Patterico's Pontifications

11/11/2007

A Hypothetical that (Some) Liberal Opponents of Waterboarding Will Not Answer

Filed under: General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 3:38 pm

I have asked this question before, but it’s a partially new crew here now, so I’m reviving it:

Let’s assume the following hypothetical facts are true. U.S. officials have KSM in custody. They know he planned 9/11 and therefore have a solid basis to believe he has other deadly plots in the works. They try various noncoercive techniques to learn the details of those plots. Nothing works.

They then waterboard him for two and one half minutes.

During this session KSM feels panicky and unable to breathe. Even though he can breathe, he has the sensation that he is drowning. So he gives up information — reliable information — that stops a plot involving people flying planes into buildings.

My simple question is this: based on these hypothetical facts, was the waterboarding session worth it?

Conservatives, your mission in this thread is simple: try to keep the liberals on point.

It’s a question of morality, and it is a relevant question. My answer is clear: an unequivocal “yes, it was worth it.” I might add that I wonder how realistic the hypothetical is. It was reported as fact, and I tend to believe it — but part of me is slightly skeptical.

But the reality isn’t the issue. We are exploring our moral differences here, in a hypothetical. Arguing against the hypothetical by saying that the assumptions aren’t realistic is dodging the moral question. It makes you look like Hillary Clinton doing the two-step on licenses for illegals — you’re refusing to answer a direct question and everyone can see that.

Oh, dodging the question is what every liberal opponent of waterboarding will do. Because, as I said in a recent thread on this issue, “[a]dmitting any ambiguity kills the sweet, sweet high of self-righteousness.”

P.S. Fritz is the only waterboarding opponent who is off the hook. He has given an answer.

Here is the question again in case you missed it, liberals: based on the above hypothetical facts, was the waterboarding session worth it?

The liberals will dodge the question. They do every time.

Every time.

UPDATE: My admiration for my commenters has increased. Despite my confident assertion that liberals always avoid this question, many liberal waterboarding opponents actually take the question head-on in the comments below. I have changed the title to add the word “some” in parentheses.

A couple of commenters haven’t been heard from, though, as of about 10:50 a.m. on November 12. Itsme pointedly evaded answering. And I’d like to see an appearance from Oregonian in the thread.

UPDATE x2: When I say that I am asking a purely moral question, I mean for you to assume that waterboarding is legal — so that questions of violating the law need not enter into your analysis.

758 Responses to “A Hypothetical that (Some) Liberal Opponents of Waterboarding Will Not Answer”

  1. *crickets*

    Pious Agnostic (64737a)

  2. Patterico,

    I read through Fritz’s posts on the other thread and tend to agree with his points.

    You want a bottom line answer for what is a no-brainer question. Okay I’ll bite – yes, it was worth it.

    But I think you miss a more important question as i see it in terms of this debate.

    “As a CIA or US military personnel in authority knowing that (a) the suspect has information on an imminent attack, and (b) knowing that waterboarding has been classified as torture, would you employ this method to save thousands even if it meant forfeiting your freedom for the next 20 or so years?”

    voiceofreason (a52d5d)

  3. I hope I would — if I really thought it would save thousands of lives.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  4. I don’t think Fritz’ answer is valid, nor do I think that your rephrasing of the question from Patterico’s to a varient of Fritz’ valid either.

    It is not an answer to avoid confronting the issue by putting someone’s else’s willingness to be imprisoned on the line.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  5. Pious Agnostic,

    Give them more than 13 minutes to respond . . .

    Patterico (bad89b)

  6. OK, I won’t dodge it. Assuming the hypothetical is true, it wasn’t worth it.

    It is unworthy of a moral and democratic society to engage in torture. Period. Even to prevent a catastrophic terrorist strike. Tragic as they are, we can as a society recover from terrorist strikes. If we become a society that embraces torture, we lose a measure of civilization and humanity forever.

    Everyone has their own idea of what torture is. From what I gather about waterboarding, it constitutes torture when done against the unwilling. So, I have to conclude it was improper.

    Let me change the question. Same facts, except instead of waterboarding, the interrogators chopped off his fingers one by one, and then his foot, and was about to do the other foot when the suspect finally broke and spilled the information needed to avert the tragedy. Was it worth it?

    If you say yes, you disgust me.

    If you say no, then you agree that at some point torture becomes improper even if it would avoid a catastrophe. Our only disagreement is where do you draw the line. I include waterboarding, and you don’t.

    Stace (2ca426)

  7. It is not an answer to avoid confronting the issue by putting someone’s else’s willingness to be imprisoned on the line.

    SPQR,

    The question was your own willingness to do so.

    I think it’s a fair question, even if I don’t completely understand the point.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  8. Same facts, except instead of waterboarding, the interrogators chopped off his fingers one by one, and then his foot, and was about to do the other foot when the suspect finally broke and spilled the information needed to avert the tragedy. Was it worth it?

    Absolutely.

    I’ll even change the facts more. Instead of thousands of lives, it’s one life: my daughter’s.

    I’d chop off every finger and every toe of a guilty person, who had knowledge that could save my daughter. I’d cover him with honey and stake him to a red ant pile. There’s no torture so barbaric that I wouldn’t do it. To save my daughter’s life.

    Stace, I appreciate your forthright answer. You say you would condemn thousands of people to death — just to avoid sanctioning an act that people voluntarily undergo all the time just to see what it’s like.

    And if I don’t, I “disgust” you.

    [UPDATE: Actually, the "disgust" line related to chopping off fingers and toes. Sorry to Stace for misreading her comment. -- P]

    That makes my point better than anything else could. Self-righteousness has been elevated far above common sense, or any conventionally held views of morality.

    Who agrees with Stace? Anyone else have the courage to answer the question?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  9. Pat, as I understood Fritz’ argument, the answer to the whole issue was to depend upon the willingness of interrogators to individually risk prosecution for their actions. Not merely as an answer to the ethical question for debate.

    I put up several reasons why I found that approach invalid and I still question whether it is a response or a rhetorical flourish.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  10. (I’d do the same to save my son or my wife or anyone else I deeply love. I just pick my daughter as a random example.)

    Patterico (bad89b)

  11. I think Fritz said he’d say it was worth it in this hypo — didn’t he?

    I’d be surprised if he didn’t.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  12. Stace writes: It is unworthy of a moral and democratic society to engage in torture. Period. Even to prevent a catastrophic terrorist strike. Tragic as they are, we can as a society recover from terrorist strikes.

    So you are okay condemning people to death–maybe even those close to you–and doing nothing to prevent it?

    Paul (ec9716)

  13. Stace,

    What if the group of people in the building included everyone you hold dear? Everyone in your immediate family? Your spouse? Your parents? Your children?

    You’re telling me that you would let them all die so that KSM — the admitted planner of a mass murder — wouldn’t be waterboarded for 2 1/2 minutes?

    I really want to know if you have thought about this and aren’t just glibly saying something to “stick to principle.” Is this really what you are saying?

    Really??

    Patterico (bad89b)

  14. I mean, you can’t really mean it.

    Can you?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  15. Question for Stace: Let’s return to the “buried alive” scenario. You know who did it. You know he knows where the person is buried, alive. And you know that you only have so long to get the information out of him before the buried alive person is dead.

    That person is your child.

    What are you willing to do to get that information out of the perp?

    Pablo (99243e)

  16. You know, Patterico. To give a little respite to some of these people, there are people in the world who in general can’t really handle serious responsibility – they don’t have the temperament for it. Some people don’t really have a semblance of true self-knowledge.

    So some of what people here is indeed silly posturing, some of it is ignorance of what they themselves are capable of in true extremis, and a lot of it is the prattering of people who can’t be trusted to run a pet sitting business.

    ** shrug **

    SPQR (26be8b)

  17. “My simple question is this: based on these hypothetical facts, was the waterboarding session worth it?”

    Is it worth it only if he gives reliable information?

    whitd (10527e)

  18. Here’s another question.

    Define torture.

    Is shoving a red hot fireplace poker into your lower intestines torture?

    Is pulling fingernails out with pliers torture?

    Is having your body stretched on a rack so that every ligament is torn and every joint dislocated torture?

    Is having your flesh flayed from your body and salt poured into the wounds torture?

    Is have alligator clips attached to your genitalia and then an electric shock applied torture?

    Is being strapped to a board with your head firmly tied down, then having a single drop of water landing on the same spot over and over for several hours torture?

    Is being given a drug that numbs your skin, then being placed into a padded chamber with no light, no sound, or smell for several hours considered torture?

    Is being strapped to a board, a cloth placed onto your face and water then poured onto the cloth considered torture?

    Consider that with the exception of the last entry, all the methods listed either cause physical damage to the body, or cause severe mental damage.

    Having your head strapped down and a drop of water hitting it about every second will cause most people to crack within an hour.

    This was demonstrated on the TV show Mythbusters. On average the volunteers who submitted to this, and knew the could stop it at any time, lasted less then an hour. When used coercively, you know you can’t get free and it will last for hours.

    The other non-physical method is called Sensory Deprivation. Most people can only last about 30 minutes. I don’t know if this has ever been used, but spending several hours in such a chamber would probably drive you utterly insane.

    Waterboarding as used by the U.S. is only done as a last resort and only lasts a few minutes. All the other methods last for hours.

    In most cases physical torture is used to destroy a person, rather then gain information. (It is also used for that as well)

    A professional interrogator does not like to use physically coercive methods. It causes a normal person real anguish, and a person who doesn’t feel that anguish is probably someone you don’t want as an interrogator in the first place.

    Being waterboarded is not fun, but it does no physical damage and no lasting mental damage. (You are scared to death for a brief time, but people pay money to be scared at the movies all the time)

    So think this through very carefully. Should waterboarding be used as a first resort? Probably not. Should it be used on a subject constantly. No since the subject will get used to it.

    Should it be banned? No. There may be times when lives are at stake an nothing else will work. There should be oversight, and the interrogators should also be subjected to this so they will know what it feels like and understand when they need to stop.

    Now for the last question.

    Is being forced to listen to Country music torture? (I think so!)

    My $.02

    Evilned (e14b75)

  19. I just think it’s interesting to see the lengths people will go to, in order to maintain their self-righteous little view of themselves as the only people who care about morality. It’s the “can you believe it has come to this, that we are really debating whether to torture people?” attitude.

    But I want to hear from the regulars. Blah, Oregonian, etc. They’ll dodge the question, because they know that the answer they want to give — the one Stace has given — would make them look crazy.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  20. Is it worth it only if he gives reliable information?

    Let’s keep on track and keep the hypo restricted to that.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  21. I read Fritz’s comments the same way SPQR did. Fritz was willing to let captives be waterboarded but only if the people who did the waterboarding were nevertheless found guilty of torture. Granted, Fritz was agreeable to giving them a pardon for their acts, but it’s easy to approve waterboarding if at the same time you get to adhere to your belief that waterboarding is illegal.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  22. #11
    Pretty much, yes he did.
    “I think they should be prosecuted. They should plead guilty. In the penalty phase they should present the mitigating factors involved in the case, i.e., how many lives they saved. Then, if that aspect of their case holds up, the President should pardon them.

    Comment by Fritz — 11/10/2007 @ 12:11 pm ”

    Patriots die for their country often. They often fight against odds they know they will not survive yet do so for the greater good.
    The choice to torture someone or not for information should come from the same well of conviction. The only difference is that in the case of using torture or not, it will likely be a person in authority (senior officer or civilian) that gives the okay.

    Laws cannot be written for every single hypothetical. Nor will they make us more secure or moral. We better hope we have tough men and women who really can make a tough call as I mentioned.

    “I only regret that I have but one life to give to my country” shouldn’t be replaced with “I wish there had been a clearer law that could have kept me out of the pokey”

    voiceofreason (a52d5d)

  23. If you take time to develop the “solid basis to believe” proposition, you have time to vet the waterboarding through channels. Won’t victims say anything to make it stop? One rarely hears proponents acknowledge a reliability downside. People who are waterboarded as an experiment or as part of their training know that they will not be hurt in the end.

    If the interrogator has proven, substantial experience and training and has never elicited the kind of discredited claims Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi made while waterboarded, then KSM is a righteous candidate.

    steve (5e98e7)

  24. “Let’s keep on track and keep the hypo restricted to that.”

    Of course its worth it. That question was answered years ago:

    http://crookedtimber.org/2004/06/18/by-the-power-of-stipulation-i-have-the-power

    So tit for tat. Here’s my hypo: lets say he doesn’t give any reliable information which leads to nothing but a wasted rise to orange alert a diversion of intelligence assets. Worth it?

    Or here’s another one: On suspicion that he has recently purchased firearms and is a general weirdo, the police waterboard a young asian american student. He confesses his plans to go on a shooting rampage, and is thus imprisoned for those attempted murders. Worth it?

    whitd (10527e)

  25. You people are changing the rules. The question isn’t what Patterico would do to save his daughter, or what I would do to save my loved ones. Or even what I hope someone would do if the building held all my loved ones.

    The question is what the U.S. government can do to extract information from people in custody.

    If you think it is really OK for your government to hack off limbs or other forms of extreme torture, in any circumstance, rightly or wrongly believing it will provide valuable information, then I am speechless.

    Instead of putting a challenge to liberals, Patterico, I will put one to you. Put up a simple post on your front page saying “I believe the United States Government should be able to use extreme forms of torture, such as dismemberment, when it appears it will lead to information that may save lives.” It’ll be interesting to see how the blogosphere reacts to that.

    I will agree that whether waterboarding constitutes torture is fairly debatable by honest people with different views. I come out on the torture side, but I can see how someone could put the line in a different place and include waterboarding with acceptable coercive techniques.

    But I really have trouble accepting that some of you truly think anything goes with respect to extreme torture, even in just certain special cases, and then accuse me of having suspect morality.

    Stace (2ca426)

  26. Some people aren’t able to see past the hypothetical to the reality of death. They are just like Dukakis and his dispassionate response to the rape question. There is no doubt in my mind I would commit torture to save the lives of my children or the children of people I don’t know even if I knew I would go to jail if I did. It would be horrendously immoral NOT to do so.

    tmac (0c909a)

  27. Put up a simple post on your front page saying “I believe the United States Government should be able to use extreme forms of torture, such as dismemberment, when it appears it will lead to information that may save lives.”

    That wasn’t the hypo, Stace. The hypo assumes that we *know* the torture did save lives, and asks if it was worth it. Not that “it appears” that the torture “may” save lives.

    It’s not changing the rules to ask a follow-up hypo asking if your answer would be the same if the people saved were members of your family. It’s actually the logical next question — and it seems you’re dodging it.

    So: it’s not OK to waterboard to save thousands of strangers, but you won’t answer whether it’s OK to do it to save a few people *you* happen to be close to?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  28. Won’t victims say anything to make it stop? One rarely hears proponents acknowledge a reliability downside.

    I agree, steve, though I hope you’ll acknowledge that I have.

    But I want to stay on track here. You answered the question yes, as I understand it, steve — and I think that’s the right answer.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  29. “I’d chop off every finger and every toe of a guilty person, who had knowledge that could save my daughter. I’d cover him with honey and stake him to a red ant pile. There’s no torture so barbaric that I wouldn’t do it. To save my daughter’s life.”

    So you chop off the first finger, and that gets nothing. Same with the 10th. Might as well keep going eh? Worth it?

    whitd (10527e)

  30. You people are changing the rules. The question isn’t what Patterico would do to save his daughter, or what I would do to save my loved ones. Or even what I hope someone would do if the building held all my loved ones.

    The question is what the U.S. government can do to extract information from people in custody.

    That’s not changing the rules, Stace, what we are asking is a follow-up question. You stated that waterboarding is torture and should not be used under any circumstances. So asking even if involved saving your loved ones, even though it would mean condemning poibly thousands of peope to death, is a fair question.

    Which you didn’t answer.

    Paul (ec9716)

  31. Oops…”poibly” should be possibly.

    Paul (ec9716)

  32. Why stop at waterboarding. These people want to go back to the 7th century, so I say put them on the rack. Makes them give up information faster and they are crippled by the process so we can let them go beg on the streets of Mekka

    Not a Yank (89bc62)

  33. So you chop off the first finger, and that gets nothing. Same with the 10th. Might as well keep going eh? Worth it?

    Comment by whitd — 11/11/2007 @ 4:52 pm

    Very, very, very few people are going to withstand this degree of torture without breaking. Almost none of those people are the sort who would kidnap a man’s daughter. If it’s a child molester in particular, these are the most selfish, narcissistic people on the planet and there is no way they could withstand torture.

    But let’s say you’re right. Let’s say the person will not break under any circumstances and all you do is cut off all 10 fingers of the person who has taken and refused to return your daughter leading to her death. Is it worth it?

    Hell, yeah.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  34. I would give my immortal soul and spend eternity in the pits of hell to save my daughter. It says nothing about what I would do for the rest of the world. I have not given all my possessions to the poor and do not struggle every day to feed the hungry and heal the sick.

    The question is: Sometimes loving most times selfish human beings that we are, creating hierarchies of care for our fellow human beings, what regard do we give to a terrorist, inarguably a human being but also inarguably a conscienceless murderer, to the detriment of one or more other innocent human beings?

    nk (09a321)

  35. I think we found the question Stace is going to dodge.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  36. “Very, very, very few people are going to withstand this degree of torture without breaking.”

    See, there you go, changing the hypothetical.

    “Let’s say the person will not break under any circumstances and all you do is cut off all 10 fingers of the person who has taken and refused to return your daughter leading to her death. Is it worth it?

    Hell, yeah.”

    After you’ve chopped off the first, you probably already figured out your story and how you’re going to dump his body, right? Time to get medieval. No matter how many times they beg that they don’t know where your daughter is. No matter how many times they tell you something which gets you to stop the torture while you check it out.

    “I think we found the question Stace is going to dodge.”

    I think thats the entire point of this exercise.

    whitd (10527e)

  37. Stace,

    While cutting off his fingers and feet is certainly more gruesome and painful, I don’t think it would as effective an interrogation technique as waterboarding. The panic induced by the sensation of drowning is what works in waterboarding, but it doesn’t leave any permanent damage.

    Mike S (d3f5fd)

  38. Patterico, forgive me… I would definitely not say this on my own because I’m better than that.

    I showed my girlfriend your comments, whitd, and even she thinks you’re [redacted]. And heck, I agree. She’s my kindler, gentler half and fully recognizes the value of doing whatever it takes for a parent to save their child. And I’d stack up her humanity or Patterico’s against yours in a heart beat.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  39. “I think we found the question Stace is going to dodge.”

    I think thats the entire point of this exercise.

    So, whitd, will you please try to answer it? Although I think I put forward a better argument in my last comment on the previous thread.

    nk (09a321)

  40. Maybe second to last. There was that Nazi stuff digression.

    nk (09a321)

  41. Oh gee guys, sorry I took the time to go buy cat food. What a tool I must look like.

    First of all, I had to get past the specious and offensive premise that “liberals refuse to answer” a particular hypothesis. As far as I can see there has been a LOT of discussion at more than one thread on this topic, with people weighing in from all points of view.

    And I think to put it in terms of “conservatives keep the liberals on point” sets up a false dichotomy. It assumes that the “correct” answer is the result of a political viewpoint, which it’s not.

    Third, you oversimplify the question in a way that doesn’t lead to any sort of helpful answer. Would you kill a child to save a family? A neighborhood? A city?

    (Or the hilarious Balloon Juice question to conservative Republicans quoted by Andrew Sullivan : Would you have sex with a man if it prevented a terrorist attack?)

    At some point you’re going to say yes. Does that really further the conversation?

