There is no way to know how many American lives were lost in Iraq due to the tortures we inflicted upon Iraqis at Abu Ghraib and other places. This is no argument of moral equivalence. I have seen the atrocities committed by al Qaeda and other terrorists, and I am not saying that Americans have ever come close to those acts. New Yorkers saw the atrocities of al Qaeda, as did many others.
Yet, when we tortured detainees, we lost something very important, something that America and its allies need in order to prevail against terrorists, not just in Iraq, but all over the world. We scarred our honor.
Torture works. There is no doubt that we can squeeze information from people. A lot of people say that information derived from torture is useless and suspect, and, of course, torture can make someone say anything just to stop the pain. But the fact is, torture does work. That does not mean we should do it. While torture might provide tactical gains, it delivers a strategic blunder. Let’s not argue whether it works or not. Let’s have the hard argument – whether or not it’s consistent with our values. We can obtain short term benefits from using torture, but in the long run we inflict far more pain on ourselves. The scars of torture never heal. Conversely, when detainees are treated with respect, they never forget it.
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