Torture: Wrong Regardless of Effectiveness
Jay Anderson of Pro Ecclesia has a post up whose title says its all: Torture … Excuse Me … the Use of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” Works! And We Should STILL Oppose It.
In light of the CIA Inspector General report which indicates that, at least in the case of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, torture worked pretty well in extracting information, Jay says:
I’ve said before that Catholics (and others) opposed to torture should not resort to arguments against its effectiveness since: (a) when something is intrinsically evil, whether it works or not is completely irrelevant; and (b) those making the argument that torture is ineffective may turn out to be wrong, and then our ethical and moral arguments against torture are thereby undermined. See my comments here, here (agreeing with my friend Paul Zummo), and here for more details.
And, yet, the meme that “torture doesn’t work” has nevertheless been widely adopted by a number of Catholics in St. Blog’s – including the blogger who has achieved the highest profile in the torture debates on the Catholic blogosphere – as a means of bolstering their argument against the practice.
The question I have always had is: “Why go there?”, when, again, whether torture is effective or not is completely irrelevant from a Catholic and Natural Law standpoint, given the intrinsically evil nature of the practice. The argument that Catholics should be honing in on and never departing from is this: “Torture is immoral because it violates the dignity of the human person, EVEN IF it is useful for obtaining information from the detainee, and EVEN IF such information is potentially life saving.”
To Jay’s point I’d like to add one other: it would also be a good idea to drop the claim that most victims of “enhanced interrogation” by the CIA were innocent. A few may have been picked up entirely by mistake, but let’s be honest: in many of these cases “innocent” means “only guilty of trying to shoot and blow up Afghan/Iraqi civilians and US soldiers, but not actually plotting major terrorist acts on US soil”. And while this may indeed mean that it would be pointless to try to get intelligence information from them, trying to convince the general public that they’re sweet, cuddly people whom we wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to simply isn’t going to get things very far. Further, anti-torture advocates do themselves great harm when they insist that virtually all torture victims were innocent in clear contravention to the facts. The correct argument is always the one to go for: Torture is wrong and as such we should not want our country to be one that uses it. Whatever practical benefits might be gained in the short term will be outweighed by turning our country into something less worth protecting.