Friday, September 22, 2006

Torture: not effective

Hidden from view by the superficial media arguments over what how much ill-treatment to allow in the interrogation of suspected terrorists and the sophistry of those "ticking time bomb" arguments is an issue as important as the oft-discussed moral dilemma: is torture effective?

Talking Points Memo points to an old (Dec 2005) Op-Ed in the Washington Post by a former Soviet dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky.

Here is a quick history lesson for John Yoo and other neocons: Before the "Axis of Evil" there was the "Evil Empire." This empire collapsed because of the waste and inefficiency inherent in a totalitarian state (frankly it was doomed from the start, so forget about that BS about the blessed Gipper's being responsible for bringing down Communism). The good reasons for the West opposing the old Soviet Union were because it tortured, killed and oppressed its own people, and frankly wanted to export that brand of inhumanity to other countries.

Back to Bukovsky. As a Soviet dissident who spent over a decade in Soviet prison camps he might just know a thing or two about state-implemented torture, and his argument (one echoed by many western intelligence experts) is that torture simply isn't effective. Worse than that: Its not going to save lives, if anything its going to exacerbate problems within the US intelligence gathering apparatus.

[What has this got to do with astrophysics? Nothing. But even purely as exercise of reason this dimension of the issue is something that should be asked and answered. Not to mention that this is probably the most pressing moral issue facing the Western world, so it deserves at least one post in this blog]

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