On April 16, President Obama released the now-infamous torture memos along with a covering statement that said the CIA’s old interrogation methods not only failed to “make us safer” but undermined “our moral authority.” A week later, a woman holding the hand of a child walked into a throng in Baghdad and blew herself up. Apparently she had not heard of our new moral authority.
By Richard Cohen
The Washington Post
That term — “moral authority” — gets used a lot. There is such a thing, I suppose, although a suicide bomber probably thinks he or she has it in abundance. Whatever it may be, however, it is an awfully thin reed upon which to construct a foreign policy. I, for one, am glad we’re no longer torturing anyone, but ceasing this foul practice will not in any way make Americans safer. We prohibit torture for other reasons.
Yet the debate over torture has been infected with silly arguments about utility: whether it works or not. Of course it works — sometimes or rarely, but if a proverbial bomb is ticking, that may just be the one time it works. I refer you to the 1995 interrogation by Philippine authorities of Abdul Hakim Murad, an al-Qaeda terrorist who served up extremely useful information about a plot to blow up airliners when he was told that he was about to be turned over to Israel’s Mossad. As George Orwell suggested in “1984,” everyone has his own idea of torture.