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The Boy Who Cried Waterboard

The claim in November 2007:

U.S. and Pakistani authorities captured KSM on March 1, 2003 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. KSM stayed mum for months, often answering questions with Koranic chants. Interrogators eventually waterboarded him — for just 90 seconds.

KSM “didn’t resist,” one CIA veteran said in the August 13 issue of The New Yorker. “He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” Another CIA official told ABC News: “KSM lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again.”

The claim in April 2009:
Today, Library Tower looms 73 stories above Los Angeles. But the Pacific Coast’s highest skyscraper might have become a smoldering pile of steel beams had CIA interrogators not waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) 183 times in March 2003, as recently released memoranda reveal.
My point is just that if we take the parameters "stayed mum for months" and "once for 90 seconds", and measure how close that came to, you know, the truth - immediately and 183 times over a period of a month - that probably gives us a good idea how to properly calibrate the claim "... might have become a smoldering pile of steel beams ...".

(Cross-posted)

Comments (125)

Torture is effective! There, it's settled! Anytime someone disputes it, offer this irrefutable evidence to them. Can we leave this red herring question behind, now?

I think the 183 number is misleading. Apparently, KSM went through 5 waterboarding sessions, which consisted of 183 "spills" of water. I could be wrong about this, by the way. But that's the way I understand it.

Having said that, couldn't someone respond this way, "The fact that he went through 183 spills means that it wasn't torture to him. That is, a successful waterboarding is the result of the prisoner believing he could drown based on the sensations he is experiencing. But someone who is mentally tough could overcome those sensations by what he knows to be true, that in fact he is not drowning."

I know some little about this topic that I am probably traipsing into ignorance. But I just thought that it's important to raise a counter-interpretation to the data offered above.

Seems like they were lying in Nov 07 and were telling (at least part of) the truth in Apr 09. I'm uncertain as to the implication Zippy's trying to raise of the falsity of the Library Tower claim, though. It's part of the same set of memos as the 183 claim, no? I'll probably wait for more information before I dismiss that claim.

If Francis is right about the 183 referring to water spills, it would indeed be misleading to understand 183 as the number of times of waterboarding. My initial reaction to what I interpreted as "183 sessions of waterboarding" was how they could fit so many into a single month. Five sounds more plausible.

Hijacking planes and flying them into buildings ceased to be a viable terrorist strategy at approximately 10:00 a.m. on September 11, 2001. The best a hijacker could hope for now would be for the plane to crash land, and even that would be iffy. So even aside from any other problems with the story, the idea that waterboarding prevented terrorists from flying planes into Library Tower is just a fantasy.

couldn't someone respond this way, "The fact that he went through 183 spills means that it wasn't torture to him.

The implications of this argument are truly frightening. You're a philosopher, Beckwith. Do you really not see that?

[FJB: What's "truly frightening" is that you can't see that it is not an argument and it's not mine. Stop reading people to get "gotcha talking points" and start reading with your critical faculties. To quote his Bobness: "I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken."]

"The fact that he went through 183 spills means that it wasn't torture to him"

Dr. Beckwith, you're no doubt going to be chastized for that statement, but here's another twist: [FJB: But I didn't make "that statement." I put it in the mouth of a hypothetical "someone." What's happened to reading comprehension today? Has twitter, texting, etc. sucked the critical faculties out of our minds?]

Now that the whole world knows about waterboarding ( via the internet, news coverage, etc); nearly everyone(especially terrorists) knows that you won't die from it, and that all you need to do is " tough it out" ( sort of like the guys in the military who undergo it in training).
Conclusion: waterboarding used to be torture, but not so much anymore. It would seem that the mind plays a huge role in what is torture and what is not. As long as a person knows that he is going to survive, he can put up with quite a bit.

The Bybee memo makes explicit that the sheer frequency with which Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded was intended to "dislodge the expectation that no harm would come to him." There is no reason to believe that this rationale was somehow absent from the case of KSM.

sorry - that second paragraph s/h been in italics

First, here's the reference to the misleadingness of the 183 number:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/04/fox_waterboarding_numbers_high.asp

Second, c matt, Blackadder, et. al. I will not tolerate you taking my words of context. I did not merely say "The fact that he went through 183 spills means that it wasn't torture to him." I said that "someone could say that," which means that "someone," and not necessarily me, "could say that." Blackadder, that's what philosophers do, they think about stuff by suggesting different conceptual schemes. They don't just uncritically repeat the talking points of Moveon.org or Human Events as if they were gospel.

Third, you see what's going on here. If anyone wants to think about this stuff, they are shouted down by extracting their words out of context and offering loaded questions in order to imply bad faith.

I will edit the above comments in order to remove the slander.

If someone did happen to die while being waterboarded, would you trust the gummint to tell us?

No, me neither.

In any case, the feeling/belief that you might die (seeing that you'd have no way of knowing that up-front in your particular case, like in Dosty's fake firing squad) is what is being experienced.

I did not merely say "The fact that he went through 183 spills means that it wasn't torture to him." I said that "someone could say that," which means that "someone," and not necessarily me, "could say that."

Right. And nowhere did I say that you made that statement or attribute that view to you. What I said was that the implications of the argument were frightening (which they are), and that, as a philosopher, you should be able to see that (which you should).

The CIA may have been enabling illegal acts traditionally considered to be war crimes. How can we trust them to give accurate reports?

"Effectiveness" could be a smokescreen for illegality.

So here's an honest question. I have no idea what my answer might be, truly. There is torture, which is treating your prisoner as a means to an end, and then there is punishment, which as I take Zippy to mean, is treating your prisoner as an end in himself. As I understand Zippy so far, he thinks that the former is ruled out, and the latter ruled in. I'm not expressing an opinion either way about that - and Zippy, correct me if I've got that wrong.

All right then; what if we had said to KSM, "Mr. Mohammed, you are to be punished. For your crimes against humanity, we shall lash you 100 times with a cat o'nine tails. Normally this results in death, although some British sailors survived the punishment. Now, if you cooperate with us in preventing your former associates from such crimes in the future, we may reduce your punishment to only 50 lashes. Should you decide not to cooperate, your decision is not irrevocable; you will be given an opportunity to change that decision after you have received 10 lashes, and again after you have received 20, and again after you have received 30. Nothing you do or say, however, will reduce your punishment to less than 50 lashes."

I don't mean to suggest that I approve of this idea. I'm just trying to parse.

Rob G,

In any case, the feeling/belief that you might die (seeing that you'd have no way of knowing that up-front in your particular case, like in Dosty's fake firing squad) is what is being experienced.

Are you seriously characterizing any such attempts that would have suspects believing in a certain fabricated fiction typically employed by even certain law enforcement agents in order to obtain the truth as actually being 'torture'?

If that's indeed the case, all the psychological manipulations commonly utilized by our local law enforcement have been nothing more but cruel and inhumane torture sessions and the common populace's Law & Order series, nothing more but flagrant demonstrations of such for the entire benefit of the public at large!

Heck, I suppose an actual true story case wherein a suspect had endured such mental anxiety caused by a detective's ploy that had convinced her she contracted AIDS from a serial killer she was in cohoots with, the latter whom the police were attempting to capture & apprehend, a manipulative mental ploy which ultimately led to her very cooperation and the swift arrest of this serial killer ultimately saving the lives of his potential victims; such manipulation of a suspect could only be described as vile and brutal 'torture', no!?

They don't just uncritically repeat the talking points of Moveon.org...

Thou art an heretic if thou shalt happen to oppose The Gospel of Moveon.org!

Forget, if you will, the fact that the majority of Democrats themselves, after 9/11, had initially turned a blind eye on torture and even overwhelmingly endorsed it.

Yet, there is now such foul revisionism that would have an unaware and generally ignorant populace believe that these folks were always against such things, even from the beginning -- that they were even then but holy ministers of The Word as preached beneficently by Moveon.org!


When the threat seemed imminent after 9/11, Democrats were only too happy to keep quiet and let the Bush Administration and CIA do whatever it took to prevent another attack. But in the seemingly safer present, they want to subject every one of those decisions to the political retribution of MoveOn.org.

SOURCE: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121366371989679409.html

"Are you seriously characterizing any such attempts that would have suspects believing in a certain fabricated fiction typically employed by even certain law enforcement agents in order to obtain the truth as actually being 'torture'?"

Of course not, else I would not have used the fake firing squad example and related the whole thing to the induced fear of imminent death. Does this mean you'd defend the false firing squad approach?


Having said that, couldn't someone respond this way, "The fact that he went through 183 spills means that it wasn't torture to him.
Yes. Someone could. In fact, someone has: it's been a standard talking point of the Rubber Hose Right since Limbaugh first proposed it for mass consumption by dittoheads a week or so ago.

Of course, it's an argument of almost preternatural stupidity. But still, you are right: someone could respond with it and lots of people are either born stupid or working hard to achieve stupidity by force of will.

You see, in torture sessions, it's not the *victim* who decides how many times he will be tortured. It's the torturer. You might as well say that since a woman was gang raped multiple times, that means it wasn't rape to her.

Blackadder's right, Dr. Beckwith. Listen to him. Instead of merely proposing preternaturally stupid responses as hypotheticals, go all the way and analyze why they are preternaturally stupid. Philosophy is, after all, about the love of wisdom.

Blackadder's right, Dr. Beckwith. Listen to him. Instead of merely proposing preternaturally stupid responses as hypotheticals...

Just what exactly was so stupid

about Dr. Beckwith's subject comment other than the stupidity with which certain interlocutors themselves have responded (the above obviously being a case-in-point)?

Albert:

I'm uncertain as to the implication Zippy's trying to raise of the falsity of the Library Tower claim, though.
The post's titular allusion is supposed to gesture in the direction of the answer you seek: not to whether the Wolf is or is not real this time, but to the credibility of the Boy. Mark Shea also pointed out to me that a time machine would be required for the story to scan, since the Library Tower plot, such as it was, was broken up before KSM's capture.

Frank:
I suppose that whether KSM was unstrapped from the waterboard and re-strapped to the waterboard 183 times is an intriguing question of fact, though I'm not sure the resolution of that question helps the tale-telling Boy all that much. What is a Christian to do when the Boy, the Villagers, and the Wolf are all either dupes or self-serving liars?

Kristor:
I've suggested that it might have been morally licit to try KSM, convict him, sentence him to death, and offer leniency in return for information. We wouldn't sentence him to waterboarding if convicted, though. As Maximos pointed out in a now long-lost discussion on the defunct Enchiridion Militis, waterboarding (or "stress positions", or dousing a prisoner with cold water and leaving him to die of hypothermia in the Afghan night, or threatening to torture and murder a prisoner's children) just isn't the kind of thing we do as punishment. That tends to be a frustrating answer to folks who think that a positivist definition is required in order conclude that waterboarding a prisoner for information is torture; but since I'm not a positivist, that doesn't trouble me (except to the extent it is used to cast specious fog over the supposed "question" of whether or not we immorally and illegally tortured prisoners).

You see, in torture sessions, it's not the *victim* who decides how many times he will be tortured. It's the torturer. You might as well say that since a woman was gang raped multiple times, that means it wasn't rape to her.

So now, an actual incident of rape now being thus held the equivalent to having a suspect suffer an actual case thereof?

I suppose that my having manipulated a suspect into believing that I had administered to him a deadly virus, of which only I had the cure and would only provide upon his admission of truth, is very much the same thing as my having actually done so?

To help facilitate your profound intelligence in the matter:

The former case in which he only believes thus is a completely different matter from the latter wherein I had actually done thus since if the latter was indeed the case, he would ultimately die if not for my supposed remedy.

In the case of the former, the suspect still has the freedom to reason his way out and call the detective's bluff.

This is quite different your outrageous assertion in having compared it to actually being comparable to an actual incident that had actually taken place, such as in a woman having been really gang-raped!

Yes, Frank, only preternatual stupidity or a Cafeteria Catholic Bush-worshipping Ay-rab -hating Dittohead desire to shill for the Rubber Hose Right could possibly (or, to be excessively charitable, at least plausibly) motivate anyone even to raise conceptual questions about what constitutes torture. So, come on now, listen to your moral betters, then go see your confessor ASAP, OK?

I mean, as I noted in an earlier post, it's all just so obvious, right? Nothing more need be said!

What is a Christian to do...?

Compose sweet apologia for the beloved terrorists so that all inimical attempts endeavouring to protect the innocent can once and for all be thwarted, as it is a much better thing for innocent American civilians and their families to suffer harm than the dear terrorists themselves.

...it's all just so obvious, right?
That what we actually did to prisoners was immoral torture, yes, is just so obvious. What a positive definition of torture which could encompass every possible hypothetical might look like, and if such a thing is even possible, is not obvious. But those are two very different things.
Just what exactly was so stupid about Dr. Beckwith's subject comment

I'm sorry, but I cannot teach music to the tone deaf or art appreciation to the blind. If the gang rape analogy could not alert you to the problem of Dr. Beckwith's hypothetical response, no mortal power can put in what God has left out of your critical faculties.

Zippy,

What a positive definition of torture which could encompass every possible hypothetical might look like, and if such a thing is even possible, is not obvious. But those are two very different things.

Perhaps if you would kindly dedicate space to this kind of rumination in addition to your frequent attack of anything and everything that is supposed as torture, we could get somewhere.

Too frequent have I encountered the extreme (or, more precisely, extremely risible) opinion in Catholic foras where certain seemingly devout Catholic anti-torture apologists would have folks believing that even confining a terrorist in a 6x9 cell with bars on the windows as actually torture and that even the common application of "Good Cop/Bad Cop" psychological manipulation is as well and, in fact, considered by these as actually 'police brutality'!

certain seemingly devout Catholic anti-torture apologists would have folks believing that even confining a terrorist in a 6x9 cell with bars on the windows as actually torture

I haven't met these people myself. Who are they? For myself, I have tended to confine my examples of torture to what is unambigously torture (wateboarding, freezing prisoners, strappado). Of course, there are grey areas where seemingly innocuous things *can* be used for torture (and have been). But since the Makers of Fine Distinctions are so eager to always pretend that such grey areas are proof we do not torture, I have tended not to bother with them.

We have a moral duty -- a sacred obligation -- to protect our fellows from terrorism. In pursuit of that duty, we are not wrong to submit terrorists to torture. If nothing less or nothing else will work in pursuit of that protection, then torture is not only morally permissible, it is required. If you can protect thousands of your fellows from suffering and death at the hands of terrorists by torturing a terrorist, and you do not do it, you have done evil.

If it's not clear, I'm saying that in such cases torturing terrorists is not evil. I'm saying that waterboarding is better than KSM deserved, and better than he gave to others. I'm saying that for him and those like him, it is a mercy.

The thousands who died on 9/11, knew, at some point, they were doomed, that they were going to die, and that their coming confrontation with death was not a dry run, that it was neither practice nor fake, as in the case of merely waterboarding KSM it was. In many cases, I suspect, the horror of 9/11 was, for them, simply undeserved torture -- sometimes emotional torture, as when the thought of their impending demise loomed large in their minds, and sometimes physical torture, as the flames and searing heat inched inexorably closer. If torture came back to KSM, it was not evil. It was justice.

In short, waterboarding KSM was mercy on one level and justice on another. I am not opposed to either mercy or justice, and I call neither of them evil.

Mark Shea,

If the gang rape analogy could not alert you to the problem of Dr. Beckwith's hypothetical response, no mortal power can put in what God has left out of your critical faculties.

Did you even read my subsequent response in that regard?

In the scenario I presented, my attempt in making the suspect believe I administered to him a deadly virus is a much different thing from my actually having done so.

As I said, in the former, the man can reasonably call my bluff. In the latter, it matters little if he does because I actually did.

Your attempting to make the former scenario (which depends principally on what/how the suspect thinks) equivalent to the very situation wherein an act had actually transpired (a woman really having been gang-raped) is not only stupid but, even further, stupidly outrageous.

That is, again, in order to help your remarkable thought process in this regard, my pretending to having administered such virus to a suspect to make him believe thus is NOT the same thing as a person having actually raped a woman!

Aristocles,

First, I too would like to see the examples of anti-torture folks who have said that "confining a terrorist in a 6x9 cell with bars on the windows." (If you can't do that, and want to concede that this claim was just ill-advised bluster on your part, that's fine too).

Second, your view seems to be that it's okay to make someone think that you are going to do something horrible to them, and it only becomes torture if you actually do it. If that is your view (and I would note that this isn't the view of Mr. Beckwith's hypothetical questioner) then you would seem to be committed to the view that what went on in Room 101 in the novel 1984 wasn't torture, since the authorities didn't actually let the rat loose on Winston Smith, but only made him think that they were going to do so. Personally I think any view of torture on which it turns out that what happened to Winston in Room 101 wasn't torture is ipso facto a false view. But perhaps you see it differently?

Your attempting to make the former scenario (which depends principally on what/how the suspect thinks) equivalent to the very situation wherein an act had actually transpired (a woman really having been gang-raped) is not only stupid but, even further, stupidly outrageous.

No. I'm attempting to say that a man who is actually tortured and a woman who is actually gang-raped are both at the mercy of the people who are torturing and gang-raping them. The fact that these evil acts are perpetrated against them multiple times is no proof at all that it is not torture or rape to them. To say that it is evidence of this is preternaturally stupid. To mention that "somebody" might say it, without noting the preternatural stupidity of the argument is not what I would call an optimal exercise of the vocation of "philosopher".

Blackadder,

(1) That would ultimately betray my very identity; like the ever eponymous, "Zippy Catholic", I very much rather enjoy my privacy, thank-you. For certain liberal minds, issues such as concerning privacy should be deemed automatically acceptable -- unless, of course, that only extends to the terrorists whose rights even in that regard should not without question be violated.

(2) So are you telling me that even the common psychological tactics & manipulations of local law enforcement are actually 'torture' too?


In other words, unless we apply 'kiddy gloves' to both terrorist and criminal alike, we are such cruel torturers!

My, oh my --

Can it be that only the terrorists and criminals themselves should be preserved from harm and that multitudes of innocent Americans and their families should simply concede to suffering both devestation and painful tragedy?

Are you really so resolved in consigning the fates of several populations of American innocents on behalf of such vile men and would, thus, rather dedicate on their respective altars to their god the dead of even our beloved, of our own families, too?

As I have already noted, the 183 number is highly misleading. But that, of course, does not have any effect on the judgment as to whether the act itself is torture.

I actually had not heard Limbaugh's comments on this matter. (I really don't remember the last time I listened to his radio show). I thought of the fictional comments all by my lonesome. That's what we philosophers tend to do. It is not our first thought to reach for the rubber hose remark.

But, of course, it should not matter who says this or that. What should matter is whether one has a good or bad argument, whether one has carefully thought through the issue in question.

As I have said on numerous posts, I carry no brief for torture. I think, as the Church teaches, that torture is intrinsically evil. There are, of course, clear cut cases of torture. And there are, of course, clear cut cases of non-torture. But there are, whether we like it or not, borderline cases whose intrinsic evil a reasonable and well-informed person may call into question. Consider this example. The Church teaches that active euthanasia is intrinsically immoral, including some acts of withholding treatment that lead to death. On the other hand, there are acts of withholding treatment that lead to death that are not intrinsically immoral. So, if someone were to simply employ colorful pejoratives to distract us from the serious work of thinking carefully and cautiously about these borderline cases--e.g., "killer," "rubber hose right,"--that someone would be planting the seeds of intellectual vice into his listeners. He would be providing the occasion for a person to harm his own soul.

Although I understand Mr. Shea's passion, and indeed respect the tenacity he employs in making his case, I cannot help but think that his pious pose and profane prose do little in reminding his listeners that he is an advocate for the good, the true, and the beautiful. Perhaps it is sometimes true that you can take the boy out of fundamentalism, but you can't take the fundamentalism out of the boy.

Mark,

No. I'm attempting to say that a man who is actually tortured and a woman who is actually gang-raped...

Again, you've missed the point another nth time --

The man who is actually tortured?

In the scenario I presented wherein I only pretended to administer a deadly virus, should that man suffer extreme anxiety to no end which ultimately results in his admitting the truth, could that be reasonably be considered 'torture'?

How about in the case wherein instead of believing that I had actually done so, he decided to call my bluff?

Can you now (FINALLY) see how this would ultimately depend on the suspect's perception of things?

So are you telling me that even the common psychological tactics & manipulations of local law enforcement are actually 'torture' too?

No, that's not what I'm telling you, nor is it a reasonable inference from what I said. Surely you can recognize a distinction between what went on in Room 101 and what goes on in the interrogations typically conducted by local law enforcement. I mean, I could be under a misapprehension about how local law enforcement operates, but my impression was that it didn't involve a lot of pretending that you were able to kill or maim a suspect (or even that you had infected them with a deadly disease).

That would ultimately betray my very identity

You can't point me to the people who think keeping someone in an ordinary jail cell is torture because doing so would reveal your secret identity? That don't make a whole lot of sense. In any event, given your response to be above, my guess is that were you to actually give examples of such people, it would turn out that they had no more said jail cells were torture than I said the tactics of ordinary law enforcement were torture.

Blackadder,

Catholic foras are not so huge that you can't actually locate the comments yourself.

Therefore, I shall leave it to your immense faculties of profound thought (which, in contrast to the notorious Shea, I happen to duly respect even if we should happen to differ time & again in many respects, as has often been the case previously) the extreme pleasure of so triumphant & remarkable a discovery.

If the idea is that I should search around the Catholic blogosphere looking for people who think jailing equals torture, then I'll pass.

Now, back to the other point: Do you concede that what happened in Room 101 was torture, and hence that threatening or pretending to do horrible things to someone can constitute torture just as much as actually doing them?

Blackadder,

I could be under a misapprehension about how local law enforcement operates, but my impression was that it didn't involve a lot of pretending that you were able to kill or maim a suspect (or even that you had infected them with a deadly disease
).

The latter example is just as valid as yours which finds its source in basically a work of fiction. In fact, mine happens to be more so germane to the topic at hand when you consider the true life AIDS ploy actually employed by said detective (who resorted to this kind of 'pretending') as depicted in an earlier comment.

Now, again, if the suspect did not suffer similar torments had she not taken stock in what the detective would have her believe (i.e., she had contracted AIDS from the very person, the serial killer, whom she herself was working with), basically calling his bluff, would that still nevertheless be considered torture, as Mr. Shea would have one believe?

Whether or not she suffered such torment, personally, I would not consider either situation as 'torture'.

Aristocles,

Why don't you answer my question about Room 101?

Again, you've missed the point another nth time --

No. I've consciously and deliberately ignored your point, because it is preternaturally stupid.

Seriously. I get what you are saying. You are saying, like Spock, that "Torture is a thing of the mind." In your words, torture "would ultimately depend on the suspect's perception of things" This is both stupid and evil for a couple of reasons. First, it is to claim that torture isn't torture if the torturers don't actually kill their victim.

Second, it is to entirely subjectivize all psychological torments and blame the victim while exonerating the criminal.

So, for instance, one can just as easily say that rape is a thing of the mind as well. The marital act and rape are physically identical. Indeed, sex is widely acclaimed as almost the greatest earthly pleasure. So (concludes British National Party's London leader, Nick Eriksen, "Rape is like being force-fed chocolate cake". Why not say (as quickly-unemployed weatherman Bob Knight said on air some years back), "If rape is inevitable, why not just sit back and enjoy the ride?" It's all in the victim's head or, as you put it, it "ultimately depend[s] on the [woman's] perception of things. The so-called "rapist" has (physically) done what lovers all over the world do. In fact, golly!, the woman may well be guilty of ingratitude since the subjective intention of the "rapist" was simply to express his love for her the best way he knew how, just as the subjective will of the "torturer" is achieve some good end he has in view, such as keeping us all safe.

Do over, dude.

As I have already noted, the 183 number is highly misleading.

No. What's misleading is the claim the 183 acts of torture become five acts of torture if you cluster the 183 acts into groups of five.

I actually had not heard Limbaugh's comments on this matter.

I didn't say you had. I merely observed that Limbaugh issued this meme on his show and it was instantly taken up and circulated by torture defenders, some of whom I happen to correspond with. I've been hearing it for about a week now.

I thought of the fictional comments all by my lonesome. That's what we philosophers tend to do. It is not our first thought to reach for the rubber hose remark.

That's odd. Up above, you were chewing out Blackadder for attributing "somebody's" response to you. You wrote:

I did not merely say "The fact that he went through 183 spills means that it wasn't torture to him." I said that "someone could say that," which means that "someone," and not necessarily me, "could say that."

Now you are insisting that it was you, not merely a hypothetical "somebody" who is suggesting it.

What should matter is whether one has a good or bad argument, whether one has carefully thought through the issue in question.

Yes. And that's what I addressed: the fact that your (or "somebody's") argument was extraordinarily bad.

As I have said on numerous posts, I carry no brief for torture. I think, as the Church teaches, that torture is intrinsically evil.

Good.

There are, of course, clear cut cases of torture. And there are, of course, clear cut cases of non-torture. But there are, whether we like it or not, borderline cases whose intrinsic evil a reasonable and well-informed person may call into question
.

The old "What O What *is* Torture?" gambit. I can answer that in this case. Forcing somebody to undergo simulated drowning once, much less 183 times, is a clearcut case of torture,not a "borderline case". Attempting to argue to the contrary is sophistry.

So, if someone were to simply employ colorful pejoratives to distract us from the serious work of thinking carefully and cautiously about these borderline cases--e.g., "killer," "rubber hose right,"--that someone would be planting the seeds of intellectual vice into his listeners. He would be providing the occasion for a person to harm his own soul.

Keep the conventions. Break the commandments. Of course, I'm just a dumb fundamentalist, so I hope you can teach me about the serious work of thinking carefully.

Although I understand Mr. Shea's passion, and indeed respect the tenacity he employs in making his case, I cannot help but think that his pious pose and profane prose do little in reminding his listeners that he is an advocate for the good, the true, and the beautiful. Perhaps it is sometimes true that you can take the boy out of fundamentalism, but you can't take the fundamentalism out of the boy.

A sparkling display of empty ivory tower condescension to the hoi polloi, but not one which addressed a single substantive point I made in critiquing what "somebody" might say. This post, boiled down, says, "I cannot answer Shea's rebuttal of "somebody's" preternatually stupid argument in justification of waterboarding a victim 183 times. So I will don a professorial face, call him a fundamentalist, pat him on the head, and move on." For my part, I find it a tough sell to take seriously the claim that positing the possible moral legitimacy of torturing somebody 183 times is to be an advocate for the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Shea,

"One can just as easily say that rape is a thing of the mind as well"?

I suppose, then, that my niece, who herself was brutally raped in high school (leaving aside the fact that it happened to be a prominent & 'private' high school which should have afforded more protection especially given its eminent reputation as a supposedly superb academic institution -- or so it claimed), was perhaps indulging in some elaborate fantasy (and continue to do so now) perhaps fabricated by her assailant?

Too bad her notoriously-inflicted physical injuries that mainfested as a result say the contrary.

Though, thank God a certain Catholic Social Justice teacher who attended to this didn't think likewise and so stupidly as you do.

Now, if you will cease with all the puerile: "nah! nah! nah! nah! nah!, I'm not going to listen to what you have to say -- there's no place like home, there's no place like home!"; I'll ask you again, do you happen to consider the suspect who did not readily submit to the psychological ploy devised by the detective (and, as a result, did not suffer similar torments as the one who does) as still having been tortured?

I have close friend who is a rape victim too, so the "You callous fiend, you don't understand pain!" ploy will not work in distracting from my analysis of your bad argument.

Face it, dude: If you are going to reduce all psychological victimization and torment to the perception of the victim, then rape, like all psychological torture is, as *you* (not I) say, ultimately dependent on the victim's perception of things. I quite agree that this is a stupid and evil argument.

But then, it's not my argument. It's yours.

For those who missed it, this is "Shea's rebuttal":

Yes. Someone could. In fact, someone has: it's been a standard talking point of the Rubber Hose Right since Limbaugh first proposed it for mass consumption by dittoheads a week or so ago.

Of course, it's an argument of almost preternatural stupidity. But still, you are right: someone could respond with it and lots of people are either born stupid or working hard to achieve stupidity by force of will.

You see, in torture sessions, it's not the *victim* who decides how many times he will be tortured. It's the torturer. You might as well say that since a woman was gang raped multiple times, that means it wasn't rape to her.

Blackadder's right, Dr. Beckwith. Listen to him. Instead of merely proposing preternaturally stupid responses as hypotheticals, go all the way and analyze why they are preternaturally stupid. Philosophy is, after all, about the love of wisdom.

A sneer is not a rebuttal. He, nevertheless, draws our attention to it and calls it a "substantive point":

A sparkling display of empty ivory tower condescension to the hoi polloi, but not one which addressed a single substantive point I made in critiquing what "somebody" might say. This post, boiled down, says, "I cannot answer Shea's rebuttal of "somebody's" preternatually stupid argument in justification of waterboarding a victim 183 times.

Mark is boxing with phantoms in his own mind. I'm not defending torture. Never have; never will. What I am defending is thinking rather than emoting and demagoging.

A few things to remember:

1. just because Rush Limbaugh says something doesn't make it wrong.
2. a sneer is not a rebuttal.
3. if in your comments you employ insult as a substitute for argument, don't feign offense when those you insulted push back.
4. if you're going to trot out appeals to human dignity to ground your position, don't be surprised when people are taken aback when you don't treat them with dignity when making your case.
5. don't follow leaders; watch the parking meters.

I hadn't realized that I'm a moral monster because I think that those who plot and plan to murder thousands of innocent, vulnerable civilians to score political points have willfully, volitionally forfeited the image and likeness that is God's gift to humanity, and that, having made that evil decision and then acted on that decision by murdering thousands of innocents, they _rightfully_ bear the _unpleasant_ consequences of those acts.

I'd rather be waterboarded 5 times [183 "pours"] than decide whether I'd rather fall stories and stories and stories to my death _or_ be immolated, or spend minutes or hours aloft, helplessly awaiting my own fiery death _and_ knowing that the cause of my death will cost hundreds, if not thousands, of my innocent, unsuspecting countrymen their lives. Now, those "options" are TORTURE.

And what about the torture many of the 9-11 _rescuers_ will spend the rest of their lives enduring?

I think it's the height of hypocrisy to sit in one's comfy armchair and vent one's high moral dudgeon about America's depravity, blahblahblahblah, because its governors resorted to "torture" in reponse to 9-11. The Bush administration was charged with protecting the lives of American citizens, not the human rights of the ravening -INhuman- terrorists who've devoted their lives to engineering the _hideous_ murder of as many innocent, vulnerable people as they can.

And, after all, it's not as if those of you who think of yourselves as morally superior, as stranding on the moral high ground, would bear an iota of responsibility for the consequences of _your_ "moral" prescriptions, is it?

1. just because Rush Limbaugh says something doesn't make it wrong.

True. Which is why I never said so. I merely noted that "somebody" has in fact made the point you are making and that lots of other somebody have been repeating it.

2. a sneer is not a rebuttal.

Correct. *This* is a rebuttal:

You see, in torture sessions, it's not the *victim* who decides how many times he will be tortured. It's the torturer. You might as well say that since a woman was gang raped multiple times, that means it wasn't rape to her.

And it's a rebuttal you *still* have not addressed.

3. if in your comments you employ insult as a substitute for argument, don't feign offense when those you insulted push back.

I employed no insult. I described "somebody's" argument as preternaturally stupid, because that's what it is. It lacks intelligence. It does not betray even the rudiments of critical analysis of its huge weaknesses. I took it for granted that you were sincere when you told Blackadder that is it not what you think, but what "somebody" might think. I said that if "somebody" were to actually think that, they would be thinking something stupid and that other (not you) have in fact, expressed this stupid idea. But even that is directed at the idea, not the person. But since I took it for granted that you were not claiming you think it, I said nothing about you at all--except to express my disappointment that you would give voice to "somebody's" hypothetical opinion without noting the gigantic flaws in the argument.

4. if you're going to trot out appeals to human dignity to ground your position, don't be surprised when people are taken aback when you don't treat them with dignity when making your case.

I said nothinng about your person at all. I noted that the argument has been popular among the torture defenders I meet in cyberspace (whom I refer to as the "Rubber Hose Right" just not a few here speak casually of the "Moloch-worshipping Left"). I did not say you numbered among them, merely that the argument was popular with them, which it is. Again, my words were directed at the idea, not the man. In contrast, you have called me a Fundamentalist as a way of explaining, "Shut up."

5. don't follow leaders; watch the parking meters.

You know, that's just what I tell those who are bending over backward to adore Obama or excuse Bush/Cheney torture policies.

whom I refer to as the "Rubber Hose Right" just ***as*** a few here speak casually of the "Moloch-worshipping Left").

D'oh!

Shea,

Your remarkable powers of reason would reduce even the most dedicated of detectives who simply subjects his suspects to the usual "Good Cop/Bad Cop" routine a heinous torturer since, to you, all such efforts that employ any form of psychological interrogation as nothing but 'torture'.

As regarding the matter of polite debate, why don't you learn a thing or two from your friend, Zippy, or even Blackadder?

Rare have I ever found these individuals to engage in the sort of uncharitable argumentation as you yourself so notoriously and quite characteristically exhibit time & again to no end.

Instead of living up to such noble Catholic principles (the very ones you claim to subscribe to, preach ever so frequently & profoundly, everywhere & always and, in fact, so prominently flash as part of your very credentials in the world of supposedly Catholic apologia), you have proven to be nothing more than the exact opposite of what your blog purportedly profess and, therefore, might I suggest, in order to more properly reflect its (and your) purpose, its renaming to: Catholic & Exploiting It!.

If someone is tortured to death and never gives in, does that mean he wasn't really tortured at all?

"Aristocles, why don't you answer my question about Room 101?"

For the same reason, presumbably, that he didn't answer mine about the false firing squad? Who gives an airborne act of coitus if the Room 101 example stems from a work of fiction?

BTW, Dostoevsky's firing squad doesn't.

Rob G.,

If someone is tortured to death and never gives in, does that mean he wasn't really tortured at all?

If you would argue with me, define your terms (i.e., "torture"), as would Socrates.

Again, why don't you simply answer my question to you then:

Are you seriously characterizing any such attempts that would have suspects believing in a certain fabricated fiction typically employed by even certain law enforcement agents in order to obtain the truth as actually being 'torture'?

"pious pose and profane prose"

Now *that's* good. That's *really* good.

I wish I had written that.

"pious pose and profane prose"

Now *that's* good. That's *really* good.

I wish I had written that.


Quite Frankly, I myself was impressed.

Your remarkable powers of reason would reduce even the most dedicated of detectives who simply subjects his suspects to the usual "Good Cop/Bad Cop" routine a heinous torturer since, to you, all such efforts that employ any form of psychological interrogation as nothing but 'torture'.

Since I have never said and don't think this, I have to assume you are pulling this out of the same thin air that you found the "6x9 cells are torture" stuff. In short, you are making it up because you are frustrated by the fact that you cannot answer my rebuttal of your argument.

You continue:

blah blah polite debate blah blah uncharitable blah blah blah "Catholic and Exploiting It"

Hmmm... Still no reply to anything I said in rebuttal, just the hilarious suggestion that my opposition to torture was conceived as a quick ticket to popularity with my conservative Catholic readers.

Drat you. Now I have milk coming out my nose.

Who gives an airborne act of coitus if the Room 101 example stems from a work of fiction?

For the very same apparent reason why certain folks here have demonstrated such a profound lust for Hell (and I mean "Hell" here in both the regular & Elizabethan/Jacobin sense).

Shea,

First, it is to claim that torture isn't torture if the torturers don't actually kill their victim.

Like most your arguments, they mostly rely on things that beg the question.

You essentially want me to concede to you the argument already.

You've already deemed, as in previous discussions (unless, of course, you're now cowardly backtracking), all manner of psychologically-based interrogations as being 'torture'.

"why don't you simply answer my question to you then"

Dude, I already did. Way back at 2:35 p.m.

I think the reason Aristocles won't answer the question about Room 101 is fairly obvious. If he says that it is torture, then he has to concede that you can torture someone through threats and pretense, which means that he would have to give up his debating line. But if he says that it isn't torture then he looks like a fool. So the wisest course is just to ignore the question.

You see, in torture sessions, it's not the *victim* who decides how many times he will be tortured. It's the torturer. You might as well say that since a woman was gang raped multiple times, that means it wasn't rape to her.

Of course victims of gang-rape are _innocent_ people who are used as instruments by others. Equating a victim of rape and a 9-11 mastermind, and the rape victim's very real torture and the terrorist's "torture" is, in my opinion, morally depraved.

If a 9-11 terrorist had feared that waterboarding is _torture_, then he could simply have spilled the beans - thereby potentially saving the lives of hundreds or thousands of innocents and himself the physical and mental "ravages" of "torture." A person who's the target of gang-rapists can't _decide_ whether he'll ... what? ... or endure the torture, now can he? Next thing, you'll be equating Ted Bundy's execution and the "partial-birth" abortion of a full-term unborn child as morally equivalent crimes against humanity....

I may not agree with Zippy Catholic's anti-torture argument, but I do respect his perspective because he's coherent, reasonable, logical, and [most importantly] not hateful.

Your gripe, it seems to me, is just so much anti-conservative bigotry.


You've already deemed, as in previous discussions (unless, of course, you're now cowardly backtracking), all manner of psychologically-based interrogations as being 'torture'.

No. I don't. That's just something you keep pulling out of thin air along with falsehood about my supposed belief that 6x9 cells and good cop/bad cop techniques are "torture". You apparently do this because you have nothing to say to what I've actually said and this angers you.

What I've actually said is that the attempt to deny waterboarding is torture by saying "If it happens 183 times, it can't be torture to the victim" is preternaturally stupid.

The responses to this simple point have been, so far, to complain that I am calling names (as a prelude to calling me a Fundamentalist), to call my substantive rebuttal a sneer, to claim that I am exploiting my faith, and to suggest that I am a coward (I might have missed some of the invective. Forgive me, if so). Entertaining as all that is, I cannot help but note that none of this really addresses my point, just as you have not addressed Blackadder's point.

Ari,

What is it that makes you think waterboarding (the long-forgotten subject of the post) is psychologically-based? Are you unwilling to concede that it is physical suffocation?

Preach it, MarjorieMorningstar.

I'm with you on this one. I have no gripe with Zippy, aside from my clarification on the 183 number.

Blackadder,

If I the detective, you the suspect, would you really regard my attempts at psychologically manipulating the details by mere verbal nuance the very same thing as that?

Amongst many, many other things that challenges the appropriateness of such a comparison, effort as in the former (i.e., the detective's verbal construction of the suspect's own making) does not force one's will on the suspect and, in fact, it is entirely up to the suspect himself to accept any details introduced by the ploy.

He can easily call off the detective's bluff and even if he should happen to buy into it and suffer incredible mental anxiety and torment as a result, it is of his own creation.

I hope you can appreciate how this is not essentially the same as in the room 101 fiction suggested, which actually only stretches the very boundaries of one's reason to the point of incredulity, not to mention, strains even scientific possibility.

Of course victims of gang-rape are _innocent_ people who are used as instruments by others.

Three points:

1. Of course rape victims are innocent. But aristocles point doesn't depend on guilt or innocence. He is saying that psychological torture is ultimately depends on th3e perception of the victim. That, being translated, is another way of saying "sit back and enjoy the ride" whether you are guilty or innocent. It's precisely *because* his theory punishes victims and exonerates the guilty that I criticize it.

2. Many torture victims are innocent too. That's the thing about torture: you inflict it to find out if the person you are torturing is worthy of torture. 80% of the victims at Abu Ghraib were never even charged. However, by the time you've figured out that your victim was innocent, you are guilty of mortal sin. If you do what many torturers do and cover up your crime with a lie, you only compound the evil and make your date with the fires of Hell more certain. The way to avoid this is: don't torture.

3. The standard boilerplate reply: "But the terrorist is *guilty* gives away the real motivation here. Those who say it is okay to waterboard "solely for the purpose of getting information" overlook the fact that, if your really want to get a man to crack, all you have to do is what Soviets (and, apparently the CIA) have done: torture and terrify his wife and children. Men who will accept their own death will sing like canaries if you just accept John Yoo's reasoning that it might legitimate to crush the testicles of the victim's nine year old boy. So why not torture the children of suspected terrorists?

"Because they are innocent!" says the torture defender. "So what?" says the efficiency expert. "As you have said, this is not about crime and punishment. This about saving the lives of millions of people. Are you going to sit there and tell me you would let everybody in New York die rather than make this boy a eunuch? After all, the Catholic tradition has a rich heritage of eunuchs and castrati in its background. We're not doing this out of a sense of vengeance. We're doing it because it's the quickest way to get the information we need."

What this hightlights is two things. First, that those who say "But the terrorist is guilty" are really saying "Torture him as punishment" (which is one of the things the Catechism *specifically* condemns.

Secondly, it points out that post-Christian culture, which is not especially interested in Catholic niceties about the dignity of the human person, but is very interested in efficiency, will surely build on the sophistries of Catholic torture apologetics to follow wondrous paths of logic few seem to be contemplating.

Grant torture, and the torture of loved ones and children will *surely* follow and night follows day. Especially in our culture which already uses the weak like toilet paper every day.

I hope you can appreciate how this is not essentially the same as in the room 101 fiction suggested, which actually only stretches the very boundaries of one's reason to the point of incredulity, not to mention, strains even scientific possibility.

Have you read the relevant section of 1984? There's nothing in there that strains scientific possibility.

In any event, you seem to think that I'm equating a Room 101 scenario with with cops typically do in interrogation. I'm not. The point of the Room 101 example (and the example of Dostoevsky's fake firing squad) is to show that threats and pretense can constitute torture, and so the argument that waterboarding isn't torture because they aren't really drowning you is unsound.

He is saying that psychological torture is ultimately depends on th3e perception of the victim.

Again with the notorious question-begging.

Psychologically-based interrogation do not so easily and unquestionably fall under the category of torture.

If that's indeed the case, then policemen/women are nothing more than your friendly neighborhood 'torturer', as Shea would have one believe.

Grant torture, and the torture of loved ones and children will *surely* follow and night follows day. Especially in our culture which already uses the weak like toilet paper every day.

And to add insult to injury, certain pro-terrorist (purportedly Christian) apologists who would similarly (and quite unhesitatingly) offer innocent American families simply as holocausts to be burnt on the altars of these vile Mohammedans!

certain pro-terrorist (purportedly Christian) apologists who would similarly (and quite unhesitatingly) offer innocent American families simply as holocausts to be burnt on the altars of these vile Mohammedans

You keep modeling that civil discourse and even a dumb Fundamentalist like me might see the light some day. Thanks for doing, 'ow you say?, the serious work of thinking carefully and cautiously.

You stay classy, Aristocles.

Mark,

...and even a dumb Fundamentalist like me might see the light some day...

For the record, I wasn't the one who labelled you a 'Fundamentalist'; check with your friend, Frank Beckwith.

Psychologically-based interrogation do not so easily and unquestionably fall under the category of torture.

Yet you already admitted they can be in that category without introducing any physical coercion, but when you are actively suffocating a suspect it strangely stops looking like "psychologically-based interrogation" and looking instead like basic sadism. But hey, at least you saved civilization just like Jack Bauer does every season.

If a 9-11 terrorist had feared that waterboarding is _torture_, then he could simply have spilled the beans - thereby potentially saving the lives of hundreds or thousands of innocents and himself the physical and mental "ravages" of "torture." A person who's the target of gang-rapists can't _decide_ whether he'll ... what? ... or endure the torture, now can he?

This assumes a number things less and less in evidence.

First, why do we assume that a torture victim has but to say the word and the torture will cease? The victims at Abu Ghraib were worked over by people who had no interest in ceasing to do the work they loved.

Second, it assumes that the victim is guilty of something, which is also often not the case.

Third, it assumes that the torturer is trying to torture the truth out of his victim. At Gitmo, the Bush Administration ordered that interrogators be instructed from a 1957 manual describing Commie technique for eliciting *false* confessions.

Why false confessions? Well, if reports emerging now are true, it's because the interrogators were under intense pressure to torture victims into confessing link between Saddam and Al-Quaeda as a casus belli for war.

That's the thing about grave sin. People who commit it might also fib to you that they are torturing in order to get the Truth. They also have a habit of covering up their tortures of innocent people with the logic, "We wouldn't have tortured him if he wasn't guilty." That's not to say that KSM was innocent. He's a filthy butcher. It's to say that once you cut down all the laws in England to get at the devil, you have nowhere to hide when the devil turns round on you, the laws being all flat. If Caesar decides you need to confess something for the Greater Good (say, the spotless divinity of Obama, the glory of gay marriage, or the joyful perfection of aborion), you find yourself having to face men who love their work, who aren't too interested in accuracy, and who just need you to say what they demand you say. That's an unwise thing to arm a post-Christian Caesar with.

I wasn't the one who labelled you a 'Fundamentalist';

Sorry. You called me a pro-terrorist alleged Christian who would offer innocent families as Holocausts. I get confused.

Anyhow, thanks for the sterling lessons in civil discourse. I've learned so much!

Of course rape victims are innocent. But aristocles point doesn't depend on guilt or innocence. He is saying that psychological torture is ultimately depends on th3e perception of the victim. That, being translated, is another way of saying "sit back and enjoy the ride" whether you are guilty or innocent. It's precisely *because* his theory punishes victims and exonerates the guilty that I criticize it.

Excuse me. I think you don't apprehend Aristocles' point.

Secondly, it is only because you misapprehend Aristocles' argument that you can conclude that his theory "punishes victims and exonerates the guilty."

Many torture victims are innocent too. That's the thing about torture: you inflict it to find out if the person you are torturing is worthy of torture. 80% of the victims at Abu Ghraib were never even charged.

Which is another straw man. _None_, not a one, of the people who were subjected to government-sanctioned "torture" were or are innocent.

I'll give the Abu Ghraib red herring the attention it merits: none.

Now, substantiate your repulsive claim that the CIA has, like the Soviet Union, "torture[d] and terrif[ied] his wife and children" in order to make a man sing like a canary.

Anyone who stoops to making such really dishonest allegations, to resorting to what are plainly logical fallacies, to equating the rape of the innocent and the "torture" of mass-murdering terrorists, in order to "win" an argument, is not a person whose "moral authority" I'd think a picosecond about deferring to.

Yet you already admitted they can be in that category without introducing any physical coercion...

Already admitted? Not unless you deem a Goren-style interrogation as actually being 'torture'.


...but when you are actively suffocating a suspect it strangely stops looking like "psychologically-based interrogation" and looking instead like basic sadism. But hey, at least you saved civilization just like Jack Bauer does every season.

Oh, that's right --

I forgot how in many of my comments I actually happened to advocate wrapping saran wrap on a suspect's face until he fesses up or that folks follow some Jack Bauer-esque interrogation measure.

Mark,

I only said that it was your dear friend, Frank Beckwith, who happened to call you a Fundy; not that I, myself, did not call you many other things (note: while I took exception at the "fundamentalist" portion of 'dumb fundamentalist', I did not actually object to the 'dumb' part). ;^)

Marjorie's right about Abu Ghraib. It was a gross injustice, and the perpetrators were rightly convicted. But Abu Ghraib no more counts against tough interrogation techniques for the purpose of saving lives than does the bombing of Dresden count against the just cause of defeating the Nazis.

War is hell and it's messy. Sometimes injustices occur, even within the confines of a just war. But since the goal of just war theory is to establish that a war is just, it seems that to inhibit the execution of a just war by exaggerating or accentuating the injustices (and thus demoralizing the troops and the country) that almost always occur in its commission is a violation of the virtue of prudence.

Remember, in classical just war theory the default position is not "cease fire," it is justice. That is, you always err on the side of justice, not pacifism. It is only within recent decades in which the just war tradition has been co-opted by neo-pacifists or Niebuhrian realists that this truth has been obscured and often forgotten.

The way the media went with AG was hurtful to our cause in Iraq, and probably emboldened the enemy. And thus, may have cost more lives. Yes, punish the punk-ass sadists that did this. But, for God's sake, remember, as the saying goes, "loose lips sink ships."

Excuse me. I think you don't apprehend Aristocles' point.

Yes. I do. He says that whether or not a thing is torture ultimately depends on the perception of the victim. That is (as the morons who tell rape victims to just change their perceptions, sit back, and enjoy it) to blame the victim and exonerate the people inflicting the psychological torture, whether via rape or waterboarding.

Which is another straw man. _None_, not a one, of the people who were subjected to government-sanctioned "torture" were or are innocent.

Not true. Maher Arar was completely innocent, but we renditioned him for months of torture in Syria. However, that's beside the point. What I'm saying is that the sort of people who apply for the job of torturer and get good at it are not the sort of people who necessarily have a big interest in what their victim says. They just like their work. Your assumption that all a torture victim need do is just spill the beans and the torture stops is a fact not in evidence. That's because torturers, not their victims, decide how often and how long they are to be tortured. I have a friend who used to live in the USSR. He remembers Soviet officers who used laugh about the things their victims would say as they begged for it to stop. All jolly dinner table conversation.

Now, substantiate your repulsive claim that the CIA has, like the Soviet Union, "torture[d] and terrif[ied] his wife and children" in order to make a man sing like a canary.

Ron Suskind reported this in the One Percent Doctrine to howls of protest much like yours. Now that the torture memos have come out, there appears to be renewed evidence that we ">terrorized KSM's children

.

Anyone who stoops to making such really dishonest allegations, to resorting to what are plainly logical fallacies, to equating the rape of the innocent and the "torture" of mass-murdering terrorists, in order to "win" an argument, is not a person whose "moral authority" I'd think a picosecond about deferring to.

The allegations are not mine. I merely note that there is apparent evidence for them. I'm not seeing the logical fallacies, just your loud proclamations that they are there. Nor am I equating the innocent with the guilty, though that is a good red herring if you can't actually deal with my substantive point.

And what my "moral authority" has to do with anything I can't imagine. I suppose this is another one of those "People who oppose torture only do so because they are moral exhibitionists" ploys so beloved of people who can't think of anything substantial to say.

Are we getting to that serious work of thinking carefully and cautiously yet? Seems a lot like yelling and calling me names so far.

"I only said that it was your dear friend, Frank Beckwith, who happened to call you a Fundy; not that I, myself, did not call you many other things (note: while I took exception at the "fundamentalist" portion of 'dumb fundamentalist', I did not actually object to the 'dumb' part). ;^)"

Sheesh, thanks aristocles. Throw Beckwith under the bus. :-)

I take full credit for the fundy line. It was intended to be a snarky slight to get under Shea's skin. So, I apologize for it, since my motives were far from pure. Shea and I have had similar pilgrimages from Wheaton to Rome.

Frank

War is hell and it's messy. Sometimes injustices occur, even within the confines of a just war. But since the goal of just war theory is to establish that a war is just, it seems that to inhibit the execution of a just war by exaggerating or accentuating the injustices (and thus demoralizing the troops and the country) that almost always occur in its commission is a violation of the virtue of prudence.

So, a systematic program of war crimes involving prisoner abuse and torture, occurring in multiple sites (not just at Abu Ghraib) and involving lots of victims (over a hundred dead by violence while in our custody) should not be investigated or prosecuted... out of concern for justice?

I don't think that word means what you think it means. "War is hell" is not found in the Catechism. "The moral law is not abrogated in wartime" *is* found in the Catechism. I'm just a so-callled Christian who is clearly pro-terrorist and who can't wait to see my family die in searing pain, but I still sort of think that getting our just war guidance from the Catechism and not from William Tecumseh Sherman might be a way to distinguish the Tradition of God from the traditions of men.

It was intended to be a snarky slight to get under Shea's skin.

S'alright dude. For a brief shining moment, when you stooped down and patted me on my Fundamentalist head before returning to your Ivory Tower to Think Great and Serious Thoughts, I felt as though you almost regarded me as an equal. I will treasure that moment.

Hey! Way to call Ari out on that all-important "incivility" issue. So distracting from, 'ow you say?, that serious work of thinking carefully and cautiously. Glad to see the grownups are in charge!

S'alright dude. For a brief shining moment, when you stooped down and patted me on my Fundamentalist head before returning to your Ivory Tower to Think Great and Serious Thoughts, I felt as though you almost regarded me as an equal. I will treasure that moment.

Me too. Was it as good for me as it was for you?


First, why do we assume that a torture victim has but to say the word and the torture will cease? The victims at Abu Ghraib were worked over by people who had no interest in ceasing to do the work they loved.

You don't even bother to _pretend_ to answer an argument!

Why do you assume that anyone and everyone who is "tortured" is _necessarily_ a victim?

