TORTURE….Here are a few practices

TORTURE….Here are a few practices that were once rather widespread and unremarkable but that are now considered entirely taboo in America and the rest of the developed world:

  • Torture

  • Slavery

  • Forced sterilization

  • Children working 12-hour days running a steam-powered loom

You can add your own favorites to this list, but the point is this: taboos define us a civilization. They are things that we recognize as beyond the pale, things that define us as monsters if we cross the line.

If torture is acceptable because it can sometimes be useful, then why not slavery? Or child labor? Or any of a host of other potentially useful but odious practices? Because this is not who we are. Torturing a terrorist might indeed produce a small amount of useful information, but for every bit of information it produces, it turns a thousand potential followers against us. It’s a Faustian bargain, and it’s a bad one.

We will win the battle against terrorism by drying up the terrorists’ recruiting pool, and we will do that by consistently demonstrating that our vision of humanity is superior to theirs. Torture is not the way to do that. It belongs to days long past, and that’s where it should stay.

UPDATE: And for anyone who thinks a “little bit” of torture might be OK, this post by Jonathan Edelstein demonstrates graphically what a slippery slope it really is.

Support the Washington Monthly and get a FREE subscription