Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Wrong Torture Argument

Malcolm Nance is the current military hero of the left, for his vigorous opposition to the use of torture, including water-boarding, by Americans.

The gist of his argument is here. With subheadings such as "There is No Debate Except for Torture Apologists," it's no wonder the left loves him. There's nothing they seem to enjoy more over there than cutting off a debate before it starts by demonizing the would-be debaters.

I generally agree with Nance's overall position, but I think it's important to examine the record to see whether, if ever, torture produces reliable and accurate information. And it seems that in some historical cases it has. It doesn't mark you as a monster or an apologist to ask that question and to want to know that answer.

The weakest part of the argument Nance makes, I think, is one he pushes pretty hard: "If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives."

Now American use of the waterboard as an interrogation tool has assuredly guaranteed that our service members and agents who are captured or detained by future enemies will be subject to it as part of the most routine interrogations.

Yet, as he points out elsewhere, it's been used on American POWs by everyone from the Japanese to the North Vietnamese. Long before George W. Bush was president. As for our current enemies, they'd have to fit waterboarding in to their schedule somewhere between drilling holes in living flesh with power tools, and beheading. Americans were, and are, tortured not to extract timely information, but just to make them die as horribly as possible.