June 15, 2004

AS I’VE MENTIONED BEFORE, I’m against torture. Megan McArdle has an interesting post on the subject in response to an interesting post by Mark Kleiman.

I find it hard to respond to these things in terms of cost-benefit. My law school mentor Charles Black once said that of course you can come up with scenarios — the classic ticking-nuclear-bomb example — where torture might be justified. And you can be sure that, in those cases, if people think it’ll work they’ll use it no matter what the rules are. But there’s a real value to pretending that there’s an absolute rule against it even if we know people will break it in extraordinary circumstances, because it ensures that people won’t mistake an ordinary remedy for an extraordinary one.

I also think that the rather transparent effort to use this against Bush — often by people who think nothing of cozying up to the likes of Castro, for whom torture and murder are essential tools of governance — has caused the Abu Ghraib issue to be taken less seriously than perhaps it ought to be.

UPDATE: Useful thoughts on why torture is a bad idea, from Brian Dunn.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more here.

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