The Corner

Even More SERE

I’ve received many more emails on this topic. A plurality takes issue with my correspondent’s suggestion that a detainee being tortured/interrogated harshly is there no less voluntarily than a trainee, since that detainee can always tell the truth. Emailers point out that this argument assumes, among other things, that the detainee actually knows something and can persuade the interrogator that he has given the whole truth.

Emailer I.H. writes, “In SERE, the person being subjected to the treatment is in charge. If he ORDERS the interrogator to stop via the codeword, the interrogator MUST stop. In our own torture sessions, the interrogator is in charge. He MAY stop if the victim capitulates, but only if HE THINKS the victim is being honest. The victim of torture can’t order his tormentor to stop, only seek to appease him and HOPE he stops. That makes all the difference in the world.”

R. D. Walker counters that trainees are under strong pressure not to quit. As I said before, my own view is that the trainee’s greater confidence that he will survive the experience is the important distinction.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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