I have no problems with killing people. Wars happen. You do what you need to do to get them to stop and to stop fanatical religious bastards from enforcing their version of reality on innocent women and children.
That does not excuse the US invasion of Iraq and the "crusade" comments and all that. WMDs, no link to Al Qaeda etc.
Torture on the other hand, is a different thing. Now you're looking at a very inefficient means of gathering information.
I have been water tortured. I have not been waterboarded. I have not had any of the many other "enhanced interrogation techniques" used against me. I have always had a voluntary way out.
As soon as you start torturing people, the vast majority of them will say and do anything to get out of it. Pop someone's eye out with spoon is apparently pretty effective and quick. Simulate drowning. Dogs. Shaking. Walling. Sleep dep. Hanging someone up by hooks.
To the best of my knowledge, the torture committed under the recent Bush administration has not yielded any intel that has saved lives.
The people responsible should be prosecuted.
In fairness, the issue isn't exactly black and white:
Either case, I have yet to see any sort of evidence that the Bush administration torture saved any U.S. or allied lives. Provided information and gave us insights into the structure and organization of Al Qaeda - yes, maybe. Now balance the few benefits we know *might* have helped us, against the overwhelming evidence and damage to U.S. national security interests and image of having to deal with the fall-out from torture and Guantanamo Bay. I know what side of that I judge to be the weightiest.
...Which would seem to indicate that even if the torture did not DIRECTLY lead to saving lives and stopping terrorist attacks, it certainly may have indirectly done so. It's kind of hard to prove that something lead to preventing a horrible crime that would have been a very complex operation that could have failed at any time. The question then becomes how much the information gained from torture helped in capturing other terrorists, versus the damage eventually done to the United States' international image, Al Qaeda recruitment and the overall impact on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and improving the situation of US national security interests all over the world. Presumably the latter would have been positively impacted by the capture and partial unravelling of terrorist networks, but also negatively impacted by a hardening difficulty in getting other countries and entities to do as we say, not as we do - and improve our general position in world affairs.
- Another case, not exactly of torture, but of truth confessed under extreme duress (hence logically very similar), is from operations against the Tamil Tigers. It involved a literal ticking bomb scenario: a security forces unit apprehended three terrorists who it suspected of planting a bomb somewhere in a city. They were brought before the officer in charge: He asked them where the bomb was. The terrorists - highly dedicated and steeled to resist interrogation - remained silent. [He] asked the question again, advising them that if they did not tell him what he wanted to know, he would kill them. They were unmoved. So [he] took his pistol from his gun belt, pointed it at the forehead of one of them, and shot him dead. The other two, he said, talked immediately; the bomb, which had been placed in a crowded railway station and set to explode during the evening rush hour, was found and defused, and countless lives were saved.16From 16 Bruce Hoffman. A Nasty Business, ATLANTIC MONTHLY, Jan. 2002. at 52 (quoted in BOBBITT, supra note 6, at 380)
Alexander is an outspoken opponent of torture. He refutes the effectiveness of torture, citing its negative long term effects such as recruiting for Al Qaida. He also argues that torture is contrary to the American principles of freedom, liberty, and justice, and that should they resort to torture, American interrogators become the enemy they serve to defeat. Similar arguments have been made by other former interrogators from the military, FBI, and CIA, including Colonel Steven Kleinman. In an interview with human rights lawyer Scott Horton for Harper's Magazine, Alexander said
"The American public has a right to know that they do not have to choose between torture and terror. There is a better way to conduct interrogations that works more efficiently, keeps Americans safe, and doesn’t sacrifice our integrity. Our greatest victory to date in this war, the death of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi (which saved thousands of lives and helped pave the way to the Sunni Awakening), was achieved using interrogation methods that had nothing to do with torture. The American people deserve to know that."