Bill O’Reilly was bellowing long and loud from his Fox News bully pulpit last week about the many wonders of torture as he sees it. “Torture works!” “Only three terrorists were water boarded!” he smugly proclaimed. “Torture led directly to bin Laden’s demise!” “Torture saves American lives!”
“The president should have the power to authorize torture on terror suspects for the purpose of inducing cooperation with authorities,” declared O’Reilly. He’s convinced we would never have found the criminal bin Laden without using torture.
At least Mr. Bill admits that we’re talking about torture here. Water-boarding is torture. To his credit, most other torture advocates would rather call it “enhanced interrogation,” because the euphemism makes them feel better about it. That’s because they know deep in their hearts and minds that torture is immoral, unethical, abnormal, and wrong.
“I’m against torture 99% of the time,” Bernie Goldberg, another conservative Fox News commentator, confessed. He was quick to add, though, that “torture is neither wrong nor immoral.” The “fact that torture is illegal presents no problem” since “laws can be changed.” Congress can simply pass a law authorizing “only the president” to torture suspects “only in ticking time bomb” situations, “where it might save lives,” he reasons.
But if torture were so effective in the War on Terror as these advocates insist, why then, did it take almost 10 years to locate the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden? Why has this War on Terror been going on for so long? Torture doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere fast. Remember, the Gitmo detainees were tortured methodically during all that time.
It’s not just three suspects who were tortured by water boarding, as O’Reilly and others like to claim. That falsehood has been soundly debunked with evidence of fractures, bruises, lacerations, and other obvious symptoms of physical torture displayed by many Gitmo prisoners. Torture is common practice at Gitmo and the prison doctors are covering it up.
How do we know that it was torture that led to bin Laden’s discovery and demise? We’ll never know. We know only what we are told. How many false leads did the torture produce? There must have been plenty over 9 ½ long years. That’s because torture too often yields unreliable information.
Sure, we can get lots of information by means of torture. Sometimes the guilty will even confess. The innocent usually confess too when they are tortured. They’ll say anything to make it stop. I know I would. Some poor slob who knows nothing will give it all up and start making up all kinds of stories about what they think their torturer wants to hear. Guilty people do exactly the same. That’s why the result of torture is so unreliable. When it comes to getting good information, torture is mostly counterproductive.
How do we know we wouldn’t have found the criminal quicker had the suspects not been tortured? Cesar Millan, the internationally famous Dog Whisperer, has demonstrated conclusively, again and again, that torture doesn’t work very well as a means of getting animals to do what we want. He shows us on each episode of his TV show what positively motivates dogs almost immediately to behave exactly as we like.
His technique works equally well on human beings far away better than torture. It’s called positive reinforcement psychology. You find out what positively motivates your captive subject; give them reasons to talk; rewards for positive behavior; separate them from their peers; lie to them; manipulate them; treat them with calm and assertive kindness as the primary motivation tool and they will more likely eventually cooperate.
If the practice of torture is not self evidently wrong and immoral, then why are Bernie Goldberg, and most other reasonable American people, against it 99% of the time? Why is it that your average hard core conservative Christian, like Bill O’Reilly, is most likely the one to condone torture?
Surely they don’t get their instructions from Jesus. Would Jesus condone torture? I suppose the Spanish Inquisitor’s and the Pope thought so, so why shouldn’t Bill O’Reilly? To Hell with the Gospel in matters of expediency, you might say with a shrug.
Now, let’s take the torture advocates logic to the end of the twisted philosophical path. If torture works so quickly and so well; if it results in consistently reliable information; if it is not immoral, unethical, and wrong to torture human beings, then why not torture common criminal suspects as the best means to get their cooperation? Bernie says congress could just pass a law.
Why should criminal suspects have the right to remain silent? Why can’t we force them to incriminate themselves and others? Why shouldn’t we subject them to cruel and unusual punishments to get them to talk? Think of all the lives we could save by just inflicting a little pain on the bad guys. Why let the Constitution get in the way of expediency and a good idea?
And, while we're at it, why not allow teachers to torture student suspects in missing property investigations? You know; when no one wants to talk. Nothing serious, just some arm twisting perhaps; a little choking maybe. That’s not immoral, is it, Bernie?
Suppose an 8-year-old says he’s planted a time bomb in the cafeteria that will explode in 10 minutes, and only he knows the code to stop it. Let’s torture him for it, right?
Let’s also permit parents to torture naughty kids who lie. That’s how it used to be in America in the good old days. Torture was common as dirt back then, just as it was in all of antiquity. Only recently, after reflection upon all the horrible inhumane atrocities in history, have civilized people come to recognize the insidious evils of torture.
Torture is wrong; torture is immoral; torture is unethical; torture is abnormal, abhorrent, sadistic, cruel, abominable and inhuman. While it may be argued as practically justified in response to extremely rare circumstances of social necessity, it never-the-less is not morally justified under any circumstances.
The path of torture leads expediently down a slippery slope to horror and tyranny, and no tortured logic can alter it.