    Itsme (846a95)

  42. One problem: this isn’t a chicken or egg question: there is a specific sequence of events.

    Let’s suppose that we strongly believe that captured terrorist Ahmad al-Patterico can give us specific information about an imminent terrorist attack, so he is “aggressively questioned” by the CIA. However, the CIA obtains no actionable intelligence from Mr al-Patterico, either because he never had any or he was able to deflect the questions with lies.

    In such a case, was the waterboarding worth it?

    That’s one problem with the initial argument: the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was justified after the fact, after he spilled his guts on some valuable, actionable information. But the decision to employ waterboarding was taken based on the calculation that KSM had or would surrender such information — and sometimes such calculations are wrong.

    You can’t justify waterboarding, or any other questionable means of interrogation, based on having obtained good information; you have to justify it solely on the basis that you think it will be useful and productive, and your actions have to be legally justifiable regardless of whether useful information is obtained.

    Dana (c36902)

  43. I object a bit to the form of the hypothetical. Suppose we ask this question about lottery tickets. If you buy a lottery ticket and you win a million dollars was it worth it? Obviously yes. But if you win nothing was it worth it? Obviously no. So since you cannot know in advance which lottery tickets will be winners this does not tell you much about whether buying lottery tickets is a good idea.

    So in this case if you know in advance that waterboarding KSM will save thousands of lives then as I said in the other thread I would do it (in other words it is worth it). But you don’t know this in advance so even if it worked out in this particular case that does not mean it is good policy.

    And for what it is worth personally I am extremely skeptical of the claim that waterboarding KSM saved thousands of lives.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  44. “So, whitd, will you please try to answer it?”

    I answered above in #23. Simple utilitarianism.

    whitd (10527e)

  45. Dana,

    I think the hypothetical assumed there is a reasonable likelihood KSM has information because of his terrorist history and relationships. That’s a contemporaneous evaluation, not a decision made in hindsight, and it’s probably the best we’re going to get in any real-life situation.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  46. Hey waddya know, I’m not alone here after all.

    blah (fb88b3)

  47. Same facts, except instead of waterboarding, the interrogators chopped off his fingers one by one, and then his foot, and was about to do the other foot when the suspect finally broke and spilled the information needed to avert the tragedy. Was it worth it?

    If you say yes, you disgust me.

    Then I disgust you. Not only would I be ok with it being done, I’d do it myself if need be.

    And if my Significant Other (assuming I get one, natch) or child (should I sire one) were the only person in danger? If just that one or two people would be saved by brutal acts to extract information?

    You can’t imagine what I’d do to keep friends or even strangers who merely happen to be peaceful civilians safe. Don’t even attempt to think about what I’d do if it were someone I loved.

    Stace, if you were standing in front of me, and you said “I have a nuclear bomb somewhere in this city. All I have to do is walk over to the computer and push one button, and it will go off” and I had a reason to suspect you might actually have a nuke?

    Trust me. You’d tell me where it was, because lying to me would end up being much, much worse than anything I’d do to get you to talk in the first place.

    That’s part of why torture works. Yes, you might lie to get it to stop, but when the people torturing you find out you lied, they come back and they express their displeasure all over you.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  48. Hey waddya know, I’m not alone here after all.

    However, if the only person in danger was Blah, I might just ask if you wanted a soda and something to eat, and if you were sleeping ok.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  49. Hey waddya know, I’m not alone here after all.

    But you didn’t answer the question posed by our host.

    Paul (ec9716)

  50. Dana #41:

    You can’t justify waterboarding, or any other questionable means of interrogation, based on having obtained good information; you have to justify it solely on the basis that you think it will be useful and productive, and your actions have to be legally justifiable regardless of whether useful information is obtained.

    Good point.

    Itsme (846a95)

  51. You know why I said that Ops could torture if they were willing to accept legal responsibility, including 20 years in Leavenworth if they got it wrong? In my view the “ticking-bomb” justification of necessity is, to paraphrase Luben, a fatuous, intellectual fraud, insteresting for ethics classes, useless as a determinite of how one ought to act in the real world.

    Someone on another thread wondered how my system would work when the Ops in question would have to have waterboarding equipment on hand, be trained in its use, etc… That’s the point, in my view: they don’t actually believe in the “ticking-bomb”, they’re interested in creating a culture of torture and they wish to legitimize its use, meaning that in the long-run it’s going to be used much, much more. This is what happened to the GSS in Israel. This is the corrosive effect I’ve mentioned before.

    I want to make torture so fraught with danger and risk for the torturer, the personal cost so high, that the strictures of the “ticking-bomb” assumption are rigedly held to.

    I’m also very cognizant that any use of torture is likely to have a train of responsibility that goes straight to the top.

    I’m a conservative opponent of waterboarding.

    Fritz (cab0df)

  52. No whitd #43. You avoided and evaded in #23.

    nk (09a321)

  53. and your actions have to be legally justifiable regardless of whether useful information is obtained.

    No they don’t.

    I’d happily go to jail for doing what I thought was needed to save American Lives.

    The rights of whoever has the information take a back seat to the rights of the potential victims to not die. If the price that needs to be paid is my freedom, then it’s a bargin at twice the price.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  54. “You avoided and evaded in #23.”

    I quote again: “Of course its worth it”

    I make fun of the question. I think its useless and idiotic. But I quite clearly answered it. I’m a liberal opponent of waterboarding and, contrary to the title of this thread, I answer the question.

    And then i call it stupid.

    whitd (10527e)

  55. No need to.
    Others have. The link to crookedtimber.org was a riot

    blah (fb88b3)

  56. Going back to the question at hand, I would say yes. Under the circumstances I would be willing to torture and to be responsible for my actions.

    I think Patterico is trying to show that there are such things as exceptional circumstances. We used a nuclear bomb on Japan. Afterwards, we justify it by the lives saved, others condemn the action.

    There should be strict controls on interrogation, but at times, as much as I hate to say it, the ends justify the means. It should always be rare, and tightly controlled, but the possibility should be allowed.

    I love the ideas of absolutes, but in this world they are rare.

    Dr T (b1f404)

  57. So you think somebody should be allowed to die so a terrorist will not fear (without risk of) drowning. Live well and prosper.

    nk (09a321)

  58. Fritz #50,

    What you’ve described is a system that encourages risk-takers to go overboard and cautious conservatives (and I don’t mean that in a political sense) to avoid these techniques. Thus, you’ve done exactly the opposite of what you intend.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  59. blah #54:

    The link to crookedtimber.org was a riot

    Oh my God, it really is.

    I swear I didn’t get my hypo in #40 from them !

    Itsme (846a95)

  60. My #56 was to whitd’s #53.

    nk (09a321)

  61. Patterico -

    This sounds a lot like the famous case involving Lt. Col Allen West:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/babbin/babbin200312040845.asp

    Here’s an excerpt:

    After about 20 more minutes of useless questioning, West grabbed the man, held him down near a box full of sand used to discharge jammed weapons, and said something like, “This is it. I’m going to count to five again, and if you don’t give me what I want, I’m going to kill you.” West held the man down, counted to five, and then fired his pistol into the discharging box about a foot from the Iraqi’s head. He began talking. Over the next few minutes, the prisoner gave very specific information about the plot. He named the conspirators, gave times and dates of the assassination plan, and even described how attacks would be made.

    West and his men went back to their base camp. The lieutenant colonel immediately went to his boss, woke him up, and told him what he had done, and about the information he’d gotten from the Iraqi.

    The local election was postponed, the ambushes were avoided, ….

    West chose to save the lives of his men, knowing that it might end up with him facing a court-martial because intimidation tactics of that sort were not permitted. Of course, waterboarding was apparently a standard US practice somewhere else.

    jim2 (7e9068)

  62. “So you think somebody should be allowed to die so a terrorist will not fear (without risk of) drowning.”

    I said “of course its worth it.” The “simple question” asked by the post is: “was the waterboarding session worth it?”

    Can you put those two together?

    It seems like not only is the question moronic, so is everyone with a boner for it.

    whitd (10527e)

  63. Patterico,

    I think we’re asking the progressives the wrong question. Let’s ask them: NK has managed to give you a poison that will kill you in twenty-four hours. He has hidden the antidote somewhere. You have taken him prisoner and he is totally in your power. What would you do to him to get him to tell you where it is?

    nk (09a321)

  64. No need to.
    Others have.

    Others have answered it both ways. Nice sidestep, but you’re only fooling yourself if you think that serves as the answer Patterico requested of you.

    Steverino (d1a6fb)

  65. There are times when people are gonna do what they’re gonna do. It will be illegal, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

    Should we therefore rewrite the policy? No. It’s not worth it. If you get caught, maybe you’ll go to jail, maybe you’ll get a pardon. Maybe you won’t get caught. That’s the way it is now, that’s the way it should stay: sloppy.

    blah (fb88b3)

  66. “I showed my girlfriend your comments, whitd, and even she thinks you’re [redacted]. And heck, I agree. She’s my kindler, gentler half and fully recognizes the value of doing whatever it takes for a parent to save their child.”

    Whatever it takes? Even the hypothetical in the crooked timber link?

    whitd (10527e)

  67. “That’s the way it is now,”

    No it’s not. That’s the way it used to be.
    And that’s the way it should be again.

    blah (fb88b3)

  68. DRJ your #57 is exactly what I have argued in previous threads – assuming that Fritz is serious. And he’s never responded to that point.

    But I’m returning to an earlier point of view that it is not a serious argument but a rhetorical fraud, a rhetorical flourish … a rhetorical dare so to speak.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  69. “… based on the above hypothetical facts, was the waterboarding session worth it?

    My answer is that it was worth it.

    However I also say that this ought not to be done, and it ought to be illegal.

    To say that something was worth it in a particular case is not to say that it ought to be allowed in the general case. And because of the slippery slope, it may not be possible to make exceptions for special cases while keeping necessary broad prohibitions intact.

    David Blue (de5481)

  70. Of course, this is why we have laws. This is why we have due process. You shouldn’t be allowed to torture people based psychic guesses or hypotheticals. If we can torture KSM, we can shoot the ominous black kid who looks threatening when he enters the 7-Eleven.

    Perhaps in your ideal world, laws exist to be suspended when we’re frightened and not thinking straight. But that would be your world, not mine.

    Terrence (97fc90)

  71. Terrence, that’s ridiculous and literally a logical fallacy on your part. The non sequitur.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  72. Patterico, David Blue wins the “First one for a complete straddle with a bad dismount” award.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  73. To expand on my comment #62, it’s pointless to appeal to anything more than a progressive’s appetites. They kill their own children in their mother’s belly.

    nk (09a321)

  74. I don’t understand what was evasive about my previous post, as one of those foolish anti-torture liberals, so I will take the liberty of repeating and enhancing it.
    (begin repeat)

    Sorry to come late to the party. Weekend commenting is a little erratic.

    Although I don’t agree with the premises insofar as they relate to the efficacy (or, rather, the accuracy) of torture, I’ll play the game and take that up later. However, there is one part of the introduction with which I don’t agree: I am not at all sure that a German Army private who shot American soldiers was “behaving wrongly”. Do I think a Wehrmacht colonel who ordered the massacre of civilians or torture of prisoners was behaving wrongly? Yes, because there was a pre-existing understanding that these acts (much less Auschwitz) were criminal and reprehensible. But judging a private by the morality of his cause is more than a little dicey: would you care to apply it to Vietnam? The Mexican War? Interestingly enough, this has relevance to my explanation why we should not be using torture, even at some cost to ourselves.

    First: the United States is not only a signatory of the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, we were one of the sponsors. If we decide that under suitable provocation, we can break these treaties (which brook no exceptions), they are basically worthless. It’s ridiculous to hold other states to positions we have abandoned. Indeed, we would probably owe apologies (in some cases post-execution) to Germans and Japanese who should benefit from our new understanding of the “but we really need it to win” exception to torture. Incidentally, we are sending a clear message that our signature to all other treaties is worthless without even the courtesy of formal withdrawal. What sort of leadership we show in the world and cooperation we get from the civilized countries (a group I would say no longer includes us) is zero, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the pro-torture set largely coincides with the we’re-so-big-we-make-our-own-rules set. In combating international terror, I don’t think that’s going to work.

    Second, I also would like to point out that the record of states which resorted to torture isn’t that good. Given who won WWII and who lost, the appeal of Japanese methods of interrogation must lie in the realm of abnormal psychology and not military success. Nor did torture save the Nazis, the Soviet Union, the Shah of Iran, the Argentine junta, the Chilean junta, etc. Even our BFFs the Israelis must wonder if their extensive program of torture developed more counter-terrorist intel than it radicalized the Palestinian population. We have already followed the USSR in a blunderous invasion (their commitment in Afghanistan was comparable in sicope to ours in Iraq). Why we should follow them onto the ash heap of history, I can’t fathom.

    (end repeat post)

    I expect everyone on this thread knows of the Milgrom experiments and the Stanford prison experiment, so where are you getting this idea that our torture is going to be so much more valuable and so much more accurate than other people’s torture. I’m rather amazed that one the received reckoning here, some poor slob of a German teenager with American bullets falling all around him is immoral, but an American torturer is OK because his cause is just. The more we torture, the less reason I see to believe our cause’s justness is anything more than an us-versus-them distinction. Indeed, the Nazi torturers didn’t think they were the black hats (figuratively, I guess they were, literally); they were doing what was necessary to save European culture from Judeobolshevism. As far as I know, they considered Anglo-American soldiers as dupes, not criminals, so in that one respect, they were more generous than Patterico.

    Now, let me just mention one thing about the premises. There was no Doctors Plot against Stalin. The whole thing was a daisy chain of tortured confessions originating in Stalin’s paranoia. Since torture transgresses norms, torturers are impelled to find the Ticking Bomb that makes their act not criminal. The idea that the Library Towers plot existed, was moving forward, and could be stopped only by torture is self-serving.

    But several U.S. intelligence officials played down the relative importance of the alleged plot and attributed the timing of Bush’s speech to politics. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to publicly criticize the White House, said there is deep disagreement within the intelligence community over the seriousness of the Library Tower scheme and whether it was ever much more than talk.

    One intelligence official said nothing has changed to precipitate the release of more information on the case. The official attributed the move to the administration’s desire to justify its efforts in the face of criticism of the domestic surveillance program, which has no connection to the incident.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (b9afa2)

  75. Andrew J. Lazarus, you don’t see a distinction between starting a series of aggressive wars to conquer the world, executing whole populations of conquered and indigenous peoples in camps, enslaving people, and torturing someone to accomplish these goals… than either in the personal example protecting your child from being killed by an evil abuser or in the terrorism example, stopping thousands of civilians from being slaughtered by people who want to enslave you, repress your women, and conquer your nation?

    You see no essential differences?

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  76. I think it’s a little unfair to force liberals to ask this hypothetical, since a subset of torture opposers oppose it on the grounds that torture never produces reliable and timely information, or that its failure rate is so high that if you were to torture everyone who you reasonably thought could cough up information, the amount of false information would be a major hinderance.

    A better scenario would be this:
    You’ve captured KSM and his password-protected laptop. The laptop’s contents are encrypted. Other information sources lead you to believe than an attack is imminent…imminent enough that decrypting the laptop might get the info too late. Would liberals support waterboarding KSM until he gives the password? Would those who support waterboarding, but not “real” torture agree with torturing KSM?

    This scenario is useful since it eliminates the problem of “What if they give us false info and how would we know it?” An answer could be verified in seconds.

    Mike (8e0e3b)

  77. Christoph, you and your buddies move in and out of sidereal view as convenient. The prohibition of torture involves relatively objective indicia. Allowing exceptions for the good guys when they really need it vitiates the concept. Sure, from outside the Nazis were the most reprehensible force in modern history. But I don’t think it’s much use condemning their torture because they were evil, a premise I doubt they would grant. They were evil because of their acts. Not vice versa.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (b9afa2)

  78. SPQR 71. : “Patterico, David Blue wins the “First one for a complete straddle with a bad dismount” award.”

    It’s not a straddle. I come down simply on one side. Don’t do this or allow it.

    Since Patterico asked for a straight answer to his question, I provided one.

    But in my opinion, the answer to that question does not determine whether such things should be permitted or allowed.

    David Blue (de5481)

  79. (I should clarify). I meant, a particular case should not determine if such things should be made legal, or if they should be allowed practically, in tension with the law but as a commonly accepted practice. I’m not in favor of formal legalization or tacit acceptance. Except in some particular classes of exceptions, I’m in favor of barring such things in theory and also in practice.

    David Blue (de5481)

  80. David Blue,

    Is your position that waterboarding should never be allowed – no matter how likely it is that the subject has useful information and no matter how many people are in danger?

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  81. I don’t think the hypo is realistic: there’s no way to know at the time the information is gathered that it is reliable, absent outside corroboration, and with corroboration, the information from KSM wasn’t necessary. At best you could get information which would lead you to corroboration.

    But my view of the hypo isn’t relevant to the moral question. It’s something I have to say as preface, but it’s context, not an answer.

    There are, I think, two internally consistent answers to the hypo.

    I don’t believe it was worth it.

    Waterboarding is an *evil* act. By stooping to it, the person doing it debases himself, deprives himself of a bit of humanity. Those who endorse it to the same, to a lesser degree. Intentionally inflicting severe trauma on those who are helpless to resist is *wrong*, even if done in the name of a greater good.

    And yet … killing people is evil. War is evil. But sometimes it’s a necessary evil — sometimes the choice is between the evil of war or some other evil which may be worse. So saying that it’s *evil* isn’t per se dispositive. Sure, it’s evil. But is it a *necessary* evil?

    This is where my disbelief in the realisticness of the hypo is troublesome. Of course, if my distrust of the hypo is right, it’s not a necessary evil. But if my distrust of the hypo is wrong, it’s a tougher call.

    If it’s the *only* way the information may be obtained — if we know, without an ounce of doubt, to the closest degree possible to absolute certainty, that there is no other way — then it’s a necessary evil, smaller than the evil it would prevent. But if there is any doubt, or any other avenue of approach, than it’s merely *more convenient* than the other options, and therefore unnecessary.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  82. Patterico: I don’t completely agree with what Stace said in #6, because I’m not disgusted by those who come down on the other side, but I lean in that direction.

    It’s a hard question. When is it ok to do evil in the name of stopping evil? “Never” is an internally consistent answer, and it is one that on some level I admire; but I also think it does not work in the real world, and while there was a time when I would have aspired to that answer, I do no more.

    But … doing evil *always* harms the evildoer: it changes him psychologically, if nothing else. If we engage in torture because we decide it is a lesser evil than would be prevented by engaging in it, we will pay a price; our moral sensibility will suffer. And we must factor that in when we make the decision.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  83. Hmm. A clarification. “But I lean in that direction” does not mean I lean in the direction of disgust; it means I lean in the direction of being opposed to torture at any time … because it is evil, and it will harm us to do it.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  84. DRJ: “David Blue,

    Is your position that waterboarding should never be allowed – no matter how likely it is that the subject has useful information and no matter how many people are in danger?”

    I weaken on nukes, and possibly on other weapons of mass destruction. A serious super-bug is a fearsome thing, possibly worse than nukes. The anthrax letters are not the worst that can happen.

    I think it should be possible to get a warrant to torture if there is a serious suspicion that a nuke is going to go off. History has show that we are able to keep intact a “taboo” or consequential difference between nuclear and conventional weapons, so I think there is reason to hope that permission to torture in this most terrible case would not morph into a general tolerance of harsh interrogation methods.

    It is my position that otherwise waterboarding and similar or harsher practices should not be allowed in law or in fact.

    I accept that this does imply more success for our terrorist enemies, and that does mean more military and civilian casualties for us. And I say we should pay that price.

    The short answer to your question then is: yes.

    David Blue (de5481)

  85. I’m not trying to dodge the question (and I’m not a liberal) but my answer is I’m not sure. I say this respectfully, because I really am not. I’ve been presented these types of moral quandries before: for instance, in the service was asked whether I would kill or release prisoners if I was on a mission and did not have the resources to detain them. Note that these types of questions are not just theory. What I was asked in 1984, actually happened in Afghanistan last year with the seal platoon. And they decided to let the prisoners go. And payed for it.

    I do have a counter-question (and I’m not asking it for effect, but in an honest manner of issue analysis…and if you can answer it, despite my not having thought out an answer to yours…all for the better): Would you also say “yes” if more serious torture had been used in the same exact situation with same results? Would you also authorize it for use on kidnappers if the victim was still unrecovered?

    TCO (3b23ad)

  86. David Blue,

    I’m confused about your exception for nuclear weapons or superbugs. We may know someone like KSM is a terrorist and that he almost certainly knows about terror plots. The point is we want him to tell us what those plots are. Maybe he only knows about a plot to send one anthrax letter to the President, a plot that would almost certainly be unsuccessful. But what if he knows about a plot to detonate a nuclear weapon in San Francisco?

    The point is, you don’t know in advance what the results will be so you have to make your decision in theory, knowing that the wrong decision may cost people their lives *or* it may subject KSM to a waterboarding session.

    Therefore, do you still say that waterboarding should never be allowed – no matter how likely it is that the subject has useful information and no matter how many people are in danger?

    DRJ (9578af)

  87. Pat: What about violation of due process or search and seizure rights in the Bill of Rights? Are those also ok, if the end result is saving a life?

    TCO (3b23ad)

  88. Or another hypo: would this have been ok if we had an officer or a military strategist in a conventional war. If the result is that the torture will save several of our soldier’s lives?

    TCO (3b23ad)

  89. DRJ: “David Blue,

    I’m confused about your exception for nuclear weapons or superbugs.”

    OK. I’m always willing to try and be clearer.

    DRJ: “We may know someone like KSM is a terrorist and that he almost certainly knows about terror plots. The point is we want him to tell us what those plots are. Maybe he only knows about a plot to send one anthrax letter to the President, a plot that would almost certainly be unsuccessful. But what if he knows about a plot to detonate a nuclear weapon in San Francisco?”

    Unless we have sufficient specific reason to believe that it’s a nuke plot or a superbug plot that he would give up to use if we tortured him – and by “sufficient” I mean “sufficient to get a judge to authorize torture on that specific basis” – I would say no: torture ought not be be allowed in law or in practice.

    Instead, we should (do our best to avert disaster as always, of course, but ultimately) take damage.

    DRJ: “The point is, you don’t know in advance what the results will be so you have to make your decision in theory, knowing that the wrong decision may cost people their lives *or* it may subject KSM to a waterboarding session.”

    If there is no specific information, if we just don’t know what he would tell us, I would say we ought not to allow waterboarding in law or in practice.

    DRJ: “Therefore, do you still say that waterboarding should never be allowed – no matter how likely it is that the subject has useful information and no matter how many people are in danger?”

    The short answer is yes.

    The slightly longer answer, which I’m sure invites another charge of “straddling with a bad dismount” is yes – with the proviso that without nukes or a superbug you’re probably not talking about unlimited casualties. (With “no matter how many” implying it could be millions.)

    David Blue (de5481)

  90. A bunch of us answered the stupid question directly.
    How about a round of applause?

    blah (fb88b3)

  91. Sure thing.A round of applause for everyone but Blah, who continues to be unable to have any worth-while input on anything.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  92. David,

    What about Patterico’s follow-up question: Would your answer change if you knew the plot involved your family, even if you didn’t know what the plot was?

    DRJ (9578af)

  93. Also, David, would your answer change if there was a law that said waterboarding was not torture? I realize you think it is but what if Congress specifically considered that issue and voted otherwise – would that change your opinion?

    DRJ (9578af)

  94. DRJ: “David,

    What about Patterico’s follow-up question: Would your answer change if you knew the plot involved your family, even if you didn’t know what the plot was?”

    My answer is for what the people, the nation, the tribe, the state should do – it’s not for what a particular individual should do.

    I think there are all sorts of cases where every sort of crime – including murder, torture, armed robbery and so on – is right for an individual with a sufficiently strong obligation to someone like a family member.

    The plain answer to your question is yes. Of course my answer would change.

    But the answer of the people, the tribe (broadly speaking), the nation, and in turn the state – that should not change.

    David Blue (de5481)

  95. “Would your answer change if you knew the plot involved your family, even if you didn’t know what the plot was?”

    Would you torture my family to save yours? Or an iraqi family?

    whitd (10527e)

  96. The more I read this hypothetical the more it irritates me. As one person noted, the facts were known only AFTER the torture was conducted.
    And the call for “conservatives to keep the liberals on point” is distracting. Is the implication that only conservatives get it?

    Lastly, let’s throw out another real world scenario. A country is convinced through intelligence and spies that another country possesses WMD and is closely tied to AlQuaida. Lots of posturing and justification is made to justify invding the country and overthrowing the government to find that neither assumption was true.
    It seems that a lot of liberals advised against invading Iraq. What exactly did the conservatives have right in that example??

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  97. DRJ: “Also, David, would your answer change if there was a law that said waterboarding was not torture? I realize you think it is but what if Congress specifically considered that issue and voted otherwise – would that change your opinion?”

    This wouldn’t change my opinion about what the people and the state ought to allow.

    Legal abortion hasn’t changed my opinion on whether that is OK. The law may say we are not killing any innocent human beings. But I say we are and we ought not to. It’s that simple.

    David Blue (937788)

  98. David,

    You’ve been a good sport about answering my questions and I appreciate it. Thanks.

    DRJ (9578af)

  99. VOR,

    The facts about the specific plots may not have been known in advance but KSM’s ties to terrorism and his history of participation were known. IMO that was the basis for and the critical facts that underlie this hypothetical.

    Maybe you are like David Blue and you need more than that to justify waterboarding. In other words, maybe you need information that would satisfy a judge for purposes of a warrant. So be it, but in general that’s been the standard for criminal law purposes and it’s never been the standard for national security purposes.

    DRJ (9578af)

  100. blah says:

    A bunch of us answered the stupid question directly.

    blah, look up the meaning of the word “us.”

    You didn’t answer it.

    Nor did Itsme.

    aphrael did, as did David Blue.

    If I’m wrong, show me the comment where you answered it — but also just remind me: your answer was yes or no?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  101. DRJ,
    See comments #2 & #21 if you are interested in my opinion.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  102. DRJ,
    Sorry that should have been #22

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  103. DRJ, you’ve been a good sport about asking straight not loaded questions, and about taking straight answers for what they are. I thank you for that.

    David Blue (937788)

  104. This question really does show how different people can think and (allegedly) reason on questions of morality.

    To me the answer is so obvious that yes, it was worth it. And yes, I would personally cut off the toes of someone threatening my family and would approve of the government doing the same to terrorists.

    Someone earlier pointed out that libs are more than happy to support the killing of unborn babies but have a hard time deciding if torturing a bad guy is morally okay.

    To me that shows that the libs are sick puppies…too cowardly to make the tough decisions that need to be made to live in a civilized world.

    Very sad….

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  105. This has been one of the more challenging and insightful threads, and…

    #94 -”This wouldn’t change my opinion about what the people and the state ought to allow. Legal abortion hasn’t changed my opinion on whether that is OK. The law may say we are not killing any innocent human beings. But I say we are and we ought not to. It’s that simple.”

    Well said and point well made.

    Dana (a4c016)

  106. “You didn’t answer it.”

    Anyone that approved the crooked timber link already answered you.

    whitd (10527e)

  107. Did they put the women’s panties on his head first? (Sorry, there’s a disconnect in what constitutes torture these days.)

    Short term, worth it.

    Long term, it depends on the public’s reaction to this, which depends on how it’s “announced”. If the public’s reaction is to destroy their own society for having done such a deed, I begin to wonder if that society was worthy of being saved in the first place.

    Would I sleep well after having done it? Probably, in this case. Unlikely if it turned out that the intel was wrong and he had no plot to reveal. You can’t know that going in, though.

    If someone told you life was easy they lied.

    Gandhi:

    In life, it is impossible to eschew violence completely. Now the question arises, where is one to draw the line ? The line cannot be the same for every one. For, although, essentially the principle is the same, yet everyone applies it in his or her own way. What is one man’s food can be another’s poison. Meat-eating is a sin for me. Yet, for another person, who has always lived on meat and never seen anything wrong in it, to give it up, simply in order to copy me, will be a sin.
    If I wish to be an agriculturist and stay in a jungle, I will have to use the minimum unavoidable violence, in order to protect my fields. I will have to kill monkeys, birds and insects, which eat up my crops. If I do not wish to do so myself, I will have to engage someone to do it for me. There is not much difference between the two. To allow crops to be eaten up by animals, in the name of ahimsa, while there is a famine in the land, is certainly a sin. Evil and good are relative terms. What is good under certain conditions can become an evil or a sin, under a different set of conditions.
    Man is not to drown himself in the well of the shastras, but he is to dive in their broad ocean and bring outpearls.
    At every step he has to use his discrimination as to what is ahimsa and what is himsa. In this, there is no room for shame or cowardice. The poet had said that the road leading up to God is for the brave, never for the cowardly. (MT, VII, 152-53)

    htom (412a17)

  108. I would do what was necessary to prevent the deaths of the innocent or our troops, while not the liking the necessity. If I did not do so, I could live with the knowledge that I chose to let people die to keep our terrorist enemy safe and comfortable. If punishment was necessary for doing what I did to the terrorist, I would very grudgingly accept it. Doing the same to an honorable enemy’s POWs would not be permissible. I, against most creeds/beliefs, place a different value on different types of people when in war or personal danger. It is easy in a peaceful rule of law society to attach equality to all human life. In the mad dog environment of war, choices have to be made and the “them or us” aspect of human relations takes precedence; sad, but true, if you wish your culture to survive. My survival instinct includes the survival of all I hold dear, which goes way beyond my immediate family.

    amr (d671ab)

  109. Here’s some more hypos:

    Same situation as Pat’s but the odds are 50% of getting such info. 10%? 99.9%. Is waterboarding worth it?

    Same percentages and situations, but with finger-chopping as the compulsion?

    A more different hypo: no Jack Bauer situation, but 100% certitude that waterboarding will give evidence that will allow conviction of a murderer (perhaps a different person than the one who’s being tortured). Same as above, but with variations of percentage and finger-chopping.

    TCO (3b23ad)

  110. The answer to the conundrum is simple… liberals are fools and actually have no self-consistent positions, nor do they feel the obligation to have them.

    Many prominent Democrats have said that they assume that they assume the President or military officers would break the law if required in a national emergency. The fact that these Democrats ARE LAWMAKERS, and yet have made no laws to help us in this situation, tells you all you need to know about their seriousness and trustworthiness.

    And of course if the lawbreaking should be shown after the fact to have been unneccessary, even possibly so, they would prosecute the ones who broke the law to avert catastrophe.

    Hear me, do not ever trust a Democrat with our security – when you put a Democrat in a situation where they can either gain political advantage or do what is right to protect our country, but not both, our country is going to lose every time. Don’t think so? Okay, then simply name the living Democrat whose words and actions prove me wrong!

    sherlock (b4bbcc)

  111. VOR #98,

    Re: your comment #2, we can treat this issue as a balancing test between the protections we are willing to give up vs the powers we want to give our government to protect us for national security purposes. If that’s the issue, then what we have here is a disagreement on where to draw the line. That’s similar to disagreements on other Constitutional rights, e.g., I might allow more use of guns than you would, or I might agree to more restrictions on free speech than you find palatable.

    However, the ultimate point is “Where do we draw the line?” and in a democracy we draw the line where the people agree we should. Right now, waterboarding is not illegal and following your statement of the issue in comment #2, that’s all that matters.

    From a practical standpoint, I submit we should also consider other factors in this risk-benefit assessment. For instance, how likely is it that there will be a terrorist act vs how likely is it that all civil rights will be impaired for 20 years? If we don’t uncover a terrorist plot, are we exposing ourselves to a significantly greater risk than the risk of altering our civil rights to allow waterboarding?

    I think that last issue is what bothers most liberals. That, and they don’t trust a Republican President. I can’t help but wonder how many would have given Bill Clinton these powers.

    DRJ (9578af)

  112. I would do what was necessary to prevent the deaths of the innocent or our troops, while not liking the necessity. If I did not do so, I could NOT live with the knowledge that I chose to let people die to keep our terrorist enemy safe and comfortable.

    Sorry about the error.

    amr (d671ab)

  113. “Anyone that approved the crooked timber link already answered you.”

    No, whitd. You had the guts to give an answer. blah didn’t.

    Blah has so far proven unwilling to give a straight answer.

    We can talk reality later, and I intend to. But right now I just want a straight answer to the moral question.

    See, whitd, your assumption is that anyone would say yes.

    But Stace said no.

    And blah and Oregonian, I predict, will never say yes. They’ll dodge, and dodge, and dodge.

    Patterico (1796fe)

  114. blah?

    Patterico (499ed5)

  115. Here’s another one for you. Let’s say that you can prove without a doubt that some criminal has gotten away with a double murder and a flee from justice. Is it morally ok to punish this person directly if the legal system has fallen down on doing so?

    TCO (3b23ad)

  116. Comment by Andrew J. Lazarus — 11/11/2007 @ 7:19 pm

    Wrong. Exactly wrong. It is motives, not acts, which determine right or wrong.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  117. “No, whitd. You had the guts to give an answer. blah didn’t.”

    It doesn’t take guts. Its a stupid question.

    “See, whitd, your assumption is that anyone would say yes. But Stace said no.”

    Some people aren’t utilitarian. Some have other moral sources. You’ll push anyone other than a few ghandis to say yes. There’s really no point in it.

    The real point is how low people will go: up above anyone someone approved of cutting off toes of someoine threatening their family. That one is very insightful.

    whitd (10527e)

  118. “The real point is how low people will go: up above anyone someone approved of cutting off toes of someoine threatening their family.”

    Please don’t conduct argumenr by mischaracterization. If you can’t refute what I actually say, and must resort to mischaracterization, it reveals weakness on your part.

    Patterico (d2008d)

  119. What you’ve described is a system that encourages risk-takers to go overboard and cautious conservatives (and I don’t mean that in a political sense) to avoid these techniques. Thus, you’ve done exactly the opposite of what you intend.

    I’m sorry, I still don’t understand your point. I would think that risk-takers by definition etc… What is your argument?

    Oh, and was KSM a “ticking-bomb” situation? For Patterico’s benefit we’ve assumed he was (or thought of a situation where he could have been), but was he really? What about the other two fellows?

    Torture is an evil act; categorically evil in a way that a just combat killing is not. That’s an assertion on my part, we can go into it if you’d like. Another assertion on my part: the only way torture can be justified, as far as I know, is that it’s the lesser of two evils.

    The U.S. is a propositional nation based on the assumption that all men are created with certain rights. Even men who wish to take our rights themselves have rights. We ought to defend ourselves with as much force as necessary.

    Torture is the abnegation of human rights and human dignity.

    Fritz (cab0df)

  120. Long term, it depends on the public’s reaction to this, which depends on how it’s “announced”.

    Quite simply, it should never be announced. The American People, as a collective group, can’t be trusted to deal with the realities of “neccessary evil”. They would 20/20 hindsight the issue and point out the way it could have been done differently while ignoring the fact that there was no way to know of that other way at the time.

    “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow”.

    I am continually stunned over how we allow people with sensitive, classified information leak itto the press with no consequences.

    We’re farto easy one people who think they know better than the rest, and throw out the window things like “secrecy”. The NSA’s programs, for example.

    Were I in control, the people who leaked things like “we tortured the prisoner and got information that saved [insert large number here] American lives” or “The NSA listens in on phone calls and watches bank transfers to find terrorists” would be shot.

    Don’t freaking talk about the secret stuff we use to keep America safe. Period. Full God Damn Stop.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  121. Wrong. Exactly wrong. It is motives, not acts, which determine right or wrong.

    No, no. Some acts are wrong regardless.

    Fritz (cab0df)

  122. Fritz, I don’t even believe torture is always evil. It’s motives, not acts.

    I mean torture may be justified by justice.

    The government should not use it for this purpose. It would be corrupt and misused and damage the people inflicting it. Yet God is just and the wicked will pay each penny for their sins.

    I take this to mean — by a very literal reading of the Bible — that the truly wicket will have equivalent to their sins inflicted on them, or a just amount of pain.

    It is not the act that is evil, but the motive.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  123. The real point is how low people will go: up above anyone someone approved of cutting off toes of someoine threatening their family. That one is very insightful.

    Buddy, you don’t wanna know the things I’d approve of if – for example – my sister was being threatened.

    Having toes cut off would be in the dirrection of “least worry” for the poor SOB who would do something as foolish as threaten me or mine.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  124. “. If you can’t refute what I actually say, and must resort to mischaracterization, it reveals weakness on your part.”

    This is what they said: “And yes, I would personally cut off the toes of someone threatening my family”

    What you actually say is irrefutably high school ethics.

    whitd (10527e)

  125. No, no, torture is always wrong. Sometimes it’s just less evil than something else.

    Fritz (cab0df)

  126. whitd,

    As for your crooked timber link, we’ll save reality for a future thread. But I’ll give you a hint: you can’t provide a link to a serious news story from a major Big Media source that says the Martian invasion happened. For the KSM hypo, I can.

    But that’s a discussion for another day. I bring it up just to show that it isn’t necessarily a stupid question — nor is it one that everyone will answer the same way (as Stace shows) or even that everyone is willing to answer (as question-dodgers Itsme, blah, and Andrew J. Lazarus show).

    Patterico (0696bb)

  127. Fritz #120

    I don’t believe that an act is, neccessarily, always evil, no matter what.

    Much like a gun is merely a tool in search of a purpose, so is torture. A police officer can use a gun to shoot someone who is about to kill a pregnant mother of three, or a serial killer can use it to kill a pregnant mother of three.

    The gun, or torture, knows no morality. It’s moral direction and use is derived from the person using it.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  128. whitd,

    I thought you were characterizing my statement.

    Yes, it is indeed silly to say that one would cut off the toes of someone who threatened their family. And that is revealing — just as is Stace’s answer, and the dodges of Itsme, AJL, and blah.

    Patterico (9d1dd1)

  129. Scott Jacobs rocks! I agree with everything he said above.

    I am continually stunned over how we allow people with sensitive, classified information leak itto the press with no consequences.

    I mentioned in the last thread on this topic that there was a time where the American people didn’t have to know every little thing the government did…it was kind of a ‘need to know’ thing….we need to go back to that.

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  130. Scott,
    By your logic in #122 you are basically saying all that happened to the POWs in Viet Nam was perfectly acceptable because they felt the moral imperative to use it to gain information. “It was just a tool, no big deal…”

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  131. Or to put it another way, it is impossible ofr good to come from an evil act, therefore if good comes of something, it can not be wholely (or even partly) evil.

    However, what I call evil (the beheading of an american civilian) is not what our enemy calls evil.

