Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Liberalism and waterboarding

I grew up United Methodist but never kept up with the varying and competing influences within the denomination. By the time I actually met Jesus, I was moving away from the UMs in conviction, especially given the liberal tendencies within the denom's government and within the local church in which I grew up. But anyway, I noticed a very interesting post on a UM blog. There are a few interesting things to go after in this post, actually, and I'll have to divide them up.

First,
My suggestion is that we replace all of our "open minds, open hearts, open doors" slogans and commercials, which are completely devoid of any theological content whatsoever, and instead start using, "United Methodists Do Not Torture."
As if "We don't torture" contains any theological content, but I agree 100% with the 1st part of the statement that the current slogan does not.

Here, we have been congratulating ourselves on how open-minded and tolerant we are for the past four decades. We don't care what you believe or what you do, so long as you are sincere. Well, at last, that line of thinking has come to its limits, having been exposed as a lie. There really is a conviction that we share: we don't torture. Yes, I know, that's setting the bar pretty low, but at least we have discovered there is a bar.
One might be encouraged by the first two sentences, as it would appear Jonathan is coming to the realisation that liberal pluralism is a bankrupt worldview. Unfortunately, the soaring optimism comes crashing down when he then deviates into politics and morality rather than theological (ie, dealing with God) content for his "bar". As I said in comment 3 on the thread:

Well, what I'm saying is, why make your denomination's entire slogan a negative stance against ONE issue?
Why not "United Methodists do not murder babies," or "United Methodists do not put criminals to death" or something like that? Why this one issue?

If you abandon what should be your central reason for existence - serving Jesus Christ - then God help you.
I know that both sides of the lib/conservative debate mix their politics with religion, but I don't see any conservatives calling for making their church's Official Slogans into political statements.


I then moved on to the topic of waterboarding, because he brought it up, linking to this article.
I parse here the fallacies point by point:

1) Moral equivocation on the subjects of the interrogation techniques. If it's bad for the enemies to do it, it's bad for us.
2) Poisoning the well by discussing extraneous and irrelevant topics:

-He told his interrogators everything they wanted to know including the truth. They rarely stopped.
-Whether the victim is allowed to comply or not is usually left up to the interrogator. Many waterboard team members, even in training, enjoy the sadistic power of making the victim suffer and often ask questions as an after thought.
-Taking a pregnant woman and electrocuting the fetus inside her? Executing a captive’s children in front of him?

No one is arguing that it's OK to inflict wanton suffering on someone. The question is whether it's permissible or even preferable to do so to obtain actionable intel to save American lives, preventing an attack.


3) Equivocation on the definition of torture.
I don't see an argument for why "painful psychological experience" - which should be stated "experience that lasts about 30 seconds, leaves no physical aftereffect and can cause painful psychological experience later in life, including fear of rain and taking a shower" - that should be defined as "torture".

4) Equivocation on who is who. As if jihadists will stop their torturous activities if we stop waterboarding.
-If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives.

He even admits as much later in the article:
-We must now double our efforts to prepare for its inevitable and uncontrolled use of by our future enemies.

5) -Torture. Does. Not. Work.

Except when it does.
Obviously the interrogator must frame his questions carefully. No one is arguing with that.

-The torturer will trigger within the subject a survival instinct, in this case the ability to breathe, which makes the victim instantly pliable and ready to comply.

Good - I want jihadists to tell American captors actionable intel so that fewer American troops and civilians will die, don't you?


6) Further equivocation on the label of "torture" to waterboarding:
-What next if the waterboarding on a critical the captive doesn’t work and you have a timetable to stop the “ticking bomb” scenario? Electric shock to the genitals?

I wouldn't necessarily support that - it's a whole different question b/c it's serious PHYSICAL pain, of a disgusting nature, and can have physical consequences in the future.
To quote an article linked-to below, "to say that 30 seconds of waterboarding is torture trivializes the concept of torture. If that’s torture, then torture is grossly overrated."

7) Unwarranted assertions that, again, poison the well:
-It is not a far leap from torture to murder, especially if the subject is defiant.

Defiant? I thought torture doesn't work. Which is it - does it work or not?

