Friday, October 20, 2006

A third world attitude to torture

The BBC's recent global survey on attitudes to torture has produced some disturbing results. 27,000 respondents in 25 countries were asked to select between two competing statements about torture:

  • Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights standards against torture.
  • Terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should now be allowed to use some degree of torture if it may gain information that saves innocent lives.

Globally, 59% of respondents opposed torture, while 29% thought it might be permissible. But this average masks a clear division between first and third world. Respondents from civilised countries - Australia, France, Germany, Canada - tended to overwhelmingly oppose torture, with 75 - 80% against versus only 20 - 25% in favour. Respondents from the rest of the world tended to be less opposed, with 55 - 65% opposed and 30 - 40% in favour. And guess which category the US fell into? That's right - the uncivilised world. Support for torture in the US is around the same as that in China (36% vs 37%), though they do have a higher level of opposition as well. Another nail in the coffin of the "land of the free"...


I would love to see that broken down into a state-by-state graph, or just as good, broken down into Dmocrat and Republican voters from 2004. I imagine that it would well highlight the fact that the US has become two starkly opposed ideologies unhappily co-existing within the same country.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/20/2006 03:59:00 PM

Uh. It's all very well using 1st world/3rd world, but civilised/uncivilised?

I don't think anybody will be dreadfully surprised by this. I mean, most of the US legislature voted for the torture bill.

Posted by Chris Nimmo : 10/20/2006 04:01:00 PM

Yes what's this term civilised? It is one thing to criticise a government, i.e. US and China, but are the Chinese uncivilised? are Americans uncivilised? Can you really expect a decent sample in authoritarian states to answer a BBC survey reliably?

This survey is interesting, but nothing more.

Posted by Libertyscott : 10/20/2006 11:46:00 PM

Why am I not surprised?

But looking strictly at the pragmatic side of things, torture categorically does NOT produce good intelligence. Good, reliable intelligence can only be gained by using psychological techniques, corroborating other information, etc.

In other words, to gain good intelligence, it requires hard work, not thuggery. Torture anyone & they will tell you WHATEVER you want to hear. The Salem witch trials for example-- how many people admitted to being 'witches' engaged in various magical happenings, etc.

Pragmatically speaking, torture has NEVER produced reliable information & it never will.

The US Army Field Manual has (or had-- they revised it recently in light of this travesty) very specific methods used to gain intelligence, and torture (including waterboarding, the cold cell, etc.) are also specifically forbidden.

The thing is, Bush has failed to provide true security by having torture as policy, because no reliable information can be gained that way.

So looking at it strictly from a pragmatic perspective, its ineffective & dangerous. Not to mention its political implications and the (obvious) moral implications.

~ Josh

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 12:24:00 PM

And on a more personal note...

As a teenager in the 80s I read Orwell's 1984, as well as The Gulag Archipalego, Primo Levi & other books on totalitarianism & the techniques used.

And there was a time when I was proud to be an American-- I believed the American ideal was to stand up for the freedom of the individual & to stand up against oppression (OK, this was a bit naieve on my part, but I was a teenager at the time).

I have not felt at home in this country for years now for various reasons & I am ashamed of what this government has done IN MY NAME.

When 9/11 happened, what horrified me FIRSTLY was that HUMAN BEINGS died, and secondly that many of those people were American. But it wasn't long after that that I saw a terrible tribalism rising. The 'left' in this country is impotent & are just as much to blame as the Republicans. This country is changing into something monstrous & I am ashamed of it.

~ Josh

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 12:33:00 PM

Indeed, the USA has ceased to be a "developed" country in the sense of democratic and liberal values. With its economy polarizing along with its politics, it may cease to be "developed" economically, too. I shudder to think of what our international politics will look like if current trends can't be reversed.

Posted by MSS : 10/23/2006 06:11:00 AM

According to this link
25% of strong Democrats would support torture compared to 66% of strong Republicans. The results of a NCR poll
Shows that religon wise only 26% of Catholics would be against torture under all circumstances compared to 41% of secularists.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/19/2007 09:59:00 PM