Thursday, March 13, 2008

Don't imprison those suicide bomber guys

I just can't resist. merkur, who prides himself on his powerful insights into this question, has been weighing in on the question of waterboarding. Here's his latest offering. I love it. Rarely does the argument ad absurdum yield such striking results, and I wasn't even really applying it all that heavily!

I said:
Shoot, being in prison has been known to cause severe mental suffering.

merkur responded:
Which is why the Convention explicitly excludes being in prison and other legal incidences.
I can only assume he means the Geneva Convention but I invite his correction on that. But just look at the splendor of that idea! These bombings and things are not acts of war. They're not even crimes. Or, they might be crimes, but surely we, an enlightened society, won't be so inhumane as to put people in prison for doing bad things to others, will we?

Anyway, getting to the rest of his comment, I'm also curious who are the lawyers? The statement's name? Is it the Geneva Convention or does it derive its authority therefrom?
On what basis does it apply to, say, everyone, everywhere, at all times? Does it apply to the jihadists? Since they do worse to their prisoners such as cutting off body parts just for changing their religion, throwing acid in Christian young women's faces for refusing to marry a Muslim, etc, what does that mean for this question?

Depriving someone of sleep is torture, really? A tour of the gallows? Systematic feeding them pork chops (say, once a week)?

Man, you're strict! Next thing you'll say is that imprisonment is torture.
Oh, oops...


(Edit: See at least the 1st 3 comments, as I apparently mistook merkur's meaning. He's still being inconsistent and baselessly pontificating his morality all over the place, but I was wrong about what he meant on imprisonment.)

10 comments:

merkur said...

As I said, don't blame me for your lack of insight. The Convention clearly referred to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which I had already referred to in a preceding comment. Perhaps you could read what I write before you post? That way, you won't create the impression that you're an imbecile.

Let me explain even more simply than I already have: the Convention explictly excludes being held in prison as being a form of torture. Do you understand now? Because if you don't, it's probably not worth continuing.

merkur said...

As to the rest of your post, it's hard to understand what you're actually trying to say. I'll try to respond point-by-point:

"I'm also curious who are the lawyers?"

How is that relevant? I have no idea what their names were.

"The statement's name? Is it the Geneva Convention or does it derive its authority therefrom?"

I've given the name above. How is its relation to the Geneva Convention relevant?

"On what basis does it apply to, say, everyone, everywhere, at all times?"

Because that's what it says.

"Does it apply to the jihadists?"

Everyone.

"Since they do worse to their prisoners such as cutting off body parts just for changing their religion, throwing acid in Christian young women's faces for refusing to marry a Muslim, etc, what does that mean for this question?"

Absolutely nothing.

"Depriving someone of sleep is torture, really? A tour of the gallows? Systematic feeding them pork chops (say, once a week)?"

Sleep deprivation: on the basis of the reports I've heard, yes, although I'm willing to hear arguments against that.

A tour of the gallows: probably not provable unless it was part of a wider campaign of abuse.

Feeding them pork chops: probably not provable unless it was part of a wider campaign of abuse.

Hope that clears things up for you.

Rhology said...

Oh, OK.
I saw the reference to the Convention against Torture, etc. but didn't realise that was the proper name. The correction is appreciated.

And I guess I misunderstood your usage of "excludes". OK, my mistake again.
I read it, sure. But I misunderstood, so I apologise for that.


Now I'll have to change my position, that's true, b/c it was based on false and mistaken premises, which is my own fault.
Now my position will be that you're being inconsistent (again), and this is what I was partly getting at in my last comment. You want to exclude waterboarding b/c it causes severe mental suffering, but imprisonment can cause such as well. I didn't ask if the CATOCIDTP deals with the question. I was using your own standard to judge other possible objections.

The reason why I'm wondering who wrote the Convention is that I want to know their authority to define
1) moral questions (ie, whether torture is wrong, what torture is wrong, whether waterboarding is torture, etc), and
2) political questions (ie, on what basis do/should they have authority to say what's legally permissible for US soldiers).

Because that's what it says.

Oh. That'll work.
But I'm rescinding it right now.
Let it be known to all that said Convention does not apply to everyone, everywhere, at all times. Thus I have stated, thus let it be. Amen.

"Does it apply to the jihadists?"
Everyone.


And they'll recognise it? No.
The fact that they WON'T recognise it, you say it means nothing. Well, I don't feel like granting omnipotence to the jihadist enemy who wants to reduce everyone to sharia law and slavery while tying the hands of my side to a ridiculous degree. Why would YOU want to do that?

Your short and uninformative answers are not helping. I made a mistake; you're just acting like a caged, interrogated prisoner yourself. A conversation requires two people at least, you know.

Peace,
Rhology

merkur said...

"You want to exclude waterboarding b/c it causes severe mental suffering, but imprisonment can cause such as well."

Waterboarding is carried out specifically and deliberately to cause severe mental suffering; imprisonment is not. This is an important distinction, both morally and legally.

"The reason why I'm wondering who wrote the Convention is that I want to know their authority to define
1) moral questions (ie, whether torture is wrong, what torture is wrong, whether waterboarding is torture, etc),"

That's a fair point. The legal document follows from the moral agreement that torture is wrong, which seems to be unassailable; you yourself are not arguing that torture is permissible, only that waterboarding is not torure. The document is silent on the specifics, which is what gives governments the room to argue what does or does not constitute torture. I - and many, many others, including a number of US courts - believe that it is clear that waterboarding is torture. The current US administration (at least parts of it, mainly those parts which operate with little oversight) believe otherwise.

