After Mumbai: Torture Reconsidered

Rumors that the Jewish victims of the terrorist attack on Mumbai’s Chabad center were tortured, subject to debate in the comment section of this site and elsewhere a few days ago, have now been substantiated to a significant degree:


Also Thursday, police said there were signs that some of the six victims of the attack on a Jewish center may have been tortured. “The victims were strangled,” said Rakesh Maria, a senior Mumbai police official. “There were injuries noticed on the bodies that were not from firing.”

Members of an Israeli rescue group which had a team in Mumbai said it was impossible to tell if the bodies had been abused, however, because no autopsies were conducted in accordance with Jewish tradition.

It’s just as well. At this point, it seems rather obvious. What’s interesting about this torture is its psychopathic nature. It’s extremely different from the torture allegedly practiced by our intelligence agencies, water boarding, etc., which is designed to elicit information. I doubt there was much information Rabbi Holzberg could have told the terrorists or even that they would have been remotely interested if he had any. All they wanted to do was practice their brand sadism on him, before or after killing him.

We are supposed to be against all sorts of torture, even the tactical kind, because it’s not a “good thing done by good people” or because its use would encourage bad behavior by our enemies when they capture us. (How many heads can the Islamists take off one person?-ed. Call it the Janus Exception.) Besides the moral posturing, the rap against torture to elicit information is that it doesn’t really do that, doesn’t work. The subject is so pained he will say anything.


Maybe, maybe not. It’s certainly not simple, but since almost everyone is aware of this pitfall, it can be accounted for to one degree or another. I wouldn’t brag about it but, in certain situations, I would be sorely tempted to use torture if I knew it might save innocent lives. The Indians clearly agree. From the same article linked above:

Meanwhile, police officers said they were trying to get as much detail as possible from Kasab.

“A terrorist of this sort is never cooperative. We have to extract information,” said Deven Bharti, the head of the Mumbai crime branch.

Indian police are known to use interrogation methods that would be regarded as torture in the West, including questioning suspects drugged with “truth serum.”

Bharti provided no details on interrogation techniques, but said “truth serum” would probably be used next week. He did not specify what drug would be used.

I hope they use a good one. And I hope the information they get saves many lives.

UPDATE: From Debka’s newsletter (yes, they are not always accurate): An Indian doctor, who conducted the post-mortem of the victims in Mumbai, said: “Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again.”


“Bombay has a long history of terror. I have seen bodies of riot victims, gang war and previous terror attacks like bomb blasts. But this was entirely different. It was shocking and disturbing,” a doctor said.


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