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Is Torture Ever Justified?

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  • Is Torture Ever Justified?

    I realize that this is sort of old news now, re the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, a man who has openly asserted that the Geneva Convention laws against torture do "not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants." According to Gonzales, "the war against terrorism is a new kind of war" and "this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

    Not so long ago, in light of his appointment as AG, I submitted a poll question to the Gaijin Pot poll asking the question "Is torture ever a justifiable means of extracting information?" I was astonished by the results: of the 100 people who have voted on the poll thus far 48% have voted 'yes' to the above statement, with 44% having voted 'no' and 8% 'no opinion.' I have to say I'm surprised by the results; I would have thought that more people would have found the very idea of torture so repugnant as to flat-out oppose its use.

    So what are your opinions on torture? Are there instances in which its use is justified or should we stand by the Geneva Convention and unequivocally oppose it? Over to you, Pot Politicos.

  • #2
    I'd have to see the statistics on how much reliable information was obtained using torture versus other, more savory methods of extraction. If it works, why not use it?

    As for caring about whether people are in pain or not, I don't. People have it too easy these days; since Vietnam, there really hasn't been enough talk about people being caged with rabid gerbils or having their testicles fried and forced to eat them. I'm not saying that you should chain your kids to the radiator and put cigarettes out on the soles of their feet, but at least let the public know what the threshold of human suffering is.

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    • #3
      torture

      My wife tortures me occassionally by watching some of those TV dramas, but she never tells me what she wants so I can get her to stop.

      On a more serious note, this is a tough one. I can see justifying torture in some extreme circumstances, such as a guy has hidden a bunch of kids in some life threatening situation and they need to find out where they are. Something like this I would be breaking out the pliers and pulling some nails out myself.

      Sure this same idea could be tied to torturing terrorists and such, you may find information that could prevent the loss of lives, but the big difference for me is the "could". Unless you can prove that anything gained from the torture is going to save lives it isn't worth it.

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      • #4
        I don't oppose torture on moral grounds, but it does have major side effects such as reciprocity (think Nick Berg beheading in response to Abu Ghraib) and loss of credibility. If there's any large-scale statistics on its effectiveness, my guess is it's locked away in the Pentagon. But I wouldn't look for it to be made available any time soon, even if it would support the military's use of torture, because the majority of Americans already support its use without such evidence. Why? I don't know -- too much Hollywood, too many TV shows like 24 that portray it as effective.

        Anecdotal evidence from those who actually used unsavory methods in the past:

        "Meet, for example, retired Air Force Col. John Rothrock, who, as a young captain, headed a combat interrogation team in Vietnam. More than once he was faced with a ticking time-bomb scenario: a captured Viet Cong guerrilla who knew of plans to kill Americans. What was done in such cases was 'not nice,' he says...Rothrock used psychology, the shock of capture and of the unexpected. Once, he let a prisoner see a wounded comrade die. Yet -- as he remembers saying to the 'desperate and honorable officers' who wanted him to move faster -- 'if I take a Bunsen burner to the guy's genitals, he's going to tell you just about anything.' Rothrock, who is no squishy liberal, says that he doesn't know 'any professional intelligence officers of my generation who would think this is a good idea.'

        "Or listen to U.S. Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a military intelligence specialist who conducted interrogations in Vietnam, Panama and iraq during Desert Storm, and who was sent by the Pentagon in 2003 to assess interrogations in Iraq. Aside from its immorality and its illegality, says Herrington, torture is simply 'not a good way to get information.'

        "In his experience, nine out of 10 people can be persuaded to talk with no 'stress methods' at all, let alone cruel and unusual ones. Asked whether that would be true for religiously motivated fanatics, he says that the 'batting average' might be lower: 'perhaps six out of 10.' And if you beat up the remaining four? 'They'll just tell you anything to get you to stop....'

        "An up-to-date illustration of the colonel's point appeared in recently released FBI documents from the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. These show, among other things, that some military intelligence officers wanted to use harsher interrogation methods than the FBI did. As a result, complained one inspector, 'every time the FBI established a rapport with a detainee, the military would step in and the detainee would stop being cooperative.' So much for the utility of torture." (Anne Applebaum, "Plain and simple: Torture doesn't work," The Washington Post, reprinted in The Japan Times, Monday, January 17, 2005.)

        Anyway, I wouldn't unequivocally oppose it. But I think justification is a very slippery slope. And it's a gamble, since you put treatment of your own people and the productivity of your operation on the line, and the pay off is not guaranteed. As the other posters said, prove that it works.

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        • #5
          In the face of great fear, the use of torture becomes second nature. Remember that classic scene in "Dirty Harry" when Clint is torturing Scorpio in the middle of the football stadium?
          Harry- Where's the girl?
          Scorpio- I have the right to a lawyer.
          Harry- Where's the girl? (Starts grinding on Scorpio's injured leg)
          Scorpio- Ahhhhhhhhh!!!

          Harry got his information but the girl was already dead. He also got severely reprimanded for his actions. But the director knew that the audience wanted Harry to torture Scorpio because Harry is righteous. Or he knew that someone as charasmatic as Clint Eastwood could get away with it without pissing off the hippies in the crowd. At any rate, you can talk all you want about whether torture is (ever) justified but in the end it's moot. Humans are passionate and thus have a predilection for torture.

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          • #6
            My two bits worth

            I think torture is Bad and Wrong, and Just Generally Not Nice. So stop it. Now. All of you.

