Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Torture Question

SKEPTIC: As we learn shocking new details of the Bush/Cheney torture program every day, I'm curious where you stand on the issue. The GOP, for the most part, seems to justify torture using the age-old reasoning of "the end justifies the means." Crazy lefties like myself, on the other hand, have this wacky idea that torture is never justified and this program has left a dark stain on America's reputation. I also firmly believe that Bush administration officials who were involved in the program need to be held accountable, i.e. prosecuted.

PREACHER: I would agree that torture should never be justified. However, there seems to be some differences of opinion as to what is considered torture. I would think that the typical GOP position is that what was done would not be considered torture. Isn't it also very interesting how some of the countries that have complained about how the Bush administration treated the prisoners at Guantanamo bay, when asked to receive some of these prisoners, have refused to accept them into their countries. America may have had its reputation damaged through this, but are these other countries really willing to practice what they preach?

SKEPTIC: You're right. Many people in the Republican party are trying to claim that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" did not amount to torture. But that claim is patently ridiculous on its face. The US executed Japanese soldiers after World War II for waterboarding our POWs, one of the same techniques employed in the Bush/Cheney torture program. So it's torture when someone does it to us, but it's not torture when we do it someone else?? The recently leaked Red Cross report on the treatment of detainees calls it torture and provides in chilling detail exactly what these techniques involved. The GOP is quickly becoming identified as the pro-torture party and the Dems as the anti-torture party. This is not the way for Republicans to find new voters. Unless they make a clean condemnation of torture and break with the Bush people, they're in for a very long time of wandering in the wilderness.

PREACHER: Did someone say that all is allowable in love and war? Anyway, it is a shame that so many of us can't see things as clear-cut as you do.

SKEPTIC: Actually, all may be fair in love, but not so much in war. That's why we have the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit torture. But does your question mean that you don't have a problem with what the Bush administration did? Seems to me that this would be the perfect situation in which to ask, "What would Jesus do?"

PREACHER: It is interesting that when considering moral issues that you like to appeal to Someone that you consider a mythical figure. Let due process go forward for the prosecution of individuals who have committed torture, not only for the Americans who perform it, but for all of those who commit torture, like the terrorists whom you seem to want to excuse.

SKEPTIC: "The terrorists whom you seem to want to excuse?" That's ridiculous and insulting. Show me one time where I ever came close to "excusing the terrorists." The only ones who may "excuse" the terrorists are Bush and his gang, who by illegally using torture may allow terrorists to eventually go free. But I'm glad that you say we should prosecute those involved in torture. I believe we've arrived at a point we can agree on.

A SKEPTIC POSTSCRIPT: I heard a great analogy today: Saying that torture is okay if we get useful information is like a shoplifter saying "Sure stealing is a crime, but look at all the great stuff I got!"


  1. Excellent positions by the skeptic. I just have to disagree that the USA's reputation was tainted. Most of the world's opinion of the United States is very different from that its citizens hold. I don't think the rest of the world was surprised at the tactics or thought they were new tactics. For non-Americans, it seemed like business as usual.

    The preacher on the other hand, seems willing to bend his moral standards at any cost in order to fit his worldview. It seems like a very dishonest position to hold.

  2. Skeptic: "So it's torture when someone does it to us, but it's not torture when we do it someone else??"

    Preacher: "..shame that so many of us can't see things as clear-cut as you do."

    indeed, the question is why not?

  3. The more your scope of knowledge is limited the easier it is to process all of your information into a nice little package. May I suggest that you get a real education.

  4. I am at a loss interpreting Paul's cryptic comment which, to add to the confusion, does not address anyone in particular. so I'll list a couple of possible interpretations, hoping Paul will clarify.

    1) torture ok because it expands your "scope of knowledge"?

    2) torture ok because it gets you "a real education"?

  5. No torture is wrong. If some government officials are guilty then they should be prosecuted. However, we need a definition of torture that is objectively sound.

  6. Paul, what would your ideal "objectively sound" definiton of torture be?

    bearing in mind that pain thresholds (both mental and physical) differ from individual to individual.


    I post this article for some perspective

  8. Paul.

    first you say "No torture is wrong." w/out qualification.

    I can agree with that.

    than you post a link "..for some perspective".

    said article endorses the use of torture and a few, particular methods, in certain scenarios.

    confused now, to say the least, so, where do *you* stand on this issue? and what would be *your* ideal definition of torture?

