Oh Yeah? Then why do the Mafia and drug cartels use it?"

Ryan Cooper is an idiot, and by the end of this post, you’ll know why.

Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
Dick Cheney says torture is effective. But the Nazis (and the Soviets and the Viet Cong and the Stasi) would disagree.

Enough. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
In the wake of the Senate report cataloging a whole lot of torture committed by the CIA, Dick Cheney has been reduced to arguing that torturing people — even innocent ones — is worth doing if you eventually get good results. The ends justify the means.
I can see why he makes this argument — he's simply got no other option. It is now obvious that what the CIA did was illegal, brutal torture. Claims that it kept the nation safe are all that Cheney has left.
But Cheney is wrong: Torture doesn't work and never has.
Read more.  Don’t bother.

Here’s a more believable headline:  

Torture always works.  Why do you think it’s been around so long?  I always assumed that liberals were sissy little nerds when they were kids, so obviously Ryan Cooper never had an older brother, or was ever in a situation where older neighborhood kids wanted to extract information from him.

Perhaps, Ryan would like to participate in a little experiment with me.  Here’s what we will do.  Ryan and I will play a little game called “Who gets the money”.  We’ll give Ryan $5000 to hide in a secret location within a designated area.  I will then, attempt to extract from him, the exact location of the money.  If Ryan is able to go one hour minute without revealing where the money is, he can keep it.  If however, I am able to get him to reveal the location, the money is mine.

I have quite a few tools at my disposal that would do well for extracting the information, but I think that I would choose to go with this:


The seven and one half inch right angle grinder with optional wire brush attachment.  After attacking a piece of rusty steel in front of him with that bad boy, I’d probably wouldn’t even have to touch him with it.  Of course, then he would have to admit that torture (even the mere threat of torture) does indeed work.

Where do these people come from, and how do they get into such prominent positions, when they say such things that are so obviously ridiculous and wrong?


  1. Well, there is one problem with your analogy, as given: you know of the existence of the $5,000. Therefore, you have a way to sift truth from untruth when interrogating Ryan. He can't misdirect or misinform you, except within the parameters of your game. Also, you and Ryan are of the same culture, and you can read his 'tells' to a greater or lesser extent.

    Now, admittedly, I am not a spy or a torturer, so I am only speculating about the ability of same to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to tortured prisoners singing to you. But, the track record of the CIA would suggest that the torturers are not as bright as the movies would like you to think. Also, any student of human nature would suggest that torturers are more than likely drawn to torture because they are sociopaths and would like nothing better than to torture "legally" for fun and profit, in the manner of Josef Mengele. Which is to say, that extracting useful information and being intelligent and well-trained enough to recognize useful information from bullshit, are lesser concerns to torturers than the kicks involved in torturing a prisoner. How many 'patriots' do you think work for the CIA, etc.? FWIW.

    1. That is an excellent comment. I'm really impressed, and I'm not being facetious. I can't ever remember being countered by a better argument. Your's was clear, concise, and convincing. My hat's off to you. You did a very good job.

      That being said, I still believe that if it were I, that someone was trying to get information from, I would be much more likely to reveal that information if they were torturing me, as opposed to using any other information gathering technique.

      What you said in your last paragraph is almost certainly true, but all things considered, that does not mean that would necessarily a negative when it came to extracting information. If a country, crime syndicate, or whatever, had a reputation having of people like you described, in charge of interrogation, I would have to imagine that any prisoners would be spilling their guts(figuratively) before they even got near the interrogation room, where they feared they would be spilling their guts, literally

      Maybe, your last paragraph holds the key to avoiding unnecessary torture while still being effective at retrieving information. We don't need to be ruthless, all we need is the reputation of being ruthless. Of course, that would mean being ruthless to a few unfortunate souls and allowing it to be made public..

      The simple fact is, that is an awful, scary business, where the other side is almost certainly not going to follow any new rules we set for ourselves about holding back, which gives our enemies not only an advantage at efficient extraction of information, it also gives them a psychological advantage against any of our captured operatives, who would be certain what awaits them is guaranteed to be more harsh than anything we could ever dish out. Likewise, enemy operatives would consider us weak and have little cause to give us any information they may have.