            Personally, I find a lot of the television ads to be torture. Do you think I am liable for some damages?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by aha yes
              I don't oppose torture on moral grounds, but it does have major side effects such as reciprocity (think Nick Berg beheading in response to Abu Ghraib).
              Uh, no, don't think that. These people were going to cut his head off anyway. These Islamofascists are stuck in the dark ages and cutting people's heads off is a pasttime. It's nothing new. Nick Berg wasn't the only one. I recently watched a video of these sickos lopping of the heads of fellow Iraqis who had simply driven trucks that delivered food to US troops. Right on the sidewalk in broad daylight, yelling "Allah Akbar" the whole time.

              Besides, murder is a crime of much larger magnitude than torture. You are comparing apples and oranges.

              Other than that, your post is well-thought out and articulate.

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              • #8
                Sorry, Hyakushiki, but that Nick Berg thing isn't my opinion. Reciprocity for Abu Ghraib was the reason given by the guys who cut his head off. Talk to them about apples and oranges.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by aha yes
                  Sorry, Hyakushiki, but that Nick Berg thing isn't my opinion. Reciprocity for Abu Ghraib was the reason given by the guys who cut his head off. Talk to them about apples and oranges.
                  Ok, I understand what you are saying, but you and I both know that at the end of the day, they can come up with any excuse under the sun to justify their fascist intolerance. I mean, to use a crude anology, I can walk up to a stranger on the street and kick him in the nuts and say it's because he looked at me funny. It doesn't make it right.

                  Whatever justification they come up with for these horrible crimes, the fact is that they want YOU living under a Caliphate and your mother and sisters wearing a burkha and staying in the house all the time. And they will keep lopping off heads until they get what they want or get taken out. It has nothing to do with torture.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hyakushiki
                    Ok, I understand what you are saying, but you and I both know that at the end of the day, they can come up with any excuse under the sun to justify their fascist intolerance. I mean, to use a crude anology, I can walk up to a stranger on the street and kick him in the nuts and say it's because he looked at me funny. It doesn't make it right.

                    Whatever justification they come up with for these horrible crimes, the fact is that they want YOU living under a Caliphate and your mother and sisters wearing a burkha and staying in the house all the time. And they will keep lopping off heads until they get what they want or get taken out. It has nothing to do with torture.
                    So if I understand you correctly they torture and lop heads off because they are fanatics who will stop at nothing until they control the world. In that case, how do you explain what happened at Abu Ghraib? I think you might tell me that that was just a few individuals who got out of control whereas those crazy muslims.....well, it's endemic. But sorry, I'll let you put your own arguements forward.

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                    • #11
                      Calm down. No need to get emotional. Re-read my posts. Nowhere did I state, nor even imply that all Muslims are fanatics who will keep lopping off heads until they control the world. It is a handful of racial / cultural supremacists who abuse the name of the religion towards their own nefarious ends. Any one with any sense knows that.

                      What happened at Abu Ghraib was inexcusable. I am not saying otherwise. My point is that the decapitations of scores of people both western and Arab by the Islamofascists have nothing to do with what took place at that prison. They would have started chopping heads off anyway, no matter what they say to the contrary. I am not singling anyone out, here, it's just that I am just tired of people lending so much credence to what these loonies say. Do you lend the same credence to Neo-Nazis? Becuase these guys are of exactly the same ilk.
                      Last edited by Hyakushiki; 2005-03-17, 08:20 PM. Reason: Typos. Always the typos.

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                      • #12
                        Hyakushiki, it doesn't matter what we believe, only what they believe. It doesn't matter if I lend them credence for their excuse to behead (which I don't, but thanks for not singling me out ). They aren't trying to justify themselves to us but to the locals. I'm not saying Muslims will believe every conspiracy theory put on them by the fanatics in question, but what happened at Abu Ghraib did confirm some of what had been said about us infidels, and I'm not so sure it didn't help justify the beheadings in the locals' eyes to some extent.

                        My point for bringing up Abu Ghraib was to say that our use of torture encourages reciprocity against our own. That's all. You're saying the head-loppers would've done their thing anyway, which is hypothetical in this case since Abu Ghraib did happen, but are you also saying that use of torture doesn't encourage reciprocity?

                        BTW, dismissing those guys as 'loonies' is willful ignorance, and it's dangerous.

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                        • #13
                          I think the question of whether torture is effective is central. I wonder if it's true that perpetrators of torture are simply seeking information and torture is the most reasonable way of aquiring it. That would seem not to be true if indeed people who are being tortured are liable to give nonfactual information to stop the torture. It's not logical. But I'd have to agree with Sin, that humans have tendencies to torture (or to do other things that don't make sense) because of their passion.

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                          • #14
                            I dunno. It seems to me that torture is the opposite of passion. It is cold blooded. Sticking someone with a knife in a rage I can understand. Slowly and methodically applying torture is something completely different in my book. But there are complex issues involved like obedience to authority. Ever heard of Milgram? Experiments in the 1950s (as a result of WW2 atrocities) showed that most people would torture fellow humans if they thought they needed to in order to obey an authority figure. Truly scary experiments. Check it out.

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                            • #15
                              Heart of Darkness

                              I guess I'm somewhere between sincity and waller on this one. When I was a kid I used to go out on my driveway in the summertime and find an ant, break its legs to immobilize it, then hold a magnifying glass over it until it started smoking. Smelled like steak and crackled too. Quite methodical, the whole process. But I was quite passionate about it. And that was only what I did to insects. I'm too ashamed to admit what I did to mammals. Funny thing about humans -- if we can control our passions enough to systematize something, and apply our imagination, we can be sooo much viler...

                              PS Michelle Kwan just moved from 7th after World Championship qualifying to 5th after the short program. Keep your fingers crossed for the free skate tomorrow night. She rocks!!

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