THE PLANK APRIL 23, 2009
Greg Sargent is troubled that the Cheney Republicans seem to be shifting the debate to the question of whether torture is effective, and away from questions about whether it is immoral or detrimental to US strategic interests. But wouldn't it be extremely useful to reach something like a consensus, based on credible evidence, about whether or not torture is ever effective? If it can be demonstrated that torture never "works," that ends the conversation pretty quickly. Thus anyone convinced that torture simply doesn't work should actually welcome Cheney's bid for a debate about effectiveness.
And if torture is shown to be effective on occasion (as Obama's intelligence director apparently believes) then we can at least have a well-informed national debate about morality and strategic consequences--and, should people want to reserve the option to get rough with certain detainees--legal/procedural safeguards. (Again, I refer everyone back to Mark Danner.)
That said, isn't the more immediately pertininent question whether U.S. drone assassinations in Pakistan--which frequently claim innocent lives as "collateral damage," and do real harm to America's standing in the country--are a) legal and b) doing more good than harm. I tend to think they are. But the issue has a more immediate impact on our national security than the current fixation about a set of interrogation practices that are no longer in use.