It Doesn’t Say That: Lincoln and Torture (Except It Does, Elsewhere)

Presumably, this quote is in opposition to US use of torture for interrogation. Except that it doesn’t actually say that. Cruelty, in the Lieber Code, (the source of this quote), is defined as:

  1. infliction of suffering for the sake of suffering or
  2. for revenge,
  3. nor of maiming or wounding except in fight,
  4. nor of torture to extort confessions.
  5. It does not admit of the use of poison in any way,
  6. nor of the wanton devastation of a district.
  7. It admits of deception, but disclaims acts of perfidy;
  8. … military necessity does not include any act of hostility which makes the return to peace unnecessarily difficult.

Torturing for the sake of militarily useful information is not on the list.

However, this is really the result of laziness rather than a lie. Article 80 of the Lieber code states: “Honorable men, when captured, will abstain from giving to the enemy information concerning their own army, and the modern law of war permits no longer the use of any violence against prisoners in order to extort the desired information or to punish them for having given false information.” So torture is against the Lieber code.


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