Why shouldn't we have people like Khaled Sheik Mohammad tortured, even though they are mass-murdering scum? There are various prudential reasons, which I went into last year. Twice. [There are links there I have not bothered to copy; go to the original and click 'em.] But there's a more important reason.Hear, hear. We're the good guys. The ones whose system works better than the others, because our forefathers were smart enough insist on the idea of rights. "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted."
Because we're the fucking United States of America!
Arguments over torture are a recurring feature in blogdom, I suppose because of the simple appeal of the "ticking bomb" scenario. I've blogged about it before when the topic came up on Eugene Volokh's blog. Among other things I said then, I want to reiterate this:
here's a new question: why torture at all? Why now? The answer is, of course, "terrorism". But why can't we just live in peace? The answer lies in part with the terrorists - they don't like our culture for reasons we won't control... But it lies in part with us - we are trying to run the world, including most particularly helping despots rule Islam.The "gun control precedes genocide" meme has recently been around the net. I make an analogy between that meme and torture. Torture is the canary in the coal mine. When your society starts seriously talking about torture, it means you've fucked up and become repressive. The answer is not torture. It's to stop doing whatever you are doing, such that you are creating criminals that you want to torture.
The logic of repression is gradualist. You oppress a little; a reaction happens; you oppress a little more. You send in troops, force a boycott, get more police, build more prisons. People are hurt by it; the oppression is obvious and fringe lunatics take up arms. That's when you end up talking about torture. It's yet another control oriented fix for deeper social problems, all originating in the actions of the state. The solution is not more and more harshness, but to stop the state from doing what it should not have been doing in the first place.