8) Self-loathing and justifying jihadists. Why does he think America is the only bad guy here?
-Brutal interrogation, flash murder and extreme humiliation of American citizens, agents and members of the armed forces may now be guaranteed because we have mindlessly, but happily, broken the seal on the Pandora’s box of indignity, cruelty and hatred in the name of protecting America.

Amazingly, the very next sentence contradicts his point.
-To defeat Bin Laden many in this administration have openly embraced the methods of by Hitler, Pinochet, Pol Pot, Galtieri and Saddam Hussein.

I thought *WE* broke the box open, but now we hear that Hitler, Pol Pot, and Saddam did so.
You think they stopped at waterboarding (as I would argue we probably should)? And didn't they come chronologically 1st? And somehow this is America's fault?


You linked to an article, here are some more to consider from a blog that was recently discussing this very issue:
On waterboarding
How not argue against waterboarding
On Christians and waterboarding

-----

For your edification, as always.

39 comments:

NAL said...

rhoblogy:Electric shock to the genitals?

I wouldn't necessarily support that


Don't you want jihadists to tell American captors actionable intel so that fewer American troops and civilians will die?

Rhology said...

Yes, but of course, as I made clear, there are acceptable and unacceptable methods for obtaining said intel.

NAL said...

If you consider torture an unacceptable method of obtaining intel, then why all the harping about how torture works? If you find torture unacceptable, it doesn't matter whether it works or not.

Rhology said...

"How" torture works or "whether" torture works?

You're right though. I was responding to the point in the article, who of course takes w-boarding as torture, though I don't. I was answering him on his own grounds.

NAL said...

Is it unacceptable to waterboard someone who doesn't have actionable intel?

Jonathan said...

Rhology,

I am not a liberal.

You are.

Rhology said...

NAL,

I wouldn't want, for example, my wife to be waterboarded. But my wife wouldn't have been captured on a battlefield with a weapon, under suspicion of having such info. So no.


Jonathan,

I, a liberal? Could you explain what you mean, please? I doubt too many liberals would want me in their camp.

Jonathan said...

Rhology,

The United Methodist Church has failed you; we have betrayed you. You ought to sue us; actually, no, Christians shouldn't sue other Christians. You ought to demand that we apologize.

We have to a large extent embraced the empty humanism of protestant liberalism, and have neglected to teach you about the grand tradition of orthodox Christianity as summarized in the creeds of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We have therefore left you with no alternative but to embrace the wooden, shrill, tiresome, flaccid voice of American-style fundamentalism -- which is but the mirror image of protestant liberalism.

On behalf of my denomination, I apologize.

Hidden One said...

Rhology, (as a Catholic convert-in-progress,) I must admit that the day "the ends justifies the means" ever becomes a declared Catholic dogma, whether that be in regards to torture or anything, I'm deciding that Luther had a good idea. But I'm not joining your church, either. I cannot conceive of a God who is love sanctioning such a thing.

Rhology said...

Jonathan,

Well, there are a great many things that I wish the UMC would apologise for and repent of. Not to ME, but to God.
All that aside, without an argument for WHY one should think that this position reflects "American-style fundamentalism", there's little to comment on. Are you asking the readers and me just to take your word for it?



Hidden One,

Where did I ever say any of this was issuing forth from my church? This blog is written by me and no one else; many in my church (apparently) read it but there's no imprimatur or anythg like that.
And if you look again, I don't believe I appealed to "the end justifies the means"; rather, I was arguing against the idea that the means (here, waterboarding) is obviously immoral or unjustifiable. We're talking about COMBATANTS on a BATTLEFIELD who have information regarding planned future assaults on American citizens, both in the US and abroad. It is not morally justifiable to plan these attacks. Remember, they want to MURDER AMERICAN CITIZENS. And you're concerned about a 30-second procedure that doesn't hurt them, doesn't kill them, doesn't leave any lasting effects (besides possible fear of taking a shower or something - boohoo!) and is great for breaking these defenses down? Why? Why put a 30, ok, 90 seconds' worth of comfort for a jihadist over the lifetime of sorrow and pain that many Americans (and Middle-Easterners, since a large amount of these attacks are not simply on Americans) will experience from the death and crippling of loved ones? Why is that not YOUR moral compass that is badly skewed?

