The Republican Interrogation…um Debate

The Republican Debate on CBS last night (11/12/11) questioned 8 candidates: Huntsman, Sartorum, Paul, Cain, Romney, Bachman, Perry, and Gingrich. The most revealing answers of the night, in my view, came in response to whether waterboarding constitutes torture or is an enhanced interrogation technique.

Bachman said said waterboarding was “very effective”, while Ron Paul said, “waterboarding is torture. And…it’s illegal under international law and under our law. It’s also immoral.” Jon Huntsman added that “We diminish our standing in the world and the values that we project which include liberty, democracy, human rights, and open markets when we torture. … Waterboarding is torture.”

Let me inform you that waterboarding was used to extract confessions from people suspected of being witches in the 17th century. Scientific studies illustrate the problem that even mild interrogation techniques have in producing false confessions from innocent people (The Economist, 2011). The evidence obtained from interrogration, let alone torture, is not as damning as observation of communications and behavior where suspects do not know they are being observed. Whatever information is gained from enhanced interrogation techniques cannot be defended in court to exonerate captives.

How far do we want to go with violence against those who oppose us? Cities still send riot police against unarmed civilians, as witnessed in Oakland where a vet had his skull fractured by a projectile, and those in the crowd coming to his rescue were greeted with a flash-bomb meant to disperse them. Society heads down the slippery slope toward practices of the Inquisition, nailing people to crosses, and sending innocent people into the colliseum to face lions. Look, in the 70 years since the end of World War II, we still see genocide with machetes, indiscriminate bombing of civilians, and execution by stoning. Torture is simply state-sponsored terrorism. The Dark Ages seem not so distant.

The Commander in Chief of the United States must surely protect his or her citizens from harm. Intelligence resources are scarce and costly. Why lean on the broken stick of interrogation if the intelligence retrieved is not even timely? There are many other methods at the disposal of intelligence experts to gain evidence of terrorist moves against America.


Anonymous. (2011, August 13). Silence is golden: People have a strange and worrying tendency to admit to things they have not, in fact, done. Retrieved 11/13/2011 from


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