The Moral Argument Against Torture

THE MORAL ARGUMENT AGAINST TORTURE….Over at Unfogged, Ogged picks up on my biggest frustration with the current state of the torture debate: namely that it’s almost impossible to convincingly make the moral case against torture to anyone who’s not already predisposed to think it’s immoral. Stripped to its core, I realize that the only real argument I have against torture is “But don’t you see that it’s wrong? Don’t you?” And that’s just immensely frustrating, because if you don’t see it then I have no ammunition left.

I wish I could do better. In the end, though, the strongest argument I can make is the one Dick Durbin made: if you didn’t know better when you hear about U.S. practices in the war on terror, you’d think we were talking about Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union ? and a big part of the reason that we judge those regimes to have been immoral was because of their use of routine, state sanctioned torture. Is that really the company we want to keep?

I supposed it’s best not to feel too frustrated, though. Changing public opinion takes a long time, and continual repetition of the simple assertion that torture is morally repugnant ? along with public disclosure of how commonplace it’s become ? might eventually do the trick even if movement in the right direction often seems imperceptible.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation