Brit Hume: Senator Fûz, the next question is for you. Let's say that we have a terrorist in custody who may know the whereabouts of a ticking nuclear timebomb; would you approve of the use of torture to cause the terrorist to lead us to the bomb?
Fusilier N. Pundit: Brit, that whole question seems to me to be a straw man, and a kind of silly one. We're not going to find ourselves in that situation.
Given the state of our intelligence apparatus, we're not very likely to know that a bomb is out there unless the bombers have disclosed it, and I don't see them doing that. We're also unlikely to have the guy in custody who'd know the whereabouts of such a weapon, or if we did, we wouldn't likely know what that guy knows, to even have the chance to consider torture as a means to get him to spill his guts about it.
And our intelligence services are far too infatuated with hardware and intercepts and datamining, they have neglected the human side of intelligence gathering, so we don't have enough intel assets dedicated to solving that kind of problem. We don't have enough Arabic or Farsi or Urdu speakers, whom we'd need to really get inside the guy's head.
So as I said, the question is a strawman, but in the shadow of that strawman is a serious dialog about the ethics of torture. That's a tough one.
Senator McCain asserts that America would lose something essential about ourselves by taking up torture. He's close but not quite there, and he lost me completely when he said we'd lose the respect of the community of nations, or some such, offsetting anything we'd gain by the information that torture obtained for us.
I don't put much stock in the notion of the community of nations. Many of the nations we're dealing with, either as veiled adversaries or as questionable allies, have terrible records of human rights violations---torture included---that they have perpetrated against their own dissenting citizens, not just captured soldiers.
That said, I agree that we don't torture---we do not maim or disfigure---because if we did we'd be stooping to the level of our adversaries, and we value our own self-image more than we value our own lives. Men in uniform call that honor, and it's a duty we owe to all men in all uniforms, not just American ones.
Note how I qualified that---men in all uniforms, and maim and disfigure. The US military is bound by laws of armed conflict, and they are so bound because our political leaders chose to do so. Those laws of armed conflict are almost as old as armed conflict itself, and they emerged as a coherent system of laws that that reflect how humans behave and expect others to behave.
Those who ignore the laws do not deserve the protection afforded by them. They do not deserve to be called soldiers. They're spies or saboteurs, and those same laws of armed conflict specify a very different standard of treatment for spies and saboteurs.
I believe many of the people we are holding at Guantanamo were unlawful combatants. They were not wearing uniforms, they were hiding among civilians, they were massacring civilians at the time they were taken into custody. As such, we don't owe them the honorable treatment we extended to lawful combatants in past conflicts, or the treatment we expect for our own soldiers should they be captured. We definitely don't owe them legal counsel. At most we need to engage lawyers to determine their status as lawful or unlawful combatants at the time of capture, and from that point forward we know how we're obligated to handle them.
I won't go down a laundry list of interrogation techniques or treatments suitable or unsuitable for unlawful combatants, ruling them yea or nay against that standard; that's something for the JAGs and the generals and our heads of state to discuss behind closed doors. But we have two standards, arising from military tradition and explained by formal laws we've chosen to obey. It is imperative we do not confuse those standards or behave as if the standards didn't exist.
If that means we deprive an unlawful combatant of sleep for a week or two, or we slip him some Ecstasy and one of our female intelligence officers dons a bikini and feeds him a ham sandwich, I see no harm, no foul. Any photographs coming out of that interrogation that we can use to humiliate other muharibun into disclosing their secrets are no harm, no foul either.
Brit Hume: Time's up. Thank you, Mr. Pundit.