The Corner

Re: Not Pro-Torture, Just Pro-Facts

Andrew Sullivan has a post up on his Daily Dish taking a shot at me as well. He begins by saying generously: “Cliff May has done great work over the years advancing democracy and defending human rights.” He goes on to link to one of my Corner posts and to say that my “defense of torture when and only when America does it deeply undermines his credibility and makes a mockery of his previous work.”

In fact, in just about everything I’ve written and said, I’ve taken pains to emphasize that I oppose torture. However, I do think (1) it’s important to define torture so we know what we are talking about, and (2) all forms of “stress and duress” utilized to elicit cooperation from a terrorist in possession of life-saving information are not torture.

Every opponent I’ve debated on has taken this tactic — labeling me as “pro-torture,” refusing to grapple with definitions, and refusing to consider whether there may be methods of interrogation that are unpleasant but fall short of torture.

This is especially important because we now know that Islamists believe their religion forbids them to cooperate with infidels — until they have reached the limit of their ability to endure the hardships the infidel is inflicting on them.* In other words: Imagine an al-Qaeda member who would like to give his interrogators information, who does not want continue fighting, who would prefer not to see more innocent people slaughtered. He would need his interrogators to press him hard so he can feel that he has met his religious obligations — only then could he cooperate.  

But just try to get anyone in the “anti-torture” camp to seriously debate any of this.

* “Brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardships.” — Abu Zubaydah, quoted in released CIA memos

Clifford D. MayClifford D. May is an American journalist and editor. He is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ...


The Latest