Whither Thou, Jack Bauer?

You have the right...actually, you don't

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.

About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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10 Responses to Whither Thou, Jack Bauer?

  1. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    One, rather simple, question:

    If “enhanced interrogation” worked so well, and;
    if there was good, actionable intel gotten as a result, and;
    that intel led to more and more, then;

    why did the program end 5 or so years ago, and;

    why the hell wasn’t OBL killed or captured on Bush’s watch?

    Y’all chew on THAT one. Meanwhile, gotta run.

  2. rgbact says:

    So if we bring Osama to Gitmo and waterboard him…..we are inhumane torturers.

    If we blow his head off as he sits defenseless with his wife in his compound and toss his dead body in the ocean….we rock.

    One day this logic will make sense to me.

  3. mclever says:

    What Max said…

    I object to the use of torture as an interrogation method for a whole slew of ethical and moral reasons. We cease to be the good that we’re fighting for if we stoop to that level. But there are pragmatic reasons not to torture, too.

    1) Experts say it doesn’t work. The information given under duress is more likely to be false, misremembered, or otherwise distorted. They’ll say what the torturer wants to hear, rather than the truth. And such torture may actually damage their ability to accurately recall the truth later if they eventually decide they do want to share.

    2) If we torture at home, it puts our civilians and soldiers overseas at greater risk of being tortured as well. We can’t demand that the torture of our people stop if we do the same or worse ourselves. For the sake of our men and women in uniform, we mustn’t put them at greater risk by doing something as marginally effective as torturing captives.

    3) The world loses sympathy with us, and our enemies gain a veneer of justification in seeking retaliation for our atrocities. We can’t just say we’re the “good guys,” we need to act like it, too.

  4. shortchain says:


    If the police are attempting to take a dangerous person prisoner, and the person resists, the police are entitled, under existing law, to use deadly force.

    If the police have taken a person prisoner, have them under control, and then beat the prisoner, they’re liable for police brutality.

    Is this really that difficult to understand? Really?

  5. shortchain says:


    Also: did the SEALs really know that bin Laden was unarmed? How could they know that? How could they know he wasn’t wearing a suicide belt?

  6. rgbact says:


    Get real. They were there to execute him even if he got on his knees and begged to surrender. I’m happy we’ve decided to avoid all the messy issues with Gitmo and tribunals and we now just execute terrorists on site. I’m OK with it…but it sure sounds like a “cowboy, go it alone” type affair. The kind Libs used to scream about.

  7. shortchain says:


    And you know they had orders to simply execute him because?

    My opinion is that — yeah, it would have been better to have been able to arrest him, try him, and throw him into a hole for the rest of his life. But I won’t be losing sleep over the way it turned out, as long as it doesn’t develop into a habit.

    The guy was, after all, a dangerous fugitive, possibly the most dangerous fugitive in the world. I can’t imagine how, under the circumstances, they could have taken him safely into custody. And it is beyond obvious — has been for a long time, really — that some highly-placed people in Pakistan were sheltering him. Given that, there was no percentage in trying to go the diplomacy route, or arresting him and then trying to extradite him through legal channels.

    This was hardly a “go it alone” type of affair. Didn’t you see all the people in the situation room? Are you blind?

    You are cheering that it was extrajudicial, and you are criticizing us because we aren’t more upset? Your criticisms are hypocritical, foolish, internally contradictory, and apparently blind to obvious facts.

  8. Brian says:

    To me, there are some things that are actually worse than death. I essentially call those things torture. I would actually rather not exist anymore than have each of my fingers cut off one by one. I think it would be more humane to shoot me in the head than do that. Other people have different definitions. Waterboarding is clearly a borderline case. I’m not going to debate what is and what is not torture, but I think there are definitely situations where killing someone is more humane.

    And for the record, I love 24. Part of the reason I love it is because I know its fiction. It’s still a freaking awesome show, even if Jack Bauer is supposed to be around 60 by now.

  9. Mr. Universe says:


    Yeah, if we ride on the continuity train, James Bond would be about 80 now. That’s assuming Bond were in his late twenties at the time of Dr. No in 1962.

    I never watched 24 but I dug the computer chick.

  10. Pingback: Torture is Patriotism | 538 Refugees

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