By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Jeff Jacoby tortures torture’s defenders

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes a fine comeuppance to those among his fellow conservatives who claim the killing of Osama bin Laden proves that torture works. Whether waterboarding helped produce the intelligence needed to track down bin Laden is irrelevant, Jacoby says, arguing:

Torture is unreliable, since people will often say anything — invent desperate fictions or diversions — to stop the pain or fear. That doesn’t mean waterboarding will never yield valuable information. Feeding a detainee into an industrial shredder, as Saddam Hussein’s torturers sometimes did, might yield valuable information too. But some techniques are forbidden not because they never work, not because they aren’t deserved, but because our very right to call ourselves decent human beings depends in part on our not doing them.

Jacoby also picks apart the disingenuous notion that waterboarding isn’t torture, citing — as have I and others — the execution of Japanese officers who waterboarded American prisoners of war.

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  1. All of which proves Jeff is one of the more interesting writers around. Just when you think he is totally predictable, he surprises.

  2. Dan Farnkoff

    Kudos to Jacoby. That was a great column. I rarely agree with the man, but he’s 100% correct here.

  3. Mike Benedict

    Blind squirrel finds nut.

  4. peter Sullivan

    “Blind squirrel finds nut.”

    A behind the scenes look at how that comment came about….

    “Mike, someone on a Boston Blog just typed the word conservitive. Quick, take a few minutes away from washing Obamas car and make a liberal comment!!!”

  5. L.K. Collins

    You like looking into a squirrel’s eyes, Mikey?

  6. Brad Deltan

    I’m inclined to agree with Mike, actually. If Jacoby wrote a column like this, say, one time in four? In that case, I’d say his detractors would be too harsh.

    But this is arguably the first time in…what? Years? Decades? Ever? …that Jacoby has written a column that is both provocative AND intelligent/well-reasoned. Most of the time he’s notorious for cherry-picking his facts to prop up some hare-brained argument, the sole purpose for its writing is to annoy people and cause controversy.

    Granted, that’s Jacoby’s job: writing hare-brained crap that pisses off the “liberal elite”. It sells papers and helps de-claw the argument that the Globe is solely a “liberal media outlet”.

  7. a very rare circumstance where I also agreed with Jacoby on almost all his points. Of course, he had to repeat one of the current Republican spins/memes on the killing of bin Laden: “Republicans rightly argue that much credit is owed to George W. Bush, who launched an effective war on terror and pursued it with fierce resolve.”

    … that’s very much open to discussion…

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Al: If Bush hadn’t dismantled the CIA unit dedicated to tracking bin Laden, Obama might never have had the chance to do it himself. See?

  8. Mike Benedict

    Quick — without looking, name the last good column Jacoby wrote. In fact, when, if ever, have you quoted anything Jacoby wrote, or were moved to his position from your own?

    I’ll save you the trouble of attempting to access your what passes for your brains: the answer is never.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    Jacoby is a good columnist and a good guy. I do wish he’d write more about politics and less about culture-war issues. But trust me: His job is not to reinforce my beliefs or those of most Media Nation readers.

  10. Hartley Pleshaw

    Doubtless, Jeff’s now-former friends on the Right are fitting him for a noose. He can look forward to being called a sellout to Islamofascism, a bin Laden lover, a “moonbat” (you know, one of those crazy people who still doesn’t believe that Saddam Hussein had those Weapons of Mass Destruction) and, worst of all, a liberal. But today, Jeff wrote the right (as opposed to the Right) thing, and proved that he’s not what George Orwell in 1984 called a “duckspeaker.” (As in, “to quack like a duck” in service of the Party Line.) Which is a lot more than can be said for former journalist-turned-Republican Party propagandist Howie Carr.

  11. Mike Benedict

    @Dan: Whether he’s a good guy or a Shaughnessy isn’t germane. He prattles on and on about Israel, always taking the hardcore Israeli stance over every other position, regardless of facts, fairness or political reality.

    He’s consistent, but hardly convincing. And that’s the point: I’m not asking the guy to regurgitate my positions; I’m asking him to give me a reasoned opinion to consider.

    He never does.

  12. @ Brad Deltan, Actually, Jeff has also taken a non-reflexive, unpredictable position on matters of immigration. And he does that once or twice a year, I think. (I say “I think” because I don’t read him all the time.

  13. Lou Gawab

    Wow…..Dan agrees with Jacoby!

    Never thought the day would come….


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