"2) political questions (ie, on what basis do/should they have authority to say what's legally permissible for US soldiers)."

The US government ratified it, which makes it binding on US soldiers.

"Let it be known to all that said Convention does not apply to everyone, everywhere, at all times."

Unlike you, the Convention has been ratified by 142 countries, including the USA.

"And they'll recognise it? No. The fact that they WON'T recognise it, you say it means nothing."

Wow, you can read my mind. Apparently you also believe that the death penalty is meaningless, on the basis that murderers won't recognise it. Genius.

"Well, I don't feel like granting omnipotence to the jihadist enemy who wants to reduce everyone to sharia law and slavery while tying the hands of my side to a ridiculous degree. Why would YOU want to do that?"

That's an entirely fallacious argument. Prohibiting torture doesn't make your enemy omnipotent, it doesn't tie the hands of your side "to a ridiculous degree", and at no point have I said that I wanted to do that.

"Your short and uninformative answers are not helping. I made a mistake; you're just acting like a caged, interrogated prisoner yourself. A conversation requires two people at least, you know."

I'm keeping my answers as short as I can so that you can understand them. Any sentence that contains more than two clauses seems to confuse you.

Rhology said...

Hey,

Actually I think w-boarding is carried out to extract actionable intel in order to prevent deadly and maiming attacks on civilians, children, and US citizens.

you yourself are not arguing that torture is permissible, only that waterboarding is not torure.

I admit that this is giving me some pause as I think thru this. On the one hand I certainly don't want to give support to torture... OTOH w-boarding seems quite dissimilar from what I usually think of as torture.
And also there is the NONrightness of the cause of the subjects of w-boarding (ie, violent jihad) to consider. Why would/should we grant them ANY rights? We're not animals, we don't kill them summarily. But they hate us, they are our enemies and want to kill and enslave us and our children. To get intel that they have in order to prevent such unjustifiable actions, is it permissible to apply some discomfort?

The US government ratified it, which makes it binding on US soldiers.

OK, that's a good answer. I guess that means that my argument and, say, the Bush Admin's argument would be different.
Given the way that Admin is often run, that bodes well for me.

Unlike you, the Convention has been ratified by 142 countries, including the USA.

I was responding to your "Because that's what it says" comment. I'm not the only one who can misunderstand a one-liner, it would appear. But no biggie.

...you say it means nothing."
Wow, you can read my mind


You said it explicitly.

Apparently you also believe that the death penalty is meaningless, on the basis that murderers won't recognise it.

The statement to which you respond was tied closely to my "hands tied" comment.

Prohibiting torture doesn't make your enemy omnipotent, it doesn't tie the hands of your side "to a ridiculous degree", and at no point have I said that I wanted to do that.

This Convention's ruling and guidelines have no effect on the enemy. Why should I accept the same limitations? Like I've said, they've cut off appendages, thrown acid on people, beheaded people, mutilated corpses, etc, sans provocation. And I can't cause some discomfort, a method that works, to obtain actionable intel? That's a great enablement of the enemy.
So...what CAN Western soldiers do to obtain actionable intel?

By the way, are you trying to tell me that following the rules of this Convention is the morally right thing to do? Is w-boarding immoral?

Peace,
Rhology

NAL said...

rhoblogy:Why would/should we grant them ANY rights?

Amendment V:

No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law ...

What part of "no person" is unclear? The founders were clear.

Rhology said...

I didn't realise that these jihadists captured in Afgh and Iraq were American citizens and therefore were entitled to American rights.

And the Constitution is pretty explicit about what we should to traitors.

NAL said...

rhoblogy: I didn't realise that these jihadists captured in Afgh and Iraq were American citizens ...

What part of "no person" do you not understand? It doesn't say "no citizen."

Peter said...

Who would Jesus waterboard?

merkur said...

"Actually I think w-boarding is carried out to extract actionable intel in order to prevent deadly and maiming attacks on civilians, children, and US citizens."

It's irrelevant what it's used for; ends do not justify means.

"I admit that this is giving me some pause as I think thru this. On the one hand I certainly don't want to give support to torture... OTOH w-boarding seems quite dissimilar from what I usually think of as torture."

We can't use "what Rhology thinks of as torture" to guide international law, or the behaviour of our troops. This is why I started from the internationally agreed legal definition of what constitutes torture.

"And also there is the NONrightness of the cause of the subjects of w-boarding (ie, violent jihad) to consider. Why would/should we grant them ANY rights?"

This is not the discussion that we are having. The discussion we are having is a) whether torture is permissible, and b) whether waterboarding is torture. You have largely conceded that torture is not permissible, and have not refuted the case that waterboarding is torture.

We grant them those rights because that's one of the cornerstones of our civilisation; if you want to piss away a few hundred years of hard-won civil liberties to protect your kids from the boogeyman, don't expect me to give you a standing ovation.

"I guess that means that my argument and, say, the Bush Admin's argument would be different."

No, that means that your argument and your country's argument would be different. It's your country which has ratified it, not a specific administration.

"This Convention's ruling and guidelines have no effect on the enemy. Why should I accept the same limitations?"

Because your country has ratified it, which makes it legally binding. You seem to be having difficulty grasping this rather basic point.

"That's a great enablement of the enemy."

No, it isn't, and you have made no such case.

"So...what CAN Western soldiers do to obtain actionable intel?"

Anything except torture, which includes waterboarding.

"By the way, are you trying to tell me that following the rules of this Convention is the morally right thing to do? Is w-boarding immoral?"

Don't try to change the topic, or bore us to death by performing unimpressive apologetic gymnastics.