Peace,
Rhology

merkur said...

"We're talking about COMBATANTS on a BATTLEFIELD"

Of course it's handy that the government has decided that the entire world is the battlefield for this match, thus making it possible to torture absolutely anybody.

"who have information regarding planned future assaults on American citizens, both in the US and abroad.

Right. You know that with absolute certainty before you torture them, of course. We never make any mistakes in gathering intelligence, no sir.

"It is not morally justifiable to plan these attacks. Remember, they want to MURDER AMERICAN CITIZENS."

Nobody is arguing that it is morally justifiable to plan terrorist attacks. The question is whether it's morally justifiable to torture people - and in practical terms, whether you want to give that power to the state.

"And you're concerned about a 30-second procedure that doesn't hurt them, doesn't kill them, doesn't leave any lasting effects (besides possible fear of taking a shower or something - boohoo!) and is great for breaking these defenses down?"

It doesn't hurt them? Then why do they feel the sudden need to confess? "Hurting" somebody doesn't just mean physically hurting them; for example, if I tortured your wife while you watched, you would be physically unharmed, but I'm fairly certain that you'd be traumatized for life.

It doesn't kill them? They feel like they're going to drown because they're asphyxiating, which, you know, can kill you. If that's okay with you, then you should also allow rope strangulation, a plastic bag over the head, all that kind of stuff - but maybe you do.

It doesn't leave any lasting effects? You have clearly never met any survivors of torture, most of whom will attest to the fact that the psychological scars heal much more slowly than the physical scars - if they heal at all.

Rhology said...

The gov't has decided the battlefield? No, the jihadists have by blowing up civilians and marketplaces indiscriminately.
Of course there are mistakes, but people make mistakes ALL THE TIME on ALL SORTS OF SUBJECTS. Just b/c you bought the wrong kind of milk a few weeks ago doesn't mean you don't buy any more milk, ever.

I'm questioning whether waterboarding is torture. But I'm also pointing out the lack of thought on the other side's part about who's the bad guy here.
War sucks, no one's arguing otherwise. It is hell. But there's wanton cruelty and there's justifiable necessary actions.

It doesn't hurt them long term is what I mean. The drowning feeling is unpleasant, sure. But they're jihadists. I kind of don't care much. Maybe they could just stop being a savage beast, give the info they have, contribute to saving several/many lives, and be a decent human being. It's not that hard.

if I tortured your wife while you watched, you would be physically unharmed, but I'm fairly certain that you'd be traumatized for life.

Another example of moral equivocation. (What do I expect? You're an atheist.) This is highly disanalogous.
And you're correct, it doesn't kill them - how else could they then give out information?

you should also allow rope strangulation, a plastic bag over the head

Unsure about rope strangulation, and a plastic bag over the head... do you mean TIGHTLY around their head? You're right - it does seem pretty similar.
Like I said, to quote an article linked-to below, "to say that 30 seconds of waterboarding is torture trivializes the concept of torture. If that’s torture, then torture is grossly overrated."

You have clearly never met any survivors of torture, most of whom will attest to the fact that the psychological scars heal much more slowly than the physical scars - if they heal at all.

I have, who were tortured for their faith in Jesus Christ in countries like the ones from which jihadists come. But this again begs the question of whether this is torture.
And I don't care much if jihadists carry psychological scars of being interrogated. I WANT them to, so they'll just live a normal life and stop plotting to blow people up.

merkur said...

"But they're jihadists. I kind of don't care much."

Yeah, that kind of sums up the whole discussion for you. Jesus would be proud of you, no doubt.

Rhology said...

'Course, since atheism is true, there's nothing wrong with that.

merkur said...

Nice attempt to evade the point that you're an incredibly poor witness to your faith.

Modusoperandi said...

Rhology "I don't see an argument for why "painful psychological experience" - which should be stated "experience that lasts about 30 seconds, leaves no physical aftereffect and can cause painful psychological experience later in life, including fear of rain and taking a shower" - that should be defined as "torture".
Really? Try it. Much like seeing if you're Superman, you'll find that it's not as fun as you think it is (as the psych reports of those who were "not" tortured attests).