      Thank you for the comment. Once again, it was awesome. It almost convinced me to change my mind, but not quite.

  2. Thanks. I'm of two minds about the subject, and it's not one that I will dwell on - too much on my plate. I am concerned about the "civilized nations don't torture argument." On the other hand, I think that, historically, 'rules of war' like the Geneva Convention were rules instituted within a particular extended culture, i.e. Christendom, and that adherence to those rules with either non-Christian belligerents or non-Christian/non-state belligerents is likely naive and foolish. I'm not so naive as to think that the Allies did not use torture in WWII, but, it would have been selective, and, officially, did not exist because of the intra-cultural nature of the conflict (I know Nazis were anti-Christian, but not all Germans were), and the taboo attached - torture being 'beyond the pale' in that civilization. Still, judicious use would be wise - I doubt most jihadis can spell their names much less give information of military use.

    1. It's all a matter of the image we want to portray vs. the information we want to extract. If the U.S. ever does eliminate the use of torture, it better keep it a secret, or we will never get any information out of anybody. On the other hand, if we could somehow develop the reputation of being the worst torturers on the planet, we could get much of the information we want without laying a hand on anyone. One of the biggest problems we face here is that there is no way of knowing exactly what other nations do as far as torture goes, let alone controlling controlling what they do. One thing we must not do, is voluntarily put ourselves at a disadvantage relative to them.

  3. Does torture work? Sometimes......on some people. If the intel you seek is easily corroborated then it's not such a big deal. Maybe the guy lied, maybe he didn't, you'll find out
    from secondary sources. If he's truthful fine, if he lied then next time he gets hurt even more.

    But what if the intel you get cannot be checked, what if you are risking lives based on words wrung from the mouth of pain.....are you willing to risk the lives of YOUR people on that intel?

    The mafia and the drug lords use torture because the intel they get is useful.....but what is even MORE USEFUL is simply the fact that people know they WILL use torture. The military and governments allegedly use torture for the specific reason of gaining facts, NOT for the innate pain it causes or the psychological warfare aspect. In the former there is little to lose by using torture but in the latter the risks from specious confessions can be significant.

    So torture does work....on some people, some of the time, for some purposes. But for military intel? Not so much.

    1. We are at war with these terrorists. Maybe not an war officially declared by congress against some specific nation, but the phrase "War on Terror" has been used enough, that most of us can agree that we are essentially, at war with them.

      Many people may say that war is no excuse for the use of torture and I do, truly understand what they are saying, but at the same time, it is ridiculous. Even in standard warfare, when both armies are following all of the the rules of the Geneva Convention, individual soldiers on both sites get injured and suffer every bit as much as a prisoner that gets tortured.

      If we are facing 1000 enemy soldiers in a particular battle, what right do we have to take out any individual enemy soldier? If we wound one severely, we are still facing 999. What benefit did wounding that one soldier have for us?

      The potential benefit from getting information from a prisoner that you strongly suspect of having useful information, is almost always greater than the potential benefit from taking out any single soldier in battle, although the physical suffering involved is often equal.

      I have a hard time accepting the premise that it is OK to shoot at the enemy, it's OK to use flame throwers on them, it's OK to bomb them, it's OK to throw grenades at them, but it is not OK to get information from them by any means necessary.

      Torture, like everything else in war is bad. The best way to eliminate the use of torture is to eliminate the circumstances where anyone would think it could be necessary. The best way to eliminate those circumstances is to eliminate war, and the only way I know of for us to effectively eliminate war (at least wars that we are involved in) is to develop and maintain a reputation of power, strength, even ruthlessness, and a willingness to use that power, if necessary.

      WWII only lasted about four years (for us) because we threw everything we had at the enemy. If we nuked Japan, I'm sure we used torture against the enemy, and used it often, and if we didn't, I would like someone to explain to me how those two sets of values could ever possibly coexist within the same government.

      The war on terror is an unconventional war, which necessarily warrants the use of unconventional tactics. War always causes atrocities that are both simultaneously, inexcusable and unavoidable. The only thing a righteous nation can do is, win a war as quickly as possible by using any means necessary, or better yet, avoid war by making sure potential enemies fear it.