Blogger Paul Hsieh contemplates the ethics of torturing enemy prisoners at Noodlefood, sparked by a recent video in which Fox News reporter Steve Harrigan volunteered to undergo the controversial water-boarding interrogation procedure.
My view is that any form of coercion is not pretty, but is nevertheless often justified and necessary. I remember when I was in the Marines and had to play hostage in an abandoned jail cell for an exercise. Being locked up in a claustrophobic cage with nothing to do for several hours but count the seconds was seriously un-fun. I personally have spent untold hours in confined spaces without ever suffering any worrisome effect, but once that element of personal freedom is removed, even a short stint can be a trial.
In other Marine training, I had to endure several days of play as a captured prisoner of war where cold, damp, hunger and being commanded to sing a bizarre bar song were each used as a means of inflicting discomfort. At 3 AM when you are violently shivering from hypothermia and have to sing the same #$%% song that you've sang for the last 24 hours, life can feel pretty miserable. While I saw the exercise though to its end, I was shocked by the number of men in my unit who didn't. Even relatively mild discomfort can break down a man’s resistance.
Yet ultimately, if making the enemy feel scared, miserable, or even horrified for his life saves American lives and achieves victory, I say let the deed be done. There is only one thing that an enemy can do to save himself from our wrath, and that is surrender completely and totally. If he fails to yield in any way, he continues to wage war against us, and in my view, remains fair game for war to be waged back upon him.