This discussion was, until it was rudely hijacked, about the government-sanctioned "torture" of 9-11 terrorists, not the "torture" of Abu Ghraib inmates by a handful of rogue sadists.

The guilt of the 9-11 terrorists who were "tortured" [waterboarded] is uncontested.

The CIA interrogators who "tortured" the 9-11 terrorists aren't sadists.

Second, it assumes that the victim is guilty of something, which is also often not the case.

The guilt of the 9-11 terrorists who were "tortured" [waterboarded] is uncontested.

Third, it assumes that the torturer is trying to torture the truth out of his victim. At Gitmo, the Bush Administration ordered that interrogators be instructed from a 1957 manual describing Commie technique for eliciting *false* confessions.

Who in his right mind would ponder, even momentarily, the moronic assertion that the 9-11 terrorists were "tortured" in order to
elicit DISinformation and FALSE confessions?

Why false confessions? Well, if reports emerging now are true, it's because the interrogators were under intense pressure to torture victims into confessing link between Saddam and Al-Quaeda as a casus belli for war.

Take that tinfoil hat off!

That's the thing about grave sin. People who commit it might also fib to you that they are torturing in order to get the Truth. They also have a habit of covering up their tortures of innocent people with the logic, "We wouldn't have tortured him if he wasn't guilty."

That's the thing about fallacies. People who have a habit of abusing the laws of logic also abuse the truth, and deeply insult the intelligence of the people whose good faith they betray.


Hey! Way to call Ari out on that all-important "incivility" issue.

Incivility?

Your actions have been anything but civil.

You & Frank can descend to self-parody all you like.

I merely note that there is apparent evidence for them. I'm not seeing the logical fallacies, just your loud proclamations that they are there. Nor am I equating the innocent with the guilty, though that is a good red herring if you can't actually deal with my substantive point.

That you don't see what I've loudly proclaimed are logical fallacies is hardly remarkable.

I think equating the victim of gang-rape and the waterboarding of a terrorist _is_ equating, or utterly ignoring, innocence and guilt.

I can't actually deal with your substantive point because you haven't made one.

And what my "moral authority" has to do with anything I can't imagine. I suppose this is another one of those "People who oppose torture only do so because they are moral exhibitionists" ploys so beloved of people who can't think of anything substantial to say.

Funny. I'd thought I had made a couple of substantial arguments - that you have totally ignored in favor of red herrings like Abu Ghraib and rendition.

I've always thought of moral exhibitionists as those people who hide behind vague references to "The Bible" or "The Catechism" or "The _True_ Catholic Faith" to escape from the logical / rhetorical corners they've backed themselves into.

Are we getting to that serious work of thinking carefully and cautiously yet? Seems a lot like yelling and calling me names so far.

Seems a lot like crying wolf to me, which calls for the world's teeny-tiniest hankie and teeny-tiniest violin....

The. End.


I am not sure I want to join this imbroglio, but I'll try, for one small point.

Mark says 80% of the victims at Abu Ghraib were never even charged.

Can we lay this canard to rest? We are talking about a place that was at war, and is now under military occupation. Not a place with a peace-time context. While it is true that morality holds in war as well as in peace-time, it does not imply the same actions. In peace-time in a thoroughly civilized nation with a functioning judiciary, you allow the police and the DA to charge criminals, and collect evidence, and try them before a judge and jury. You don't have the freedom and resources to do this uniformly and regularly in a war-torn military occupation. Even if you want to try someone, you don't have the access to evidence and witnesses that is normal. So the rules that normally state that punishments can only be levied after trials, don't really work right - so they don't have the same application.

But Abu Ghraib no more counts against tough interrogation techniques for the purpose of saving lives than does the bombing of Dresden count against the just cause of defeating the Nazis.
That isn't really true though is it? It is true that comparisons between putative jus in bello and jus ad bellum justifications are incommensurable. They are apples and oranges: a just cause for war does not sanctify unjust conduct in war, and just conduct does not sanctify an unjust cause for war. But AG is definitely pertinent to the issue of our just conduct in war.

Much of what went on at AG was doubtless unauthorized. But the (fatal) strappado interrogation of Mandel al-Jamadi which took place there - it is his body, the body of the "ice man," in some of the infamous AG photos - was an authorized CIA interrogation carried out by agent Mark Swanner. One can't help but wonder if the unauthorized sadistic behavior would have taken place had the authorized program not been taking place under the noses of solders there.

As far as I know the actual deaths under torture by US officials, including the ones reported in the ABC article which broke the story of (some of) the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques", all occurred under authorized programs or at best when authorized programs were carried out incompetently (e.g. in the case where a prisoner died of hypothermia after being doused with cold water and left out in the Afghan night by a 'young, untrained' agent involved in the program). IOW these deaths under torture by US officials weren't a matter of shenanigans by Lynndie England and Charles Graner. They doubtless were involved in some bad unauthorized creepy sadistic stuff - but they were involved in it while taking scrapbook photos of themselves with the corpse of the man tortured by CIA agent Mark Swanner under the authorized program.

Also, the assertion above by a commenter that the rendition of Maher Arar is irrelevant is a puzzling claim. Arar was rendered by the CIA to Syrian officials to be tortured; he was completely innocent of any wrongdoing.

Francis Beckwith wrote, "Having said that, couldn't someone respond this way, 'The fact that he went through 183 spills means that it wasn't torture to him. That is, a successful waterboarding is the result of the prisoner believing he could drown based on the sensations he is experiencing. But someone who is mentally tough could overcome those sensations by what he knows to be true, that in fact he is not drowning.'"

I don't want to become uncivil, so I'm just going to present things in as dry manner as possible. I know some my think that having a dry tone regarding what they take to be monstrous shows the person who has the dry tone to be guilty of a moral failing, but I don't agree with that (for reasons I can explain if asked), so I'll just say the following:

First, it could be that almost no one can help perceiving water-boarding as leading to their drowning, despite their knowledge that it won't really drown them. It could be like the Mueller-Lyer illusion in that way. If it's true true that waterboarding is impossible to think of as nonfatal when you're experiencing it--and perhaps it's not true; perhaps waterboarding isn't particularly hard to resist if you know that it doesn't kill you--then reasons why KSM may have had five waterboarding sessions are: (a) his waterboarders were sadistic; (b) he was asked for different bits of information at different times; or (c) he could withstand the first four waterboardings, but not the fifth.

Second, perhaps only the mentally toughest people can withstand waterboarding. If so, that could mean that it counts as a torture, even for the people who can withstand it. Why think that? Well, (i) the people who waterboard might intend it to be torture; on many moral psychologies with which I'm familiar, intention is a significant component for determining an act's moral status. For example, if I try to murder someone with a pistol, but it turns out to be Superman, then I think there's an argument that what I did is as bad as murder, even if it isn't murder. So, the waterboarders could be guilty of attempted torture, at least with the first time they tried it on KSM. Moreover, (ii) it could be that you can be tortured even though you can withstand it. That is, I might be so tough as to withstand my finger- and toenails having bamboo shoots put under them 183 times. For all that, though, putting bamboo shoots under my nails may still be torture.

I know some may think that having a dry tone regarding what they take to be monstrous shows the person who has the dry tone to be guilty of a moral failing, but I don't agree with that...
FWIW, I don't agree with that either. Ambivalent speech in the face of what is morally monstrous can be a moral failure in some contexts; but I don't take unambivalent speech to be a moral failure, independent of its tone, and as far as I can tell your comment was not ambivalent. FWIW.
Also, the assertion above by a commenter that the rendition of Maher Arar is irrelevant is a puzzling claim. Arar was rendered by the CIA to Syrian officials to be tortured; he was completely innocent of any wrongdoing.

I expect I'm the guilty party.

I didn't mean to convey that Abu Ghraib and extraordinary rendition are irrelevant in any way _but_ to the specific points I had made - and which were totally ignored. Or so it seemeth to me....

I did hear a certain talk radio host claim that since Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times, that waterboarding cannot possibly be torture, since nobody could withstand being tortured 183 times. For what it is worth, here are the top three responses I get:

1. "Of course I am opposed to torture, but waterboarding is hardly torture."
2. "Well...you know, the terrorist cut off heads. They don't play by our rules."
3. "Torture those bastards."

"just so much anti-conservative bigotry"

and

"certain pro-terrorist (purportedly Christian) apologists would similarly (and quite unhesitatingly) offer innocent American families simply as holocausts to be burnt on the altars of these vile Mohammedans!"

I see. Oppose waterboarding and both your conservative and your Christian bona fides are suspect. Good grief. Have the neo-con lunatics taken over the asylum?


I will edit the above comments in order to remove the slander.

Technically, it would be libel, not slander.

I recommend removing Paul Burke's comments. It's inappropriate to to someone else's thread and post a rant out of pique that comments have been closed on a different thread. My comment here may be removed at the same time. I will also restrain myself and not reply to the ridiculous content of Burke's remarks.

Rob G.,

I see. Oppose waterboarding and both your conservative and your Christian bona fides are suspect. Good grief. Have the neo-con lunatics taken over the asylum?

(1) I did not make the 1st statement that you would seem to deliberately portray as mine own. However, such forgery and blatant misrepresentation seems to be a commonly relied upon device amongst such advocates for the terrorists, much like this very entry seems wont to demonstrate.

(2) Oppose the terrorists and thou shalt be automatically demonized as a pro-torture fiend appears to be the modus operandi of purportedly conservative pro-terrorist lunatics whose opinions seem Gospel to the likes of you & yours; God forbid any endeavour that would seek to thwart terrorist activities that would result in utter devestation for innocent populations of American families in our nation.

Treat the terrorist at a time of war as an enemy combatant and thou shalt become reviled as nothing more but neo-con lunatic bent on sadism.

The Bush administration may have committed some of the most remarkable failures in this nation's history; however, the fact that it was able to prevent another terrorist attack on American soil that would have resulted in tremendous American civilian casualties (which could've very well included members of your loved ones and even family members too) is no small feat.

As The Wall Street Journal article I linked earlier rightly prefaced its story:

Nearly seven years after 9/11, the U.S. homeland hasn't been struck again and American civil liberties remain intact. So how does Congress say "thank you"? By trying to ruin the men who in good faith set the legal rules that have kept us safe.

SOURCE: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121366371989679409.html


Of course, Rob G. seems to deem fit to call all those who would seek the preservation of innocent American lives as neo-con lunatics; even further, those like Shea would have those people (our military men & women, certain government agents themselves, etc.) who've endeavoured (and continue to do so) to prevent yet another 9/11 from ever occurring, maliciously painted as nothing more but a Marquis de Sade in disguise.

Personally, instead of spewing such hateful vituperation & utter ingratitude, I would like to express only the highest gratitude & appreciation to these folks for their seemingly thankless job and, above all, for taking appropriate measures to ensure that I and many countless other innocent American families need not suffer again that horrible tragedy that so many have apparently forgotten.

