On Friday Mike put up a piece reporting that the Tory MP Bob Stewart, a former army officer, had declared that ‘torture works’. Mike’s short piece commented that this was because Stewart clearly didn’t know the difference between right and wrong, and that they didn’t teach morality at Sandhurst.
He also included a Tweet by Laurie Penny, stating that the same could be said for chemical weapons, cluster bombs and genocide. But that wasn’t the issue.
Indeed not. The issue is whether they are at all moral, and whether a nation that considers itself civilised should be using them. In all of the above, the answer is clearly ‘No’.
I think Mike is, however, wrong about morality not being taught at Sandhurst. A few years ago one of the alternative BBC channels ran a series following a group of cadets at the training academy. This showed them being taught and discussing the issue of morality in war. I got the impression that this is a major part of the course, and that much more could have been shown.
That does not mean that British officers are morally unimpeachable boy scouts. Unfortunately, the army has more committed atrocities. But it has also been trying to rebut any reputation it might have acquired for cruelty and incompetence. Remember a little while ago, when the recruitment films being run on Channel 4 and the commercial channels showed British squaddies nobly helping to police the distribution of food aid? Or showing tough but caring female squaddies looking after traumatised women, who’d had their menfolk butchered before being raped themselves? That was the image the British army wanted then.
Torture doesn’t work. Members of the intelligence services have said that it doesn’t provide any usable information. Which shouldn’t really surprise anyone, as people in extreme pain will say whatever they can to make it stop.
Instead, it lowers us to the same level as the thugs who use it, like al-Qaeda and ISIS, and acts to further radicalise our opponents against us. If we are known to brutalise and torture our enemies and suspects, this will be used against us by the terrorists, who will claim that this justifies their campaigns against us. If we espouse torture, then we’re handing our enemies a major propaganda weapon.
But clearly Bob Stewart doesn’t understand that. Probably because he’s a Tory, and the whole party’s platform seems to consist on inflicting pain and degradation to those they consider inferior, including the poor and helpless in British society.