In the movie The Battle of Algiers, you see the French officers excuse torture as a way to get the information they need to fight the rebels. They shock men, burn them with torches, break their spirits and souls.
But it doesn't work.
The more the French torture, the more the Algerians resist. They plant bombs, they shoot police. They take back Algiers for a couple of years, but that's all.
All that torture did in Algeria was cost the support of the French public for the war.
Hillary Clinton told the New York Daily News editorial board that "she approved of torture in limited circumstances." Of course she's wrong, but why would she say such a thing?
Because like many people, she is misinformed about torture. The example she used, like many people, is the ticking time bomb. Of course, that makes no sense. We can write this off to triangulation, but it's deeper than that.
If there is a bomb, the terrorist merely has to suffer for a few hours or at most a few days. John McCain suffered years of torture.
No matter what you did, the terrorist could simply buy time with pain and then the attack happens. You doubt that, you haven't seen much football played.
Jen and I have a friend who in his mispent youth was a Special Forces operator. Operator is the name they use for our elite soldiers. Well, he was an SF sergeant and he was overseas. And what he told us over dinner was this.
"Torture doesn't work. I've seen this first hand."
I knew he wasn't bullshitting because he didn't get into the details. Veterans rarely do. The more a person says they saw combat, the more they're likely full of shit.
SF people and their operator friends are among the fiercest opponents of torture, partly because it doesn't work, partly because they might be on the other end of it.
I know Hillary was trying to sound resolute, but sounded weak instead. Torture isn't a tactical debate, it is a moral one. Now, I honestly don't think Hillary has ever sat in a room with a grizzled SF or Delta operator and asked him, away from the cameras and the press people, if beating the shit out of someone works. And over coffee or a drink, they would tell her no. Not only that it didn't work, but it was wrong, morally unacceptable.
The reason Hillary can believe in the ticking bomb excuse for torture is that she has never thought it through. Because like many people, she sees the kind of person who would plant a bomb as a coward, and they are not. Misguided, even evil, sure, but cowardly? No. If we could have tortured Mohammed Atta, does anyone think he would have talked in a timely manner? A man prepared to die for a cause is prepared to suffer the same cause.
I don't think Hillary Clinton is amoral. She thinks torture may save innocent life.
The problem is someone needs to tell her that she is dead wrong. Torture appeals to sadists, it doesn't work in real life. Hell, it doesn't really work on 24.