Oppose the terrorists and thou shalt be automatically demonized as a pro-torture fiend ...
Enough already, Ari. What is at issue is not "opposing the terrorists", as if you could fairly accuse Rob G and your other interlocutors of supporting the terrorists or failing to oppose the terrorists. What is at issue is torture. Quit cluttering up my thread with your pretenses otherwise.

Zippy,

...as if you could fairly accuse Rob G and your other interlocutors of supporting the terrorists or failing to oppose the terrorists.

Sorry, but for me, anything that would help facilitate the terrorists cause and their objectives (for instance, obstructing necessary efforts in the prevention of another devestating terrorist attack) is indeed "supporting the terrorists", if not, "failing to oppose the terrorists" in my book.

Unlike Dr. Beckwith, I refuse to cower from such interlocutors and fall back on "politically-correct" speech.

Though, I am quite thankful to you, at the very least, for providing me some charitable consideration in this regard, as your relatively mild admonition would seem to indicate.

"Rob G. seems to deem fit to call all those who would seek the preservation of innocent American lives as neo-con lunatics"

No, what I said was that those who question the conservative status and/or the Christian faith of those who oppose waterboarding are neo-con lunatics. I'm as anti-jihad as the next guy. I just don't think that we should descend to their level in order to fight them.


I've never seen a thread at WWWtW wherein so many people so badly caricatured the opposition. I have a theory as to what special element brought us down that road, but I'll keep it to myself. Let's just say for the moment that everyone's reading comprehension seems to have dropped dramatically in this thread, and it's extremely unfortunate.

anything that would help facilitate the terrorists cause and their objectives (for instance, obstructing necessary efforts in the prevention of another devestating terrorist attack) is indeed "supporting the terrorists", if not, "failing to oppose the terrorists" in my book.

I suppose your list of "pro-terrorist" people and organizations is quite long, then.

Airlines would need to qualify as pro-terrorist organizations. Everyday they propel hundreds of airplanes that could be turned into terorist missiles into American airspace. For sure, that "would help facilitate the terrorists[SIC] cause."

Then there's all the shipping companies, parcel companies etc, that terrorists could use to get a "dirty bomb" into the US. And the mail service!! Did we learn nothing from the anthrax attacks?

Then there's the pay-ahead cell phone service. Thanks a lot for giving terrorists an untracable way to communicate with each other! And the internet as well!

Yes, this is absurd. But understand that living in a country with such a degraded morality that allows torture is, to many of us, as absurd as living in a country that has no packaging services or airline service. We accept the increased risk doing these things exposes us to as "the cost of freedom." I am willing to accept the incremental risk of not torturing as the cost of morality.

John McG,

NOTE: "For instance, obstructing necessary efforts in the prevention of another devestating terrorist attack."

Though, it's not suprising to see from those who would more than gladly advocate such special treatment of the terrorists indulge in such outrageous absurdities as those clearly demonstrated in your comments in order to fight for terrorists.

Such things as opposing rigidly necessary interrogations and advocating Habeas Corpus rights for even the 9/11 mass-murderers (who're not U.S. citizens, mind you, but actually foreign enemies of the state who have, in fact, attacked U.S. civilians on even American soil!) as well as for any & all terrorists we've captured and seek to capture are, in fact, instances of obstructing such necessary efforts in order to protect innocent Americans!

Amazing the remarkable extent to which such people would fight for the seeming rights of these terrorists as opposed to the rights of several innocent American civilian populations who, I would think, deserve rightly to be kept safe from another instance of 9/11 from those who did commit such attack and are doggedly determined to do so again.

Perhaps, in similar fashion, the rights of doctors who perform abortions under the legal auspices of Roe v. Wade should likewise be fought for & accordingly preserved and that all efforts which would endanger those rights be similarly opposed.

IF terrorists who kill scores of innocents (and gladly seek to do so repeatedly and at any cost) deserve such rights, perhaps abortionists too.

Oppose the terrorists and thou shalt be automatically demonized as a pro-torture fiend ...

Right. And opponents of abortion only do so because they hate women.

So, Frank, about all those deplorable distractions from the serious work of thinking carefully and cautiously: I'm sure you are just busy and haven't had time to rebuke Aristocles' crazy libels, content-free ad hominems, and demented rantings, but it *would* perhaps lend a note of balance to the proceedings if you directed just a little of your indignation toward the guy who is, you know, actually engaging in the vice that so exercised you yesterday.

Perhaps, in similar fashion, the rights of doctors who perform abortions under the legal auspices of Roe v. Wade should likewise be fought for & accordingly preserved and that all efforts which would endanger those rights be similarly opposed.

I think abortionists should be tried, convicted and jailed, not summarily tortured and executed without a trial. If they were being summarily tortured and executed, I would like to think I would indeed fight for their rights.

If that puts me on the pro-abortionist side of your ledger, I'll deal with it.

John McG,

I suppose when a terrorist attack does (God forbid!) occur, regardless of the several dead, you & Shea will triumphantly glory in the fact that, at the very least, measures like stringent terrorist interrogations & equally vile wire-taps that may very well have prevented such painful devestation was prevented!

Go and fight for these & even the Habeas Corpus rights of foreign enemy combatants, if you will.

If you should feel that these terrorists deserve such exceptional favor over American innocents, you & Shea have at it.

How did Horace put it?

"If you would have me weep (especially for the terrorists), you must first of all feel grief (that is, the grief of pain even now still significantly felt by victims of 9/11) yourself."

Ari, this isn't my thread, but your over-the-top stuff does get awfully, awfully wearisome. I also think it is fairly over-the-top for Mr. Shea to imply that CIA interrogators _must_ be sadists. Talk about going beyond the evidence. But you, Ari, get very carried away with attributing motives to other people in threads. And I just keep shaking my head over how mad you were at me some time ago over _legitimate_, _ordinary_ self-defense and defense of family against _immediate attack_, and here you are absolutely freaking out over the fact that other people don't support torture. I mean, get a grip and some reasonable priorities, for heaven's sake. Would you be opposed to torture if it involved the use of guns???

NOTE: "For instance, obstructing necessary efforts in the prevention of another devestating terrorist attack."

Though, it's not suprising to see from those who would more than gladly advocate such special treatment of the terrorists indulge in such outrageous absurdities as those clearly demonstrated in your comments in order to fight for terrorists.

Let's go back to your original quote:

Sorry, but for me, anything that would help facilitate the terrorists cause and their objectives (for instance, obstructing necessary efforts in the prevention of another devestating terrorist attack) is indeed "supporting the terrorists", if not, "failing to oppose the terrorists" in my book.

That you parenthetically supplied an example does not change the meaning of the sentence surrounding it. By your statement, airlines, cell phone companies, and the postal service would have to be considered pro-terrorist. The absurdity is your problem, not mine.

---

As for the whole competing passions, can we say both/and? Any position taken is going to have negative consequences. I've heard them all:

* How can you value the life of a rapist's child over the rape victim's?
* How can you value a mere cluster of cells over my daughter?

I have said nothing about wiretaps and habeous corpus rights or anything else. For the purpose of this discussion, I will say that waterboarding is torture, and I am vehemently opposed to the US practicing torture on anyone.

I understand it is possible that this can have negative consequences, and I am willing to accept them. Just as we are willing to accept the negative consequences of having a functioning airline industry, package delivery, and a communications network.

John McG,

The absurdity is your problem, not mine.

No, the absurdity is your problem as it is a consequence of your deliberate misinterpretation to the very point of absurdity (as you aribitrarily deemed it fit to deliberately ignore the very thing that sought to provide clarification as to the context of what I meant in that regard).

Care to go over various passages in Scripture which likewise would reach the heights of similar absurdity if taken in the manner as you would propose here?

Care to go over various passages in Scripture which likewise would reach the heights of similar absurdity if taken in the manner as you would propose here?

Sure -- please provide me an example of a Scriptural passage whose meaning is completely changed by a parenthetically included example.

John McG,

I understand it is possible that this can have negative consequences, and I am willing to accept them.

Therein lies the very problem, one of which I sought to draw attention to --

Whereas you, Shea, Lydia, Frank or whoever else might advocate a similar Cause where these terrorists are concerned, there are those of us in the real world who've lost enough of our loved ones as a result of 9/11 who REFUSE to sacrifice even MORE of our beloved who, in fact, are not so WILLING to lose any more!

This sterile, cold and un-feeling logic y'all seem wont to apply is atrocious.

I know the conversation has trailed off a little, but I found it interesting to try to sort through the comments on psychological torture and boil down the actual arguments. Bobcat helped with this a lot. Is this a good summary:

1a) maybe being subject to a 183 drowning-like "spills" means that the spills don't seem like torture to the recipient,

1b) or, because if it was torture it would be so severe as not to be repeatable 183 times.

2a) the number of times that a procedure is used is not relevant to whether it is torture to the recipient because the recipient doesn't get to decide how many times it will be used, like rape.

2b) the number of times is also not relevant to whether something is torture because some humans can suffer things that are severe and still survive to be tortured again a lot, like has been known to occur to prisoners over long periods of time

2c) the number of times is also not relevant because it is possible that a person can't choose but "believe" that the spill will drown him, even if he has some objective "knowledge" that it won't

3a) this torture is not like rape because the recipients of rape are innocent but the recipients of this torture aren't

3b) torture victims also could avoid the torture by spilling the beans.

4a) just because someone is guilty doesn't make an action against them not torture--whether an act amounts to torture does not depend on whether the recipient's culpability

4b) some torture recipients actually don't have more information that they haven't already given--they might actually be telling the truth that they don't know anything else, so they sometimes or often don't have any choice in avoiding the torture

5) but the legitimacy of some physical actions against someone do depend on whether or not they are guilty--locking someone in solitary confinement or administering capital punishment might be deemed torture if used against an innocent, and might be deemed just if used against someone guilty.

6) though a penal or harmful action may be just or not based on whether the recipient is guilty, it is not torture or not on that basis.


So has Prof. Beckwith's initial inquiry been answered, about whether the spills might not be torture because of their frequency, or do people think that it has not been rebutted, just on that issue?

"Sorry, but for me, anything that would help facilitate the terrorists cause and their objectives (for instance, obstructing necessary efforts in the prevention of another devestating terrorist attack) is indeed 'supporting the terrorists', if not, "failing to oppose the terrorists" in my book."

I agree that John McG's interpretation of your words here was uncharitable. It would be nice, of course, if you could more precisely specify the principle you have in mind. For instance, maybe you could say something like "when it comes to a question of trading off the rights of suspected terrorists versus the safety of American citizens, anyone who supports trading away the safety of American citizens indeed supports terrorists"? I suspect you'll have problem with my use of "suspected"--maybe you would say that a person supports terrorism only if they trade away security of Americans for defending the rights of a known terrorist. In either case, though, I disagree with your position.

