Thursday, April 23, 2009

Torture II

It is getting worse and worse. According to this morning’s New York Times, the current director of national intelligence, referring to the use of waterboarding and other methods of torture employed by the C.I.A. at Guantánamo, “high value information [sic] came from interrogations in which these methods were used.” In other words, the end amply justified the means. Many Republicans, led by Mr. Cheney, seem to feel that this is a compelling case for the defense.

Torture would not exist if wicked people did not think it was a useful form of coercion and, incidentally, an expedient form of punishment—for the time being freed from the inconvenient constraints of law. Yet how valuable is information obtained by means of torture? Can it be accurately recorded and verified? Does one safely go ahead and act upon such information? Of course not, unless you are so reckless that the prospect of irreversible collateral damage means nothing to you. Certainly such information cannot possibly be submitted as evidence in a court of law.

Even more hideous is the declared involvement in these proceedings at Guantánamo of qualified medical practitioners. Theirs is a far greater betrayal of the high requirements of their profession even than that of the lawyers who tried and failed to fly under the radar of the relevant portion of the U.S. criminal code. No doubt the lawyers will successfully argue their way out of this sorry episode, but the doctors must without hesitation be struck off, because they have by their willing involvement drawn a veil of clinical plausibility and restraint over the commission of crimes. If they are not struck off, and if there are no other consequences, we are surely allowing ourselves to be lured into the perverted modus operandi of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Surely nothing would give them greater satisfaction.

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