Thursday, May 5, 2011

Even without the slippery slope argument, torture is bullshit

You're okay with this?  Fucking SERIOUSLY?
First off, I would like to apologize to Silverfiddle of Western Hero.  I left a comment on his article yesterday that was anti-torture.  He informed me that he never said he was pro-torture, and looking back at it I realized that I jumped to conclusions on that.  Admittedly, I’ve been caught up in this whole discussion about whether or not Osama’s death has proved the efficacy of waterboarding, and I’ve got some pretty strong sentiments about it.

Anyway, on with the show.  You should have guessed by now that this is going to be about torture.  Some asshats are saying “see, waterboarding does work!”  Meanwhile, people like Donald Rumsfeld and others are saying that the intelligence gathered that led us to find bin Laden was not obtained by water boarding.

In fact, the intelligence we got was obtained months after the detainees had been waterboared, at GITMO where waterboarding was never used, and while the detainees were being interrogated using sanctioned methods.

Let’s just speak hypothetically here.  What if the information was obtained by waterboarding the detainees?  What if torture had yielded a result that ended in bin Laden’s demise?  Should we then say that it was okay,?

If you answered yes to that, then I truly pity your soul.  If you answered no, then congratulations: you’re still sane.

He was cool with torture.
 Although you all should know by now that I am a Machiavellian—the sort that has actually read some scholarship on Il Principe—I do not believe that the ends morally justify the means if the means are horrifying and morally reprehensible.  I do believe that sometimes the means used could be the only way to achieve the end, and therefore the means are sometimes legitimate, even if they are morally abject.  That does not mean, however, that those who used the means are free of guilt.

In the case of torture, however, there is never, ever any justification for torture.  I don’t give a shit if you’re trying to save a million lives.  If you torture someone, you should be held responsible and prosecuted for it regardless of the “good” you may have achieved.  When you torture a human being you disfigure that person’s humanity as well as your own.  You’re basically saying that you’re willing to treat another human being as an animal and in a sadistic way.

Even if in our hearts we believe that the person is the lowest form of life on the planet, someone who is not deserving of being treated like a human being, torture is still not justified.

You have to understand that human rights is not just about the person on the receiving end, it’s about ourselves as well.  When we violate human rights, we’re allowing the darkness of human nature prevail in our actions.  We’re proving to ourselves and the world that we’re capable of committing horrifying atrocities, and once you’ve crossed that plane there’s no going back.

We have laws and limits placed on human behavior for a reason, and it isn’t the simplistic “slippery slope,” argument.  It’s deeper than that.  It’s about personal responsibility and moral fiber.  Everyone who is still all there should know, in their heart, that torture is wrong if only for the simple fact that you would not appreciate being tortured.  An empathetic person, a compassionate person, would then logically posit that if it’s not something you would like to have done to you, then it’s probably not something that should be done to anyone else.

Also cool with torture.
If you are able to torture someone, or if you have zero empathy, then you are someone who has lost your humanity, and I shudder to think what else lurks in the darkness of your soul.

“Jack you hypocritical asshat, you’ve often said that killing is sometimes justified and legitimate.  How can you draw the line here?”  Well, HTNS, killing a person in self-defense is justified.  Killing an enemy combatant in war, lest you be killed, is justified.  Killing an innocent civilian?  Not justified.  Collateral damage?  Not justified.  The latter two examples are things that might be unavoidable, but they must be paid for if justice means anything.

If anyone wants to refute me on this one, then please do so.  I’m cutting this article short, and I can assure you that I could write an entire treatise on this subject.  Object to my position freely, but know that I’m leaving out several other arguments in deference to brevity.


Anonymous said...

First of all, i do not have a stomach for torture. so again, this is kind of me being HTNS.

If someone does something to put millions of people at risk, has that person not given up their right to be treaded as a human being. has their humanity already been stripped from them, or at the least, abused?

But then i run into the thought of, "if this person is so depraved to do this kind of thing to a mass of people, do you think that they actually value their own life at all?"

if you spend your time torturing them, and that wares on your own humanitry, have they not simply claimed another victim, simultaniously using the torture they endured as some twisted justification of their behavior?

