With the recent release of the “Torture Memos” there has been an enormous amount of discussion centered on the treatment of wartime prisoners. If you have missed the discussion, just turn on Fox News or CNN. You will soon find yourself immersed in the topic.
Those who support using torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques” to get information from captives argue that the ends justify the means. In other words, if we are able to gain important information about our enemies through these techniques, then the techniques are okay. To defend the use of the “enhanced interrogation techniques”, supporters are calling for the release of classified information (in addition to the Torture Memos previously released) to show that the techniques were successful in extracting vital military intelligence. The thought is that if it can be proven that important information was gained through the process then the process cannot be criticized.
How should we think about torture (or whatever you choose to call it)? Is it ever okay? If torture does result in giving us greater military intelligence, can it be justified?
I came across an important article by Christopher Tollefsen that discusses this very topic. I believe Tollefsen is exactly right in his assessment of the issue. In his article, Tollefsen attempts to give a precise definition of torture and condemns the practice as always wrong. Here is a quote from the article:
It is important to be clear, as a moral matter, on what boundaries should be accepted in interrogation of human beings. These sorts of boundaries, regardless of whether they are called torture, or “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, are the ones that matter for our most basic assessment of how agents of the United States Government should comport themselves when questioning terror suspects. The discussion should not, that is to say, begin with questions about how the nature of the terrorists’ crimes, or their status as illegal enemy combatants, affects what may be done. For, if there are forms of treatment forbidden as such for all human beings, then such forms of treatment will be ruled out for terror suspects just as for prisoners of war, and common criminals.
Please read the entire article and let me know what your thoughts are concerning this important issue. If you missed the link above you can find the complete article here.