Torture Only Hurts America

Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge waterboards a prisoner, gets no information

Well, America, at long last the news reveals that torture – Washington preferred the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” – don’t work. Didn’t work. Were counterproductive

The report is the most detailed independent examination to date of the agency’s efforts to “break” dozens of detainees through physical and psychological duress, a period of CIA history that has become a source of renewed controversy because of torture scenes in a forthcoming Hollywood film, “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Officials familiar with the report said it makes a detailed case that subjecting prisoners to ­“enhanced” interrogation techniques did not help the CIA find Osama bin Laden and often were counterproductive in the broader campaign against al-Qaeda.

The committee chairman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein ­(D-Calif.), declined to discuss specific findings but released a written statement describing decisions to allow the CIA to build a network of secret prisons and employ harsh interrogation measures as “terrible mistakes.”

“I also believe this report will settle the debate once and for all over whether our nation should ever employ coercive interrogation techniques,” Feinstein said.

While Republicans are unhappy with the report, one who actually suffered torture when captured in Hanoi had this to say, 

the committee’s work shows that “cruel” treatment of prisoners “is not only wrong in principle and a stain on our country’s conscience, but also an ineffective and unreliable means of gathering intelligence.”

We didn’t find bin Laden because we waterboarded someone. We found him because of excellent detective / intelligence work. Torture would be the anti-intellectual replacement for that. If it worked. 


  • So we know the R’s will fight it and say we gotta beat the crap out of people to get what we need (they’re hawkish like that, other than McCain, who ain’t gonna be there much longer). What do we have to do to get the D’s to wake the hell up and stop this? Will this be enough? I doubt it, unfortunately.

  • Well, not exactly: it mostly hurts the people we torture, who tend not to be Americans (though there are Bradley Manning, Jose Padilla, etc.). The argument that “torture hurts America” is something like the argument that “slavery degrades slaveowners.” True, but a little bent.

    And you can’t just blame this on the Republicans–Democrats and even liberals are warming up to torture and of course, shooting unarmed men in the face. lavishly praised in Zero Dark Thirty. Glenn Greenwald is on fire today:

    • I didn’t mean “to the exclusion of the victims”. I meant it as a response to anyone who has ever suggested that torture helps America. Torture only hurts America, it does not help America. 

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