Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Alan Dershowitz on Torture

I have recently finished Alan Dershowitz's excellent The Case for Israel. The book will make you mad with the injustice that the Arabs (with frequent cooperation from much of the rest of the world) have perpetrated against Israel over the nearly 60 years of existence, and before. I highly recommend it.

In today's Wall Street Journal Dershowitz has an op-ed worth reading. Torture, much like war, is a terrible practice. Nevertheless, Dershowitz is one of the few liberal intellectuals out there who recognize that it is sometimes necessary:
Although I am personally opposed to the use of torture, I have no doubt that any president--indeed any leader of a democratic nation--would in fact authorize some forms of torture against a captured terrorist if he believed that this was the only way of securing information necessary to prevent an imminent mass casualty attack. The only dispute is whether he would do so openly with accountability or secretly with deniability. The former seems more consistent with democratic theory, the latter with typical political hypocrisy.
I really respect Dershowitz for openly putting to rest some of the myths that people who, understandably perhaps, are opposed to torture continue to propagate:
There are some who claim that torture is a nonissue because it never works--it only produces false information. This is simply not true, as evidenced by the many decent members of the French Resistance who, under Nazi torture, disclosed the locations of their closest friends and relatives.
I am also strongly sympathetic to the legal framework that Dershowitz wants to impose here. If we agree that torture is sometimes necessary then let's specify, as much as possible the exact conditions for it and have appropriate legal responsibility so that it is not abused.


Onzlo said...

The Nazis used death camps as well, they were even more effective than 'simple' torture, perhaps we should use them as well. This is sickening, you should be ashamed!

Gideon said...

I will not be ashamed!

The point is not that the Nazis did this and we should emulate them but that, contrary to the claims of some there is real evidence that torture works in the simple sense of revealing information that the torturers are looking for. If so, then one cannot use the argument that in effect, "what's the point?" -- after all no good information has ever come from torture.

As to your absurd assertion that we might as well use death camps -- I am frankly outraged and puzzled. Do you think I and others who are advocating this are out for pain and death? This is about saving lives pure and simple. Do you understand the seriousness of the current conflict at all? Dershowitz is quite properly suggesting we lay our cards on the table with respect to torture. We should not pretend we never do it but instead subject it to proper judicial review. The alternative is precisely what's going on at present with what seems to be a combination of an excess of unauthorized, unjustifiable sadistic torture, as well as legimate torture for the extraction of life saving information.