Bedtime for Bono
He once said this:
"Today I read in the Economist an article reporting that over 38 percent of Americans support some type of torture in exceptional circumstances. My country? No. Your country? Tell me no. Today, when I receive this great honor, I ask you, I implore you as an Irishman who has seen some of these things close up, I ask you to remember, you do not have to become a monster to defeat a monster. Your America’s better than that."
Now, I am not familiar with the poll the Economist cites but I am quite surprised. I am surprised the number of Americans not willing to support torture in exceptional circumstances is not MUCH higher.
For it doesn't require that much imagination to imagine circumstances where the torture of an individual would be justified in order to save many more lives.
Or just one.
Think the original Dirty Harry.
Creep has little girl kidnapped and buried alive. Creep is captured but refuses to say where his victim is buried. Time is running out on her. What does Harry Callahan do? He steps on the creep's bullet-wounded leg and induces pain until he talks.
What would you do? What would you countenance if the girl were your daughter, a friend's daughter, or even a little girl you didn't know half way around the world?
This is akin to the "ticking bomb" scenario. To say that torture can never be used, is never justified, strikes me as simple-minded, feel good morality.
Bono cites the humiliations inflicted at Abu Graib as being hurtful to America's reputation. That is, of course, true. But these were not acts of American policy. These were the acts of a few ill disciplined and ill trained renegade reserve soldiers who are being fairly punished.
Bono says, "You don't have to become a monster to defeat a monster."
True. But sometimes you have to do monstrous things to defeat a monster. Think Dresden. Think Hiroshima.
If Bono, or anyone thinks that 62 percent of Americans will never contenance "torture" I think he and they are wrong. Give them the right scenario, and they will contenance it until the cows come home. And so will Bono's fellow Irishman.
UPDATE: In thinking about this further, it seems to me people who say they are "never" in favor of "torture" are simply thinking about the sort of torture used by dictators and their secret police for the purpose of terrorizing and controlling their populations. They inflict it on the innocent to enhance their own for power.
Many are sadists who inflict torture for their own sexual pleasure. These are the Uday Husseins of the world. They truly are monsters.
But the Jack Bauers of the world use torture in the most exceptional of circumstances to extract information from bad guys to save innocent lives.