Let me be clear here, if there was 0 doubt, and i mean full documentation, the had of GOD has writen to you "hey, this fuck is guilty". and there was an EFFECTIVE means of torture to get the information from said person, i would be ok with it. but i would feel sorry for the SOB who had to perform the act.

However, the random torture of "suspects" is appaling. all it does is warp everyone involved.


Jack Camwell said...

Again, it's about the person doing it as much as the person receiving it.

You know, in your heart, that torture is wrong because you would never accept yourself being tortured. You know in your heart that torture is wrong because you don't have the stomach for it.

Saying that torture is okay as long as it gets results is a horrifying conclusion that would necessarily lead to the destruction of human rights in this country.

What if you were mistakenly detained? A lot of the people dragged off by the CIA were cases of mistaken identity, and it's very possible that they were waterboarded. Or what if a family member of yours was on the run, and you didn't want to divulge the whearabouts? Better yet, what if you truly didn't know where the person was, and they thought you were lying?

No human being, even the shitty ones, deserves to be tortured. Too many people have been liquidated throughout history because they were viewed as sub-human.

And if you try to use our "principles," to justify torture, then you've already shit on your principles. You can't believe in words like "liberty," and believe in torture.

We'd do well to follow the example of the founders on this one, as I'm fairly certain they viewed torture, cruel and unusual punishment, to be abhorrent and never justified (I know, some of them owned slaves).

Anonymous said...

Torture gets the job done sir

~yours truly the Anarchist

Jack Camwell said...

You know what else gets the job done? Murdering anyone that diagrees with your opinion.

Saddam Hussein sanctioned torture. Do you really want to be in that company?

Anonymous said...

The Murdering part worked for stalin pretty well

so imma say what ever works... works

~yours truly the Anarchist

Jack Camwell said...

Stalin was also a totalitarian, which doesn't really jive with being an "Anarchist" now does it?

And I'm sure you wouldn't be extolling the virtues of torture if you were on the rack. And with all the conjecture from the experts and officials about wherether or not waterboarding worked, we can't say "torture works."

Either you have no sense of empathy, you're ignorant to the human experience, or you're trolling me, either way your words speak for themselves, and you and I are operating on two totally different planes of moral and intellectual thought.

Anonymous said...

Just clarifying, i speicied that God himself would have to be like... hey... this guy is guilty. if you tweek his nips with these ellectrical clips he will tell you the formula to cure aids... and he caused aids.

then ya, im down.

but as that is a sittuation i dont ever see happening....

for the person who said torture gets results. please check your facts, the majortiy of the "information" gained from torture is mis information to just get them to stop the damned torture.


Anonymous said...

but both you and i both know that true anarchism can never truly exist just like true communism and a true democracy will never ever exist so bringing in a point that we both know is invalid is futile.

But any ways, no one would ever say something is right if your on the opposite end of the stick.

Needless to say to save your daughter im 100% sure you would torture(yes this is your only option im not doing the what if or in a different circumstance game) some one with out hesitation.

Torture might be wrong but you would still do it.

Yes im sure you and i both have different standards when it comes to morals but the intellectual part im pretty close to par.

~yours truly the Anarchist

Jack Camwell said...

Perhaps I would torture someone to save her. Perhaps not. I don't know because I can't possibly imagine what I would do in that situation.

I can say though, that if I did torture someone to save her, I surely wouldn't try to justify it afterwards. I would still recognize what I did to be morally wrong, and if punishment were meted out to me for it, I would accept the punishment.

I would also accept the fact that I had sold my soul, and I'd likely never forgive myself. Breaking your principles and going against them is not the same as condoning an action.

And as Smitty said, with torture there's no guarantee that you're going to get a straight answer.

Jack Camwell said...

Oh and by plane of intellect I didn't mean level of intelligence, just in terms of world view and the conclusions we've drawn based on our various experiences.

(I know who you are, as your moniker is a dead giveaway. Thanks for finally reaading, btw)

Anonymous said...

haha, i figured my "anarchist" would give me away(foiled) and if it didnt, but my style of writing would have sealed my fate.

yes we have completely different views of the world and i like it that way, gives me some one to argue with that doesnt have the same views as me. Seeing as how brenden and i have the same or close to same ideas and beliefs.