    However, it should be understood that simply because they consider it “a good thing” does not mean that I must accept it, not must I be forced to allow them to act as they wish. If it is within my power, I will act to stop them. They may consider me evil for that, but they have the right to that opinion while I kill them or work in some other fashion to try and save the life of another who is in that situation innocent.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  132. #124
    It is not as cut and dried as you might like to believe. In Robert Novak’s book titled “Prince of Darkness” he reveals that he leaked the Carter Top Secret plans that in short would cede parts of Europe to the Soviets in the event of a conflict. The policy was changed after that was revealed.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  133. “I bring it up just to show that it isn’t necessarily a stupid question”

    Sure it is. You just selected a particular scenario on the utilitarian scale. I selected another: “On suspicion that he has recently purchased firearms and is a general weirdo, the police waterboard a young asian american student. He confesses his plans to go on a shooting rampage, and is thus imprisoned for those attempted murders. Worth it?”

    There are two basic approaches once the result is known. Some of us are going to have a moral source that no utilitarian point will tip. Others of us will have a different tipping point on the utilitarian scale — up above someone was cutting off toes of people that make threats, rather than sending them to jail.

    Thats because you set up a hypo where the outcomes are known and perfect. So all that there is is this basic ethics discussion.

    whitd (10527e)

  134. VOR, i hope my #126 explains what I think you might have found lacking in my #122 post.

    Also, I’m not saying that if you beat up my sister I’m going to tie you down and start playing “this little piggy” with a pair of bolt cutters.

    However, if you put her in a box and burry her alive, you can bet your life I’m going to do whatever I feel I have to to “encourage” you to tell me where she is before her air runs out.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  135. By your logic in #122 you are basically saying all that happened to the POWs in Viet Nam was perfectly acceptable because they felt the moral imperative to use it to gain information. “It was just a tool, no big deal…”

    No, he said the exact opposite of that, which you, as a liberal, don’t understand.

    The only way what you said makes sense is if what North Vietnam did — imposing communism on South Vietnam by force — is right.

    And it wasn’t. So your point is totally off base.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  136. “However, if you put her in a box and burry her alive, you can bet your life I’m going to do whatever I feel I have to to “encourage” you to tell me where she is before her air runs out.”

    Would you bury his sister if it got him to talk?

    whitd (10527e)

  137. “On suspicion that he has recently purchased firearms and is a general weirdo, the police waterboard a young asian american student. He confesses his plans to go on a shooting rampage, and is thus imprisoned for those attempted murders. Worth it?”

    My answer: sure, it’s worth having done it — but that doesn’t necessarily justify it prospectively.

    One could give the same answer re KSM: you don’t know that your waterboarding will give reliable information — and that doubt alone might be enough for some to say it’s not justified . . . when the doubt is still there.

    But it should be child’s play to say that, if someone actually did it, it turned out to be worth it. What fascinates me is that some people are unwilling even to answer that obvious question.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  138. Scott,
    The question really comes down to whether or not you accept the consequences for your actions. And let’s be honest, how often does the family of a kidnapped victim really have the opportunity to meet the suspect?
    But to frame the rightness or wrongness of torture as relative is to take a decidedly “liberal” view, isn’t it?

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  139. Thats because you set up a hypo where the outcomes are known and perfect. So all that there is is this basic ethics discussion.

    That’s what I’m trying to do: isolate that moral question.

    You might think it’s stupid, but a lot of people are quite clearly leery about answering it.

    Itsme.

    blah.

    Andrew J. Lazarus.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  140. Pat: You need to add one line to your hypo for the people to answer.

    Note: Water-boarding is still NOT illegal OR torture except in the minds of those that oppose it.

    Lord Nazh (956398)

  141. “What fascinates me is that some people are unwilling even to answer that obvious question.”

    Because they know that that’s the point. Haven’t you figured that out? That this is just a club to use? And that this is their way of — poorly — denying this to you? Poorly because in fact its what you want.

    My way is to call you silly. I think it works better than those who avoid your silly game. I think its more fun to play it.

    whitd (10527e)

  142. Patterico,

    I guess I’ll have to wait to see what this is leading up to as you indicated. If you had asked “who agrees that hindsight is the best foresight?” you probably would have gotten a bunch of yes answers.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  143. No Christoph, he took what I said wuite literally, as it could easily have been. It’s why I posted again to further explain myself.

    When you get right down to it, all conflict stems from each side being convinced that they are in the right. Were soldiers for Nazi Germany evil for fightng in a war against the Allies? No more so our soldiers are evil for fighting against Muslim Extreemists and AQI.

    The difference is perspective, and who side (frankly) wins.

    Once you start being sadistic – once you start raping and pillaging and wantonly slaughtering civilians then we are talking about something else entirely.

    A gunner in a panzer is not the same as a guard at a concentration camp.

    And #131…

    Like I said, you don’t even wanna think about what I’d do to save my sister. Trust me.

    My head’s a pretty dark place for people who hurt those I hold dear.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  144. “Like I said, you don’t even wanna think about what I’d do to save my sister. Trust me.”

    Would you bury my sister? kill every first born in the country?

    whitd (10527e)

  145. Sherlock, at 106: I think there are circumstances in which it is better for an act to be illegal, with the expectation that that law will be violated in an emergency, than for it to be legal.

    If it’s legal, there’s no price to be paid for doing it, and so the bar to doing it is lower.

    If it’s illegal, there’s a price to be paid … which makes it much more likely that it will *only* be done when it’s worth paying that price.

    Scott, at 115: if the government is making decisions and not informing the public on the grounds that the public can’t be trusted, then we’re no longer a republic, or a democracy: we’re a tryanny in which those in power decide what to do and lie to the public about it. I’d rather not live in that world, because I believe in the principle that the people have a right to control their own destiny, and that the government mut be answerable to them.

    Christoph, at 117: this is the crux of the debate, is it not? My side says that certain acts are *always* evil, regardless of motivation, and that the best that can be said for them is that sometimes they’re a smaller evil than the other available alternatives. Your side says that those same acts are evil when the motives are evil and neutral, at worst, when the motives are good.

    Scott, at 126: why do you think it’s impossible for good to come from evil acts? I would argue that some good comes from evil acts all of the time; but that the acts are still evil, and the harms are many.

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  146. Patterico, I am bewildered again at your referring to my answer as a dodge. I do not believe that we should be torturing. Indeed, if I needed another example, I would point to the Goebbels-like quality of these comment upthread (which I think may have been intended as parody)

    To me that shows that the libs are sick puppies…too cowardly to make the tough decisions that need to be made to live in a civilized world. [my emphasis]

    How someone can call themselves civilized and support torture in the same sentence is a little beyond me. I repeat, the Nazis and the Stalinists and Hugo Chavez all think they are the ones who are civilized. If we want refute them and separate ourselves from them, we should do it by not torturing.

    I think it was Josh Marshall who pointed out the the hypos never run like “KSM will give up his information if allowed to take the active role in anal sex with your wife. Do you offer her up?” There’s a strong drive to let the id run free. The laws against torture are an attempt to restrain it. The rationalizations of this comment thread are an attempt to liberate it.

    Incidentally, if some surviving German liberal somehow managed, in 1944, to protest against the war (I realize this is, as a practical matter, impossible), would you not be in the front of those calling him immoral, unpatriotic, and hating the troops? The same troops you accuse of behaving immorally?

    Andrew J. Lazarus (b9afa2)

  147. “My side says that certain acts are *always* evil”

    Your side is wrong.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  148. Lord Nazh … ‘illegal’ and ‘immoral’ are different questions. I understand this conversation to be about morality, not legality.

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  149. The question assumes the conclusion of “giving up reliable information,” then works backward.
    .
    Real life doesn’t work that way. Answer the question without knowing that conclusion. Do it with KSM (or anybody convicted of rape or murder for that matter, they may have perpetrated an unsolved crime) … and then ask yourself the same question as to a person who you think might harbor a desire to perpetrate a vile act. Everybody will draw the line somewhere, no two exactly alike. The more certain one is that the “victim” is a bad guy, and the more probable that the bad guy has socially valuable information, the more likely we’re willing to submit ‘em to the Salem Witch treatment.
    .
    But hey, given the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it’s right to gamble my entire nest-egg (retirement and house) on lottery tickets because I won the lottery; it’s right to shoot the guy (sight unseen) who knocked on my door at 3 a.m. because he WAS in fact a known rapist intent on harming my family; and it’s right to drive 140 miles an hour through the residential neighborhood because I didn’t hit anybody and I made it to work on time.
    .
    No brainer, to save a city? Dunk the guy until he sucks in a lungful and passes out. Repeat as necessary.

    cboldt (3d73dd)

  150. “That’s what I’m trying to do: isolate that moral question.”

    But some people’s morals aren’t isolated.

    whitd (10527e)

  151. Because they know that that’s the point. Haven’t you figured that out? That this is just a club to use? And that this is their way of — poorly — denying this to you? Poorly because in fact its what you want.

    What I want is to see where people stand on this moral question. It’s very simple.

    And very revealing that people won’t answer it.

    It’s not silly at all, because it shows where people’s opposition lies. If, like Stace, they are willing to sacrifice thousands of lives for the principle of not scaring the architect of 9/11 for a coupla minutes, that is very, very revealing.

    The chest pounders like blah and Oregonian won’t answer because they need to keep the high of self-righteousness, but don’t want to appear stupid in the process.

    So they dodge and weave and remain silent.

    The next time they appear in any thread, I will direct them to this one and remind them they haven’t answered.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  152. In this case… child abuse I tend to agree. :P

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  153. But to frame the rightness or wrongness of torture as relative is to take a decidedly “liberal” view, isn’t it?

    I don’t think so, since it seems the “liberal” view of many things is done in terms of absolutes.

    I tend towards Situational Ethics as a matter of habit.

    I mean, it’s wrong to lie, right? A moral absolutist would say that you should never lie, ever, and that it is always wrong.

    But what if you know exactly where your best friend went to, and a guy that you know wants to kill your best buddy asks you where he is.

    The moral absolutist would tell you that if you lie, you are doing the wrong thing, and thus should not lie. But by telling the truth you are in essince sentencing your friend to death. How is that a good thing?

    When you say “well, in that instance, I would lie, because it’s better to help save my friend than it is to tell the truth” you have engaged n situational ethics.

    And that’s how a lot of my world view works.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  154. #81 aphrael,

    Waterboarding is an *evil* act. By stooping to it, the person doing it debases himself, deprives himself of a bit of humanity. Those who endorse it to the same, to a lesser degree. Intentionally inflicting severe trauma on those who are helpless to resist is *wrong*, even if done in the name of a greater good.

    But waterboarding doesn’t inflict severe trauma. It invokes panic and fear, but no severe trauma.

    Pablo (99243e)

  155. Patterico, I am bewildered again at your referring to my answer as a dodge. I do not believe that we should be torturing.

    So your answer to my hypo is “no”?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  156. This hypo is easy (to me). If we got a guy in country, off the battlefield, that we knew had actionable intel that would save lives and we waterboarded the guy and saved lives, then it was worth it.

    The question of what should be done with the waterboarders, or what rules should they have is more difficult. I am inclined to agree more with Fritz (yeah, you convinced me), that if done it should be kept taboo. That way the people whos job it is to waterboard enemies captured on the battlefield (and the people who know about those waterboarders)will keep their mouths shut. Maybe the risk of discovery that they take will keep the practice rare and from becoming policy.

    Waterboarding seems farily innocuous but everyone has a different line that they don’t want to cross. Would you waterboard the enemie’s 8 year old daughter? Would you waterboard your own daughter to get that intel? no explaining why you had to do it, just do it? What about your neighbors daughter? That is why waterboarding shouldn’t be policy, but a taboo practice to be used rarely if at all.

    EdWood (54bb4d)

  157. Pat. I answered it at #65.
    Anybody who commits torture should be prepared to face the consequences. In some circumstances they’d get a pardon.
    They have to decide for themselves whether it’s worth the risk to find out.

    But I still like the link at Crooked Timber which I guess you haven’t read.

    blah (fb88b3)

  158. But some people’s morals aren’t isolated.

    Well, that’s a perfectly ridiculous non sequitur, whitd.

    Pablo (99243e)

  159. by the by I agree with Itme that the title of this thread puts forth the absurd idea that only “liberals” (whatever that means) oppose torture. It also implies (and so do the commenters) that if you don’t support waterboarding that you are somehouw not “conservative” (whatever that means).

    It’s interesting to note that in the many very good answers opposing torture, that many of the posters don’t answer Pattericos hypothetical right away and then go on with their positions (I know you did whitd). If those commenters are “liberals” then I guess Patterico is (mostly) right.

    Saying yes to the hypothetical does not mean that you approve of torture, it just means that you can visualize the victims of a terrorist attack as someone personal, not “victims” in the abstract. Why not answer the question and then go on with your position as to its absurdity or whatever? Worried that are going to call you a hypocrite or stupid or a fence sitter?. So what? They were going to do that anyway.

    EdWood (54bb4d)

  160. cboldt,

    Your answer is perfect. I am perfectly happy to have people point out that my hypo is unrealistic, as long as they answer.

    Have you noticed that some people are unwilling to answer? Or that they want to seem like they have answered, when they haven’t (a la blah or Andrew J. Lazarus).

    Patterico (bad89b)

  161. blah, you didn’t clearly answer my hypo in 65.

    You asked what might be interpreted as a different question.

    I would like to know the answer to my hypo. Is it “no”?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  162. Loed Nazh @135 – Patterico has no mention of legality in the hypothetical, deliberately I would venture to focus the discussion on a yes or no answer.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  163. Inflicting severe trauma on someone is sometimes the right thing to do.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  164. by the by I agree with Itme that the title of this thread puts forth the absurd idea that only “liberals” (whatever that means) oppose torture. It also implies (and so do the commenters) that if you don’t support waterboarding that you are somehouw not “conservative” (whatever that means).

    No, it just means that I believe conservative opponents of waterboarding (like Fritz) will be more likely to answer the question.

    So far I’ve seen quite a few try to dodge it, or pretend like they answered it.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  165. Andrew J. Lazarus,

    I did not mean it to be parody when I say that many on the left are sick puppies. If you can’t understand the situational ethics Scott Jacobs is talking about, there is truly something wrong with your moral compass…hence sick puppies….

    :)

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  166. Pablo: I wasn’t distinguishing between severe physical trauma and severe emotional trauma.

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  167. “If, like Stace, they are willing to sacrifice thousands of lives for the principle of not scaring the architect of 9/11 for a coupla minutes, that is very, very revealing.”

    Sure. They’re gandhi, jesus, whatever. They take tough moral stances.

    “What I want is to see where people stand on this moral question. It’s very simple.”

    But some people don’t have a stand on it. What if I can’t decide how utilitarian I am? What if I can’t decide how many people are worth the torture of one individual? So what?

    “The next time they appear in any thread, I will direct them to this one and remind them they haven’t answered.”

    Thats the real point. The point isn’t to isolate moral questions. Its to seek a supposedly isolated moral club. And then discount the opinions of those when discussing the real world.

    whitd (10527e)

  168. Scott, at 148: that’s fairly close to my worldview, to be honest … except that I would say that *even in that instance*, it was immoral to lie, and that the fact that I was faced with two immoral choices, and chose the lesser of the two wrongs, is no excuse for not finding a moral solution. I’m still responsible, in essence, for my sin, and I will still pay the price for it.

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  169. AJL – Peoplw are bewildered by your answers that are nonresponsive to the hypo.

    A simple yes or no as to whether it was worth it is what is being sought.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  170. Would you bury my sister? kill every first born in the country?

    Now your being silly.

    If you were the one who tossed my sister in a box and buried her in some field somewhere, you bet that your sister just became fair game.

    Since I doubt that is the senario you are suggesting, I would answer with “no, I wouldn’t, because that would be rather unlikely to enduce cooperation on the part of the offending party”.

    You seem to be trying to suggest I would become some inhuman monster, randomly slaughtering all I see in my quest to find my sister.

    The guilty party would have much to worry about, as would his loved ones, if only because they too would then pressure him in ways I could not to tell me what I need to know.

    Random peope? Perfectly safe.

    His sister? Fair game.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  171. Aphrael #140,

    I think there are circumstances in which it is better for an act to be illegal, with the expectation that that law will be violated in an emergency, than for it to be legal. If it’s legal, there’s no price to be paid for doing it, and so the bar to doing it is lower.

    If it’s illegal, there’s a price to be paid … which makes it much more likely that it will *only* be done when it’s worth paying that price.

    What I don’t understand is how you can be so sure that making something illegal will cause people to flaunt the law correctly? For instance, it’s illegal to speed but that doesn’t mean only people with true emergencies speed. Generally, the people who speed are those who don’t care about complying with the law or are too thoughtless to care about the harm they may cause.

    Similarly, if you make coercive interrogations illegal, I think the logical, cautious people that are best equipped to make these decisions will be even less likely to make them. The people who are least equipped to make these decisions will be the ones willing to risk illegal conduct.

    And by definition there will be no oversight because it’s illegal. You can’t train people to do something illegal.

    DRJ (9578af)

  172. “Well, that’s a perfectly ridiculous non sequitur, whitd.”

    People get really personal and weird when it comes to morals. As you would expect. Some people don’t have isolated morals like this question forces them to have. Sorry.

    whitd (10527e)

  173. Pablo: I wasn’t distinguishing between severe physical trauma and severe emotional trauma.

    Neither was I, aphrael.

    Pablo (99243e)

  174. Patterico, the answer is No, and I have explained my reasoning twice. I note no one else has made any remark to the fact the pledged as a nation not to torture. I take it that going back on our word is just one more privilege of confronting someone like KSM. How convenient. I really don’t understand why the Germans and Japanese didn’t get recourse to the same family of excuses, except that they lost on the battlefield.

    I did add as a follow-up that them premise of the question is highly dubious—the Library Towers plot doesn’t seem to have moved past the tough talk stage. Perhaps you could rephrase your question in terms of what we would do to thwart the Judeobolshevik threat, which has a certain tradition to it.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (b9afa2)

  175. I think the problem with this hypothetical (which is more or less impossible for me to disagree with), is that it is such a low standard for the government (which can rationalize all sorts of things as Saving Lives) to make policy on.

    I mean, I would certainly torture someone to save my daughter. But it doesn’t mean I would want the state doing it, if for no other reason than the state might think I kidnapped someone some day and cut off my fingers. Plus it just isn’t great for society for everyone to be doing such things. We do need to have some faith in the process.

    I remember in my philo class the text was talking about utilitarianism being limited sometimes in the things it oculd justify. The example it used was removing the organs from homeless people or bitter loners to keep beloved and contributing public figures alive. Greatest benefit, right?

    David N. Scott (5986fc)

  176. Er… being flawed in the unlimited things it could justify. Sort of the opposite of what I said. Oops.

    David N. Scott (5986fc)

  177. “Thats the real point. The point isn’t to isolate moral questions. Its to seek a supposedly isolated moral club. And then discount the opinions of those when discussing the real world.”

    Nope. It’s to isolate the moral question.

    It’s to have a debate.

    I want to move on to the next part, but I’m waiting to get blah, Oregonian, AJL, Itsme, etc. on record with clear answers, rather than the dodges (or silence) they have thus far offered.

    Patterico (d84156)

  178. DRJ @ #165

    I believe that your example fails because the punishment is not exactly severe in the case of speeding. It’s rather “Free Market” in the fact that some people simply can not, in any way shape or form, aford a ticket, and so they do not speed. However, if their spouce was having a heart attack while riding next to them, their opinion might likely switch to “fuck the ticket, gotta get to the ER”.

    In that case, the law has acted as I think it is intended. Only in the most dire of emergencies has it been violated in this case.

    Others than can afford ticket after ticket have less to worry about, so they speed all the time.

