Confessions provoked by torture are OK, as long as the US is doing the torturing

| April 5, 2007 | 4 Replies

We’re all glad that the British sailors are back home.  Anyone following this story knows that these sailors were treated graciously by their Iranian captors.  Nonetheless, while in captivity, the British sailors admitted that they had been trespassing in Iranian waters when whey were apprehended.

But notice some of the things that have been said about the confessions of the British sailors in this piece by the Associated Press:

None of the sailors and marines freed by Iran will be punished for making apologies to the Iranians . . . The ministry said officials would examine the circumstances in which some of the 15 sailors and marines appeared in videos on Iranian state television offering regrets for entering Iran’s territorial waters, while Britain’s government has insisted they were in Iraqi waters.

Although experts said the broadcast admissions were almost surely made under duress, many British newspapers lashed out at the crew and the country’s military.

“Those were transparently cooked-up confessions. It would be wrong to criticize those people, and besides they were not betraying anything to put anyone at risk,” he said.

The consensus thus seems to be that even when the people taken captive are treated very well they can feel enough duress to confess to things that are false. 

Now let’s shift gears. Compare the above confessions to the confessions conducted through torture conducted by the United States. See here and here and here and here.  The official American position seems to be:  “We torture and they confess. What’s the big deal?”  As though confessions produced through torture are reliable.

Ergo, confessions produced in captivity, even without torture, are not reliable, at least when our allies are the victims.  On the other hand, confessions are no problem at all when they are provoked by waterboarding and other horrible forms of torture conducted by the United States at places like Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in Afghanistan and at secret Central Intelligence Agency detention centers around the world.

“God bless America,” those same conservatives who justify torture are so prone to say.

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Category: Good and Evil, Military, Politics, The Middle East, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Further details are now coming in. Some of the sailors were blindfolded and threatened with going to prison. It is under that "psychological pressure" that they confessed that they had trespassed into Iranian waters. http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSL06524

    The point of this post is still strongly demonstrated. If even the threat of putting people in prison is enough to make a confession untrustworthy, then how trustworthy are confessions obtained by the U.S., especially when the captives WERE in prison (for months and years), were being mauled by dogs, were threatened with electrocution, were half-drowned, were dangled out of high windows, and were beaten, dehydrated, sleep-deprived and made witness to the trashing of their holy books?

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    I just don't get it. I don't understand why so many Americans just can't fathom why people in other countries want us dead, when there are such compelling reasons staring us in the face. This is not to justify terrorist acts, but the Bush Administration is clearly in no position to take the moral high ground on human rights matters. Torturing criminal suspects is just one example. The Bush Administration has also killed far more innocent people than did the 9/11 hijackers — the only difference is that, for the hijackers, the killing was an end in itself, whereas, for the Bush Administration, it was a means to an end. In both cases the deaths were foreseeable, yet both groups were equally indifferent to this fact. When terrorists do the killing, Bush declares it to be "pure evil;" when Bush does the killing, he declares himself to be "protecting the American people." Neither assertion is true; merely self-serving hyperbole.

  3. Jason Rayl says:

    I would venture to say that most people in other countries don't really kow why they want to kill us, either. They have an image fed them–through their media, whatever it may be–of us as The Enemy and know no more about us as people than we do of them. In contests of governments and ideology, it is always "the people" who end up doing the dying.

  4. Ben says:

    Christopher Hitchens Experiences Waterboarding. Here's the link.

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