"Just b/c you bought the wrong kind of milk a few weeks ago doesn't mean you don't buy any more milk, ever."
Nor do you dash out to the farm and grab the farmer, hold him incommunicado for years without access to a lawyer while waterboarding him in hopes that he will eventually give to the evidence to prove that you were right to do such things. Then you can move on to the secret trial...

"But I'm also pointing out the lack of thought on the other side's part about who's the bad guy here."
"They" are. How much of our humanity are you willing to give up to defeat "them"?

"But they're jihadists."
So, you have the transcripts from the open trials of most of those captured after Afghanistan?

"I kind of don't care much."
How christian of you. Which Gospel is that from, anyway? It sounds more OT, to me. From the book of Apathy, which follows Mehviticus, I believe.

"Maybe they could just stop being a savage beast, give the info they have, contribute to saving several/many lives, and be a decent human being. It's not that hard."
Maybe it would help if we tried not being savage beasts first...probably not, but it would be less hypocritical. We should lose the secret prisons and add some form of reasonable oversight while we're at it.

quote "to say that 30 seconds of waterboarding is torture trivializes the concept of torture. If that's torture, then torture is grossly overrated." unquote
Well, then we'd better hurry up and apologize to the Japanese soldiers who were found guilty of the very same thing. It could be difficult, as we shot them for that.

...Mat 5:39 & 5:44 just don't have the pop that they used to, I guess. Pity. That Jesus fellow was on to something.

Rintintin said...

The gov't has decided the battlefield? No, the jihadists have by blowing up civilians and marketplaces indiscriminately.
Of course there are mistakes, but people make mistakes ALL THE TIME on ALL SORTS OF SUBJECTS. Just b/c you bought the wrong kind of milk a few weeks ago doesn't mean you don't buy any more milk, ever.


I'm not anti-American by any stretch (I thoroughly enjoy living over here and have found Americans to be nice folk), but you seem to have this bizarre view that the US is a beacon of shining light that the rest of the world should be thankful for coming in and deciding how they should govern their country and what they should do with their resources ("remember folks, it only counts as democracy if our guy wins and enforces the sort of rules we like. Access to vasts amount of oil wouldn't go amiss either..."), and therefore certain actions are competely justified.

As always there are two sides to every story - just as you think 'jihadists' are out to get us all and are bad folk for doing so , there are no shortage of people of a comparable level on the side of the US. America has often been the unwarranted aggressor both presently (Iraq if I recall had no WMD's despite 'intelligence' saying they did, and the 9/11 bombers were almost all from Saudi Arabia, none were from Iraq) and in the past (eg Vietnam), or supported various brutal governments (eg in South America) purely to support their own agenda. Presumably you have no objections to torture of American troops etc captured in these circumstances?

so they'll just live a normal life and stop plotting to blow people up.

i want them to live normal lives and stop blowing things up too. But do you not think there might be a reason why they do these sorts of things? Fair enough you might get a certain number of loons who would blow things up just for the sake of it regardless of the situation, there's not a lot anyone can do to stop every incident like that in a world of 6.5 bn people, but to put it bluntly there are probably a lot of people who do it because they're tired of being dictated to by a country several thousand miles away with an incompetent man-child in charge acting as the world's policeman.

John Morales said...

Hidden One:
I must admit that the day "the ends justifies the means" ever becomes a declared Catholic dogma, whether that be in regards to torture or anything, I'm deciding that Luther had a good idea.

You might want to refer to the Catholic Encyclopedia's Inquisition article:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08026a.htm#IIA

John Morales said...

You write [...] the point in the article, who of course takes w-boarding as torture, though I don't.
then you admit
I wouldn't want, for example, my wife to be waterboarded.

Rhology, in your post you wrote I don't see an argument for why "painful psychological experience" - which should be stated "experience that lasts about 30 seconds, leaves no physical aftereffect and can cause painful psychological experience later in life, including fear of rain and taking a shower" - that should be defined as "torture".

Why, if it's psychological, does it need the physical paraphernalia and process? Are you so sure there's no physiological component?

Someone actually did it:
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=448717

It sure sounds like you don't think it's torture unless it also involves gross tissue damage - that the suffering isn't enough in itself.

