Reading comprehension (II)


Apparently Peter Van Loan suggested to a committee two weeks ago that Michael Ignatieff supports torture. Asked about it today, Ignatieff rebuts

“No agency of the federal government should have any truck, trade, traffic, engagement with any form of torture. The critical point for Canada is that we must never use information derived from sources where we believe torture has been applied and the critical point, and we’ve fallen foul of this once before in the Maher Arar issue, we must never send any person, let alone a Canadian national, to a country, in this case it was Syria, where we have reason to believe torture will be applied.”

“It’s a question of our position as a defender of human rights. But it’s also a question of simple prudence: what is extracted by torture is never reliable.”

See previously.


Reading comprehension (II)

  1. “It’s a question of our position as a defender of human rights. But it’s also a question of simple prudence: what is extracted by torture is never reliable.”

    Yeah, except Ignatieff once wrote a magazine article in 2006 called “If torture works…” in which he said the following:

    “The argument that torture and coercion do not work is contradicted by the dire frequency with which both practices occur. I submit that we [“we”, as in “Americans”] would not be ‘waterboarding’ Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—immersing him in water until he experiences the torment of nearly drowning—if our intelligence operatives did not believe it was necessary to crack open the al Qaeda network that he commanded.”

    Ignatieff can say whatever he likes now that he’s running for political office here in Canada and even Americans are embarassed by the memory of George W. Bush, but back when it actually mattered Ignatieff was writing in influential journals of opinion that he was confident that torture DID work.

    Ignatieff even went further, dismissing those who opposed George Bush’s torture-in-the-guise-of-more-flowery-language by claiming they were trying to “collapse the distinction between ‘coercive interrogation’ and ‘torture'”. Actually, they were trying to expose the fact that George Bush’s “coercive interrogation program” WAS torture, but that distinction seems to have been lost on Ignatieff.

    Ignatieff can say whatever he wants to now. It’s all just talk–like everything else he says.


    • To be clear, the article says that we shouldn’t torture in spite of believing that it is sometimes effective. (Not contradicting anything, just noting the title sounds worse than the rest of the text).

      • He also offers a “solution” to the “ticking bomb” problem that makes his support for a ban on torture and some forms of “coercive interrogation” far from absolute, practically speaking.

      • In 2006 Michael Ignatieff claimed that the only possible explanation for the widespread use of torture was that it MUST be an effective method for gathering intelligence. Today, with no exlpanation as to why he’s changed his mind, Ignatieff says that torture is NEVER a reliable way to collect intelliegence.

        That’s a HUGE contradiction.

        Now, one may claim that this is merely a factual discrepency–perhaps in 2006 Michael Ignatieff didn’t know that experts widely regarded torture as a useless method for the collection of intelligence–but that’s kind of the point.

        Michael Ignatieff wrote influential papers that gave the Bush administration cover to carry out exactly the kind of torture that Ignatieff now claims he condemns. The Bush administration even used the same name for it: coercive interrogation.

        Ignatieff spent first half of this decade splitting hairs over the difference between “coercive interrogation” and “torture”. He claimed to be against the latter, but he pimped for the former. And while in Michael Ignatieff’s mind this may have all been just an intellectual excercise, in the real world this debate was VERY real and Michael Ignatieff was on the wrong side of it.

        • No Ray. It is not a contradiction to say that information extracted through torture CAN be accurate and valuable but we must not use that information, and to say that the information that is extracted through torture is unreliable.

          There is no doubt that sometimes torture is likely to extract some truth. The reality is that it is just as likely or more likely to extract information that is not true. Not being able to know for sure, whatever information comes out of the mouth of someone being tortured will not be reliable.

      • SeanK,

        I now realize that when you wrote “not contradicting anything” you meant that you weren’t contradicting what I wrote, as opposed to claiming that Ignatieff was not contradicting himself.

        That makes my reponse needlessly cheeky and kind of a waste of time.


  2. Ah, are you Macleans people SUCKING up for funding? You have a partisan extremely right wing blogger blogging and no one from any other party.

    Is this part of your Ignatieff stuff Wherry? Trying to save your job.


    • Wow, I never would have classified Aaron Wherry as ‘a partisan extremely right wing blogger’. Sandi have you read his other posts?

    • Shame on you, Wherry. You’re such a right-wing sellout.

    • Sandi:

      Aaron’s post is actually a critique of Van Loan, not Ignatieff. Van Loan is the one who is trying to invent this ugly untruth.

  3. Iggy’s problem is his weasel-like writing (and speaking) style. Everything from that guy comes out “X if necessary, but not necessarily X”. That goes for torture too. If the guy would just lay off that formula, he would be much better off.

  4. Just when did we send Arar to Syria? Must have missed that. I was under the distinct impression that it was the US that sent him there, and that we still don’t know exactly why.

    History is such a slippery thing.

    • Or maybe by “we” Mr. Ignatieff meant “we Americans”. Wouldn’t be the first time…

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