, Zimbabwe or China. If it works for “us” why can’t “they” use it?
8: Rather than banning torture in all circumstances, if you sometimes allow it then the decision whether or not to torture someone will itself depend on other information that could be wrong. You will inevitably end up torturing people who are entirely innocent of any involvement in the crime you are investigating.
9: We already have too much torture in the world. We shouldn’t be seeking to justify any more of it.
10: Torture is illegal under international law with no exceptions. Start tampering with this and you undermine the whole apparatus of protection for thousands of people around the world.
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