See i wouldn't belive i would have sold my soul, looking back i would have done what was necessary to get where i needed to be

yes lots of misinformation is givien away, but there isn't to many die hards out there that are willing to die for some one who isnt helping them. Then again if your in that situation your most likely fucked any ways.

~yours not so truly nate

Joe Markowitz said...

I agree with you that the moral argument is probably the strongest one. But there are also some good practical arguments against torture. One is that information obtained by torture is notoriously unreliable. People will say anything to stop the torture, which means they are not necessarily giving you good information. A second practical argument is that once you say that it is ok for our country to commit torture, you are giving permission to your enemies to torture your soldiers whenever they are captured. And then you are just contributing to a vicious cycle. I think this second argument is why John McCain, who experienced torture by the North Vietnamese, is such a strong opponent of torture. He knows that condoning torture would endanger our own troops.

Harrison said...

Waterboarding isn't torture.

Jack Camwell said...

I'm going to go ahead and say that causing physical harm to someone, in this case simulated drowning, is definitely torture.

So would you be okay if our enemies waterboarded US citizens? How about if waterboarding is used by the police if they think anyone is being "uncooperative," and unresponsive to normal interrogation techniques?

C'mon man. "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques?" I know you've read 1984, and I know you're familiar with Orwell's language theory.

Just because the people that performed it and those who sanctioned it say that it's not torture, doesn't mean that it's not torture. And I know that people have done the demonstrations to show that it's "not that bad," but those people are idiots. Those fools volunteered to do it, and I'm sure the people doing it to them didn't do it in an agressive way.

In one demonstration I saw them pouring the water on the guy's forehead. It's supposed to be poured over the nose. In another demonstration I saw they didn't tilt the guy at an incline.

If you were captured and waterboarded, you would demand justice.

Silverfiddle said...

Did my previous comment get stuck in the spam filter???

Silverfiddle said...

I must have bailed before confirming my comment... It was a brilliant one too! The brilliantest one in the history of the world!

Anyway, first off I want to say that I was deeply offended by your anti-torture remarks at my blog.

But seriously, you make a tight, logical moral argument against torture. The utilitarian arguments in favor is where the slippery slope comes in, and your absolute moral argument brooks no compromise with the utilitarian approach.

I agree with your post as I too believe torture is immoral and that it damages the soul of the torturer. My problem is with the definition and degree.

It is generally accepted that torture is inflicting mental anguish, physical harm or threats, degrading someone, etc.

My question is, is making someone sleep naked in a cold cell and then rewarding their cooperation by giving them clothing and turning the heat back on morally equivalent to electrocuting someone's genitals for the mere sadistic pleasure of it?

I think the word gets overused and abused, though you have not done this in your article.

I do believe by a strict reading of legal definitions (I'm not a lawyer), waterboarding is torture. But law does not dictate morality, at least not perfectly. Is waterboarding someone equivalent to Winston Smith's fate?

The News Media is Torturing Us

Jack Camwell said...

I think it might have, Silver. It came into my email though, and I thought I responded but perhaps I'm going crazy.

I know what you mean, and I think that you bringing up Winston Smith is the answer to this question of whether or not it's torture. We would agree that the rat in the box was, indeed torture, so I don't know how we can say that simulating drowning, a life and death situation, is not torture.

As for the other scenarios you mentioned, those are issues of comfort I think. They might be degrading or demeaning in some way, but ultimately you're not really inflicting any sense of death, danger, or dismemberment on the person.

It's a gray area, and you've brought up some good points about it. Seeing as how many other countries, Britain included, have denounced waterboarding as torture, I think it's reasonable to conclude that they may be right.

We wouldn't want American citizens to go through that, so why would we impose that on others?

Silverfiddle said...

I admit you have the better of the debate, Jack. I completely agree where you are coming from.

I have a real problem with definition abuse (again, I am not accusing you of doing it).

I think progressives do it to control the debate and ultimately control peoples actions. "War Crime" is another abused term.

War is a crime and it is a human right abuse. Period. "Humane War" is a fiction.

The artful use of these terms allows the international community to harness the power of the United States and declare its use legitimate only when it serves some higher international progressive purpose. When the US goes cowboy, progressives employ terms like human rights, war crimes and torture to case opprobrium on our actions.

