It didn’t take long for the conservative right to deflect the conversation away from the President’s victory of eliminating Osama bin Laden. A meme has arisen that the intel for the raid in Abbottabad is a result of ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques used at Guantanamo and other CIA sites overseas though obviously no one will confirm that. Despite that admission, many people from the Bush administration; most notably Donald Rumsfeld, are taking the opportunity to say, ‘See? Enhanced interrogation procedures work’.
Obviously it salvages reputations if the public acknowledges George W. Bush’s involvement in eliminating Osama bin Laden. And not just personal reputations but our national reputation as well. Could we really be that big of a monster in the wake of 9/11 to stoop to possibly violating the Geneva Conventions we so staunchly fought for in the early 20th Century?
It turns out that we could. And likely did.
The FOX network television show ‘24’ is a drama that involves the protagonist Jack Bauer, an agent of the US government, who on occasion uses extreme measures (like threatening to kill someone in a lengthy and painful manner) to extract information necessary to stop some insidious terrorist plot. The overarching theme is that this tactic of bending the rules is perfectly acceptable so long as it produces an outcome for the greater good. Is this just a classic ‘the ends justify the means’ argument?
Let’s not beat around the George Bush here; Jack Bauer would gladly violate the Geneva Convention if it gave him a strategic advantage. There are doctors who would violate medical ethics with a patient if they thought there were a greater advantage to testing an experimental procedure that would benefit society as a whole. The question is: is it right?
This also happens to be the problem with releasing the photos of the deceased Osama bin Laden (a topic for another thread).
Most of the extreme rendition practices happened soon after 9/11. It’s perhaps understandable that a nation so hurt would resort to such tactics to bring those responsible to justice. But was it the right thing to do?
It’s difficult to believe that any information from enhanced interrogation techniques (let’s correctly call it torture from now on) brought forth information that led to the location of Osama bin Laden particularly when the elimination of bin Laden happened almost ten years after 9/11. Wouldn’t torture have yielded results sooner? Most experts say no. Torture often gives opposite results. People being tortured will say anything you want to hear to make the pain stop. They may often give information that seems helpful when, in reality, they are feeding disinformation.
So where does one draw the line? Is enhanced interrogation justified if it helps stop terrorist attacks? Or is the fact that we justify torture a justification itself for terrorist attacks?
I would argue that our morality precludes such techniques even if we risk opening ourselves up to those who would attack us on ideology. For once we compromise the ideology, we’ve already lost.
- Jack Bauer trends on Twitter after Bin Laden killing (cnn.com)
- Administration Grows Frustrated as Conversation Shifts From bin Laden to Waterboarding (Huffington Post)
- Why Is Jack Bauer Trending on Twitter? (foxnews.com)