5-18-2011By Adam Jacobson
Program Assistant, Law and Security
Stephen Colbert, on his satire factory The Colbert Report, took on the resurgence of torture advocates, skewering their baseless arguments and taking their logic to its absurd end.
As Colbert notes in the segment, in the last election, both President Obama and Senator John McCain opposed torture. They still do. But after the death of Osama bin Laden, the floodgates opened and proponents of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (a euphemism for torture) took to the airwaves to defend the vile practice, saying that those techniques provided the information that lead to bin Laden’s whereabouts.
Except there is no credible evidence that this is true. The justification used by torture advocates is that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (KSM) provided the nickname of bin Laden’s courier after he had been waterboarded 183 times. The waterboarding did not reveal anything, some concede, but made KSM compliant with interrogators. The information was revealed through lawful interrogations because the torture was “loosening the jar by holding it under running water,” as Colbert jokes.
Even if true, this clearly isn’t proof – there’s no evidence that the same information wouldn’t have been gleaned through lawful interrogation rather than torture. So why are we torturing at all, since it’s so reprehensible? Colbert continues, “If there is no indisputable evidence that torture saves lives, there’s only one thing a civilized nation can do: Torture more. We have got to keep torturing until there is one clear case where everyone says that torturing saved lives,” going on to suggest we torture drunk drivers, jay-walkers, and even fast food workers.
As Colbert implies, torture is counterproductive as an interrogation tool. Not only that, it is morally wrong – corroding our nation’s values and standing in the world.