It's a way for the weak to control the strong.

How's that for a conspiracy theory? And a Nietzschean one at that, and I don't even like the guy.

I apologize for hijacking the thread. I agree with your point. I just think we apply the term torture too broadly.

Jack Camwell said...

Oh you didn't hijack it at all. Your remarks are valued and pertinent. I'm a Neitzche hater too.

Harrison said...

By your definition, anything someone did which made the other person uncomfortable would be "torture." One terrorist was afraid of bugs so they put bugs on him. He talked. Was that torture? And only three people were waterboarded. Much ado about nothing.

I say dunk 'em like a donut if it will save lives (which it has).

Silverfiddle said...

Harrison brings up problems inherent in the definition of torture. What is mental anguish? What causes it in one does not in another, so could an action against one person be legal, and the same action against another illegal?

Jack Camwell said...

I don't think that everything that makes a person uncomfortable is torture. If that were the case then every time I spank my kids it would be considered torture, and it's not (another debate for another time, please).

The thing is that waterboarding is just like what happens to Winston Smith in 1984 (as someone mentioned). He was faced with a situation in which he could have died. He had to face death, and eventually it was the prospect of death that broke him.

Waterboarding is similar to that because it's simulating drowning. One can die from drowning, but one won't necessarily die from being cold (my guess is that the temperatures they expose them to aren't fatal or physically damaging). Waterboarding is forcing that person to confront the possibility of death, and that is wrong

I understand that the mental anguish thing is very broad, but I would say that we draw the line at simulating a life or death situation.

Harrison said...

Nobody dies w/waterboarding therefore the argument is false. It's meant to be uncomfortable, that's why they talk. Again, throwing spiders on someone who is terrified of them might cause more mental anguish than dunking them. In life or death situations... dunk!

Jack Camwell said...

Actually if I'm not mistaken I believe that submerging the person in water IS considered torture even by the US.

Nobody dies with dunking the person in water. It's just like electroshock. They don't give enough voltage to kill you or cause permanent harm.

And if you're going to say "electroshock is painful," I would be willing to bet that waterboarding, although perhaps not painful, is pretty damn bad considering they're inflicting the sensation of drowning.

Teresa said...

Overall I like your blog and found it via Political Realities but I disagree with you on this issue.

Enhanced interrogation techniques are not torture.

Jack Camwell said...

Not all of them are, but I think that waterboarding certainly is for the reasons I mentioned in reply to some commentors.

If you had a kid in the service and you knew he or she was captured, would you feel good knowing that he or she could be waterboarded? The enemy might do worse, but would you say "well, waterboarding is not torture, so they should just suck it up?"

I can't presume to know your mind, but my guess is probably not.

Teresa said...

If Navy Seals or some in the military can be waterboarded to prepare them for their mission/duties and they are fine afterward then I don't see the big deal with either one of ours or one of our enemy being waterboarded. I may not like the fact that our enemy is waterboarding my child and I am sure that being waterboarded is intense to say the least but not harmful if the procedure is done correctly.

Jack Camwell said...

It's done correctly at training for the SEALs, I wouldn't say your enemy waterboarding you is going to do it "properly." They're going to make it as painful and crappy as possible.

They'll be agressive, and they'll likely take you to your breaking point. Being waterboarded by someone that hates you and would just as soon kill you is way different than being waterboarded in a training environment, or being waterboarded by a friend in a demonstration.

I'm sure if you found someone who's been waterboarded FOR REAL, they'll tell you it's a fairly shitty experience.

Anonymous said...

...right, you're saying wouldn't torture somebody if this saved a million people from torture?

Pretty disturbing bro.

Peter McCullough said...

My simplistic overview comes from watching the innocent victimized, with no secrets the Islamists ould have used to help achieve the goal of their complete takeover of the planet, compelled to jump out of windows 100 floors above the unyielding concrete below. If cutting off one limb at a time from these filthy ragheads could have prevented this inhuman tradgedy then I say off with those unwashed, fetid, perspiring body parts. Personally I kill only insects so someone else would have to do it. And thankfully? there are those of us out there who could carry out this necessary carnage. If this sounds intellectually vapid, tough shit, I know some of those who were either vaporized or became one with the streets of New York City.