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    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeJan 29th 2008 edited
    Warren/Ariana - feel free to shut this down if you think it's inappropriate.

    I'm spinning this off from the Presidency thread because I'd hate to see that thread closed or totally derailed by a tangential debate.

    Can I ask people who want to debate the issue of the ethics of torture to do so here and not in the Presidency thread.

    And now, what I almost posted in the Presidency thread:
    "The vast majority of research says torture, as portrayed on 24, does not work. People do not reveal critical facts, they instead spout anything you might want to hear, with little regard for relevancy or truth, to stop the pain. Even when claims are produced it has worked, evidence tends to implicate other factors as likely the real source of information. This position tend to be confirmed by ex military intelligence and even officers currently in the US military have asked the producers of 24 to change how the impact and results of torture are portrayed in their fictional world. "

    (Edited to clarify that the above paragraph is quoted from JTraub on the Presidency thread.

    You forgot to mention that the idea that "hundreds of thousands" of lives could be at stake is simply ludicrous.

    The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs killed around 100,000 people each. So what's being suggested here is a terrosit group capable of building or buying, say, 4 or 5 nukes and smuggling them into the US.

    Nuclear weapons have been around for 60 years at this point, in the tens of thousands for most of that period, exactly zero of them have been used.

    So we have to assume some incredibly competent fantastically well-resourced terrorist organisation - which then permits one guy with all the critical information about the attacks to be captured.

    It is ridiculous - it's a fantasy.

    Israel used to torture people. They quit for a number of reasons, amongst them international and domestic pressure and court cases from innocent people who'd been arrested by accident and tortured.

    But the key factor was that Shin Bet concluded that terror didn't work and generally did more harm than good.

    Torture a suspect in the ticking-bomb scenario and if you have the wrong guy you're liking to get a false confession which wastes time and guarantees the attack will in fact occur.

    Here's a hypothetical for the torture advocates:Take your typical “ticking bomb” hypothesis. But instead of the terrorist you have their five year old daughter. Do you torture her to find out where her father is? Do you use the threat or fact of torture to try and force her father to surrender? If not ,why not? Remember – hundreds of thousands or lives (supposedly) on the line. It’s only one child, right?

    Hell, we know where Bin Laden’s family lives. Let’s kidnap them and torture them to death on television one per day until he surrenders.
  1.  (736.2)
    There were some sociological/psychological studies on torture and human response to it and to orders by authority. Chances are if you were told to do it by someone who was in a perceived position of authority, you would do it, studies showed (see the Milgram experiment for more info). So I would guess that even if they'd squirm (and say they wouldn't) , most people would torture the hypothetical 5 year old if ordered to do so by someone in a position of greater authority, for 'the good of the country'.

    Would it make him surrender?
    I'm not sure.
  2.  (736.3)

    May I ask you edit your post to include my original sourcing since we moved to a new thread.
    Obviously we are in agreement, but I dislike my comments being linked without the sources for the sake of my own clarity. Not meant to come off as my being upset, I just am an academic and lawyer and like my sources included when possible.


    Milgram is directed at the tendency of people to follow orders when the responsibility is removed to a distant source. It remains a horrific truth. Clearly we can make people do dreadful things, and it is almost certain in the case of torture those things serve no end except the inflicting of pain itself is equally dreadful. However, the reason the 24 issue is, in some ways, worse is soldier-interrogators were acting to promote the notion that fictionalized torture works against the wished of senior members of army intelligence. It was more senior members who expressed the concerns about the influence the show was having! Here we have not blind removal to distant authority but genuine enthusiasm for the act.
  3.  (736.4)
    JTraub- That certainly adds another level of creepy, and brings to mind the enthusiasm folks had for the races and gladiatorial events during the late roman empire. Humans are bloodthirsty critters, violence sells...combining that with a herd mentality? just .... creepy.
    Take the scenario:
    . Let’s kidnap them and torture them to death on television one per day until he surrenders.
    People would watch it.
    They would applaud it. Bin Laden is not viewed as human, to most. He is an 'other'. His family would be branded 'other' as well, by association. He is a monster unworthy of pity; therefore his kin and friends would be also unworthy of it, and therefore torture would not be bad. It would be justified...

    Not my own personal opinion on it, but that is how I believe most people would react to such a sight; we've dehumanized him, dehumanizing his family and thus removing ourselves from the guilt and horror of it all would not be that big of a step...

    A friend points out that the people in the Milgram study were paid.
  4.  (736.5)
    And of course, Waterboarding is still not officially considered torture by Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

    US AG can't say if waterboarding is torture or not..

    Never mind that people who have trained in waterboarding techniques, and undergone waterboarding as training to resist torture will tell you otherwise...Waterboarding IS torture.

    What really pisses me off is the media's portrayal of waterboarding as "simulated" drowning. Your lungs fill with water, and you are actually drowning just as surely as if your head was held underwater. There's nothing fucking "simulated" about it.
  5.  (736.6)
    I thought the US said they didn't do Waterboarding? Or at least not 'anymore', however long that'll last.
    • CommentTimeJan 29th 2008
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    I think it was Amnesty International that pointed out since 9/11 the incidents of torture on TV had gone up in the 100 times rate and most of the time it worked in that the people doing the torturing got vital and accurate info.

    The THREAT of torture works much better than actual torture.