    If the punishment for speeding was, say, getting shot in the nuts unless you had a good justification, then you would see very few men speeding. Ever.

    I’d put a limiter on my freaking car.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  179. Define “isolated morals” please, whitd.

    I’m assuming that it’s something different than applying morals in isolated situations, as everyone is capable of that.

    Pablo (99243e)

  180. “It’s to have a debate”

    But whats to debate if its an isolated moral question?

    whitd (10527e)

  181. Hey Patterico, add me to the list of liberals who will answer your question. Yes, it’s justified. Simple utilitarian moral reasoning. My position is summed up (add this person to your list as well) here:

    The second, far less relevant question is this: are there certain hypothetical scenarios under which the use of torture can be morally justified? If you construct the right scenario (nuclear bomb about to go off, suspect knows the target, etc.) just about anyone will answer yes to this question. But that’s not at all surprising or informative. After all, it’s possible to construct a hypothetical scenario where you’d be morally justified in shooting a little girl in the head (you’re in a cave running out of air, there are four other younger children, they’ll all die unless you off yourself and the oldest kid, etc.). The bottomline is that all of us are capable of simple utilitarian moral reasoning. If you are presented with a choice between something very bad and something even worse, the moral logic is pretty clear.

    But this is all an exercise in irrelevance because that’s not how rational people make policy decisions. Just because you can construct a hypothetical scenario were shooting a girl in the head is the “right” thing to do, that doesn’t mean that we should do away with the legal prohibition against murder. When it comes to acts that are sufficiently bad–such as murder and torture–you need categorical rules.

    In a true ticking bomb scenario (which I’m convinced is like saying “when you meet a real unicorn”), people will do what they think they have to do, regardless of what the law says. And in that kind of extraordinary situation, no one would be prosecuted for resorting to extreme, even illegal tactics.

    But you can’t let highly unlikely hypothetical scenarios dictate policy. Regardless of whether there are conceivable situations where torture could be justified, it has to remain illegal. As Charles Krulak and Joseph Hoar, both former military commanders, wrote in the Washington Post the other day: “As has happened with every other nation that has tried to engage in a little bit of torture– only for the toughest cases, only when nothing else works–the abuse spread like wildfire, and every captured prisoner became the key to defusing a potential ticking time bomb.”

    Russell (cf89ed)

  182. Petterico, in comment 146: “If, like Stace, they are willing to sacrifice thousands of lives for the principle of not scaring the architect of 9/11 for a coupla minutes, that is very, very revealing.”

    Well, yes.

    But at some point, you have to make the call.

    If you want to say “no to torture” and “no to waterboarding” you have to draw a line, establish a general prohibition – even if some particular cases where it would be worth it to waterboard are on the far side of that line, even if they would be prohibited by the general standard.

    If you think the slippery slope effect is strong, and I do, then any exceptions have to be made at defensible “bumps” on the slippery slope, like the taboo on “going nuclear”.

    You can say this is “revealing” and I assume that means “revealing” of nothing good, and yes I will admit that the prohibitions I advocate will lead to death and maiming for innocent people, sometimes in terrible numbers, plus property damage. OK? I admit it. That’s up front.

    But we need to make clear calls anyway.

    We cannot recognize ourselves as a people, we do not have the basis to know what our standards are and thus who we, the people are, unless we make the calls.

    We need standards. Standards come with price tags. There is no getting around it.

    David Blue (937788)

  183. AJL #168

    I note no one else has made any remark to the fact the pledged as a nation not to torture. I take it that going back on our word is just one more privilege of confronting someone like KSM. How convenient. I really don’t understand why the Germans and Japanese didn’t get recourse to the same family of excuses, except that they lost on the battlefield.

    So you would condem possibly thousands to die simply because you want to keep your word?

    Duly noted. I will now begin the thank God that you aren’t anywhere near the person would would end up having to make such a decision.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  184. DRJ: I think you are right that there will be cases where the law is flaunted incorrectly. I think they will be *lower* in number than the number of cases where legal torture will be abused … because the only people doing it will be people who don’t care that it’s illegal or who think the personal cost to them of violating the law is justified under the circumstances. It won’t be eliminated entirely, merely reduced.

    Pablo: you’re asserting that waterboarding does not inflict severe emotional trauma? Perhaps you and I have different definitions of the phrase.

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  185. “blah, you didn’t clearly answer my hypo in 65.
    You asked what might be interpreted as a different question.
    I would like to know the answer to my hypo. Is it “no”?”

    Pat, you’re not reading, or you’re tired or just not thinking much.
    Or maybe you’re just not that swift.

    The question is, should the man having done it get off with a slap on the wrist. Yeah sure. But the act be made legal? No
    Got me?
    Read the goddamn link. I’ll even quote the fun bits. You’ll love it it involves baby killing;

    “If you agree to perform the sacrifice, by contrast, the earth will be spared, and we will get lots of alien technology which we can use to solve all problems of illness and material want for all humankind. It’s up to you.
    Now, does anyone think you shouldn’t torture that one child to death, under the circumstances? No. Does anyone think this scenario helps cast even the feeblest single photon of illumination onto the moral question of whether it is ever appropriate to torture children to death? No.”

    blah (fb88b3)

  186. Pablo: you’re asserting that waterboarding does not inflict severe emotional trauma? Perhaps you and I have different definitions of the phrase.

    Yes. severe trauma doesn’t go away in a matter of a few minutes.

    Pablo (99243e)

  187. Patterico – sorry, I didn’t mean to misspell your handle.

    David Blue (937788)

  188. AJL,

    Thank you for your clear answer. May I now follow up?

    a) What if the people saved included everyone you held dear? Your parents. Your children, if any. Your spouse, if any. Your closest friends. Same answer?

    b) 2 1/2 minutes is too much. How about 2 minutes? 90 seconds? A minute? 30 seconds? 20? 10? Or is even 5 seconds of pouring water on KSM’s face not worth saving thousands of lives?

    I am very interested in the answers, because people who answer “no” to this hypo fascinate me, and I want to see just how far you go with it.

    Patterico (542b3f)

  189. That one’s easy, blah. It involves punishing the perfectly innocent, and you know they’re perfectly innocent and have no responsibility for the situation at hand. So, no.

    Now, your turn.

    Pablo (99243e)

  190. Pablo: you’re asserting that waterboarding does not inflict severe emotional trauma? Perhaps you and I have different definitions of the phrase.

    Yes. severe trauma doesn’t go away in a matter of a few minutes.

    That is to say, an hour later if they walk by a bucket of water with a towel near it in an open field, they won’t shit themselves in terror.

    I had a horrible experiance at the dentists once, and I now wince and start have a minor panic attack whenever I hear a dentist’s drill. That’s severe mental trauma in my book.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  191. Scott Jacobs #173,

    Apparently you view speeding as solely a question of convenience and not morality. I speed sometimes, too, so I understand your point. However, it is a moral issue, especially if you hit another person while speeding and you’re responsible for their injuries.

    Aphrael #179,

    We’ll be left with only Abu Ghraib-like troops willing to do coercive interrogations. That’s a lose-lose to me.

    DRJ (9578af)

  192. Patterico, if I may jump in on 181: the people I hold dear case is *easier* for me than the total strangers case. In the case of people I hold dear, my instinctive, emotional reaction would be to save them, even at the cost of inflicting severe trauma on another … and while I would likely choose to do that, I also think it would be an immoral choice: to put myself and my people above my duty to my fellow man.

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  193. Hm. My comment got caught in the ether. Am I banned?

    Russell (cf89ed)

  194. DRJ, I was trying to draw a comparison between two very different things.

    If the punishment is harsh enough, you will only violate the law when you really, really have to. It instills a level of “self-editing” to the equation.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  195. Try again:

    Patterico, add me to the list of liberals who will answer your question. Yes, it’s worth it. Simple utilitarian moral reasoning. My position is summed up (add this person to your list as well) here:

    The second, far less relevant question is this: are there certain hypothetical scenarios under which the use of torture can be morally justified? If you construct the right scenario (nuclear bomb about to go off, suspect knows the target, etc.) just about anyone will answer yes to this question. But that’s not at all surprising or informative. After all, it’s possible to construct a hypothetical scenario where you’d be morally justified in shooting a little girl in the head (you’re in a cave running out of air, there are four other younger children, they’ll all die unless you off yourself and the oldest kid, etc.). The bottomline is that all of us are capable of simple utilitarian moral reasoning. If you are presented with a choice between something very bad and something even worse, the moral logic is pretty clear.

    But this is all an exercise in irrelevance because that’s not how rational people make policy decisions. Just because you can construct a hypothetical scenario were shooting a girl in the head is the “right” thing to do, that doesn’t mean that we should do away with the legal prohibition against murder. When it comes to acts that are sufficiently bad–such as murder and torture–you need categorical rules.

    In a true ticking bomb scenario (which I’m convinced is like saying “when you meet a real unicorn”), people will do what they think they have to do, regardless of what the law says. And in that kind of extraordinary situation, no one would be prosecuted for resorting to extreme, even illegal tactics.

    But you can’t let highly unlikely hypothetical scenarios dictate policy. Regardless of whether there are conceivable situations where torture could be justified, it has to remain illegal. As Charles Krulak and Joseph Hoar, both former military commanders, wrote in the Washington Post the other day: “As has happened with every other nation that has tried to engage in a little bit of torture– only for the toughest cases, only when nothing else works–the abuse spread like wildfire, and every captured prisoner became the key to defusing a potential ticking time bomb.”

    Russell (cf89ed)

  196. Scott #189,

    Or you won’t be willing to violate it at all, even if it’s absolutely reasonable and logical to do so. That is what I’m afraid of.

    DRJ (9578af)

  197. Patterico: I answered your question, but maybe it was too long for the spam-catcher. I think others have made my points anyway. Short answer: yes, but torture should still be illegal.

    Russell (cf89ed)

  198. “The question is, should the man having done it get off with a slap on the wrist. Yeah sure. But the act be made legal? No
    Got me?
    Read the goddamn link.”

    I read the goddamn link, as you’d know if you’d read the goddamn thread, as I made a goddamn reference to it goddamn up the goddamn thread. Goddamnit.

    Now answer the goddamn question I goddamn asked instead of rephrasing it and answering your own question. You rephrased it as a legal question. I asked a moral question. Read the post again if you need to see what the question is.

    I’m deleting any other comments of yours in this thread (and maybe others) that do not contain a simple declarative sentence that reads either:

    The answer to your question is no.

    or

    The answer to your question is yes.

    You can say whatever other goddamn thing you like in the comment, including a sermon on why it’s a stupid question.

    But answer the goddamn question goddamnit.

    Patterico (f62964)

  199. #190 made me nearly wet myself I laughed so hard…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  200. Rather, #193 did. Goddamn Patterico and his goddamn fishing out goddamn comments from the goddamn Filter.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  201. Blah@178

    Another non answer – “The question is, should the man having done it get off with a slap on the wrist. Yeah sure. But the act be made legal? No
    Got me?”

    That was not the question. The hypo made no presumption of legality or illegality of the procedure that I noted. The only question asked was whether it was worth it.

    By your response that he should get a slap on the wrist, the inference is that it was worth it.

    Is YES your answer?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  202. Sorry for the double post.

    #194: what’s so funny?

    Russell (cf89ed)

  203. #194: Ah. Nevermind.

    Russell (cf89ed)

  204. I’m the one who threw off the numbering on this post. I found Russell’s comment (see #190) in the filter and that disrupted everything. Sorry.

    DRJ (9578af)

  205. Nothing, Russell. But I swear to God that Patterico’s #193 looked like it was labled #190 when I posted #194.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  206. Some of the readers may remember this story which relates a little to this thread.
    There were some special forces guys who had gone into Iraq a couple of weeks before Desert Storm kicked off. Their mission was to light up the targets with lasers for the initial assault.
    They stayed in a special foxhole for several days and only ventured out when absolutely necessary. One of the kids from a nearby village stumbled upon them one day. They had the authority to kill him if they felt it was necessary. In this case they opted not to and fortunately the kid and/or his family didn’t disclose the sighting of US troops.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  207. I’m the one who threw off the numbering on this post. I found Russell’s comment (see #190) in the filter and that disrupted everything. Sorry.

    Goddamnit DRJ.

    :)

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  208. Russell, I don’t find it hilarious, but this bit:

    Just because you can construct a hypothetical scenario were shooting a girl in the head is the “right” thing to do, that doesn’t mean that we should do away with the legal prohibition against murder.

    …overlooks a little thing we call justifiable homicide. And then, if you’re going to kill yourself too, legality really doesn’t play into the situation.

    Pablo (99243e)

  209. blah’s got his alphie freak on tonight.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  210. Russell,

    I don’t think your comment was caught by the spamcatcher. Can others see it?

    By the way, this isn’t an issue where a “yes” answer leads to “AHA! so you DO think waterboarding should be legal!!!!!1!!1!!”

    My point is simple: people like you, Russell, seem to think (like me) that the answer is obviously yes. It doesn’t mean you support waterboarding as a realistic or legal matter. But you think the answer to my hypo is obvious.

    That’s why I find it so fascinating that some people answer no.

    And why I want to push them to see how far they’ll go.

    So far, Stace has refused to answer my follow-up. My follow-ups to AJL are pending, but he needs to be given time to answer.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  211. Patterico, if I may jump in on 183: the people I hold dear case is *easier* for me than the total strangers case. In the case of people I hold dear, my instinctive, emotional reaction would be to save them, even at the cost of inflicting severe trauma on another … and while I would likely choose to do that, I also think it would be an immoral choice: to put myself and my people above my duty to my fellow man.

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  212. But Voice of Reason, the current bestseller Lone Survivor about our guy in Afghanistan had the opposite situation…they let the kid live, he ratted them out to the Taliban and they all died…

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  213. I think there is something funky going on with the numbering of the comments.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  214. Let’s change the hypo.

    Let’s say its a nuke hidden in DC. Only 15 minutes to find it, no time to evac. the city.

    Now,how does this mean influence the decision:

    “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    Is the statute outweighed by the Constitutional obligation?

    Seems pretty easy.

    Now work backwards from there.

    wls (a6fede)

  215. 107 DRJ:

    “However, the ultimate point is “Where do we draw the line?” and in a democracy we draw the line where the people agree we should. Right now, waterboarding is not illegal and following your statement of the issue in comment #2, that’s all that matters.”

    Who says waterboarding is not illegal? If the law says torture is illegal and waterboarding is torture (as Patterico concedes) then waterboarding is at least arguably illegal. Adminstration claims to the contrary are not determative.

    James B. Shearer (b8532a)

  216. VOR #201,

    Is it better to give troops authority to kill a child in that situation and to train/prepare them how to make that decision? Or is it better to make actions like that illegal and hope they guess right if something causes them to believe it should be done anyway? I think the former is better but I’d like to know what you think.

    DRJ (9578af)

  217. WLS, that turns it into a legal argument, not a moral one.

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  218. We need standards. Standards come with price tags. There is no getting around it.

    David Blue,

    I have enjoyed your comments and I think you have a point there.

    I just want to see how high the price tag really is for some people’s opposition to waterboarding.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  219. Stacy in Tucson,

    Which only underscores the impossible task of assigning a law for every situation. They did what they thought was right and it cost them their lives.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  220. Patterico #208,

    It was me. I found Russell’s comments in the filter and adding them in changed the numbering.

    DRJ (9578af)

  221. If the law says torture is illegal and waterboarding is torture (as Patterico concedes) then waterboarding is at least arguably illegal.

    I didn’t concede that waterboarding is torture as a legal matter. Just that it seems like torture as a common sense matter when done to an unwilling participant.

    I still think the people who deny that are, uh, in denial.

    But that’s another thread. This thread is about mocking blah for dodging the question, wondering where Oregonian is, and seeing just how opposed Andrew J. Lazarus is to waterboarding.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  222. DRJ,

    As I said in post #22
    “Patriots die for their country often. They often fight against odds they know they will not survive yet do so for the greater good.
    The choice to torture someone or not for information should come from the same well of conviction. The only difference is that in the case of using torture or not, it will likely be a person in authority (senior officer or civilian) that gives the okay.

    Laws cannot be written for every single hypothetical. Nor will they make us more secure or moral. We better hope we have tough men and women who really can make a tough call as I mentioned.”

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  223. During the first part of the Iraq war, our guys in Anbar (I think) caught an insurgent with knowledge of an upcoming ambush that he refused to divulge. The commander fired his sidearm next to the bad guy’s head to scare him. The guy spilled the beans, stopping the ambush. Our guy was given a court martial. He should have been given a medal.

    I think it is wrong for there to be policies forbidding certain actions. Our guys need to be able to do what war demands…

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  224. Now I understand. You want absolutes. That’s why its a stupid question. You think this is about sin! I’m not interrested in sin, I’m only interested in law. As a sin what you describe is minor, so sure “it was worth it.” Whatever. But it should not be made legal. I’m beginning to realize you don’t understand the rule of law.

    It’s like the Miranda decision that you dispise. A murderer gets off because a cop didn’t read him his rights before taking a confession. The mistake is minor. But it has consequences, and it should. The cop won’t go to hell for it. But I’d throw the evidence from KSM’s confession out of court.
    But hey, lives were saved. It was worth it.

    blah (fb88b3)

  225. DRJ,

    Yeah, I saw that after I posted about it. The comments are coming pretty quickly.

    But the direct answers from blah are coming pretty slowly.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  226. James B. Shearer,

    Whether you think it’s legal or illegal, the point was that analysis depends on the will of the people and not on morality.

    DRJ (9578af)

  227. If the law says torture is illegal and waterboarding is torture (as Patterico concedes) then waterboarding is at least arguably illegal.

    The law doesn’t say that and Congress has specifically declined to write it to say that. They could if they wanted to, but they haven’t.

    Pablo (99243e)

  228. aphrael — which nutbag started a moral argument here?

    LOL.

    wls (a6fede)

  229. DRJ, I would argue that the will of the people depends, at the end of the day, on the morality of the people.

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  230. WLS: Patterico started a moral argument, I believe. :)

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  231. I still think the people who deny that are, uh, in denial.

    As one of them, I think what we’re doing to the word torture is akin to what we’ve done to the word smear. Which is to say that we’ve cheapened it to the point of meaninglessness.

    Pablo (99243e)

  232. aphreal — who the hell does he think he is?

    wls (a6fede)

  233. Pablo is right. To say what happened at Abu Garab was torture is silly. What Saddam’s people did at Abu Garab was torture…

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  234. The owner of this blog, to which we are merely licensees.

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  235. Aphrael, I think wls is being sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  236. Aphrael,

    Laws are always about morality? Then let’s discuss abortion.

    PS – Let’s don’t.

    DRJ (9578af)

  237. “But the direct answers from blah are coming pretty slowly.”

    maybe you should read slowly

    blah (fb88b3)

  238. maybe you should read slowly

    Or you should, perhaps, you know…

    Answer the question.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  239. DRJ, i’d never say that laws are always about morality. I’d say that the will of the people is always controlled by the morality of the people.

    Whether or not the laws reflect the will of the people is another question altogether. :)

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  240. “Or you should, perhaps, you know…
    Answer the question.”
    Read 219

    blah (fb88b3)

  241. Re: Patterico, in comment 213. Thanks.

    I take your point, and I will be interested to see where this goes in later threads.

    I understand your frustration with blah, because he can answer your question in one line and still say the rest of what he has to say.

    David Blue (937788)

  242. The is no answer to the question in 219, only an assertion that it’s stupid. Try again.

    Yes or no will suffice.

    Pablo (99243e)

  243. blah did answer the question: yes, it was morally worth it, but it shouldn’t be legal.

