Torture and Democracy

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Torture and Democracy - Darius M. Rejali - Google книги

Rejali makes this troubling case in fluid, arresting prose and on the basis of unprecedented research--conducted in multiple languages and on several continents--begun years before most of us had ever heard of Osama bin Laden or Abu Ghraib. The author of a major study of Iranian torture, Rejali also tackles the controversial question of whether torture really works, answering the new apologists for torture point by point. A brave and disturbing book, this is the benchmark against which all future studies of modern torture will be measured.

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When Democracies Torture

Additional Information. Table of Contents. Contents pp. Preface pp. Acknowledgments pp.

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Introduction pp. Here we butt up against another of the contradictions in Mr. Rejali's framework. He argues, correctly, that we do not use torture to obtain criminal confessions because we recognize that torture is so effective that you can get anyone to say anything if you're willing to be sufficiently brutal. Obviously if we can not know whether a confession is true or false it is useless to us.

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However, he then pivots and maintains that torture is also an ineffective way to obtain intelligence from otherwise unwilling captives. This makes no sense.


If torture is so fearsome a tool that it will force you to falsely implicate yourself in a crime for which you will be executed it can not also be so weak a tool that you won't reveal truths. And given that your answers can then be tested against facts on the ground, to determine their truth or falsity, torture would seem to be a most useful tool.

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It might be helpful here if we move from the abstract to the concrete. We know now that waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, operational leader of al Qaeda at the time of , for less than three minutes broke him and that he began to spew forth answers he'd previously refused to give. As a threshold matter, it's worth noting that CIA interrogators are themselves submitted to waterboarding as part of their training, making this one of the ultimate "clean" methods.

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If we are going to use torture--and Mr. Rejali's book provides pages of evidence that we are--then we surely wish to use the most humane methods we can find, and those that we are willing to use on ourselves unquestionably qualify. Next, the rapidity with which the technique worked--and this was apparently the longest anyone ever held out--suggests that, contrary to Mr.

Rejali's assertion, we have at least one extremely efficient means of torture. If we can extract vital intelligence quickly and cleanly the objections to torture begin to disappear. This leaves only one real objection and it's one that we'll have to leave hanging for now: is the intelligence that is produced by waterboarding useful?

Book of the Week: Torture and Democracy

It will probably be some years before we know whether al Qaedists who were tortured revealed identities, operations, plans, etc. If waterboarding these terrorists turns out to have been useless on the intelligence front, then no matter how clean it is we should discontinue it. But, if it turns out to have provided significant information, then this aspect of Mr. Rejali's argument is dealt a death blow. Ultimately, the book makes arguments that are overbroad and unsustainable and presents a central hypothesis--that clean methods are used to evade detection--which is too starkly contradicted by the facts and too easily explained away by other factors for us to take it very seriously.

Torture and Democracy

It seems much more likely that while democracies find it necessary to torture they opt to use clean methods because they are efficient and humane, rather than that they are stealthy. But it leaves a legacy of destruction that takes generations to undo. But the real story is more complex.