Some old friends and I were enjoying a spirited discussion of torture via email yesterday, and I presented them with a hypothetical that I thought I’d post here as well. It neatly bundles up all the reasons why torture is wrong. While the situation is hypothetical, Pete is a real life friend of mine who is a dentist in the Army Reserve Dental Corps. I forget what rank he is, but he’s an officer.
Let’s say that Pete is deployed to Iraq, and, while on the way to get a falafel sandwich, is captured by Iraqi insurgents who happen to be former members of the Iraqi secret police. Pete is a US Army officer, and the insurgents feel like they have nabbed a high value prisoner. They are concerned about future US air strikes killing their family members. They would like to know whether there are any plans for the US to bomb their neighborhood, and figure that Pete might be able to help them out.
Would it be wrong for them to torture Pete? As far as they’re concerned, he’s their best shot at keeping their families from getting blown up.
And what’s Pete’s best shot at not getting tortured? He can keep telling them that he’s only a dentist and he doesn’t know anything about military plans, but isn’t that exactly what someone trained to resist interrogation would say?