Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Former officials of the Bush Administration and its defenders respond to criticism of its torture policies (or as they are wont to call them "enhanced interrogation") by invariably claiming as justification that no attacks have occurred since 9/11. That contention reminds me of the old joke about the New York woman who sends her husband to the psychiatrist because he is always snapping his fingers. When the psychiatrist asks him why he constantly snaps his fingers, he says: "To keep the elephants away." The psychiatrist responds by saying that there are no elephants in New York. Whereupon the patient responds: "See it is working!" The Bush Administration tortured; there were no further attacks; ergo, according to them, torture works!

Although the general consensus among the experts is that torture does not provide reliable information, former Vice President Dick Cheney makes veiled suggestions that if only President Obama would declassify certain documents the practical value of torture would immediately become evident. And I ask this question in response: Since when do we judge violations of the law or the Constitution based upon whether or not those violations produce some benefit? I can think of any number of constitutional violations that would or could produce benefits-----the illegal search of thousands of homes and the seizure of illegal guns could save thousands of lives; sentencing persons to prison without the benefits of trial or appeal would save hundreds of millions of dollars; coercing confessions would save investigative time and expense, etc.---you get the picture. "See, it works" (even if true) is not the underpinning of the Rule of Law.

Torture is illegal and immoral, and no risk/benefit analysis can make it either legal or moral.

No comments: