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Torture Works!

05/17/2011 Comments (244)

Sometimes torture works. Sometimes the death penalty saves innocent lives.

But so what?

I’m willing to say that enforcing the death penalty on a murderer does deter THAT murderer from ever murdering again. And torturing suspected terrorists sometimes gets the truth out which can lead to bigger fish, a battlefield victory, or the saving of innocent lives.

But I’m still against them both. I think we opponents of torture and capital punishment must stop skirting the consequences of our morality. Why do we insist on having both sides of every argument? We say torture is wrong AND by the way it doesn’t work and don’t you dare say it does because it doesn’t and I’m not listening anymore. We latch onto statements from some folks like John McCain, who admittedly understands torture better than most, and we shut our ears to any and all other voices that differ. But come on, it’s torture—sometimes it works. Is it 100 percent reliable? No. But sometimes torture works.

We often say the death penalty *(as it’s typically applied here in America) is morally wrong AND it doesn’t actually deter crime anyway. In these days of revolving doors on prisons I think an argument can be made that the death penalty is a deterrent because some killers are killed before they can get back out and kill again.

I’m going to repeat this—I’m against the death penalty ... but to say it’s not a deterrent doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Recently, there’s been some evidence that “enhanced interrogation techniques” led to the capture and killing of the evil Osama bin Laden. I know there are conflicting reports, but it’s at least arguable that it led to a great victory for our side. I think it’s fair to argue that without it Osama bin Laden would be alive today still watching porn in his hovel. I’m not exactly all weepy about the capture and killing of Osama, but I’m still against torture. I think we need to be willing to say that we as a society won’t use torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques” but admit that it could lead to innocent deaths somewhere down the line or at least the delayed capture of terrorists who are plotting against us.

Sometimes doing the right thing is painful and costly. We often say “the ticking time bomb” scenario never actually happens. Sure it does. It might be a slow motion time bomb but the consequences may be the same. Too often we want to disregard the fact that when it comes to national security, sometimes doing the right thing might cost lives. It has. There are consequences to Christianity. I think too often we’re trying to skirt those in our argumentation.

The truth in the real world is that sometimes the ruthless guys win. Sometimes the bad guys win precisely because of their willingness to be bad.

Former Navy SEAL Marcus Lutrell tells the story of being on a mission with three other SEALS deep in Afghanistan when three goat herders stumbled onto their position. The team voted on whether to kill them for fear they would reveal their position to the Taliban. In the end, Lutrell and the SEALS allowed them to go free. The released herders immediately betrayed the team’s location to Taliban forces and within an hour the seals were under attack by possibly over 100 Taliban. All except Lutrell were killed. In that case, allowing the goat herders to go free led to the deaths of those good, heroic men. And it was still the right decision.

Look, if we’re arguing efficacy we’ve already lost. It’s not efficacy, it’s ethicacy (new word!). Are we next going to argue that contraception doesn’t sometimes work. Sure it sometimes works, but it doesn’t matter. It’s wrong.

We must stop cornering both sides of these important arguments. Let’s agree that sometimes torture works. Let’s admit that sometimes the death penalty saves innocent lives. But it doesn’t make them right.

*Updated

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About Matthew Archbold

Matthew Archbold
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Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph's University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.