I am familiar with your argument. If you had an al-Qaida operative in front of you, who had planted a bomb about to go off, would you hit him until he told you it was about to go off. Of course you would - I would, anyway.Recently, on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze, a representative of Amnesty was asked what he would do if he had a known bomber locked up and a known bomb planted. He (unfortunately) ducked the question directly, and simply asserted that the intelligence officer who conducted the 'interrogation' should still be charged afterwards, and the extenuating circumstances be taken into account.
That is, and remains, my position. Torture is wrong, and has to be illegal. But sometimes, if you have the proverbial bomb scenario, you break the rules, and get the job done, by whatever means are necessary. After the fact, investigations are made and charges are put.
- Crime: torture known terrorist.
- Extenuating circumstances: saved major city from nuclear (or whatever) attack.
But real life isn't that clear cut. What we are talking about is completely different. In Uzbekistan thousands of people are tortured every year, and at least 99% of them are nothing to do with terrorism, as in completely innocent. And a fair number of those die under torture. Most of them are just religous Muslims.There's a difference between extracting information from a known terrorist operative that you know can save lives, and using torture as a method of state control and repression.
Life isn't black and white. It's not "with us or against us". Some things are clearly wrong, but sometimes, well, you do what you must, and you face up to the consequences. Back to Craig, this time in a comment on Brian's blog linked above (emphasis mine):
in Uzbekistan the horror hits you in the face. The very nice old lady whose front gate was opposite mine, a member of a banned democratic opposition party, was attacked in the lane by the Uzbek intelligence services, not twenty metres from the Residence gate. They broke her legs, poured paint down her throat, and run her over in an army truck. She was my friend. (Fortunately she survived).If we're supposed to be the 'good guys'. If the current justification for the removal of Saddam was that he was an evil nasty tyrant who tortured his citizens. Why were we knowingly supporting a regime that was, from what I can tell, just as bad?
When I had dinner with the distinguished dissident Professor Mirsaidov in Samarkand, that same night his grandson was abducted and killed after many hours of appalling torture. The body was dumped outside the family home after I left. The Russian Ambassador told me, from his excellent sources, that this was intended as a warning to both dissidents and me not to meet each other.
My horror at all this and at the extent of US involvement strained my relationship with the office, and they asked me to resign
If the government had argued “Yes, we did accept a lot of information from the Uzbeks, knowing it might very probably come from torture, but we have to protect the UK”, (which I think is a fair summary of the line you argue above) I would not have released these documents. But the government has not been saying that. They have trotted out such obfuscations and circumlocutions, even in the face of direct parliamentary inquiry, that I think it now amounts to lying.One last word. Some blogs and commenters have stated that Murray is nothing but a self-publicist, that he only seeks to sell his book. OK. That may, in fact, be true. But his book is telling the story of his experiences with an oppressive, nasty regime, and our govts complicity in keeping that regime in power. Even if he is only out for himself (which is not my reading), I don't care. I want that story to be told.
This isn't about torture as always wrong. This is about torture as an instrumentof state repression, and our Govts support of that repression.