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Old 12-22-2007, 04:32 PM
kj kj is offline
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 37
Default Re: Grown-Ups Only Edition

I also wanted to chime in here and say that while most of the people here will think Mis. Hays either evil, or horrible, or what she is saying unconscionable, I would like to say that some of what Rosa says strikes me as patently naive and ridiculous. For instance, where she says that there is really no categorical difference between waterboarding and rape or murder.

Her point was that if you are about to save a million lives in NYC, including yours, why argue that a policy of torturing various unconvicted people in the hopes of saving lives is acceptable while a policy of torturing various unconvicted people's children in the hopes of saving lives is not. The only difference here is that you are 100% sure the kids knows nothing while anywhere from 1-99% sure that the adult watching their kid or being tortured themselves knows nothing. And if you weigh this against the fact that you'd probably be more successful torturing someone's kid in front of them then torturing the person directly, perhaps it is actually better to round up suspected terrorists children and implement a law protecting their torture in a ticking time bomb scenario. Anybody in? I didn't think so.

I would argue that both Ms. Hays and Rosa are wrong; I suppose it makes me something of a moral relativist, but I think that while both waterboarding, rape and murder are somewhat "intrinsically evil," that pure utilitarian calculation in terms of terrorism could render any one of the three possibly necessary, and morally acceptable.

Even mine?

First of all, I don't know what Rosa is saying about the Salem Witch Trials, but making someone think they are drowning and then not actually drowning them in order to extract information from someone is not in the same ballpark as killing someone, or raping them, or tearing their fingernails out. Not in the same ballpark, not even in the same league. As nice as it would be to be able to play fair and follow the Constitution with terrorist suspects we pick up on foreign battlefields trying to kill American soldiers or alien terrorists who we pick up plotting to come to America and kill American civilians, the stakes are simply too high to categorically ban torture, especially if the torture is the kind that we have heard about: "torture" that causes emotional duress and temporary physical pain such as stress positions, waterboarding, denial of sleep, etc.

The Salem witch trials, if you remember, killed people who were not witches (at least that's my reading of the Salem Witch Trials as everyone knows real 17th century witches hung out in Boston). Thus, a policy of torture ends up torturing people who actually don't have any useful information and might even be totally innocent. Rosa should have brought this point up more forcefully.

Second of all, I just can't appreciate why we need to think that the terrorist threat is an existential threat as great as Nazi Germany in order to make a decision not to treat terrorist suspects with kit gloves. Our mandate is not just to be "better than they are," it is to crush the terrorist threat and to prevent a 9/11 from happening again. I do not see the fundamental conflict between American values and torturing terrorist suspects in extraordinary circumstances. What the CIA does with guys picked up with a cache of explosives, or with concrete evidence that they are planning or have carried out terrorist acts is not the equivalent of what we do to drug dealers arrested on American streets. Take, for instance, Kalid Sheikh Mohammed; he probably was tortured (if not by waterboarding, then by seriously screwing with his sense of time, place, denying him food, depriving him sleep, going through a hell of a lot that nobody would want to go through). I don't see anything wrong with this.

How do you feel about those who were tortured who knew nothing. How about the torture of Jose Padilla? That guy was basically just an idiot, a stooge and we tortured him terribly. And he's a U.S. citizen. Do you think there is no relation between what we did to KSM and what we did to Padilla and a lot of people at Guantanamo who really were completely innocent?

Now, the question of whether we can get any real information is separate, but I tend to think that the idea that torture never yields real intelligence when applied to people who happen to have real pieces of intelligence is simply untrue, and forwarded as a separate rationale by people who wouldn't support torture of terrorist suspects even if it did work. As Rosa says "you can never leave aside the moral issues." Indeed. And I think that the moral issues are not a sufficient reason to deny interrogators this tool in their arsenal to prevent attacks on America.

That's funny, cause I think the same about the pro-torture people. You guys would torture even if all the evidence told you it didn't work. There is simply no substantial evidence that torture works. We don't know if it works. I'm about 95% sure it doesn't work as I can't imagine a scenario where it would do any good. The 5% is because lots of fairly smart to smart people seem to think it could work so I think maybe I'm wrong. But I will say that the burden of proof should fall on those who want to torture as they want to implement a policy that will end up torturing a lot of innocent people and a lot of people who have no pertinent information, not to mention the damage it does to our image and the potentiality for cooperation around the world.

P.S. As to Rosa defining adulthood as being able to see shades of nuance, how does she reconcile this as to what I see as her thinking that any form of interrogation of terrorist suspects that goes beyond asking them questions over and over again or making them listen to "Panama" on repeat (actually, that might be beyond the pale for her) is a non black and white up or down stance? Isn't saying that torture (even in the form of inflicting mostly emotional distress as opposed to causing long-term physical injury) is categorically wrong and can never be justified, or that at least against the terrorists in the world as they currently exist, a black and white stance that doesn't allow in shades of nuance, such as how confident we are that they have intelligence or the potential magnitude of intelligence that we suspect we have but are not sure about?

Look if you could prove that torture works, then I could accept it being done in limited situations that will never happen anyway. But you can't. That is nuance. Rosa would likely agree. But since torture policies lead to the torture of people who shouldn't be tortured and it at best gives us good and bad intelligence (like with her example) and at worst never gives us any good info, I don't know how any nuanced decision making process comes out on the side of torture. And Charlotte, queen of Black/White, offers pretty clear evidence that nuance is not the anti-torture set's problem but rather the side that thinks the CIA is competent enough to know who to torture and how to do it. As Charlotte would undoubtedly have little problem saying, "You torture the enemy because they are evil."
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