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Barton Gellman Says the ‘Gutless’ Fail to Consider: Torture Works

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Just now on Charlie Rose, Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman, co-author of the thoughtful Cheney bio running this week, said that opponents of torture are "gutless" when they insist it doesn’t work. The real challenge, he said, is this: What if it does work? Does this society license it?

Gellman was taking on a liberal orthodoxy: the idea that We shouldn’t torture because it doesn’t work. Opponents of the Cheney-waterboarding policy say this all the time: you don’t get good information from torture. I think that’s a load of B.S. If torture doesn’t work, then why have people done it since the dawn of time? Of course it works. Though, yes, other stuff works too…

I’m against torture as much as anyone else. There should be policies against torture, and those who torture and abuse prisoners should be prosecuted for it. The real problem is that torture is an inevitable component of war. It is going to happen, regardless of policy. It’s like brain damage in boxing. As Alan Dershowitz has said, if you and I thought we were going to be able to save a buddy’s life by putting the thumbscrews on a prisoner to get vital info, would we stop ourselves? No way. And anyway, look what we’ve done in Iraq. When you destroy all the sinews of a society, there’s going to be brutalization and torture. Imagine a modern society where 3 percent of the population has been killed and everyone of any means has fled… Imagine living in the Mansur district of Baghdad and losing your child and your father and worrying who’s
next… Imagine being a 19-year-old kid from California plunged into that hellhole…

Some of the outcry over torture, like Andrew Sullivan’s, seems to me an attempt to rationalize support for an evil war. Oh, it was a good idea, and then they stooped to torture. It was never a good idea; people who start wars and fail to reckon with the consequences are gutless.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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