At Pharyngula, PZ Meyers lets off a blast of anti-torture steam that must have been building up for some time:
Here is all that torture is good for: inspiring fear in a population.
When the US government announces it’s support for torture, they aren’t talking about intelligence gathering: they are simply saying “Fear us.” They are taking the first step on the road to tyranny.
The real problem is that fear isn’t a good tool to use in a democratic society. We are supposed to be shareholders in our government; when a process of oppression is endorsed by our legislators and president, we should recognize that they are trying to set themselves apart from the ordinary citizenry, and it’s time to rebel…before the goon squads come to your neighborhood. Anyone who supports torture is a traitor to the democratic form of government, and should be voted out of office, if not impeached.
Not so. A more accurate way to summarize the torture debate is to say that it’s imperative that the U.S. indicate that it will match terrorists at every level of the fight. So yes, on one level it is about inspiring fear, but the fear that’s necessary is that which must be impressed on the hearts of ruthless enemies who terrorize the innocent and prey on the tolerance of better societies than their own.
As such the use of torture is a tool that, while repugnant and often ill-advised, is a necessary evil that may have to be wielded in defense of democracy.
I know that some are going to crawl out of the woodwork and say that this merely serves to lower our nation and its citizens to the level of the terrorists.
Such statements are not true. Individuals and nations alike are entitled to defend themselves against attack. While value judgments about the appropriate intensity of that response can be amusing when penned by a deft, clever hand, one thing should remain clear throughout the discussion: All that is necessary for terrorists to avoid a potentially devastating response of this nation’s security apparatus to their lawless behavior is to lay down their arms, pick up their Koran, and make a proper separation of right and wrong based on their own interpretation of the book rather than relying on the mob-rousing clerics who incite them to the heinous acts they perform.
It goes without saying, of course, that Meyers’ article in opposition to a government tactic would be his death sentence in virtually every one of the nations that spawn Islamic terrorism.
A better use of freedom would be to defend its continued existence at home rather than arguing for the non-existent rights of an implacable, murderous foe whose core values demand the complete extermination of the freedoms that allow articles such as ours to be written free of fear.