Does Torture Work, or Might Therapy Be More Effective?

A couple of recent FAIR Blog posts have dealt with apologists for torture: Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen and former CIA interrogator John Kiriakou, who misled ABC News about the effectiveness of waterboarding. What’s striking is how they both offer the same insight into why torture is attractive–it met their post-September 11 psychological needs.

Kiriakou told ABC (12/10/07): “At the time I was so angry and I wanted so much to help disrupt future attacks on the United States that I felt it was the only thing we could do.”

He sounds a lot like Cohen writing in the Post (4/28/09):

The horror of September 11 resides in me like a dormant pathogen. It took a long time before I could pass a New York fire station–the memorials still fresh–without tearing up. I vowed vengeance that day–yes, good Old Testament-style vengeance–and that ember glows within me still. I know that nothing Obama did this month about torture made America safer.

It doesn’t sound like it’s about making America safer, though, does it? It sounds like it’s about taking care of Richard Cohen’s deep psychic wounds. Does torture work–to make newspaper pundits feel better? That seems to be the real question on the table.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.