Monday, June 13, 2005

Torture lite

"So, on the basis of the scant amount of information available to those of us who will never be shown interrogation logs, I still think the case for actual torture remains shaky even by the most amoral and pragmatic standard.

What then of torture lite? What about the crudely brandished threat of unbearable pain or the carefully calibrated administration of somewhat bearable pain as routine techniques for shocking and disorienting a prisoner, conveying to him a sense of hopelessness from which there is only one possible escape?

It's a question that few theorists care to debate openly. How many lives would have to be demonstrably saved before such intimidation and punishment achieve a kind of moral sanction? If it could be shown with some certainty that, say, 10,000 lives would be saved, few purists would argue against the infliction of pain. If the number was a much smaller multiple of 10 and the degree of uncertainty candidly acknowledged, the true murkiness of the issue in the real world would have to be faced".

From “Interrogating ourselves” - an honest, thoughtful but unsatistfactory 8,000 word article by former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld (here).

Good to see Doonesbury back on the topic.

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