Thursday, June 14, 2007

What we're reading: A Savage War of Peace

An amazing book, with some stunning insights in particular how the use of torture informs a struggle against an insurgency. Money:
From a purely intelligence point of view, experience teaches that more often than not the collating services are overwhelmed by a mountain of false information extorted from victims desperate to save themselves further agony. Also, it is bound to drive into the enemy camp the innocents who have wrongly been submitted to torture. As Camus declared: "torture has perhaps saved some at the expense of honour, by uncovering thirty bombs, but at the same time it has created fifty new terrorists who, operating in some other way in in another place, would cause the death of even more innocent people." Torture, one feels, is never warranted; one should never fight for a good cause with evil weapons. Again, says Camus, "it is better to suffer certain injustices than to commit them...."
And more:
One of the worst aspects of the admission of torture as an instrument is the wide train of corruption that invariably follows in its wake. In a submission to the "Safeguard Committee" of September 1957, [Paul] Teitgen [head of the Algiers police and himself a Dachau survivor] wrote words that would apply equally to any latter-day authoritarian regime, whether it be Greece, Chile, Spain or the Soviet Union:
Even a legitimate action... can nevertheless lead to improvisations and excesses. Very rapidly, if this is not remedied, efficacity becomes the sole justification. In default of a legal basis, it seeks to justify itself at any price, and, with a certain bad conscience, it demands the privilege of exceptional legitimacy. In the name of efficacity, illegality has become justified.
In a civilised society, torture has no more counter-productive and insidious long-term effect than the way it tends to demoralise the inflicter even more than his victim.
From Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace, Algeria 1954-1962, p. 205, 206.

Supposedly Bush has read this book. I wonder what he thought when he read that passage.

No comments: