In the Wall Street Journal, former George W. Bush speechwriter William McGurn lays out some hard truths about some of Bush’s anti-terror policies:
During the 2008 campaign, for example, Mr. Obama asserted it was “the fact” that Mr. Bush “championed a strategy that distracted us from capturing bin Laden, that focused on Iraq, that had nothing to do with 9/11.” Now, however, we learn that we discovered the courier’s close tie to bin Laden through a top al Qaeda operative, Hassan Ghul, captured in 2004 . . . in Iraq.
During the campaign, we learned that waterboarding and other enhanced interrogations were “torture” plain and simple—”something that undermines our long-term security.” Now we learn that these interrogations in fact gave us operable clues about the courier’s identity.
During the campaign, Mr. Obama told a crowd at an Iowa rally that he was “frustrated with warrantless wiretaps and the undermining of our civil liberties”—and he voted against allowing the National Security Agency to listen in on foreign terrorists calling the U.S. (before flip-flopping on the issue six months later). Now we learn that intercepts of overseas phone calls helped give us the courier’s real name.
But Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner, without dodging the facts, doesn’t think effectiveness is the final word:
But an action can be evil while still producing good effects.
You might rob an old lady at gunpoint and use the money to save your sick kid, but that doesn’t mean the robbery was good. Deliberately slaughtering thousands of innocent people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended an awful war, saved American lives, and may have even saved lives on net, but that doesn’t make it okay, in my book.
I see pro-lifers make the consequentialist argument all the time on stem-cells: embryonic stem cell research has produced no cures, while adult stem cells have been very useful. Fine. That’s another argument against destroying embryos and subsidising this destruction. But does that mean that once an embryonic stem cell cures a single person, we have to accept them?
So, back to torture. Torture opponents shouldn’t put all their eggs in the consequentialist basket. There’s nothing inherent in torture to make it a totally unreliable way to get intelligence. There is, however, something inherent in torture at odds with human dignity.