Thursday, December 15, 2005

To torture or not to torture?

If you've been reading The Reaction at all in recent months, you'll know that I'm firmly and absolutely against torture and that I think there ought to be a firm and absolute ban against it. See, for example:

Instapundit has a solid round-up here. I also recommend Michael Kinsley's latest piece at Slate, which carefully (and, in my view, successfully) takes apart Charles Krauthammer's reprehensible argument for torture -- see here.

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  • Well, that still begs the question of what IS torture. I'm not trying to play word games like the Administration--clearly, a lot o what they have been doing would be considered torture in a practical sense even if it doesn't meet some technical definition.

    But you still have to decide what interrogative actions are acceptable and which ones aren't. Are you willing to rule out any kind of coercive interrogation techniques? That seems to me to be a bit extreme. It's nice to say you are absolutely against torture, but what ARE you willing to permit? If I yell at the prisoner, is that ok or verboten?

    I just think it's too easy to take a stance against "torture" and then ignore the implications of that. And I'm not advocating torture by any means--but torture is a pretty loose word that can cover much or little. The world is full of gray areas and it's easy for observers to take stands, but it is people with actual responsibility that have to take actions and have to interpret the gray areas.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:48 AM  

  • Very good points (as usual), Marc. This is one area where I tend to be an abolutist, but I acknowledge that it all depends on how torture is defined. For example, is urinating on a copy of the Koran a form of torture? Maybe. Should it be outlawed? There are so many other examples in the gray area between right and wrong.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 11:55 PM  

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