Rhology said...

Modusoperandi,

I don't have to try it. I don't think it's fun. I want to save lives with urgency, and am willing to take on tough questions about what is morally permissible to that end.

grab the farmer, hold him incommunicado for years without access to a lawyer

Strawman - you're losing the argument already. Nowhere have I claimed nor would I claim this is permissible.

How much of our humanity are you willing to give up to defeat "them"?

Jihadists are. One thing that surprises me consistently about this question is that suddenly people forget how bad jihadists are. And waterboarding becomes the Ultimate Evil (that's hyperbole).
I don't think it's giving up any humanity. that's up to you to prove.

you have the transcripts from the open trials of most of those captured after Afghanistan?

I don't support immoral things performed by the US military, OK? Let's discuss the ACTUAL ISSUE.
If they're jihadists, if they're captured on a battlefield or sthg with arms, etc, it's pretty obvious. Especially if they're from out of the country (which most of the Iraq insurgents apparently are).

Which Gospel is that from, anyway?

Begging the question - prove I'm uncaring and unChristian.

Maybe it would help if we tried not being savage beasts first

1) So you grant that they ARE? Cool.
2) I don't grant that waterboarding makes someone a savage beast, if they are properly constrained as I've described.

We should lose the secret prisons and add some form of reasonable oversight while we're at it.

Secret prisons - half meh, but half I see what you're saying.
Reasonable oversight - I'm all for it. Now could we discuss waterboarding, please?

Japanese soldiers who were found guilty of the very same thing

Equivocation (again) on the morality of the cause. Japanese soldiers in WW2 were fighting an unjust war; American soldiers were not. They did not have the right to interrogate anyone even.



Rintintin,

you seem to have this bizarre view that the US is a beacon of shining light

1) I never said anythg of the sort. Strawman.
2) That said, I do kinda think the US is the best country in the history of the world.
3) But there are TONS of problems with it.
4) And this has nothing to do with the topic at hand.


'jihadists' are out to get us all

You've got your head in the sand if you think this is just a matter of me THINKING they are out to get us all.

just as you think...and (they) are bad folk for doing so

Oh, they're not bad folk according to you? Sharia law forced on you sounds OK?

Presumably you have no objections to torture of American troops etc captured in these circumstances?

I've clearly stated a few times that part of my case is based on the rightness of the cause.
No, waterboarding a US soldier would be unjustifiable IN THIS CASE.
And of course I don't agree that the conflict in Iraq is a case of wanton aggression on the US' part, but I don't know if I've met very many people who can discuss that topic rationally, so I have little stomach for it.

But do you not think there might be a reason why they do these sorts of things?

Yes. Jihad.


blow things up just for the sake of it regardless of the situation,

They don't do that, though. They blow stuff up for JIHAD's sake.



John Morales,

Someone actually did it:

Man, I wouldn't've done it alone! What if he'd lost consciousness and drowned? So we automatically know he's not blessed with a chipmunk's common sense.
He says a few interesting things:

Instinct tells us we are dying.

But of course he wasn't. B/c in interrogations, the captors want info, not the death of the interrogatee.

I have never been more panicked in my whole life.

Good. Might put the fear of God more in the jihadist.
Oops, maybe that was the wrong way to put it.

where I was in total control and never in any danger.

Good deal. Now just tell me what you know about the attack we know is coming and we know you know about. And it'll all be over. Otherwise, splashy splashy.

If I had the choice of being waterboarded by a third party or having my fingers smashed one at a time by a sledgehammer, I'd take the fingers, no question.

I believe he might until the 1st finger were smashed.
Has he ever had his fingers smashed by a sledgehammer? Come on.
One wouldn't want that in real life b/c one would want to continue one's life and be able to support oneself. He'd want to be able to type up his account on the PC and not dictate the rest of his life.


It's horrible, terrible, inhuman torture.

Why? B/c it feels bad for a few minutes and makes you feel afraid?
B/c someone might do it to a jihadist to get info that could save lives?

I'd prefer permanent damage and disability to experiencing it again.