    And that’s a perfectly defensible answer.

    Apparently blah isn’t one of those people who is going to get on their high horse about how waterboarding is always morally wrong no matter what. blah sees that it can be morally justified.

    But apparently never legally justified.

    I’m a little disturbed by that, because I think on important matters like this, law and morality should hopefully line up.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  244. Hey, wait a minute!

    But hey, lives were saved. It was worth it.

    OMG! blah did answer the question!

    Pablo (99243e)

  245. Maybe my comment 236 was wrong.

    Blah, simply, Patterico asked: “based on these hypothetical facts, was the waterboarding session worth it?

    Is your answer yes it was worth it?

    Is your answer no it was not worth it?

    David Blue (937788)

  246. As a sin what you describe is minor, so sure “it was worth it.” Whatever. But it should not be made legal.

    blah, I read that as answering the question “yes.”

    Why don’t you humor the rest of the crowd, who don’t believe you have indeed answered, and just say yes or no? Just try a simple declarative sentence that reads either:

    The answer to your question is no.

    or

    The answer to your question is yes.

    I haven’t deleted your other comments because I think you did answer “yes.” But even David Blue, who agrees with you, thinks you look like you’re evading the question.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  247. 76

    “A better scenario would be this:
    You’ve captured KSM and his password-protected laptop. The laptop’s contents are encrypted. Other information sources lead you to believe than an attack is imminent…imminent enough that decrypting the laptop might get the info too late. Would liberals support waterboarding KSM until he gives the password? Would those who support waterboarding, but not “real” torture agree with torturing KSM?”

    I agree that this is a better scenario (better in the sense that waterboarding is more justified). A problem with the Patterico’s actual scenario of mere vague suspicion is that it is highly like to produce false information. KSM has no great incentative to tell the truth, a vague account of another plot to fly airplanes in buildings is pretty predictable. And when some half baked plot to fly airplanes in buildings is uncovered it can be claimed that waterboarding saved thousands when in fact it didn’t.

    James B. Shearer (b8532a)

  248. But even David Blue, who agrees with you, thinks you look like you’re evading the question.

    Well, it did take him 8 comments and at least as many insults, but he did spit out an unambiguous answer in the last line of his 219.

    I know, I was as shocked as the next guy. ;-)

    Pablo (99243e)

  249. Eh, David’s been pretty interesting to read in this thread…

    Blah, however, has been himself.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  250. Now, let me ask a question of everyone who has answered yes.

    Look at this clip.

    Now, either a) Brian Ross is wrong, or b) the people who did this to KSM acted morally, in your view, right?

    Please answer that.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  251. A problem with the Patterico’s actual scenario of mere vague suspicion is that it is highly like to produce false information.

    Huh?

    My hypo assumes that the information is reliable.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  252. What about starting a new thread for 245 on? (Feel free to delete this if you don’t like that idea.)

    DRJ (9578af)

  253. Meh. Too tired. Plus, I want to see if we can set a record with this thread.

    I think people will be able to follow it.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  254. I have no problem with what the CIA did.

    At all.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  255. I see. This is a sprint and a marathon. It’s definitely interesting.

    DRJ (9578af)

  256. What is the record?

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  257. Now, either a) Brian Ross is wrong, or b) the people who did this to KSM acted morally, in your view, right?

    B, all day long.

    Pablo (99243e)

  258. Patterico in comment #238: “I’m a little disturbed by that, because I think on important matters like this, law and morality should hopefully line up.”

    I find it disturbing too.

    I think if you scratch a system of reward and punishment, you find a moral system.

    If a company says it upholds openness and accountability, but it really rewards those who shut up and and play along, while whistle-blowers commit career suicide (and I have seen this), its morality is the opposite of what it preaches. Its real morality is revealed by its rewards and its punishments. I think we all understand this.

    I think Lt. Col Allen West was a hero. I think he did the right thing, protecting his men. It was worth it.

    To preserve necessary standards, both in the way prisoners of war are treated and in how officers uphold regulations, I cannot see how a case like this can be resolved properly. You cannot make what he did legal. You must not wink at the law. You must condemn and punish the good man who did the right thing. And when you do this, you condemn what is right, knowing that it is right – in this case, but not according to the general rule that you have to preserve.

    I’m glad I don’t work in the law.

    David Blue (937788)

  259. I much more interested in the follow-ups to the people who answered no. But so far, no takers.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  260. “Apparently blah isn’t one of those people who is going to get on their high horse about how waterboarding is always morally wrong no matter what. blah sees that it can be morally justified.”

    I proved that days ago. I said that days ago. That’s what the CT link above is about. Sometimes you just do it. You make the choice and take responsibility. You risk the punishment and in maybe you’ll get a pardon.
    But it’s your own moral choice not an absolute one. It depends on who you are. But the law doesn’t. There are cases where I’d kill and where I wouldn’t. But others would have different measures. That worries you more than me I guess.

    11/10/07
    #49 from Pat’s Thinking out loud about waterboarding:
    Me/blah: “The question is not whether or not in the most extreme examples of the ticking bomb scenario, torture would be applied. There’s not doubt it would happen. There wouldn’t even be a question. And that’s what Presidential pardons are for. But that’s not what you’ve talking about, you’re talking about torture as policy, and a policy we refused to apply against Nazi Germany.”

    blah (fb88b3)

  261. What’s more, I hope the cloth they used to cover his face when they waterboarded him smelled strongly of pork products.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  262. I assume you primarily want the liberal response, but I think the CIA agents who waterboarded KSM acted morally.

    DRJ (9578af)

  263. At least I can now sick you on the people who say it’s ALWAYS morally wrong.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  264. 166

    “What I don’t understand is how you can be so sure that making something illegal will cause people to flaunt the law correctly? For instance, it’s illegal to speed but that doesn’t mean only people with true emergencies speed. Generally, the people who speed are those who don’t care about complying with the law or are too thoughtless to care about the harm they may cause.”

    I don’t see your point. If you catch people speeding or torturing for no good reason you prosecute them. If someone speeds or tortures for a good reason you consider giving them a pass.

    “Similarly, if you make coercive interrogations illegal, I think the logical, cautious people that are best equipped to make these decisions will be even less likely to make them. The people who are least equipped to make these decisions will be the ones willing to risk illegal conduct.”

    Regardless of the law you can choose to have logical cautious people or illogical reckless people making these decisions.

    “And by definition there will be no oversight because it’s illegal. You can’t train people to do something illegal.”

    Sure you can or more precisely you can train them in certain skills like driving fast which would be useful if they ever wanted to speed.

    You do have a small point in that the rules should make enough sense to the people they apply to that they are not universally flaunted.

    James B. Shearer (b8532a)

  265. a policy we refused to apply against Nazi Germany.

    However, for the most part, most admitted to what they did, and they were also uniformed soldiers, placing them under the protections of the GC.

    Insurgents/AQ arenot uniformed soldiers in service to a country’s military, and thus don’t get those protections. It doesn’t matter if they are citizens of a country that signed the GC, they are acting in a fashion the GC says we can actually line them up upon capture and shoot them.

    On the higharchy of “bad things”, I consider “torture” (and I don’t agree that Waterboarding is infact torture) better than getting shot and killed.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  266. So now I’m the designated attack puppy on the morality of waterboarding? Or are you saying I’m sick?

    DRJ (9578af)

  267. I think he was talking to Blah, DRJ.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  268. I looked at the clip and don’t see how the choices make any sense. Brian Ross reported what he was told, not what he saw (not even a videotape or audio).
    The problem with choice b is the use of the word morally. they certainly acted in what they felt was in the best interest of the United States and one of the 14 suspects gave actionable intelligence. You could make the same case if AQ captured US military personnel and cut off digits or waterboarded them to get info on impending attacks.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  269. Now, either a) Brian Ross is wrong, or b) the people who did this to KSM acted morally, in your view, right?

    I don’t understand your choices Patterico. What part are you suggesting we think Ross was wrong about? Given his penchant for making up stories in the past, I am always suspicious of his reports, especially when they are based on anonymous reports.

    I can easily answer b, but also find fault with a.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  270. Maybe so, Scott. Time to put away the keyboard when I can’t even tell who’s talking to who.

    DRJ (9578af)

  271. Once again Scott Jacobs is on the money in #260. We are making far too big a thing of water boarding terrorists. In many cases I think we should just line them up and shoot them rather than keep them in Gitmo for the rest of their lives. We’ve already found that some we have let go have gone right back to their killing ways….

    Stacy In Tucson (b99466)

  272. 246

    “My hypo assumes that the information is reliable.”

    Of course. Similarly I can give a hypo in which I assume the lottery ticket I buy will win. Then it is a good deal but this is not realistic as you don’t know this in advance. In advance this scenario is like to produce false information and this has to be allowed for in judging the wisdom of waterboarding KSM.

    James B. Shearer (b8532a)

  273. DRJ,

    I was indeed talking to blah.

    Patterico (52e974)

  274. 178

    “So you would condem possibly thousands to die simply because you want to keep your word?”

    Is your disdain for keeping your word universal? Are we free to ignore any promises we may have made to Iraqis when deciding whether to withdraw from Iraq?

    James B. Shearer (b8532a)

  275. James B. Shearer,

    Could you answer the questions posed to those who answered yes?

    If Brian Ross is right, then KSM’s waterboarders acted morally. Right?

    Patterico (47fa31)

  276. Is your disdain for keeping your word universal? Are we free to ignore any promises we may have made to Iraqis when deciding whether to withdraw from Iraq?

    When it comes to saving lives, I’ll drop a promise faster than you can think.

    “I promise to not torture people” gets chucked the hell out the window the moment some POS terrorist has info that could preventthe deaths of civilians.

    Just like “I won’t kill anyone” dies a rapid death the second you point a gun at me or a loved one.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  277. You mean, P, that we didn’t answer to your satisfaction.

    Too bad.

    It really was a pointless exercise.

    Good night.

    Itsme (846a95)

  278. Patterico: “Could you answer the questions posed to those who answered yes?

    If Brian Ross is right, then KSM’s waterboarders acted morally. Right?”

    KSM’s waterboarders acted morally. Right.

    David Blue (937788)

  279. I just want to see how high the price tag really is for some people’s opposition to waterboarding.

    .

    There’s something on both sides of the ledger sheet there. IOW, waterboarding ON THE WHOLE isn’t free. But once you’ve invented that 20/20 “we only do bad things to bad people, and then only for darn tootin’ sure good payout benefit” thing, I’d like to use it as I gamble my family’s life savings on lottery tickets.

    cboldt (3d73dd)

  280. I think on important matters like this, law and morality should hopefully line up.

    .

    Do you mean that the law should provide a general rule, as a sort of “Restatement” or codified proposition?

    .

    You aren’t satisfied with the “escape mechanisms” that permit the legal system to adjust the general rule to provide proper justice in an exceptional circumstance? See the venerated “he needed Killian’” defense. This would be a parallel.

    .

    On this one, my read and interpretation of the statutory provisions line up in a way that I think you would approve of. Water boarding is illegal, but is not a war crime under US law. Illegal, but no penalty. Lines up perfectly!

    cboldt (3d73dd)

  281. Can’t claim to have read all of the comments, but here is my take on this question.

    If we know with absolute certainty what the outcome of torture would provide, there can be an argument made that the torture of 1 person is justified to save the lives of thousands. It’s a very utilitarian argument, and utilitarianism is often rejected as an appropriate decision structure within society. I would support it if the outcome was known.

    But, given the uncertain outcome of any interrogation, I would say that torture is never justified. I include waterboarding in my definition of torture. Interrogations are tools used in the hopes of obtaining an outcome that is positive for the whole of society.

    The same could be said of medical research. Some current medical research includes the use of human embryos. Many conservatives disagree with using human embryos for medical research.

    Here’s a counter question for the conservatives:

    Let’s assume the following hypothetical facts are true. U.S. officials have KSM in custody University scientists are working on coming up with a better solution for cancer. They know he planned 9/11 and therefore have a solid basis to believe he has other deadly plots in the works They’ve had some success identifying the origins and causes of cancer in the past. They try various noncoercive techniques to learn the details of those plots They try many of the same methods of research to which they’ve all become accustomed. Nothing works.

    They then waterboard him for two and one half minutes They then discover that the developed brain tissue of fetuses have miracle-like properties. Only fetuses in the 8th month of a pregnancy have this property.

    During this session KSM feels panicky and unable to breathe. Even though he can breathe, he has the sensation that he is drowning They estimate that it will take 1,000,000 fetus brains to discover the cure for all cancers, thus eradicating cancer from the world. So he gives up information — reliable information — that stops a plot involving people flying planes into buildings. It is an absolute guarantee that this research will lead to the cure for all cancer when completed.

    My simple question is this: based on these hypothetical facts, was the waterboarding session worth it? was the killing of 1,000,000 fetuses worth it? (Given the American Cancer Society’s estimate of nearly 1.4 million new diagnoses each year and roughly 565,000 deaths each year from cancer in the US alone, the million fetuses would go on to save WAY more lives than it cost to come up with the cure)

    Chuck Foxtrot (bec298)

  282. There were a significant number of strikethroughs that showed up in the preview but didn’t make it when it posted. Anyway, my revised version of Patterico’s question is this:

    Let’s assume the following hypothetical facts are true. University scientists are working on coming up with a better solution for cancer. They’ve had some success identifying the origins and causes of cancer in the past. They try many of the same methods of research to which they’ve all become accustomed. Nothing works.

    They then discover that the developed brain tissue of fetuses have miracle-like properties. Only fetuses in the 8th month of a pregnancy have this property.

    They estimate that it will take 1,000,000 fetus brains to discover the cure for all cancers, thus eradicating cancer from the world. It is an absolute guarantee that this research will lead to the cure for all cancer when completed.

    My simple question is this: based on these hypothetical facts, was the killing of 1,000,000 fetuses worth it? (Given the American Cancer Society’s estimate of nearly 1.4 million new diagnoses each year and roughly 565,000 deaths each year from cancer in the US alone, the million fetuses would go on to save WAY more lives than it cost to come up with the cure)

    Chuck Foxtrot (bec298)

  283. Let’s switch this around – or maybe Patterico will start a new thread:

    Was Winston Churchill’s decision to allow the bombing of Coventry a moral act in the context of WW2?

    Horatio (55069c)

  284. CF #277,

    Your hypothethical would make sense in this context if the 1,000,000 babies were causing cancer. Leave alone the glaring “path of least resistance” strategy. (Let the scientists first exhaust every other possible avenue and then we can weigh the lives of babies against the lives of cancer patients.)

    Horatio #278,

    “Sacrificing” some of your population for the greater good is not the same as treating your enemy less than kindly for your own good. We are going far out of the context of waterboarding here too.

    nk (09a321)

  285. nk #279,

    The hypothetical provided by Patterico does not address whether all other techniques have been exhausted in trying to learn about future terror attacks (i.e. has the ridiculous translation backlog been cleared for all phone conversations, do we have anybody planted in a cell that might have other information, etc).

    The hypothetical also does not state that the information provided by KSM relates to a plot that he had planned. Thus, there is no indication that he was causing the potential threat. He just had knowledge of it. Thus, the fetus question is relevant as their brains contain information that will unlock the secrets to the cure.

    Patterico pointed out that liberals tend to dodge questions about waterboarding and information. Aren’t your points of clarification a similar dodge?

    Chuck Foxtrot (bec298)

  286. #280
    You know this whole liberals are x and conservatives are y with y always being the morally superior gets tiring at times.

    Until you throw out something like the following:

    A country is convinced through intelligence and spies that another country possesses WMD and is closely tied to AlQuaida. Lots of posturing and justification is made to justify invding the country and overthrowing the government to find that neither assumption was true.

    Yes or No conservatives who never take a self righteous position: Was the war a mistake? No wavering or dodging. Just answer the question yes or no.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  287. No it was not.

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  288. #282
    So it is okay to start a war on premises that are not true?

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  289. That was not your question. Your question assumed the information was believed accurate. You also suggest that only two reasons were given, which is not the case of Iraq.

    And if you think Saddam had gotten rid of all his WMDs and just couldn’t give us the paperwork to prove it…

    Well, that’s just silly.

    Invading was the right decision.

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  290. So conservatives are incapable of admitting mistakes because they are never wrong? Are you saying that the US is morally superior and even a mistake is a morally correct decision?

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  291. I won’t admit to a mistake because I don’t believe that a mistake was made. Was the stuff after the initial invasion run correctly? No. There were mistakes made there.

    But the invasion was the right thing.

    If you can prove that every single one of the dozen-some reasons given were 100% wrong and we knew they were wrong at the time, then I’d admit a mistake was made maybe.

    But when dealing with someone who has proven to be willing to use WMDs, to use hindsight to judge a decision isn’t entirely fair.

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  292. Scott,

    Sorry but it sounds like you are dodging. In Patterico’s hypothetical the proof was discovered after the torture. In my example the proof was debunked after the invasion.

    What exactly is different about the two? The reason this is important to consider is that in the future the country’s willingness to go to war may be reduced because there is little blunt honesty about Iraq. Ditto the discussion re waterboarding.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  293. Sorry but it sounds like you are dodging. In Patterico’s hypothetical the proof was discovered after the torture. In my example the proof was debunked after the invasion.

    While the information was gathered after the act, there was a reasonable belief (very very strong beliefe in the case of KSM) that there was such information.

    Such a belief existed regarding Saddam and Iraq.

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  294. CF #280,

    Flying airplanes into buildings is the same as cancer. Unborn babies are the same as Al Qaeda leaders. Thank you. It’s all clear to me now.

    nk (09a321)

  295. in the future the country’s willingness to go to war may be reduced because there is little blunt honesty about Iraq.

    In this you are quite correct.

    How often do you hear good things about Iraq? There is a great deal of dishonesty regarding the war.

    Very good of you to point that out. I’d not have though that you would agree with me in that regard. I am pleasantly surprised.

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  296. #288
    And the belief about Saddam turned out to be wrong. Don’t we owe an honest discussion about the war to the thousands of dead and injured who went to war?

    This is where the whole “I’m a liberal and you are a conservative and never the twain shall meet” division makes me truly disgusted with most of our partisans of both sides.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  297. “At least I can now sick you on the people who say it’s ALWAYS morally wrong.”

    ‘Worth it’ and ‘morally wrong’ are different concepts. It could be ‘worth it’ to win the lottery, but gambling could be ‘morally wrong.’

    Again, this adds up to you being disingenious when you say you want to isolate the moral question. You don’t. You want to find a moral club.

    whitd (10527e)

  298. RE #281
    While I believe (with 20/20 hindsight) that the Iraq war was a mistake,a mistake is just that a mistake. there have been plenty of wars that started in similar circumstances. WWI was all a huge mistake. most of the players had no interest in going to war, they stumbled into it.

    Based on what was known and honestly believed. no it was not a mistake. It may have been an error of judgment, but that’s a different story.

    Dr T (b1f404)

  299. This is where the whole “I’m a liberal and you are a conservative and never the twain shall meet” division makes me truly disgusted with most of our partisans of both sides.

    I believe that is because it appears that liberals are unable to look at a trend in behavior (using WMDs on his own people, rape/torture rooms etc) and use it to predict future events.

    He had sought to buy yellow cake. This is a fact. That suggests something to me that I would like to stop.

    It seems that Liberals exist in a vacuum, where prior acts don’t reveal trends.

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  300. Scott,
    I think partisans of both sides exist in a vacuum.It manifests itself in the talk radio, liberal newspapers and political pundits. One upsmanship replaces real concern for what is best for the country.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  301. Pat wants to be able to say to himself that he can have clean hands no matter what. That he can walk away. But even victorious generals for good causes have nightmares. Moral responsibility ways heavy, or it should.

