The Common Good

One More Reason to Oppose Torture

Abu Zubaydah was submitted to waterboarding at least 83 times. (I'm not sure how many times he was subjected to other forms of torture.) While being tortured he told investigators many things. None of them led to the prevention of any major terrorist plot and some of them quickly became wild goose chases. In fact, interrogaters got the most useful information from him before torture was introduced as an interrogation method.

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Khalid Shaikh Mohammad was waterboarded at least 183 times. Apparently he had not yet provided enough useful information after being waterboarded 182 times that it was deemed necessary to torture him one more time. Does this make any sense?

Two people. Two hundred sixty-six instances of torture (at least). Osama bin Laden is still free and running al Qaeda. No major plans were foiled. America is now viewed as a nation of torturers around the world, and when we speak of human rights our voice is brushed aside because of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Let's set aside the theological, biblical, and ethical issues with torture for the moment. While I believe that we shouldn't torture because it is sinful, morally indefensible, and a violation of all international understandings and declarations of human rights, I also believe it should be political dogma to refuse to torture because it is ineffective and does long term damage to our safety.

Torture is a questionable, at best, method of interrogation because it is unreliable. People will say anything to make the torture stop. One must go on to verify if the information is true because it usually cannot be known in the moment if it is true or not. One cannot know if the plans that are described under torture are accurate or still relevant since they are no longer present to develop such plans. And in the case of Zubaydah we wasted countless hours, days, even years questioning someone we thought was much more important to al Qaeda than he ever dreamed of being.

In the end, the only thing we gained from torturing our enemies was gaining more of them. Images of Abu Ghraib are now spray-painted on walls in the Middle East. It has become a form of graffitti that people use to make sure they "Never Forget." Because of our approved use of torture, our country is now less safe than it would be if we never used it. In the interest of our commitment to human rights, the safety of our country, and the dictates of our God, we must ensure that we never torture again. It simply makes no sense.

Jimmy McCartyJimmy McCarty is a student at Claremont School of Theology studying Christian ethics, a minister serving cross-racially at a church in inner-city Los Angeles, and a servant at a homeless shelter five days a week. He blogs at

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