Ignatieff: Torture Redux

In last month's Prospect, Michael Ignatieff wondered if torture, under some circumstances, may make us safer.In the May issue Steve Crawshaw, UK director of Human Rights Watch, answers with a firm no.

Crenshaw argues that Ignatieff seemed to answer those questions with, respectively, a “yes, probably” and an “in the circumstances, many might think so.”

Ignatieff opened the door for those with fewer scruples, arguing that “moral prohibition comes at a price” and that those of us who oppose torture should “also be honest enough to admit that we may have a price to pay for our own convictions.”

Ignatieff argued that an absolute ban on torture might prevent our intelligence services from gaining “timely access to information that may save lives.” The “ticking-bomb” scenario, as it is usually known, can seem persuasive. Exposed to reality, however, the hypothetical is no longer so neat. It has damaging consequences for individuals and societies alike.

Crenshaw concludes that "torture degrades the torturer and those who condone it; acceptance of torture undermines the very foundations—and thus the security—of our society. Rules do matter, even if some of our politicians seem reluctant to confront that truth. Iraq today is a country full of ticking bombs. On the face of it, this would seem to be an obvious case where more torture could help keep everyone safer. If you torture hundreds or thousands of alleged radicals, one might confess where or when the next bomb will be placed. In reality, the shameful use of torture has only helped plunge Iraq into ever deeper instability."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Michael Ignatieff wants to have his cake and eat it too. Let's hope that he comes cleaner on his views on the issues before the leadership campaign is over. if not he'll become clouded with more ambiguity than Paul Martin