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Private Bergdahl and the Silence of the Pro-Torture Crowd


The pro-torture crowd sure seems quiet about the plight of 23-year-old private Bowe R. Bergdahl, the American soldier being held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Why the silence?

For eight years the pro-torture crowd has been defending the propriety of subjecting prisoners and detainees to such things as waterboarding, repeated waterboarding, walling, beatings, forced nudity, involuntary sexual acts, and even actions that “inadvertently” resulted in death.

And for 8 years, the anti-torture crowd, including those of us here at The Future of Freedom Foundation, have been arguing against all of this, primarily on moral grounds.

But ever since allegations about the torture began surfacing 8 years ago, we’ve also been making another argument, a practical one involving U.S. soldiers. We have continually argued that the use of such “interrogation techniques” would inevitably subject U.S. soldiers taken captive to the same mistreatment.

Of course, even if the U.S. were treating its prisoners and detainees properly, it’s always possible that the other side would nonetheless mistreat U.S. personnel taken captive. But one thing is for sure: Once the U.S. government took the torture road, it lost all moral standing to insist on the proper treatment of American soldiers taken captive. And it virtually guaranteed that U.S. personnel would be subjected to the same or similar methods of mistreatment, or worse.

Suppose the Taliban releases videos showing Bergdahl naked, with Taliban soldiers, both male and female, standing around him and leering at him and laughing at him. Then, suppose that after that the video shows him being repeatedly waterboarded, maybe once or twice a day. Then, suppose it shows him in stress positions for long periods of time and being intentionally denied sleep over several weeks. Suppose he’s thrown up against walls and beaten. Suppose he’s “inadvertently” killed during his interrogation.

What possibly could the pro-torture crowd say? That none of this constitutes a proper interrogation technique? That it’s unfair? Wouldn’t the whole world laugh at such claims? After all, if these things constitute proper interrogation techniques for prisoners and detainees in U.S. custody, why don’t they constitute proper interrogation techniques for American soldiers and CIA personnel taken captive?

The Taliban has released a video in which Bergdahl requests the American people to bring about the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan. Given that the pro-torture crowd has long argued that confessions that U.S. “interrogation techniques” have produced are voluntary and valid, I wonder if the pro-torture crowd would say the same about Bergdahl’s statement.

During the entire time that the anti-torture crowd was making this pragmatic argument against torture, the pro-torture crowd was pasting those “support the troops” stickers on their vehicles. I can’t help but wonder if Private Bergdahl might be saying to himself right now, “With friends like those in the pro-torture crowd, who needs enemies?”

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.