THE OFFICIAL CONSERVATIVE POSITION ON TORTURE?

Marcy Wheeler takes apart Cliff May from National Review, but I can't help but notice the coda to May's argument:

Remember that Abu Zubaydah said: “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.”

Any interrogator worth his salt would understand this means it is his job to bring his subject to the point at which cooperation is no longer betrayal but permitted according to his religious beliefs. Can that be achieved short of torture? Sure. Can it be achieved without coercive interrogation techniques? No, not with subjects who have the beliefs described above.

Aside from May's problems with arithmetic, the assertion that torture is the only way to get valuable information from terrorist suspects is broadly disputed by intelligence experts, including the director of National Intelligence. But I can't help notice that like Marc Thiessen, May is arguing that torture is necessary due to the religious beliefs of the subject being interrogated. The above two assertions are false on their face, Abu Zubayda gave up all his useful information before being tortured, so it's useless to quote his assertion that radicals will only talk if brought to a state of spiritual epiphany through torture.

It's also thinly veiled bigotry posited as an anthropological insight. Is this the conservative position now? We have to torture them because they're Muslims? I assumed Thiessen's argument was too embarrassing to be repeated, but I underestimated the tendency some people have toward using things like race and religion as a basis for dehumanizing treatment.

-- A. Serwer

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