From the Corner:
am opposed to torture under all circumstances, and there should be laws against it. Those who break them, should be punished. As a former Army Counterintelligence Agent, I conducted battlefield interrogations of enemy prisoners of war as well as strategic debriefings of higher value targets, and I’ve served in bad places where bad things will happen if you don’t get the information.
On more than one occasion, I had discussions with some of our operators regarding the obtaining of information in the ticking bomb scenario. Our discussion ran along the lines of “It’s against the law. It’s against the UCMJ. We’d go to jail. But if we knew the bomb was ticking, and this guy had the information that could save dozens or hundreds or more people, or if the team (the operators and the unit) were going to be wiped out if we didn’t get it, I’d whip out a hatchet and an entrenching tool and go to work on him.”
We were comfortable with this fairly horrible ambiguity and the bad consequences that would accompany it only because the military ethos was to sacrifice ourselves for others, and the notion of incurring legal jeopardy to save others struck us as a righteous cause, but it had to be predicated on the necessity of the ticking bomb. We did not want torture legalized. We did not want a guide book. We were fine with the notion we’d be punished had we ever used it – we never got into the neighborhood, much less seriously considering using it on anybody, BTW, we were just prepared to do what we had to do because it occurred to use that we could be in that position. There are some things that are too horrible to give a moral and legal imprimatur to, and torture is one of them, just as the law doesn’t permit cannibalism but won’t convict shipwrecked sailors and air crashed rugby players for engaging in it. We know these taboo and downright wrong practices sometimes rear their heads for good reason, but they are animalistic behaviors that come from a bestial place in the human soul, and no civilized society can long withstand a handshake deal with such beasts. Better to keep them caged.
I always say “Read the whole thing” when I excerpt from others, but in this case, I really, really mean it. Read the whole thing.