Among the many, many, many problems with running a torture program (beyond being morally problematic and with no history of effectiveness) is the fact that it makes it easier for others to justify torture programs as well. It's now come out that ISIS has been waterboarding prisoners
, including reporter James Foley whom they recently beheaded. Waterboarding, of course, was one of the CIA's favorite torture techniques. And, of course, people had warned for years that having the CIA waterboard people would only encourage others to use the technique against Americans. Hell, even Senator Dianne Feinstein condemned waterboarding
a few years ago, because it would lead others to do it against the US:
Waterboarding dates to the Spanish Inquisition and has been a favorite of dictators through the ages, including Pol Pot and the regime in Burma. Its practice is designed to nearly drown a subject and make them think they're going to die.
Torture - including waterboarding - is immoral and illegal. It violates U.S. and international law and the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering. Condoning torture opens the door for our enemies to do the same to captured American troops in the future.
Of course, beheading people is even worse that waterboarding them, and that seems to be the "defense" that administration officials are using to downplay the discovery of ISIS waterboarding techniques. "Hey, at least it's not as bad as beheading" is hardly a compelling response to finding out that ISIS is using CIA and DOJ-approved torture techniques.
The FBI, which is investigating Foley’s death and the abduction of Americans in Syria, declined to comment. The CIA had no official comment.
“ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people,” a U.S. official, using one of the acronyms for the militant group. “To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL’s brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”
Yes, it's true that ISIS seems to have little concern about what techniques it's using, but to argue that the CIA's prolific use of torture and waterboarding has had no impact on how groups treat captured Americans seems like a stretch. At the very least, it takes away any
chance of a moral high ground to argue about the specific techniques being used, and at worst contributes to the reasons why these groups feel justified in what they're doing.