  9. I'm just a bit flabbergasted that Christians are positioning themselves as being in favor of torture. It seems so incongruous. Here's the bottom line for me:

    Sure, torture may have gotten some important information (although most of the time, the victim of torture will say anything he thinks his torturer wants him to say). But at what cost? Americans have to decide if we are a nation who tortures or if we are a nation that abhors and denounces torture. It has to be one or the other. It doesn't work to say well, we're a nation who never tortures, except, well, you know, when it's absolutely necessary. This is a moral issue for America, and it seems that those of us on the nonbelievers side of the aisle tend to line up on the side of torture being evil while believers tend to think that torture is not that big of a deal. Interesting.

    And the bottom line on the question of whether Bush's torture program made America safer is this: How many tens of thousands of new recruits do you think signed up with the terrorists after seeing the abuse that was allowed to happen? It became the primary recruitment tool for the enemy!! Do you feel safer now?

  10. Doug.

    truly an "interesting" link.

    even though the poll sample sizes are rather small, it is sickening to read that in *all* questions more than two-thirds (lowest was 69%) agreed that they do not oppose torture.

    re. "Do you feel safer now?"

    NO, in the 30-odd years things have gone from bad to worse, globally, without exception. and while the US of A may not be the only culprit, they have not used their political and economic clout to help improve the situation; I cannot help thinking that the policy shift brought about by President Obama is just too little, too late.

  11. correction.

    last paragraph: "in the 30-odd years" should be "in the last 30-odd years".

  12. That is a very interesting article. You guys seem quite pessimistic about the problem of torture ever going away. To convince the general public of your position are you going to take some kind of action? Would you recommend some sort of world government that would police the problem fairly all over the world? How would you develop a rational or strategy to convince everyone to agree with you and enforce your views (assuming that they are the best) on this subject?

  13. There are already international laws and covenants against torture; laws which the U.S. had been systematically violating the last few years under Bush. The only way to send a message that torture is not okay is to require accountability on the part of those who violate the laws. It ain't rocket science.

  14. It is all fine and well to have the laws in place and I think that all nations and peoples should obey them. However, how do you enforce the laws in our present world. Those of us who believe in the intrinsic and absolute value of each human being (a value derived from a Biblical view of man as created in the image of God) should agree to and obey such laws. However, how do you explain such laws to those who don't share our common values. The most flagrant abuses of human rights continue to be nations such as Saudi Arabia, China, and North Korea. Then, you have the terrorist who are a law unto themselves. They don't even know of the laws. How do you convince these nations and groups to obey the laws? If the laws aren't enforceable, do they have any meaning? Let's brainstorm on this issue some more.

  15. The Hague is chock-full of international judicial bodies (the International Criminal Court, for example, that are normally administered by the U.N. Convienently, the Bush administration refused to sign the treaty for the International Criminal Court. Obviously, some nations are outlaw nations and may escape justice. I'm hoping you're not saying that somehow justifies any lawbreaking on the part of the U.S.

  16. The trouble with the UN and the Hague is that it is an impotent organization. You can have laws and a criminal court, but they are meaningless if they don't have the power to enforce the law. The USA should create its own code of law against torture. I'm sure that the present democratic congress and President Obama are really anxious to pass the legislation. Let the process of justice go forward.

  17. "The USA should create its own code.."

    isn't that part ofthe problem? more division?

    the USA (and other countries) are at present not signed up to many of the international bodies and institutions, this undermines their authority.

    even where signed up, there's often no support or half-hearted support at best (like eg the USA support for the UN).

    Paul asked earlier about "..some sort of world government..". unrealistic at present but IMO the only way forward. many of our problems today could simply not arise if there was only one world (think, no need for armies for example).

  18. Would there be no need for a police force?

  19. Is the UN truly an organization worth supporting? It couldn't even pass a binding resolution on North Korea's development of nuclear weapons. I believe that the only way a one world government will develop is for a group of elite or a superhuman-like dictator to control everything.

  20. Paul, in brief (not much time, sorry)

    "Would there be no need for a police force?"

    for sure, but I think that over time there'd be fewer and fewer; dreaming again, rational people (by and large) will abide by rules and laws that are fair and equitable. there will always be a few "bad apples", but that's life.

    "Is the UN truly an organization worth supporting? It couldn't even pass.."

    yes, at present many nations (and the USA is a good example of this) cynically use the UN whenever it suits their aims, and derides them otherwise; Israel, say, has been ignoring a number of UN resolutions for decades and the USA (and Europe) do not force Israel's hand, but, say, Iraq, they all clamoured for immediate implementation of the UN resolutions and went to war (twice).

    in short, the ideal of an United Nations is besmirched by the cynical and selfish attitudes evident in the policies of many of the industrialised nations but that only make the UN more important to us, not less.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.