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Torture, Plain and Simple

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May 1, 2009

Since the release of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) torture memos a few weeks ago, the public discussion about torture has been robust, to say the least. First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that empirical evidence suggests that torture is an ineffective tool in securing valid information. In other words, torture doesn’t work.

Despite this crucial fact, the torture conversation has gotten muddied with irrelevant tangents. The media has been touting public polls about what Americans think about torture.

Let’s be clear: These things don’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if torture works, because it’s illegal. (Heather at Crooks & Liars points to Salon’s Joan Walsh slamming this “does it work?” argument.)

And it doesn’t matter what the polls say, because it’s still illegal. The use of torture isn’t a popularity contest.

And while we’re at it, let’s call a spade a spade. As constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said on Rachel Maddow the other night:

It’s obviously disturbing to hear torture still referred to by the president as a “technique.” That’s like saying bank robbery is a “technique” for withdrawing money from a bank. It’s not a “technique”, it’s a crime…

Despite the past eight years, the United States is governed by the rule of law. We don’t sign treaties only to disregard them, and we don’t allow those who break the law to go unpunished.

Let’s reconsider the torture argument in these terms: Do we want to be known to the rest of the world as a country that flagrantly ignores its own laws, not to mention the international human rights laws it agrees to? Does our government have a “do as we say, not as we do” approach to the law?

We do not. So let’s refocus here. Torture is illegal: There’s no two ways about it. It’s never acceptable. As Attorney General, Eric Holder is obligated to enforce and uphold the laws of this country. Remind him of this sacred duty by signing our petition calling for an independent prosecutor to investigate those who authorized the torture of detainees.

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