The Ranch, Colorado
Paddling Since: 04
Join Date: May 2005
Waterboarding is being singled out for scrutiny because it's well documented that the US is, under Bush, doing it.
It is also well documented that the Bush administration's use of "enhanced interrogation" covers other forms of torture, such as insane periods of sleep deprivation, insane lengths of time in painful positions of bondage, temperature extremes, use of dogs to torment, and sexual humiliation.
It is also known that this 'technique' was approved by senior administration officials such as: The attorney general, the secretary of state/national security adviser (Rice), the Secretary of Defense, the Vice President of the United States.
Now, on to the question of why this is wrong.
First, from the practical side.
1) People being tortured will, at some point, tell you anything to get you to stop. The information we get from torture then has to be researched and debunked/verified. There is, as of this date in 2008, absolutely no evidence that any information gained from torture has produced any actionable intelligence (that is to say, information that leads us to other terrorists such that we can kill/capture them, or information that leads us to stop existing terrorist plans and activities). None. If you doubt that, do some intuitive thinking and ask yourself: If it torture had yielded effective intelligence, would the Bush administration keep it quiet? No, they'd broadcast it to verify the policy in the public's eyes.
2) Torture as an intelligence tool creates monsters on all sides of the war. Whether it's the MPs who have to live with themselves, or who develop a fondness for it and later treat other human beings with an absence of dignity, our side suffers from its application. Furthermore, since proven interrogation techniques are difficult to teach to operatives, any time spent pursing intelligence through torture is time that other, more effective (not to mention, legal) techniques are not being taught. We are taking "the easy" (and ineffective) way, and our entire intelligence service is losing its real ability to gather real intelligence.
Corellary to that, torturing people in custody gives the other side a great propoganda tool with which to convince people on the fence about America's moral standing in the world to decide we're not sympathethic. Torture concretely contributes to the loss of the war for "hearts and minds." This argument is the chief counter to the notion that "they do it to us!". There are many more people around the world who don't know what to think about America than who think we should be destroyed or outright opposed. TOrture sends people from neutral to them.
3) We know that we are detaining people accused of being terrorists who are innocent of any wrongdoing (sometimes) or innocent of any serious wrongdoing (a lot of the time). Indeed, we know of very few detainees who are serious players in the terrorist networks. See "Taxi to the Dark Side" for a great example of this (the Taliban turned in a taxi driver in Afghanistan to US forces claiming the taxi driver was Taliban, and it took us several years to figure out it was a setup and we played willingly into it. Oh, and we detained the taxi driver and tortured him for about 3 years).
1) The US Congress, whose job it is to ratify international treaties, has ratified the US to all aspects of the Geneva Convention that apply to torture. It is ILLEGAL for anyone in the executive branch to countermand that treaty.
As a backdrop to part of this debate, this Executive branch has taken countless steps to act independent of the Constitution's checks and balances. This administration ignores the authority of Congress.
2) The Geneva Convention defines torture (pretty well according to the dictionary, if you care to look it up) as any behavior designed to terrify someone that they WILL be harmed, even if there is no harm other than terror. Whether or not waterboarding, or stress positions, or temperature extremes, or sleep deprivation does ACTUAL harm is irrelevant.
Aside: Read the case of Jose Padilla, the kid charged with WANTING to find out how to obtain materials for a dirty bomb. Ultimately he was convicted of far lesser charges, some 6 years after he was detained. Through enhanced interrogation, he has been rendered mentally incompetent, paranoid, and has lost touch with reality. These techniques cause serious trauma. Remember: We are using these techniques on people who have nothing to do with wanting to harm the US (in many cases) or who had next to nothing to do with it (in many more cases).
I am a veteran of the US Army and I denounce unequivocally the use of waterboarding, stress positions, and any other method of 'interrogation' that terrorises someone in US custody, whatever crime they are guilty of (let alone accused of). It's not worth it.
It's tactically and strategically counterproductive. (Every reasonable person should simply take that as the only rationale you need to oppose torture)
It's illegal according to US law, international law, and the Geneva conventions.
It's morally reprehensible.
It must be stopped. Immediately.
"self-aggrandizing jackass" - it says it right on the label