It's easy to say NOW.
Of course, no one here is arguing we should be waterboarding for fun or anyone just for the heck of it. It's for a reason. No one is claiming it's pleasant. If it were pleasant, no one would give up the info.

It sure sounds like you don't think it's torture unless it also involves gross tissue damage - that the suffering isn't enough in itself.

Well, it's certain that a working definition of torture is needed. Can you propose one?
Tissue damage, disability, etc, yeah that would qualify I should think. 1 minute of discomfort and some phobias generated? Especially when all you had to do was tell someone how to prevent a bunch of deaths? Mmm, not so much.
Are you guys who disagree seriously cool with jihadists blowing up American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, and Iraqi civilians? That's what's happening.

Peace,
Rhology

John Morales said...

Well, it's certain that a working definition of torture is needed. Can you propose one?

It's been done - I refer you to
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Convention_Against_Torture

Torture, according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, is "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person [...]"

Especially when all you had to do was tell someone how to prevent a bunch of deaths?

From the Washington Post:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2007/12/11/BL2007121101053.html?nav=rss_opinion/columns

Did Torture Work?

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, December 11, 2007; 1:13 PM
In interviews yesterday and this morning, a former CIA agent called waterboarding what it is. Not "enhanced interrogation" or "harsh tactics." Simply: torture. [...] But it all boils down to the fact that, so far, no one from Bush on down has come up with a single documented example of American lives saved thanks to torture. [...]

merkur said...

"I want to save lives with urgency, and am willing to take on tough questions about what is morally permissible to that end."

No you're not. You're willing to write blog posts, which is quite a long way away from actually taking on tough questions.

John Morales said...

Are you guys who disagree seriously cool with jihadists blowing up American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, and Iraqi civilians? That's what's happening.

No, but we apparently don't believe that the end justifies the means.

Also, you keep referring to "jihadists", where more properly you should be referring to terrorists.

If you really think the terror acts are theologically inspired, you should adjust your terminology - I refer you to Wikipedia, showing the term should be Mujahideen (Arabic: مجاهدين‎, muǧāhidīn, literally "strugglers") is a term for Muslims fighting in a war or involved in any other struggle.[1] The word is the plural form of مجاهد, muǧāhid, which comes from the same Arabic root as jihad ("struggle"). In Islamic scripture, the status of mujahid is unequal to qaid, one who does not join the jihad.

Mujahideen are in fact monotheists who are acting out their beliefs - they are far closer to your worldview than to that of atheists.

Modusoperandi said...

Rhology
grab the farmer, hold him incommunicado for years without access to a lawyer

"Strawman - you're losing the argument already. Nowhere have I claimed nor would I claim this is permissible."
Strawman? Hardly! Do you have any idea how many of the people sequestered away in the prisons (both secret and used-to-be secret) are relatives of, neighbours of, from the same country as, phoned someone in..., as the many other suspects in the many other secret prisons? I'll give you a hint: most of the ones they've released so far. Some after years of imprisonment, none with much more compensation than a cheap suit and a plane ticket home, and all potentially having undergone torture. What do you say when your interrogator asks you a question, and you have no idea what he's talking about? You say whatever gets him to stop. That "intelligence" leads to more captured "terrorists", which leads to more...which leads to....

Waterboarding is just one small part of the fiasco called the War on Terror. It is, however, a part that is easy to fix.

Rintintin said...

"1) I never said anythg of the sort. Strawman.
2) That said, I do kinda think the US is the best country in the history of the world.
3) But there are TONS of problems with it.
4) And this has nothing to do with the topic at hand.


1) the general tone of the post was that because its the US doing it for 'justice'/morally sound reasons then its OK - this implies that the US has never done anything to bring about the situation in the first place (eg invading Iraq for no good reason).
2) in some regards yes, I'd agree
3) again, I agree
4) not purely with waterboarding, but with the general attitude of righteousness that comes with the 'right' to use it as an interrogation procedure



I am aware there are terrorists who want us dead - but then you have to look at the mirror image where the US invaded a country and decided pretty much to have it run the way they wanted, killing a lot of innocent people in the process. Is that really any better than the behaviour of the jihadists?


