The Corner

Simulated Torture Vs. Real

I’m getting a lot of flack for my point in my syndicated column that Air Force Academy cadets get water-boarded in their training and that therefore it might fall somewhere short of actual torture. Here’s a typical email:

dont you think its a bit preposterous to cite torture simulation as a reason that torture is acceptible? “Our soldiers experience torture simulation as part of their training. Thus it’s okay to torture prisoners.” Do you actually see no difference between a simulation and the real thing? This is not just a ridiculously bad argument as a simple matter of rhetoric, it’s a morally despicable argument that reveals some seriously warped thinking.

Me: Of course I see the difference between the two: it’s a psychological difference. And while I don’t want to be categorical about this and say “as long as it’s only psychological, it’s not torture” I do think this is an important distinction. For example, I think Ted Kennedy made a very good point yesterday when he denounced the “torture memo” because it would allow cutting off fingers because that doesn’t amount to organ failure. Good point. That counts as torture in my book.

Well, you can’t “simulate” cutting off fingers either. Telling a prisoner you’re going to do really terrible things to him in order to get him to give up the goods doesn’t bother me nearly as much as doing those things. Electrocuting the privates of a cadet would be torture, period. I think we’re all on the same page on that. In other words, the fact that something can be simulated accurately without offending our sensibilities suggest that when we do it in reality it might not be as terrible as something we would never dream of even simulating. Depriving terrorists of sleep to get them to spill the beans is not torture it’s interrogation.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More