I keep seeing people debating whether or not torture works, and in particular whether it produces “actionable intelligence”. An example of this is liberal pundits trying to respond to Cheney’s recent assertion that torture produced intelligence that prevented a terrorist attack.
You’d think by now we would have seen the Bush administration framing the debate so many times (and so often succeeding) that we would not let them get away with it again (especially now that they are not in power). It doesn’t actually matter if torture “worked”. To Bush and Cheney, it absolutely did work. Their goal was not to find out the truth, their goal was get evidence that would allow them to invade Iraq.
Torture is notorious for getting the person being tortured to say anything you want them to say. Waterboarding was used extensively during the Korean war to get American prisoners to confess to war crimes. The Chinese did not care whether these confessions were true; they only wanted the confessions for use in propaganda.
So in order to get their propaganda, Bush and Cheney authorized the only technique that was guaranteed to get them what they sorely needed. The use of torture provided “intelligence” that allowed them to invade Iraq, which they desperately wanted to do from day one of their administration. Beyond that, any arguments about the effectiveness of torture are simply rationalization.
Unfortunately, once they started using torture, they couldn’t just stop using it once they got what they wanted. That would be tantamount to admitting that it doesn’t actually work. So they had to keep using it — even though it was clearly giving them information that was no good.
What is truly evil about all this is that they weren’t using torture to save us from any terrorist attacks. If they had, then it would be important to know whether it works or not. They were using torture for political reasons. And, for them, it worked like a charm.
UPDATE: Good rant over at Prose Before Hos. Here’s just a sample:
What kind of f**king country do you live in where you have to debate whether torturing someone is a crime? What kind of country do you live in when you can spend 3 years prosecuting the President for a consensual sexual act but won’t prosecute a President for authorizing illegal wiretaps and torturing people? What kind of country do you live in where the supposed ’spiritual’ and ‘religious’ leaders think it’s OK to torture non-Christians?
UPDATE 2: BLOWBACK! You just knew this was going to happen. How can anyone doubt the damage done to the US (both past and future) by our use of torture? How can we repair this damage?