It doesn't seem that long ago that a confession and a DNA match proved that the young men convicted in the Central Park Jogger case had given false confessions. At the time, a number of reporters talked to experts and found that false confessions are fairly common -- even when, as in the jogger case, there was no violence or abuse in the questioning.
So if even nonviolent interrogations can produce suspect results, why the hell are we abusing, and in some cases apparently torturing, prisoners in Iraq, Guantanamo, and (as The New York Times reported today) the "places unknown" where we're holding those suspected of being al-Qaeda higher-ups?
Are we getting anything out of this? The Times, for instance, describes "water boarding" -- "a prisoner is strapped down, forcibly pushed under water and made to believe he might drown" -- and says it's been done to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. There's a strong suggestion that similar cruelties are being doled out to other al-Qaeda suspects. Is it helping at all?
It didn't stop Bali. It didn't stop Madrid. And abuse in Iraq and Gitmo and parts unknown has done nothing to curtail the activities of al-Qaeda ally Zarqawi and others hostile to U.S. interests. Beyond moral questions, what the hell good does it do?
Some fearful suspects, like the Central Park Jogger suspects, will say whatever they think will end an interrogation. If you can't trust the results of interrogations under moderate duress, what's the point of torture -- other than, perhaps, to show that, in the Muslim world, we're the alpha dogs now?