Driving into London on Friday night, I tuned into Any Questions in time to hear the discussion about torture and terrorism. Emphatic condemnations from all four panellists: there can never, under any circumstances, be a case for using torture. Which is an absolutely respectable position, of course. What irked me was that no one bothered to address any kind of hypothetical, "ticking bomb" circumstances. (Have they ever heard of Alan Dershowitz?) I feel morally obtuse and horrible all round for saying this, but I do think there are extreme situations where torture might be justified. Later that night, after I got home again, the Fox News panel addressed the same subject. A more nuanced debate, I thought: Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes putting the pro-case, Nina Easton laying out the valid fears about abuse of power. It felt slightly more like the real world to me.
More on the murky grey areas from Black Hawk Down author Mark Bowden. I've linked to this piece before.
MORE: A glimpse inside the machine... From today's NYT report on the interrogation of Al Qaeda operative, Abu Zubaydah:
At times, Mr. Zubaydah, still weak from his wounds, was stripped and placed in a cell without a bunk or blankets. He stood or lay on the bare floor, sometimes with air-conditioning adjusted so that, one official said, Mr. Zubaydah seemed to turn blue. At other times, the interrogators piped in deafening blasts of music by groups like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
We now know that Zubaydah wasn't as senior or influential as first thought. Does that make his treatment immoral? Unfortunately, I don't think so.