Don Imus’ racist drivel seems to have pushed the British-Iranian boat brouhaha off the front pages before I got around to commenting on it. But in all the rhetoric and uncertainty, I think there’s one important aspect of that controversy that’s worthy of consideration. It will probably never be definitely proven whether or not the Brits had trespassed in Iran’s waters, so people will be free to believe whatever they choose. My own belief is that if they were where they weren’t supposed to be, it was probably accidental. But in all the uncertainty, one thing is certain.
The British sailors’ “confessions” to being in the wrong place were obviously forced, by psychological intimidation if not physical torture. I don’t think many people would disagree with that. But I think many people who would agree that these forced “confessions” are completely bogus are the same people who claim that when we force information out of people this way, it’s completely legitimate. I haven’t heard any reasonable explanation for why torture yields good information when it’s done by good guys, but bad information when it’s done by bad guys, but this case seems to prove that a lot of people believe that.