    It doesn’t weigh heavy on George Bush. And frinkly it doesn’t way heavy on Pat, yet. The war is an abstrction. It’s an idea. When the numbers are confirmed and we know how many people died in this busslshit, we’ll see how he feels.
    I’m sure there are plenty of people who will say “it was worth it” no matter what. The sense of denial here amazes me.

    blah (fb88b3)

  302. I haven’t read all 280 comments thus far because a lot of them seem to have derived into arguing about Stace’s answer. But I want to address this question.

    My short answer is yes it is worth it and I am not going to hedge like fritz and say prosecute afterwords because there is nothing to prosecute.

    Bear with me here because I am not a lawyer but I am going to try and argue a point that is specifically legal in nature.

    In my mind this argument comes down to a few principles:

    Based on the way I have seen court rulings reported in the news and various arguments I have heard the constitutional arguments would be based on article 4 and 5 of the Bill of Rights. (ah damn it i lost my train of thought on this part. But what I was nasically getting to was that those articles wouldn’t apply in the hypothetical. The constitution clearly anticipates times of national emergency such as in Article when it discusses the suspension of Haebous Corpus during rebellion or invasion)

    The second part comes down to whether or not waterboarding meets the definition of torture. Torture is defined in Title 180.2340 as

    (1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
    (2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
    (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
    (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
    (C) the threat of imminent death; or
    (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and (this definition is from Cornell Law School)

    I would argue that professionally administered Waterboarding has few longterm mental effects (other than shame possibly) as evidenced by the large number of US Military Personnel who are subjected to it in the course of their training or the recent experiences of journalists who have had themselves waterboarded to see what it was like.

    Some people will argue that waterbaording results in severe physical pain, or that it threatens imminent death, but the way I read the law that application of pain or the threat have to result in prolonged mental harm. There is no evidence that I have seen that waterboarding does that. Therefore in my admittedly amateur interpretation of the law it isn’t illegal.

    Morally this question is stickier, but what it essentially comes down to is what results in the greater good and unless the building they are planning to fly the planes into is filled with child rapists and mass murders exclusively there is no honest way to conclude that the 1.5 minutes of unpleasantness that KSM was subjected to outweighs the suffering that will be felt by all those who lose loved ones in the attack. That doesn’t even factor in the aftereffects on the community at large.

    Those that argue the US should be better than this may have a point, but shouldn’t everyone? What makes it ok for Hamas to walk into a mall in Israel and blow up kids. Or for Chechnyans to take over a school and hold the kids hostage ultimately leading to their death. Or for 19 gusy to fly 4 planes into 3 buildings and kill thousands? There isn’t any kind of moral comparison and to try and argue there is is to be morally dishonest.

    Maybe everyone else should be trying to live up to our standards.

    chad (582404)

  303. Blah,
    Good example of the left leaning partisans. It is what it is. Your feelings about Bush are not the central issue. All aspects of the Iraq war should be examined including the media slant, misrepresentation of Democrat leadership in regards to their constituents, oil for food influence on UN, and how the intelligence got so badly botched.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  304. There are were liberals whom I respect and admire and I wish there were more like them around today. So I am going to avoid using “liberal” and use “progressive” or “leftie”.

    Comparing Saddam’s crimes to Milosevic’s, the Iraq war is infinitely more justifiable than the Kosovo war. Except that the Iraq war is conducted by a president the left detests and the Kosovo war by a president it drools over.

    nk (09a321)

  305. “Comparing Saddam’s crimes to Milosevic’s, the Iraq war is infinitely more justifiable than the Kosovo war.”

    Some people don’t think its just the evil being attacked that makes war justifiable. The cost of the war is part of the calculus too.

    whitd (10527e)

  306. I participated (with poor behavior on my part) in another thread on this topic several days ago and since then have been trying to understand why comment wars are so easily started when hypotheticals such as this are posed:

    “Here is the question again in case you missed it, liberals: based on the above hypothetical facts, was the waterboarding session worth it?”

    When “it” means the short-term discomfort of KSM to stop the ticking-time-bomb scenario, I’d vote “yes”.

    As long as “it” doesn’t mean establishing a precedent where near-torture is normalized as an investigative technique – then I am free to contemplate KSMs’ discomfort as a tiny bit of just desserts, which is fine by me.

    My bet is that lack of clarity on the part of our host regarding “it” is what starts the brouhaha and that this is by design.

    JSinAZ (e71b0b)

  307. Some people don’t think its just the evil being attacked that makes war justifiable. The cost of the war is part of the calculus too.

    Cost and value are not the same thing. And we’re back to “is it worth it”? ;)

    nk (09a321)

  308. Yes. Worth it.

    otcconan (658082)

  309. nk #289

    Again, all I asked for was an answer to the question. Patterico asked for a straight answer to his question, which I provided without caveats in #276. Again, I reiterate, unless the outcome is a known certainty, I do not support torture. Since we can never be certain of future events, I do not support torture of anyone held under our power.

    All I am asking is for you to do the same without sensationalistic statements like:

    Flying airplanes into buildings is the same as cancer. Unborn babies are the same as Al Qaeda leaders. Thank you. It’s all clear to me now.

    Chuck Foxtrot (bec298)

  310. “Sacrificing” some of your population for the greater good is not the same as treating your enemy less than kindly for your own good.

    Nice assertion – care to expound?

    Horatio (f61519)

  311. This kind of an on-line version of Saw (1-4)

    David Ehrenstein (5411c5)

  312. The most important aspect of your premise is “Liberals won’t.”

    Then a Liberal comes along who “will” and it’s immediately rhetorically reconfigured by you and yours as a “won’t.”

    This is a sucker’s game.

    David Ehrenstein (5411c5)

  313. Argh…East coast poster, 13 minutes + 3 hours from my perspective. Sorry.

    Pious Agnostic (291f9a)

  314. Horatio #306, I assumed that you meant the accusation that Churchill “allowed” the bombing of Coventry in order not to reveal the fact that the Allies had decrypted the German codes. If you meant something else, please let me know.

    I suppose I could expound this way: I don’t see that it is the same thing to break my knuckles on my assailant’s face while defending myself as it is to break his nose. Or to send out our soldiers to defend us knowing that some will be killed with knowing that they will kill the enemy.

    CF #304, I can’t think that fuzzily. There’s a specific situation here, waterboarding a terrorist, and I have no interest in questions from Philosophy 101.

    nk (09a321)

  315. It should be noted that in ’93 I believe it was, Pres Clinton was sure enough of Saddams continues chemical program to lob a few cruise missles.

    And Both Clintons, Reid, Biden, etc are on tape as having said that Saddam was a threat to the US, and that he had WMDs.

    All of this was some years ago. Was Bush so diabolical he could convince people of his lie before he was even in office?

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  316. NK: I was in Santa Cruz at the time of the Kosovo war, and the leftist population there was uniformly opposed to it and had regular protests.

    aphrael (12fba5)

  317. aphrael #310,

    I believe you which is why I’m rethinking my “liberal” label. Unfortunately, I do not remember the same intensity, not to say virulence, that I see now, except from my Serbian friends.

    nk (09a321)

  318. Horatio #306, I assumed that you meant the accusation that Churchill “allowed” the bombing of Coventry in order not to reveal the fact that the Allies had decrypted the German codes. If you meant something else, please let me know.

    I suppose I could expound this way: I don’t see that it is the same thing to break my knuckles on my assailant’s face while defending myself as it is to break his nose. Or to send out our soldiers to defend us knowing that some will be killed with knowing that they will kill the enemy.

    Horatio (f61519)

  319. oops

    Horatio #306, I assumed that you meant the accusation that Churchill “allowed” the bombing of Coventry in order not to reveal the fact that the Allies had decrypted the German codes. If you meant something else, please let me know.

    I suppose I could expound this way: I don’t see that it is the same thing to break my knuckles on my assailant’s face while defending myself as it is to break his nose. Or to send out our soldiers to defend us knowing that some will be killed with knowing that they will kill the enemy.

    So, if I understand you – it’s OK to have your population intentionally terrorized by the Luftwaffe, – for the “greater good” but it’s not OK to terrorize/torture a captured combatant also for “the greater good”?

    It’s OK to permit it to occur, not not OK to do it yourself?

    Horatio (f61519)

  320. someone hit “submit” thinking it would preview… :)

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  321. Horatio #313,

    If you’re going to understand me only how you want to, we can stop talking right now. I have already stated my position on waterboarding on two threads and it is that waterboarding as we do it and for the reasons we do it is just fine with me. Neither immoral or ilegal.

    Which is an entirely different question from the sacrifice you make of yourself in a war. The most cautious estimate is that 20 million Russians died in WWII (some say as many as 40 million but Stalin concealed casualties so as not to show how much Russia had been weakened.) But they saved their country and helped save the world from a monster. How many tears should they have shed for the Nazi monsters they killed?

    nk (09a321)

  322. Of course it was justified.

    Because we know before we answer the question that
    1. the guy is guilty
    2. doing this will get us useful information we could get no other way
    3. we’ll save lives.
    4. the person we torture won’t be permanently harmed.

    The people who tortured KSM knew none of these, they suspected some of them but they didn’t know.

    I think once you replace certainty with suspicion the answer can change. Since we’ll never have certainty in the real world it’s silly to base the argument around it.

    joe (fd0080)

  323. I’ve got to admit that I’m surprised that Patterico supports water boarding when it appears to violate treaties we’ve signed. IANAL but my understanding was that these treaties forbid water boarding and that they have the force of law.

    His argument seems to be that it’s okay to break the formal rule because it’s morally justified.

    I don’t think he’d apply this same argument to a juror who acquitted an obviously guilty dope smoker because the juror didn’t think it was moral to send someone to prison for simple possession.

    But I know a lot of libertarians who think that the dope example is fine. They get real bent out of shape when a jury gives a huge monetary award that isn’t supported by the facts because the jury felt sorry for the plaintiff and thought a insurance company could afford it.

    joe (fd0080)

  324. Patterico, since many of the liberals have answered your question don’t you think you should modify the post?

    joe (fd0080)

  325. Any serious person knows that torture is always highly immoral and a disgusting disregard for the rights of persons and that if it isn’t illegal it ought to be. I haven’t seen a definition of torture yet that would tend to show that there is the possibility of “moral torture” or torture that is not evil in and of itself and is compatible with the American understanding of individual rights/human dignity.

    Torture is: (a) the intentional infliction of extreme physical suffering on some non-consenting, defenceless person; (b) the intentional, substantial curtailment of the exercise of the person’s autonomy (achieved by means of (a)); (c) in general, undertaken for the purpose of breaking the victim’s will.

    Waterboarding fits this definition perfectly.

    Fritz (d62210)

  326. Fritz,

    Is that anything like locking someone up in a maximum security prison for life?

    nk (09a321)

  327. Any serious person knows that torture is always highly immoral and a disgusting disregard for the rights of persons and that if it isn’t illegal it ought to be.

    The rights of someone who wants to kill countless americans don’t matter to me in the slightest.

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  328. Scott: that’s a troubling attitude to me. Either human rights are universal, to be accorded to everyone … or they are to be accorded only to good people, and not to bad people.

    But that latter scheme involves empowering someone to decide who is good, and who is bad; who is deserving of human rights and who is not … and while you may like where they draw the line today, there’s no good reason to assume that the line won’t be drawn somewhere else tomorrow.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  329. Joe, I don’t think element #2 is met in the hypothetical. The hypo says the information is reliable, but if it’s reliable, that means it’s verifiable, and if it’s verifiable, the information can be obtained in some other way.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  330. Q for liberals:

    What do you believe was/is the nature of the psychological damage done to KSM by subjecting him to waterboarding?

    Is you view influenced at all by the fact that before he came into US custody, his normal psychological state was such that he was perfectly fine with crashing airplanes into tall buildings and killing thousands of people?

    Do you think he’s “worse off” by virtue of having been waterboarded given his prior mental makeup?

    wls (a6fede)

  331. Scott Jacobs,

    Their rights ought to matter to you. It’s our respect for their rights that separates us from them. It’s part of why we’re right and they’re wrong.

    nk,

    Locking a guilty person up for life without the possibility of parole is an example of justice.

    Assuming that the folks in Gitmo are unlawful combatants, and I would really prefer a court-martial or trial of some kind to sort that out, they have already forfeited their lives because, of course, the just punishment for their crime is death. Keeping them for a few years at our pleasure is perfectly within our rights.

    Torturing someone, even a guilty person or a terrorist, is an injustice because unlike just combat killing or lawful execution it is disregarding their humanity.

    Fritz (d62210)

  332. First, sorry to respond to a comment so early in the cycle, but I only stop by so often. I beg forgiveness if I am repeating any point made by another person.

    Second, let me take Patterico’s second scenario: I’ll even change the facts more. Instead of thousands of lives, it’s one life: my daughter’s.

    I’d chop off every finger and every toe of a guilty person, who had knowledge that could save my daughter. I’d cover him with honey and stake him to a red ant pile. There’s no torture so barbaric that I wouldn’t do it. To save my daughter’s life.

    As Patterico knows, my wife and I are expecting twins. I too would “chop off every finger and every toe of a guilty person” to save my forthcoming twins, or my wife for that matter. I think it would be “more than worth it.” I genuinely do. I would then likely kill the SOB for putting me in the situation. After which, I would turn myself in to the police and expect Patterico, SPQR, and whoever else, to prosecute the hell out of me for the heinous crime I committed.

    Would it have been worth it? Yes.

    Christian Johnson (d62210)

  333. Their rights ought to matter to you. It’s our respect for their rights that separates us from them. It’s part of why we’re right and they’re wrong.

    and

    Their rights ought to matter to you. It’s our respect for their rights that separates us from them. It’s part of why we’re right and they’re wrong.

    Bull.

    The “rights” of someone ends when they want to kill my fellow citizens. They prove they care not a whit about the rights of others, and that they are willing to kill as many as possible.

    Those people might have rights, but I sure as hell don’t care.

    The “injustice” of torture obviously bothers you people more than the “injustice” of John and Jane Q. Public dying in a terrorist act.

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  334. “Patterico, since many of the liberals have answered your question don’t you think you should modify the post?”

    A lot of us did, a long time ago. Some have waffled and they get mocked as a way of avoiding the issue.
    There are times when simple utilitarianism becomes the rule of the day (and this point was made in the first comments above) but those moments are never victories for morality. You can’t lower yourself into the mud and expect to end up clean. When you do it, admit it and admit the consequences. Accept the choice and admit that you’d do it again.

    It’s true that some liberals want simple answers, and it seems safe to say all conservatives do. You want to return to the garden and live the lives of moral children. You choose leaders to make the big moral decisions for you and then get upset when others try to point out that your leaders are failing in their responsibilities. You’d rather have your illusions than face your own reponsibiity for the mess.

    Adults are capable of doing things they consider shameful and of admitting that shameful things are sometimes necessary.
    This simple understanding seems to elude many of the people here. That was clear in the title of the post.

    “A Hypothetical that Liberal Opponents of Waterboarding Will Not Answer”

    You don’t want us to admit that we’d torture, you want us to tell you we’d feel no shame. You want our permission to feel no shame yourself.
    But we’re not your parents.

    blah (fb88b3)

  335. Aph:

    Rights don’t apply to terrorists. Affording them the same rights as their victims says volumes about your mentality and morality.

    And yes society does define good and bad. Apparently you have difficulty in accepting that. Too bad. Terrorists have no difficulty at all with those labels. Since they have decided they are above and outside the laws of humanity its ridiculous for you to argue that these laws should protect them.

    Apparently the only one here willing to redraw the line on a daily basis is you. Terrorists are despirsed by the civilized world and their treatment has been universal for centuries. Even the Geneva Convention stipulates summary execution of such scum.

    Its amazing that the cretins who argue against torture never bother to address what the Geneva Convention stipulates.

    I find the cost of satisfying people like Alp’s morality way too steep since these people will not serve; will not promote American ideals; and require a moral supremacy built on the ashes of tens of thousands of Americans to satisfy abit too demanding to say it was worth it rather than torture a terrorist for ten minutes.

    I thinking placing terrorists in a small closet with the Hildabeast a small cost to America’s moral superiority. The only people who will question it are the politboro cheerleaders like Alp.

    I think we can afford the cost.

    Thomas Jackson (bf83e0)

  336. Christian Johnson: that’s precisely emblematic of the attitude I was describing above in #179. You accept that it would be a heinous crime, and you would expect to be prosecuted for it … but you would do it *anyway*, because the good that would be gained from it would justify, for you, the price that you would have to pay for the evil.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  337. To Pattericos follow up I would answer no, it is not moral but Yes it was justified. What may need to be done is not always what should be done.

    I liked JsinAZ’s #301. Waterboard this one bastard but don’t let it become a precedent. I think Stacy in Tucson’s #266 gives a great window on why. She makes what I think could be an all too easy association with a known leader captured in country and waterboarded, with prisoners held in Guantanamo bay. Those persons are not “terrorists” but “detainees” who have no rights and have not been proven to be “terrorists”. But she calls them that, and suggests that they could get the same treatment as the guy in Iraq for all she cares.

    That is why waterboarding and other coercive techniques need to stay taboo, because it is all too easy to start equating one set of people with another. It is to the CIA’s credit(giving them the benfit of the doubt here, for all we know they waterboarded everyone), and maybe illustrative to the argument that they have used in on so few people. Maybe they are worried (in addition to ending up fired or in jail)about precedent also.

    Regardless of what people think of Patterico’s hypothetical I think it accomplished it’s purpose quite nicely. 300+ mostly thoughtful posts!

    EdWood (c2268a)

  338. Thomas Jackson: please provide evidence that I am redrawing the line on a daily basis or withdraw the claim that I am.

    I am not making a legal claim about what we are required to do under the Geneva Convention; that’s a seperate conversation. I’m making a *moral* claim that human rights are absolute — everyone has them, not just people I like.

    Part of this is definitional: if rights adhere only to good people and not to bad, then they are not rights; they are priviliges, to be withheld by the state at its will.

    But part of it is a moral claim: fundamental human rights are fundamental, and I have no right to deny them, just because I don’t like the things a person does. I have a right to protect myself from them; to exclude them from society, to lock them up for self-preservation, to kill them if I have to … but I don’t have the right to torture them, or to treat them as nonpersons.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  339. Was the war a mistake? No wavering or dodging. Just answer the question yes or no.

    I’ve already answered this one: yes.

    I would have gone to war based on what we knew.

    But it’s clear, in hindsight, that it was a mistake.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  340. Also: since the US military would not accept me were I to enlist, unless I were to lie to them, it seems unfair to me to criticize me for not serving.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  341. I’ve got to admit that I’m surprised that Patterico supports water boarding when it appears to violate treaties we’ve signed. IANAL but my understanding was that these treaties forbid water boarding and that they have the force of law.

    His argument seems to be that it’s okay to break the formal rule because it’s morally justified.

    Find me where I’ve said that.

    Find me where I have said this is a legal discussion.

    Don’t read too much into my question. If I say it’s purely a moral question, I mean that.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  342. Patterico,
    Thanks for answering.

    voiceofreason (cc6b4f)

  343. blah #328,

    You are a hopeless romantic. We are not talking about James Bond or Sergio Leone’s anti-heroes. We are talking about practical steps to keep ourselves and our children safe at the expense of …? Our romantic self-image as knights in shining armor? Ain’t gonna happen, buddy. We’re gonna kill those Al-Qaedas, cook them and eat them. Unless they kill us, cook us and eat us first. And that’s why I want you out of my kitchen.

    nk (09a321)

  344. whitd says:

    ‘Worth it’ and ‘morally wrong’ are different concepts. It could be ‘worth it’ to win the lottery, but gambling could be ‘morally wrong.’

