by Doctor Science
I'm on the second day of a medium-bad head cold, so I'm going to do something I don't generally approve of: posting with very few links. Let me know if there's a point you REALLY need a source for, and I'll see if I can dig something up.
Ever since news about US "enhanced interrogation" policies came out (2003, maybe? before the 2004 election, I'm pretty sure) I've been both horrified and confused. The horrified part is obvious, because I grew up believing that every American truly agreed with this WWII poster:
Not only did I think everyone agreed that torture was reprehensible and beyond the pale, I thought we all agreed that it doesn't work. At least, it doesn't work if you want *information*. What it gives you is *confirmation* of what you, the torturer, already know or want to be true. Torture is how you get people to confess to witchcraft or capitalist plots against Stalin. I seem to remember an incident in the 90s when some (US?) pilots were shot down over Iraq, and were displayed on Iraqi TV a couple days later confessing to all sort of things (around the bruises and lacerations). Everyone basically laughed at Saddam, saying "it was obviously torture! none of this *counts*!" and moved on.
But then, almost immediately after 9/11, that all went out the window, wheee! As far as I can tell, the move to approve and rely on torture was considered a "no-brainer": so reliable that any moral qualms could be dismissed.
Where did this confidence come from? What gave the people who planned and authorized torture the idea that this was a reliable way to gather information?
My brain is extremely muddy (snotty) right now, so I can't work my way through all the logical possibilities. The two that spring to mind are:
a) They were snowed by the CIA, which never believed that tortured didn't work.
b) The images of torture that come to mind -- that have the most "salience", as psychologists say -- are likely to be from movies and television. After 9/11, 24 did a lot of the pro-torture work, but maybe there was enough beforehand to give everyone involved the impression that it works. At least when the "good guys" do it -- where the good guys are not, as the WWII poster suggests, *defined* by not torturing people.
So what do those of you whose heads aren't full of mucous think?