"Oh, they're not bad folk according to you? Sharia law forced on you sounds OK?"

again i agree they are not nice folk, and theocracy of any sort isn't a great idea - but my point was, ask why they (or at least some of them) are blowing people up. is it not a slight possibility that people get tired of the US's often unjustified actions against them?

"I've clearly stated a few times that part of my case is based on the rightness of the cause.
No, waterboarding a US soldier would be unjustifiable IN THIS CASE.
And of course I don't agree that the conflict in Iraq is a case of wanton aggression on the US' part, but I don't know if I've met very many people who can discuss that topic rationally, so I have little stomach for it."

And who decides on the rightness of the cause exactly? If people from another country marched into the US and decided to tell them how they should run their country, or sort out the aspects of the US and its laws and customs they didnt like you'd be a little miffed I'd bet. But the invaders would think they were perfectly justified no doubt.

As far as I'm aware there was no evidence to suggest Iraq had WMDs or an involvement in 9/11. I an't really see much justification for the invasion of that country, but if you have contradictory evidence I'm open to changing my view.

Rintintin said...

"Why? B/c it feels bad for a few minutes and makes you feel afraid?"

i think waterboading has considerably more impact than that - suffocation can cause brain/lung tissue damage for example. that doesnt just last a few minutes.

John Morales said...

Well, Rhology, it seems you and your President are in agreement on this matter.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/03/08/bush.torture.ap/index.html

Rhology said...

no one from Bush on down has come up with a single documented example of American lives saved thanks to torture.

Hmm. No one ever accused the Bush Admin of great competency, for one thing.
I guess that's too bad, but in theory I don't see what's wrong with the idea.
Besides, if it can get someone like Khalid S Mohammed to talk...



You're willing to write blog posts, which is quite a long way away from actually taking on tough questions.

And you don't even have a blog. You just take potshots at blog authors. What does that say about you then?


but we apparently don't believe that the end justifies the means.

Who cares what you believe about morality?
You're an atheist, any moral code you could possibly have is not applicable to anyone besides you according to your own precepts.

you keep referring to "jihadists", where more properly you should be referring to terrorists.

It's for a reason.
I think I prefer the Qur'an to Wikipedia. That's just me, though.


Mujahideen are in fact monotheists who are acting out their beliefs - they are far closer to your worldview than to that of atheists.

Granted, but I don't see why that's relevant.



Strawman? Hardly!

It's a strawman b/c I wouldn't argue that this is permissible. I join with you in condemning it. Go press Dana Perino on that./




this implies that the US has never done anything to bring about the situation in the first place (eg invading Iraq for no good reason).

I wouldn't agree with that, but I do agree that it's part of my argument.

the US invaded a country and decided pretty much to have it run the way they wanted, killing a lot of innocent people in the process. Is that really any better than the behaviour of the jihadists?

Oh, American fighters are dressing up in civilian clothes, strapping bombs with shrapnel in them to their bodies, and blowing up women and children in marketplaces and buses? Can you point us to a few sources for such a claim?

is it not a slight possibility that people get tired of the US's often unjustified actions against them?

Looks like ONE atheist thinks it's defensible that the ends justify the means. Maybe you and John Morales should confer so as to get your stories straight.

who decides on the rightness of the cause exactly?

The argument. What else do I ever say?

If people from another country marched into the US

Like which one? What form of gov't would they set up? Are you creating an equality of forms of gov't? You think sharia law is just as good as a republican (little 'r') democracy?

i think waterboading has considerably more impact than that - suffocation can cause brain/lung tissue damage for example. that doesnt just last a few minutes.

Oh, have there been some people who have suffocated from waterboarding? Drowned?
I thought this was just a minute or so that it took to break them usually.


And I don't base my arguments on what the President thinks or says, just FYI.

Peace,
Rhology

merkur said...

"And you don't even have a blog. You just take potshots at blog authors. What does that say about you then?"

You have no idea if I have a blog; in fact I do. You also have no idea what my day job is; since I've spent a considerable amount of time in conflict and post-conflict environments (including Afghanistan and Iraq), let's just say that I'm probably closer to these issues than you. You may also assume that this is part of the reason why your ignorance makes me angry; as far as I'm concerned, you're part of the problem.

Rhology said...