    I don't think we should use torture on our enemy's for several practical reasons. It provides crappy results. It gives our enemy's a HUGE propaganda advantage. To beat the US in a war can't be done militarily but is actually not that difficult to do by reducing the will to fight in the people at home and then the government. That is how Germany lost WW1 and the US lost in Vietnam.
    It is why we are going to lose in Afghanistan. When we engage in torture and kill civilians or lose men needlessly this makes it harder to keep support for the war at home. That's why the US should only fight wars when it has a clear moral imperative. It was easy to keep up support for the fight against Japan because the US was attacked but in Vietnam when it was simply a matter forcing their will on a people who did not want it the war was lost even though they won every single battle.

    Another good reason to not engage in torture ,summary execution ,illegal detention etc is because we don't want those things to happen to our soldiers and citizens. The whole point of
    the Geneva convention was to ensure that military prisoners were held in a way that each country found acceptable. They did not treat their prisoners fairly because it was the right thing to do but because they wanted to ensure the safety of their own prisoners. Even the Nazis followed the rules of Geneva with the countries that had also signed it.
  6.  (736.8)
    First off: GODWIN.
    Now, with that off my chest...

    How wicked does my mind work?
    What would I do if I had BinLaden's kidlet?

    Not torture. As much as I am uneasy around kids, I wouldn't harm a hair on that one's head.

    And if you killed the kid, what is the likelihood BinLaden would gleefully romp to our arms? We'd just be proving how barbaric he already thinks we are.
    • CommentTimeJan 29th 2008
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    BinLaden would let us kill all his friends and family because he truly believes that they would be Martyrs in heaven.
    That is one thing that the US has a hard time comprehending ,the extent that some people are willing to go.
  7.  (736.10)
    Unsub- so what would you do if you had the hypothetical kid in your hands?
    • CommentTimeJan 29th 2008
    @mark : doesn't simulated drowning actually exist though ? you can use cellophane over someone's face, sealed tight, and then plunge the guy's head into a bucket of water. No actual water rushes in your lungs but your body doesn't understand the difference since it's still suffocating. Of course doesn't mean it's safe, or not torture. It just gives the torturer that much more distance to push the pain, and fear.
  8.  (736.12)
    What's the difference between simulated torture and actual torture?
    Psychological vs. Physical damage?
  9.  (736.13)
    When I think of torture, I don't think of it as a means to gain information, but as a way to break a person's will. I don't know what it is in my mind that makes that link, but to me it just doesn't seem to be a good way of gathering information.

    However, if you have someone that's just a bit sadistic (and one could argue that you can't get into the Intelligence Community without this trait) and you put a person, an actual human being at their disposal then they are going to see how far they can push this person before they break.
    This goes doubly so if the victim has been dehumanised in the eyes of the torturer, and considering the nature of propaganda in war, this is almost always the case.

    The album Text has a spoken word essay (of sorts) on the history of torture and pain split up into three parts and interspersed throughout. It's definitely worth a listen.
    You can find MP3s here.
    I think it's all above board, as the album is out of print now.
    • CommentTimeJan 29th 2008
    root : I was talking about simulated drowning. (the subject is still suffocating) But now that you raise the point, I think we can't clive simulated and real torture along the lines of psych and physical. Sleep deprivation is still in my view torture, but i m sure some people's definition of torture would not include sleep deprivation.
    • CommentTimeJan 29th 2008 edited
    You know, Sam Harris makes an interesting point about torture. The actions during modern warfare do as much if not more actual damage to people as any torture would do. You balk at the idea of torturing a five year old. Well, what if bin Laden (or at least "senior members" of Al-Queda) are reported to be in an apartment building or a convey of trucks? Do you blow them to hell, knowing you might not get another chance or let them go to avoid "collateral damage" and risk them plotting the murder of yet more people?

    And if you say blow them to hell, then why is it more acceptable to turn the hypothetical 5 year old riding in the convoy or living in the apartment building into bloodied, charred chunks of meat than it is to torture him for information (and thus inflict physical and psychological injuries on him that time and care may yet heal)? Pain can fade but death is forever.
  10.  (736.16)
    @hyim there's a world of difference between drowning and suffocating.

    Drowning causes incredible, intense pain. Read any news of someone who has nearly drowned and they will tell you how excruciating painful it is.

    Suffocation, while extremely uncomfortable, doesn't produce anywhere near the kind of pain drowning (caused by the effect of water in your lungs) does. When I studied Karate and Ju-Jitsu, I learned how to perform choke holds that completely and utterly cut off the supply of air to the victim. It can cause panic, nausea, light headedness, blackouts, and eventually, death, but the amount of pain is relatively low.

    My real point is the 'simulated', from mainstream media, which is another way of saying, "Oh, they're not *really* doing anything when waterboarding someone.".
    Waterboarding is a horrible form of torture that is thousands of years old, banned by Geneva Convention, and against most laws in any civilized country. But the media is using language as propaganda to make a form of torture palatable, even acceptable, as it's only "simulated", not REAL.
  11.  (736.17)
    @Mark Sweeney- having nearly drowned on several occasions, it's a strange experience, and the idea of simulated drowning? Scares me greatly.

    So by the media's reckoning, torture isn't torture if it's less likely to kill someone, or you can't see the damage.
  12.  (736.18)
    Currently, in the US, it isn't considered torture if it doesn't cause major organ failure or death. Never mind that numerous detainees have died during "enhanced interrogation".
  13.  (736.19)
    I find it a disturbing and rather arbitrary definition of torture, but thankyou for the information, Mark.
    • CommentTimeJan 29th 2008
    mark, i wasn't equating suffocation with drowning. i was adding to your point about the use of the term simulated drowning, that techniques exist that would fall under this term. So a torturer can say he uses simulated drowning on subjects, and not quip about waterboarding others. With a bit of paperwork, one could easily confuse a journalist on those terms.
    oh by the by, please call me henri.

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