Here's why: it seems to me that by your logic that your position, at least if it has to do with being willing to use torture on suspected terrorists, could be described as indeed "supporting sadism" or indeed "supporting the torture of the innocent." For instance, if you say that the government should use torture to extract information from suspected terrorists, then I think you'll have to admit that it's possible we might end up torturing innocent people, and it's also possible that our commission of torture by certain employees of the US government might end up making them sadistically enjoy torture. (Similarly, it's possible that making torture of suspected terrorists impermissible will lead to the deaths of innocent Americans in a terrorist attack, which is--I think--why you regard people who oppose the permission of torture to be supporting terrorism.)

I suspect you'll respond in one of three ways:
(1) Say that there's something wrong with my analogy; if so, please tell me what.
(2) Say there's nothing wrong with my analogy, but that when given the choice between being pro-terrorist or pro-sadism/torture of the innocent, that you'll opt for the second, because the number of innocents likely to be hurt by taking the second position is lower than the number of innocents likely to be hurt by the first position. There are also other reasons you could use (the voluntariness of the people who sign up for torture duty, for example).
(3) Say that my analogy is wrong, but that even if it weren't, the response in (2) is one you'd use.

Wow. Ugly.

BTW - Frank Beckwith's letter, linked in the next thread up, is absolutely first rate.

So, does the Bible say anything about torture?

I also think it is fairly over-the-top for Mr. Shea to imply that CIA interrogators _must_ be sadists.

I apologize if I seemed to imply that. It was not my intent. The emerging evidence suggests that many of the interrogators who were forced to torture were doing so in obedience to enormous pressure from superiors and were traumatized by it. My point is that, over time, it is precisely such people who tend to get weeded out as, (how does Ari put it?) "pro-terrorist" weaklings in a regime bent on torture. More and more, you find that people like smart versions of Charles Graner and Lynndie England tend to get picked to fill the slots becauses the weakling are in a corner vomiting or resigning to write things like ">this. These newer, "stronger" men of steel love their work but aren't stupid enough to photograph themselves doing it (or they ">destroy the evidence if it exists). That was certainly how it worked behind the Iron Curtain. And Russians, despite our self-congratulating notions, belong to the same fallen race of Adam we do. The notion that Americans will be immune from the effects of original sin is one of the many curious ideas informing this debate. That was my point.

Keep up the struggle, Lydia. You are one of my heroes.

Whereas you, Shea, Lydia, Frank or whoever else might advocate a similar Cause where these terrorists are concerned, there are those of us in the real world who've lost enough of our loved ones as a result of 9/11 who REFUSE to sacrifice even MORE of our beloved who, in fact, are not so WILLING to lose any more!

This sterile, cold and un-feeling logic y'all seem wont to apply is atrocious.

Again, you are apparently willing to accepet the increased risk of terrorism that having a functioning airline system introduces. How could you be so careless? Did you learn nothing from 9/11? It's not far from proven that waterboarding would have prevented 9/11, but grounding all airplanes certainly would have. How many more innocent Americans need to die before you will put a stop to this madness just so some businessman can hop from New York to Las Vegas for the latest porno convention?

Our lives and policies are full of trade-offs, yes, even trade-offs including the loss of American lives. We do not let the fear of accidents and violence dictate how we live our lives, and I'm not going to start with torture.


Bobcat,

Kindly explain how, all of a sudden, KSM has been recategorized as "suspected terrorists"?

John McG,

Go ahead and engage in sarcastic dismissals and deplorable ridicule.

Be petty all you like.

However, you yourself admitted as much here:

For the purpose of this discussion, I will say that waterboarding is torture, and I am vehemently opposed to the US practicing torture on anyone.

I understand it is possible that this can have negative consequences, and I am willing to accept them.

For instance, obstructing necessary efforts in the prevention of another devestating terrorist attack.

Is there a limit to what necessary efforts you would support?

Hi Aristocles,

I don't think that KSM is just a suspected terrorist. I think he's as close as we can get to certainty about someone's being a terrorist as is possible. That said, are you desirous of the US government employing torture only in circumstances in which we are that certain of someone's being a terrorist, or are you willing to countenance torture when we are less certain?

Yes, I admitted as much there. My point is that, assuming you want the airline system to continue to fuction, you would have to admit the same thing.

Having said that, couldn't someone respond this way,

I know you deleted my post earlier (though this was Zippy's thread?) because you thought I was attributing this as a view you supported. And the way I worded my post, you probably could interpret it that way. But, just so you know, I do understand that you were putting forth a response as a proposition, one you may or may not support. I was just too lazy to make my comment in a third person form.

I still think the fact someone can withstand whatever treatment is dished out doesn't transform the treatment into "not torture." It's the acts of the torturer, not the state of the torturee, that determines the morality (after all, its the torturer's moral action we are evaluating).

Looking at it from the opposite view - what if you had a prisoner under your care, and being the huge softie guard that you are, you wanted to make him feel loved so you give him a big hug. Unbeknownst to you, he is some kind of hugophobe or something and this nearly kills him with seizures. Just because he subjectively is mentally and physically tormented by this action does not turn you into a torturer. Seems the opposite would hold true as well - just because he can take it, doesn't make it not torture.

To me, the 183 number both giveth and taketh away.

It does seem likely that the 182nd and 183rd waterboarding were not a traumatic as the 1st and 2nd, though I have never been waterboarded.

At the same time, if KSM were waterboarded 183 times, then either:
* It is not as effective as we are being told, since it took that many instances for him to reveal the information.
* It was not a pure exercise in information gathering.

All in all, it doesn't do much either way for my opinion on the morality of the procedure, except as zippy noted in the initial post of what it reveals about the honesty of those behind it.

Bobcat,

Firstly, I think it best we somehow come to a commonly agreed upon definition of what would consitute as "torture".

Secondly, I believe you to be justified in your comments; such stringent interrogation measures (once we define what we deem acceptable forms or not) may only be applied where there is compelling evidence that who we have in our custody is indeed a terrorist.

I would not in utter self-righteousness, should I have in my midst an actual terrorist (especially one which compelling evidence found to be involved in an ongoing plot), I, as an agent tasked with the very protection of innocent American lives, be so proud that rather than engage in serious efforts that might very well prove vital in thwarting a pending terrorist attack, that I'd rather seek the comfort and act principally in the favor of such terrorists over potentially saving multitudes of innocent American civilians instead.

If placed within this kind of scenario, I wonder what John McG and others who feel as he does would do?

Would he really prefer forfeiting the lives of several innocent people in favor of his lofty self-righteousness?

Should that terrorist attack occur, one in which certain information obtained from the captured terrorist could have very well prevented, could such a person be able to live with himself afterwards, given all the civilian casuality?

To be fair, there is the slight chance extraction of such information might not be entirely possible, but on the chance that such information can be obtained, given the negative repercussions that would otherwise result, can one honestly risk mass murder of so many innocent lives simply because he refuses a more serious engagement of the apprehended terrorist merely due to principle?

Can that principle really be worth the toll?

That's where the notorious 24 has done a great disservice to the American public especially in this; because of the extremity to which its plots are outrageously stretched, it's made a certain portion of the public numb at even the mere possiblity of an actual terrorist attack to the point of incredulity and even callous disregard, resulting in the common rebuttal: "that's nothing but 24-esque fiction!".

The emerging evidence suggests that many of the interrogators who were forced to torture were doing so in obedience to enormous pressure from superiors and were traumatized by it.
That seems to me to be a valid point. There is for example the case of Arabic translator Alyssa Peterson, who is reported to have committed suicide after witnessing torture of captives in Iraq. Given an approved and official process of torturing prisoners, over time that process is going to attract certain kinds of people and repel others. The result will in fact be staffing by certain kinds of people.

"Seems the opposite would hold true as well - just because he can take it, doesn't make it not torture."

Exactly. There are people who've been tortured to death without recanting, divulging info, or whatever, yet it's obvious they were still tortured. Likewise, some tortures, like the painful dentistry depicted in "Marathon Man" will never under normal circumstances cause death, yet again, there's no doubt that it is torture.

"can one honestly risk mass murder of so many innocent lives simply because he refuses a more serious engagement of the apprehended terrorist merely due to principle? Can that principle really be worth the toll?"

Absolutely, depending upon what the principle is. If waterboarding is deemed torture, and the principle is, "Under no circumstances will we torture," then one must take the risk.

This argument is similar to Ivan Karamazov's in which he asks a hypothetical question: if by torturing a baby to death you would rid the world of all sickness and evil, would you agree to have it done? The answer for the principled person is, of course, no, because under no circumstances will they say that the principle of non-torture of babies should be violated.

You can, I think, also make a similar argument for the principle of non-negotiation with terrorists.

Can that principle really be worth the toll?

Isn't that a purely consequentialist argument? Since when did Ari become a consequentialist?

Rob G.,

...if by torturing a baby to death you would rid the world of all sickness and evil, would you agree to have it done?

I should think a person as remarkably intelligent as yourself (unlike in Shea's case, I don't mean this sarcastically) can appreciate the difference between an innocent baby vs. a terrorist seeking to murder an entire population.

Though I suppose there is perhaps some nugget of human truth in that Russian's work which, in Job-like fashion, best expresses certain sentiments sometimes felt by victims of such terrible tragedy; that, if anything, instead of our asking for God's supposed forgiveness, given several of the atrocities suffered by the innocent in our world, that perhaps it should be God asking for ours.

Though, I admit, yours and Blackadder's proposed dilemma -- even though fictional -- does bring certain serious reflection to bear on the subject (room 101 was especially poignant although flawed in some other, more relevant respects).

Zippy,

I find it amusing that you happen to cite the case above.

Leave aside the fact that most veterans of wars (whether in this century or in the many previous) often suffer such severe trauma as a result of their participation in it that would cause them to contemplate and even commit suicide.

Given an approved and official process of torturing prisoners, over time that process is going to attract certain kinds of people and repel others. The result will in fact be staffing by certain kinds of people.

Like you mean the kinds of folks who would seriously contemplate and subsequently take up a professional career in the military (a career basically bent on murdering people absent even jus ad bellum?) or even in law enforcement (I mean, there has been neurological research revealing brain patterns found in cops are not unlike those found in criminals)?

I've never seen a thread at WWWtW wherein so many people so badly caricatured the opposition. ... Let's just say for the moment that everyone's reading comprehension seems to have dropped dramatically in this thread, and it's extremely unfortunate.
For what little it's worth, I agree with Sage. Perhaps a short breather is in order.

OK. By popular demand, I'll close the comments here. Thanks to everyone for the discussion.