The trouble with torture


I was very angry last night reading another of the standard set of stories for "Why torture isn't that bad and can work". You know the one right? No? Ok here's you basic one.

You have a nasty nasty terroist man in custody, he's probably swarthy and bearded. He's planted a bomb in the city and he's mocking you with the knowledge that it'll explode soon.

Well of course you have to torture him to get the information before the bomb goes of. That's just obvious. Isn't it?

Ok. Now you've got a swarthy bearded guy in a room and he's not talking. You have credible information that he has knowledge of the location of a bomb in the city and you need it.

Guess it's time for the fingernail pliers again.

Whoop, there's another bomb, apparently, the information is legitimate. All the swarthy bearded men have long since been evicted but you are pretty sure this angry white boy knows something. He won't talk though, keeps asking for a lawyer. No time for that though... Bomb rememeber? Eventually he tells you a location but there's nothing there, his accomplises must have moved it. Eventually he names names.


One of the reasons I abandoned my faith was because I learnt the history of the Catholic Church (and the the others). It's not the only reason but it's up there. The church used torture to extract "confessions" for witchcraft from hundreds of women. Because if you're in enough pain, if you're broken and beaten and you know that all you need to do to get the pain to go is confess eventually you will.

Eventually everyone cracks under torture, but that doesn't mean it works, because cracking just means you start telling the people what you think they want to hear. The you consort with the devil and cast spells and curses. The you know where the bomb is. Any confabulation to make the pain go away.

But not just that. That's just the icing on the cake really. The fact that yes, if you put someone through enough pain they will break down and babble secrets to get you to stop.

I truly belive we have one life on this world, that our only impact is in the changes we can make on it. To make it better or worse, to move us towards a world where we all have a chance to excel or one where stupid evil bastards rule over ignorant peasants... again. I know which world I want and that world doesn't torture people.

You'd think that belivers in a loving god wouldn't torture people. But... the mental logistics they went through to do it were impressive. Because this is the thing, if you want to do something horrible you'll convince yourself it's good. That you're saving them.

We live in dark times. I hope we live through them.