I stand corrected.
What's the link to it?
Fine, you're closer to the issues. One might generally expect that a greater understanding would thus bleed over into the arguments you make.

merkur said...

I have no desire to share my blogging with any audience wider than my friends, thanks.

"One might generally expect that a greater understanding would thus bleed over into the arguments you make."

It does. Don't blame me for your own lack of insight.

Rhology said...

It does.

Where?

merkur said...

As I said, don't blame me for your own lack of insight. If you want to do a head-to-head on this topic, I'm happy to oblige, subject to time constraints.

Rhology said...

You've made one comment so far of more than 2 sentences. Let the reader judge whether "Where?" is a reasonable question.

I'm right here - feel free to enlighten my deficient insight whenever you please.

merkur said...

Rhology: "I don't see an argument for why "painful psychological experience" - which should be stated "experience that lasts about 30 seconds, leaves no physical aftereffect and can cause painful psychological experience later in life, including fear of rain and taking a shower" - that should be defined as "torture".

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: "the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession"

Why don't you work from there? Duration is irrelevant; severity is relevant. Waterboarding causes severe mental suffering, as multiple testimonies have clearly estabished; indeed, the claims to its efficacy are based largely on the fact that it causes severe mental suffering.

Your best defense is to state that you support torture. It would be repugnant to me, but at least it would give you a more defensible position.

Rhology said...

Meh.
Whence comes this definition? Do they reason out to whom it should apply and why?
Waterboarding induces a gag reflex and the sense of drowning. What's the argument for why duration should be irrelevant?
Crushing fingers, OTOH, induces pain and perhaps-permanent disability. There's a diff there.

And freezing someone's assets could certainly cause "severe mental suffering." Maybe even emotional suffering. They might suffer a nervous breakdown b/c they base so much of their identity on their fortune.
Seeing one's comrades imprisoned could cause severe mental suffering.
Taking someone on a tour of the gallows where they'll be hanged if they're found guilty (which might be in little doubt) could.
Feeding a jihadist pork chops could. Since duration doesn't matter, even if it were in their cell for a few minutes could. I mean, the possibilities are endless.
Shoot, being in prison has been known to cause severe mental suffering. Maybe we should just send them back to their jihadist cave-clan with a check for backpay for all the time they were imprisoned.

merkur,

I'd be very interested in reading your blog. Could you email me the link? I promise never to reveal it, link to it, or provide any assistance to anyone in finding it.


Peace,
Rhology

merkur said...

"Whence comes this definition? Do they reason out to whom it should apply and why?"

The definition comes from the experience of the lawyers that developed it and the states that have ratified it. In intent, it is proposed to apply to everybody, everywhere, at all times.

"Waterboarding induces a gag reflex and the sense of drowning. What's the argument for why duration should be irrelevant? Crushing fingers, OTOH, induces pain and perhaps-permanent disability. There's a diff there."

You will notice that the Convention definition includes mental suffering, not just physical suffering. That is because it is quite simple to torture somebody mentally without physically affecting them; mock executions, hurting their children, depriving them of sleep, and so on.

Duration is irrelevant because then one could argue that "briefly" harming somebody was not torture; so the "diff" is not there.

"And freezing someone's assets could certainly cause "severe mental suffering.""

That's a truly specious argument, which I will not dignify with a response.

"Taking someone on a tour of the gallows where they'll be hanged if they're found guilty (which might be in little doubt) could."

Indeed, although it's doubtful that you could prove it was torture unless it was part of a systematic campaign. Such an action would be considered unacceptable in our countries, as you probably know already.

"Feeding a jihadist pork chops could."

Indeed, although it's doubtful that you could prove it was torture unless it was part of a systematic campaign. This is why the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states that "it is necessary to respect the religious beliefs and moral precepts of the group to which a prisoner belongs."

"Shoot, being in prison has been known to cause severe mental suffering."

Which is why the Convention explicitly excludes being in prison and other legal incidences.

John Morales said...

"In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales more than 100 United States law professors stated unequivocally that waterboarding is torture, and the use of the practice is a criminal felony punishable under the U.S. federal criminal code."

http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/04/06/usdom13130.htm

Peter said...

But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:39-41)