In our first week of existence, discussion really took off around the topic of the recently-released torture memos. After reading an article in the New York Times, I asked whether we needed to rethink our moral qualms about torture if these "harsh interrogation techniques" actually yield valuable intelligence.
As the Co-Director of Nebraska's Human Rights and Human Diversity Initiative, and having taught numerous classes on justice and human rights, I have a pretty good sense of my position on this question. Clearly, torture damages the international credibility of countries that make use of it, brutalizes those who engage in it, and is a grave violation of human rights under any circumstance.
Most interesting, to my mind, is that the information coming to light in these torture memos shouldn't be surprising in the least. I remember, quite clearly, preparing to teach an introductory course on justice in 2004-2005 and pulling articles on the Abu Ghraib scandal. At that time, there were articles about the Bush administration bringing in lawyers to consider ways to effectively work around the Geneva Conventions. These articles suggested that military personnel might be unclear about which techniques constituted torture and about whether the government allowed "harsh interrogation techniques" to be used on "enemy combatants." But it is hard to say that the Bush administration was unclear in its intentions (despite assertions that the United States doesn't torture), given the decision to bring in lawyers who might find ways around the Geneva Conventions.
Just some additional food for thought, as we kick off the Tweet Academy blog. If you'd like to become a blog contributor, send a Direct Message to @Tweet_Academy on Twitter. We're hoping to get a balance of students and faculty. And, of course, if you're not following us on Twitter just yet, you can click on the link on the right to follow Tweet_Academy and comment/contribute new topics to our on-going 140 character discussions.