The great torture
debate is in the news again and Juan Cole notes that defenders of torture almost always go straight to the ticking time bomb scenario. In comments it's been dubbed "Cole's Law"
I haven't too much on the torture debate, but whenever I hear the ticking time-bomb scenario I note the lack of push back on the 2 straw-men that make up the foundation of the argument.
Straw Man #1: We know the person is responsible. This is a key conceipt that goes to the core problem. I am not omniscient and neither are the police, FBI, etc. The ticking time bomb scenario requires that we know, for certain, who is responsible for some imminent disaster.
Straw Man #2: That torture works. Beyond moral issues, torture is a problem because it doesn't work. In fact, the evidence shows conclusively
that torture victims will confess almost immediately to whatever
they think will stop the torture. Waterboarding is particlurly effective because victims crack almost immediately. But again, the point is that they "crack" and confess to anything they think will make the torture stop.
I don't know why either of these straw men persist. Maybe because beating the crap out of the bad guys feels good
. Maybe because it is consistently shown to work in the movies. Maybe because professionals say the same thing I just did but use the phrase "produces unreliable intelligence" and people don't understand what this means.
But, the bottom line is that anyone, no matter how innocent, will confess to anything when tortured making the technique useless.
So no, if I had a ticking time bomb scenario I would not beat the crap out of the bad guy. I'd try to find the fucking bomb.