A Novel Justification for Torture


This is Cliff May at The Corner:

Every opponent I’ve debated on has taken this tactic — labeling me as “pro-torture,” refusing to grapple with definitions, and refusing to consider whether there may be methods of interrogation that are unpleasant but fall short of torture.

This is especially important because we now know that Islamists believe their religion forbids them to cooperate with infidels — until they have reached the limit of their ability to endure the hardships the infidel is inflicting on them. [footnote omitted]. In other words: Imagine an al-Qaeda member who would like to give his interrogators information, who does not want continue fighting, who would prefer not to see more innocent people slaughtered. He would need his interrogators to press him hard so he can feel that he has met his religious obligations — only then could he cooperate.

But just try to get anyone in the “anti-torture” camp to seriously debate any of this.

So let’s see what we’ve got here. Cliff wants us to believe that the interrogation techniques sanctioned by the OLC lawyers were “unpleasant but [fell] short of torture.” Then he tells us that “we now know” that Islamists’ “religious obligations require” them to be subjected to what he calls “stress and duress” that is severe enough that the Islamists cannot endure it anymore — and only at that point, when “they have reached the limit of their ability” to withstand the “hardships” being inflicted on them, does their religion permit them to give up the information their interrogator wants.

Setting aside the fact that “the Islamist” being “stressed and duressed” may not even have the knowledge their interrogator thinks they have, what May has just described is torture:

So the test here is whether a prisoner reaches the limit of their ability to endure the pain and suffering imposed upon them. I see no way to understand this except to grasp that the pain and suffering is so severe that it can no longer be endured. This, if Cliff would like to educate himself on the subject, is the definition of torture.

Mark Thompson and E.D. Kain, two Ordinary Gentlemen who are much more than ordinarily thoughtful and talented writers, present complementary views on this subject. (I’m tempted to say “contrasting” views, but I don’t think they are, really, that — more like different facets of one overarching view.)

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