Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Wretchard at the Belmont Club has made a post on the use of torture in the GWOT followed by spirited discussion in comments. He points out that there can be intentional constraints on a military force that increase the risk of friendly casualties such as rules of engagement. He counts prohibitions on torture in this category. He is questioning if this restriction is still relevant.

I posted this into his comments section.

In the WOT torture presents an opportunity that would not appear in a
conventional war. In a conventional war one would capture a 100 or so prisoners
and a reasonable percentage will blab without any pressure. There is no point in
torturing the rest for duplicate information. Officers and technitions with
valuable information are not allowed near the front. In the WOT because other
means of information are less usable, a prisoner can be potential source of
major information. Is this a justification for torture?

I would say not.

There are several minor points against the use of torture and I would say a
big one.


It is not very reliable. The subject is inclined to say what will end the
session, i.e. what they think the interrogator expects to hear. The interrogator
quite possibly does not have the means to sort this out. Since it is what the
interrogator expects to hear they will give it little challenge.

Most often they will talk without torture sooner or later.

It opens our soldiers to retaliation in kind. Even if the
current enemy does not a future one may do so.

It gives a motive to enemy personnel not to surrender increasing our

Allowing torture and similar activities tends to break down military
discipline. Having allowed it in one case it is much harder to expect orders not
to do similar things in other cases to be obeyed.

If it becomes public it creates a terrific public affairs problem and
invites outside intervention into the running of our armed forces.

The Major Problem.

If we allow torture then we will sink to the level of Osma bin Laden and
his scum. Even when bin Laden loses (which he will in any case) we will lose
even more!

UPDATE: 072125 January 2005

Wretchard has made a follow up post that provides a better coverage of the issues.

He also has a link that suggests the real problem is much different than reported in the press.

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