Sunday, 14 November 2010

Is George W Bush right about torture?

I have not yet read his autobiography but I do admire Bush for his stance on Pro Life issues and his attempts to repeal the abhorrent practice of Partial Birth Abortion as carried out in some states in the US.
Much has been made, in the media of his comments regarding 'waterboarding', the means of torturing terrorist and prisoners of war by being held down in a bath of water. If the reports are correct, George W Bush approves of this method of gaining information, but, of course, we are absolutely horrified at this; or are we?

Can you imagine a scenario where a known terrorist is captured by the security services and they have knowledge that he/she knows the location of a series of dirty bombs due to go off in the London rush hour within the next few hours. Do our secret service men put a tape in the machine, pour him/her a cup of tea and ask polite but firm questions as to the whereabouts of the bombs.
Or, do they turn the taps on and strap him to a suitable board ready for a swift bit of nastiness.
"Ahhhhh", I can hear being said: "Two wrongs never make a right". That sounds suitably highly principled but, if you knew that, by getting the location information you could save several thousand lives, would you be tempted to go for the water treatment?
I am afraid that I would.


  1. Ah, you won't hear it from me, because it begs the question of whether the second 'wrong' is, in fact a wrong.

    With you all the way. Torture is necessary, if the guilt of the suspect is beyond doubt, pace the Holy Father's words on the subject.

  2. I think the idea that "waterboarding" is torture is pretty tenuous anyway. Anything which a journalist or tv show contestant can emerge from relatively unscathed (except very frightened) is surely ambiguous as a kind of torture. The Sun journalist said after his experience he had no doubt waterboarding was "torture" (not sure what is basis of comparison was), but also that he "would have told [his] interrogator anything they wanted to hear to make it stop". Surely that's the whole point: to get that information without doing permanent damage.

    Left-footer - what are the Holy Father's words on the subject?

  3. mystra,

    He said it is always wrong, but was not, I think, speaking ex cathdra.

  4. I would certainly be tempted to torture people in that situation as well, but that does not mean that torture is right. Err on the side of mercy.

  5. Patrick Button,

    Perhaps 'waterboarding' the terrorist is erring on the side of mercy - to his intended victims.