    Hm. But the true analogy to this question is if, in the context of a discussion of whether gambling is moral, I asked a bunch of people who claimed it wasn’t moral whether it would nevertheless be “worth it” to buy a lottery ticket if it would win them a million dollars — thus providing critical medical treatment for a loved one. Isn’t it clear I am asking them a moral question? Isn’t it clear I am asking them: despite your general moral objections to gambling, would you still gamble if the payoff was this significant?

    Nevertheless, I invite whitd and all other liberals who answered yes to answer this question:

    If you answered “yes’ to “was it worth it?” — would your answer be any different if I asked “was it the moral thing to do under the circumstances?

    Or, put another way:

    If the only choices are a) waterboarding as described in the hypothetical or b) allowing the Library Tower attack to go forward, killing thousands — then do you think option “a” is the one that a morally upstanding person should choose . . . even if you generally disappove of waterboarding as immoral?

    I don’t think that’s a different question at all. I would expect everyone who already answered yes, and who is also capable of giving a forthright answer, to say something like this:

    I believe that waterboarding is evil/immoral. However, on pure utilitarian grounds, I believe it is sometimes less evil/immoral than another action. In those limited cases, assuming that it is the only option for avoiding the greater evil, I believe it would be the morally correct choice to engage in the less immoral/evil act.

    If anyone who answered yes before would change their answer if the above question(s) were posed, now is the time to tell us. We’ll start with whitd. Was waterboarding the morally correct choice under the circumstances posed in the hypothetical?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  345. Itsme,

    You mean, P, that we didn’t answer to your satisfaction.

    Too bad.

    It really was a pointless exercise.

    Good night.

    To my surprise, many of the regulars did answer.

    You weaseled.

    “To my satisfaction” would have been “yes” or “no.” You could toss in any explanation or ranting you wanted, but I wanted a yes or no answer.

    Like the one I gave voiceofreason in 333.

    Now, voiceofreason arguably asks that question as a “gotcha” — but the answer tells you something about the answerer regardless. Can you really look at the results of this war — known in hindsight — and say it was worth it?

    Straight answers are worth something, Itsme. I (eventually) got one from blah and Andrew J. Lazarus. I got one straightaway from whitd. I got the from other people.

    I never got one from you. You have distinguished yourself as someone who can’t give a direct answer to a simple question.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  346. I have a little trouble keeping track, but I believe I am now supposed to say that I still don’t believe in torture even if my family is in the endangered bulding.

    Sure.

    What’s more, I don’t think my personal reaction should be the standard for what’s acceptable. If you come home and find your wife with another man, and kill them, then for what you personally did, there should be some compassion. (Not a Texas-style acquittal, but compassion.) But that’s different from saying it would be OK in any way for the judicial system to put the adulterers to death. I thought that was what made Iran so bad.

    Scott Jacobs is, I think, the first person I’ve ever seen proud of the fact his word is worthless. Funny position for a conservative. Looks more Leninist to me.

    Nobody has yet volunteered to trade their spouse for KSM’s confession. Funny how we like excuses for our sadistic fantasies, not the truly unpleasant ones.

    And I wouldn’t mind a thread to discuss how bogus the premises of the question are.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  347. What are you talking about, Andrew J. Lazarus? I see nothing but obfuscation. There is no equivalence between:

    1. a revenge killing for someone sleeping with your wife with her full consent; and
    2. coercing someone involved in a plot to kill your wife to prevent the killing of your wife.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  348. KSM’s waterboarders acted morally. Right.

    Thank you, David Blue, for being the only person who gave a “yes” answer to answer my follow-up question.

    Maybe I do need a new thread for the follow-ups.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  349. I have a little trouble keeping track, but I believe I am now supposed to say that I still don’t believe in torture even if my family is in the endangered bulding.

    Sure.

    Nope, that’s a dodge answer, because you’re just mocking the question. You’re not really answering it.

    Also, I asked two questions, and you only evaded one by mocking it. The other you ignored entirely.

    I want to know what you really think.

    It’s a very simple question, which you apparently saw because you responded to it (in a flip way), but I’ll repeat it here if you “lost track”:

    a) What if the people saved included everyone you held dear? Your parents. Your children, if any. Your spouse, if any. Your closest friends. Same answer?

    b) 2 1/2 minutes is too much. How about 2 minutes? 90 seconds? A minute? 30 seconds? 20? 10? Or is even 5 seconds of pouring water on KSM’s face not worth saving thousands of lives?

    Your answers?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  350. And I wouldn’t mind a thread to discuss how bogus the premises of the question are.

    Answer my questions and I’ll let you talk about that right here.

    I threw open the question for discussion in comment 245.

    But let’s not go there, Andrew, until you’ve answered the questions.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  351. Oh, and in light of whitd’s complaint that I wasn’t asking a moral question, please answer the question posed here as well.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  352. Chuck Foxtrot,

    Your questions are interesting. I will say that for myself, my willingness to analyze the problem along utilitarian lines increases dramatically when the person I am harming is a guilty party. Thus, I wouldn’t do things to innocents that I would do to KSM, even if the utilitarian payoff was great.

    As David Blue says, these principles come with a price tag.

    Also, to remind everyone, this is a moral discussion, not a legal one. Nothing I express here is a legal view.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  353. Patterico, a simpler point to me is if KSM is involved in the plot to kill everyone that person holds dear, then how could they care about him who is actively engaged in trying to destroy the person’s family, children, etc?

    To take some poor shmuck off the street and cause him temporary terror for his life and apprehension drowning is one thing… but to cause that in the person actively and likely successfully trying to kill everyone you care about is something else entirely. If we can cause regrettable collateral damage in war, why is a couple minutes of extreme discomfort for someone who plotted to harm your people and has info that could keep them safe so distressing?

    It’s just like leftist don’t differentiate between the innocent and guilty.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  354. Patterico, there’s a little bit of space between your hypo in #348 and your hypo in the question.

    For your hypo in #348, where it is clear that there is *no other way*, then it would be worth it to torture the guy. Your original hypo left some room for another way.

    It would still be immoral to do it, and there would still be a moral price to pay. But sometimes pragmatism requires choosing an immoral course, if the other alternatives are more immoral.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  355. Also known as choosing the moral course, aphrael.

    Question for you: A rapist murderer has just savaged someone close to you and is ten feet away from them mocking her and telling you how he’s going to slice her throat as he moves toward her with a knife. You have a gun.

    Is killing him pragmatic, but simply the least immoral course available? Or is it morally good to kill him under the above circumstance? I say it is good.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  356. Christoph took the words right out of my mouth, aphrael.

    Isn’t choosing the less immoral of two choices the correct moral choice?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  357. “Straight answers are worth something, Itsme. I (eventually) got one from blah…”

    You go one from me days ago, as I remended you above.
    Again, stop lying.
    And morally necessary is not the same as morally good.

    blah (fb88b3)

  358. Again, stop lying.

    Buh-bye for now!

    Patterico (bad89b)

  359. blah, you quote Patterico as saying, “I (eventually) got one from blah…” then you say, “You go one from me days ago…” and on the basis of these two statements, his and yours, which say exactly the same thing, you call him a liar?

    Ouch. I think you ticked him off, but you merely amused me with your lack of logic.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  360. In this question I asked whether waterboarding under particular circumstances would be worth it — obviously meaning morally worth it. blah evaded answering the question for several comments.

    When I pointed out blah had evaded, blah said s/he had answered the question several days ago, and pointed to this previous comment of his/hers:

    “The question is not whether or not in the most extreme examples of the ticking bomb scenario, torture would be applied. There’s not doubt it would happen. There wouldn’t even be a question. And that’s what Presidential pardons are for. But that’s not what you’ve talking about, you’re talking about torture as policy, and a policy we refused to apply against Nazi Germany.”

    That is not a personal opinion whether waterboarding under the circumstances described in the hypo would be justified.

    I don’t appreciate being told I’m “lying” when I point out that simple fact. Not only is it wrong, it’s fighting words. And blah does this all the time. I’m sick of it and am giving blah a one-week timeout. At least.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  361. I do agree that “morally necessary” is not necessarily the same as “morally good.” But I think it does equate to “morally justified.”

    And in the context of this hypo, I think it also equates to “worth it.”

    Patterico (bad89b)

  362. I like it to a surgeon cutting off a limb to save a patient. It hurts. It’s destructive. It’s morally necessary. But just “necessary”? Or is it a “good” use of his talents? I think the latter.

    Not many people would make good interrogators — sufficiently hard, but also decent and disciplined enough not to go overboard. But are such people acting on our behalf in truly exigent circumstances merely doing a morally bad, but necessary thing… or are they using their God-given talents in the best way they can at that moment.

    It’s like a soldier. On the one hand, he may be capable of playing the guitar and singing at the Sick Children’s Hospital. On the other hand, he’s capable of aiming the C-6 machine gun and killing the enemies of his country that are murdering innocent people who merely want to live in freedom and choose their own leaders, not be enslaved.

    Is this not an equally good use of his talents? Is it not only braver, but also less pleasant for him and all concerned? Is he not doing it for the right reasons? Should he (or the doctor) for the rest of their life berate themselves for doing something immoral, but necessary, or should he say, “I did the right thing”. It was unpleasant, but also right.

    While I don’t know what cases he has tried, in theory if not yet in practice Patterico kills people. Or at least he takes away their freedom. He ensures they are held captive. He works with judges and juries to set limits on their behavior after their release or in lieu of confinement. That’s his job as a prosecutor.

    Are these immoral actions? Is Patterico bad when he does this? Is he just choosing the least bad option? Should he instead spend 50 hours a week working as a nurse (also noble work)?

    Or is he using his unique talents and ability in a good way, in a way that not everyone could or would want to?

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  363. *liken

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  364. Of course, by positing that my family is in the endangered tower, we’re truly entering the fantasy world. I don’t think you were listening to my answer: it is still not permissible to legalize torture. Would I commit torture under those circumstances? Perhaps. Do I think it should be lawful for me to commit torture under those circumstances? Definitely not. Would I expect to be punished? Yes, I think I would. Do I think the government should authorize, countenance, or direct torture by relatives of potential victims (regardless of legality)? No.

    I don’t particularly wish to guarantee what I would do if I found my wife in bed with someone else, either—except, I suppose, since we don’t own firearms that cuts down on the possibilities. I don’t see that has much bearing on my belief that the death penalty is inappropriate for adultery, no matter how many Republican presidential campaigns it spares us.

    A debate over how many seconds of waterboarding it takes to create torture is not especially interesting to me. Sorry. The treaties we signed look like bright-line rules to me.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  365. Banned from the playroom?
    I’ll go back downstairs with the adults.

    blah (fb88b3)

  366. I don’t think you were listening to my answer: it is still not permissible to legalize torture.

    I don’t think you were listening to the question: I am asking a moral question, not a question of what should be legalized.

    Let’s try yet again.

    a) What if the people saved included everyone you held dear? Your parents. Your children, if any. Your spouse, if any. Your closest friends. Would you believe it is morally correct to waterboard KSM for 2 1/2 minutes under those circumstances, if it were established that doing so would save the lives of those closest to you?

    b) 2 1/2 minutes is too much. How about 2 minutes? 90 seconds? A minute? 30 seconds? 20? 10? Or is even 5 seconds of pouring water on KSM’s face not worth saving thousands of lives?

    I understand that you are refusing to answer question b. There is no good answer to it, for someone who takes your position, and so it is not surprising that you would refuse.

    How about a? Can we take your repeated reluctance to provide a direct answer as a refusal to answer that one as well?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  367. The treaties we signed look like bright-line rules to me.

    That sounds like you want to imply that even one second of waterboarding would not be morally justified.

    If that is your position, why not take the bull by the horns and just say so?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  368. Of course, by positing that my family is in the endangered tower, we’re truly entering the fantasy world.

    It’s a hypo. As I say in the post: “Arguing against the hypothetical by saying that the assumptions aren’t realistic is dodging the moral question.”

    Patterico (bad89b)

  369. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

    A Time for Everything

    There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

    We are left with the responsibility of earning the privileges granted to us by previous rough men who stood in the breach and bled so we could sleep peacefully (to mix a few metaphors and badly paraphrase great authors).

    Given what the Conventions at the Hague and in Geneva were intended to do, “water-boarding” is very, very merciful for the people with whom we are at war…

    Those who disagree might look up the rules of war for a definition of legal combatant and determine what, if any protection is either given (or implied) for those who willfully step outside that definition.

    HINT: None.

    One Wiki states:

    Soldiers who break specific provisions of the laws of war lose the protections and status afforded as prisoners of war but only after facing a “competent tribunal” (GC III Art 5). At that point they become an unlawful combatant but they must still be “treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial”, because they are still covered by GC IV Art 5.

    That does not address the issue correctly, as terrorists are not “civilians”, per se. And since all of the Conventions basically state belligerents must not hide among civilians:

    4.1.2 Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, provided that they fulfill all of the following conditions:
    * that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
    * that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance (there are limited exceptions to this among countries who observe the 1977 Protocol I);
    * that of carrying arms openly;
    * that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

    There are consequences for not following the rules of war. One of those consequences is that unlawful combatants may be executed for war crimes (can you say Nuremberg?). Some “bleeding heart” types blame the victims. Some of us would rather blame the perpetrators.

    It is to much to hope that liberals can assimilate this quickly; but perhaps, given time, they may understand that we really are the good guys…

    jtb-in-texas (bf834b)

  370. 1. I’ve got to admit that I’m surprised that Patterico supports water boarding when it appears to violate treaties we’ve signed. IANAL but my understanding was that these treaties forbid water boarding and that they have the force of law.
    His argument seems to be that it’s okay to break the formal rule because it’s morally justified.
    Find me where I’ve said that.
    Find me where I have said this is a legal discussion.
    Don’t read too much into my question. If I say it’s purely a moral question, I mean that.
    Comment by Patterico — 11/12/2007 @ 10:12 am
    I’m sorry if I misstated your position. I don’t think I understand it It seems as if you’re supporting the idea that in some cases the ends justify the means and that morally correct can trump legally correct. Can you clarify?

    Personally, I think that the point where pouring water on someone’s face goes from silly to torture is pretty close to the point where it stops being useless.

    I don’t want a system where the government gets to torture people. (I really don’t want a system where they got to torture people and than hide it from us.) In reality we’re not going to torture people we know are terrorists, we’re going to torture people we think are terrorists and we’re going to make mistakes about that. I also think there’s a pretty good slippery slope argument and a pretty good argument for precedent. (i.e. Can Iran water-board a patrol boat they catch in their waters because they really do think it’s part of a larger attack?)

    I’m coming at this from a Kantian standpoint. Act such that the principle upon which you act were a universal truth. (Also known as the golden rule)

    Besides, the information from torture isn’t very reliable.

    joe (fd0080)

  371. That sounds like you want to imply that even one second of waterboarding would not be morally justified.

    Yes, just one second of waterboarding KSM makes us just like the head chopping, jihadis who rig children with suicide bombs.

    I’ve heard a number of people expressing disgust and this completely idiotic moral relevance gains mine. It’s repulsive and thoroughly illogical.

    Pablo (99243e)

  372. Admittedly, I only read the first few entries on the thread. Where Patterico buys into the ends justify the means hypothetical. Better stated: The short-term assumed ends justify the untold damage to our morals, conscience, and credibility.

    Just as easy excuse police searches without a warrant or probable cause. Fuck the constitution. We need to be safe. More important, we need to FEEL safe. I am disgusted. And disillusioned.

    I pledge allegiance to the flag
    Of the United States of America,
    And to the torture, for which she stands…

    nosh (53dd5b)

  373. Are you going to answer the question, nosh?

    Somehow, I doubt it.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  374. See, it’s the self-righteous get-on-your-high-horse folks like nosh who read a whole post like this, the only purpose of which is to pose a question to people like him, and a) ignore the question while they b) give a big self-righteous speech about how torturing is always wrong.

    nosh is precisely the sort of person who will always evade questions like this.

    And I haven’t found anyone yet who answers “yes” who will confront my follow-up. 367 comments and not one person will answer the follow-ups.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  375. Some liberals have a hard time with consequentialism Pat.
    Some conservatives do too.
    Life’s tough

    blah (fb88b3)

  376. Patterico, I simply am not understanding the question. Do I believe that it is morally acceptable for me to torture KSM if my family is in danger? No, I do not. Might I do so anyway even believing that it was immoral; yes, I well might. I might sleep with Angelina Jolie, too, if she asked (remember, we get to play hypo here), and that wouldn’t be moral either. Do I believe that the government should impersonally authorize torture? Definitely not.

    I don’t feel like arguing with JTB over what I believe to be his misunderstanding of the Fourth Geneva Convention (my view: terrorists may be executed after trial but not tortured), so perhaps instead he would like to chew on the International Convention Against Torture, which the US ratified.

    Article 2
    1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
    2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
    3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

    Whatsoever. That’s a big word.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  377. what’s the follow up again dear?

    blah (fb88b3)

  378. OK, I finally watched the Brian Ross video. I think he’s mostly wrong. I’m sure that KSM gave up what he knew. I suspect he also gave up nonsense. If he kept giving more and more names, do you think the CIA cared where the real AQ members ended and any random acquaintances he could give began? And as to the Library Towers conspiracy, there’s no evidence outside torture that it existed, any more than the Doctors’ Plot against Stalin or Cardinal Mindszenty’s fascism. Oh, but I keep foregetting: our torturers are devoted to good, and theirs are evil perverts.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  379. Y’know Pat some liberals just aren’t comfortable with consequentialism. Some conservatives aren’t either at least some of the time.

    So what’s the follow up question again?

    blah (a62b50)

  380. Better stated: The short-term assumed ends justify the untold damage to our morals, conscience, and credibility

    See? That makes me want to puke.

    Pablo (99243e)

  381. My comment, number 69:

    “… based on the above hypothetical facts, was the waterboarding session worth it?

    My answer is that it was worth it.

    However I also say that this ought not to be done, and it ought to be illegal.

    To say that something was worth it in a particular case is not to say that it ought to be allowed in the general case. And because of the slippery slope, it may not be possible to make exceptions for special cases while keeping necessary broad prohibitions intact.

    My comment, number 273:

    Patterico: “Could you answer the questions posed to those who answered yes?

    If Brian Ross is right, then KSM’s waterboarders acted morally. Right?”

    KSM’s waterboarders acted morally. Right.

    Patterico’s comment, number 367:

    And I haven’t found anyone yet who answers “yes” who will confront my follow-up. 367 comments and not one person will answer the follow-ups.

    -

    What part of what I said are you finding evasive, devious or vague?

    Because as I told DRJ, I’m always willing to try and be clearer, as long as it’s just a matter of straight questions and straight answers.

    David Blue (88156b)

  382. Oh geeze, P, sorry I POINTEDLY went to bed, got up, ate breakfast, and worked out before checking into your compelling blog. Super tool that I am !

    I didn’t evade anything. I said in a prior thread I think it’s a tough question. That was the thread where you insisted there were no simple answers, but now I guess you think there are … and they don’t come from “liberals.”

    We’ll ignore for the moment that there are conservatives here who have identified themselves here as opponents to waterboarding.

    My response to your post at this thread has been, and still is, that it is just a pointless hypothetical that does nothing to further real discussion.

    The fact is that one could come up with a stipulation ending with you agreeing that you would throw your own child over a cliff if the scale was weighted enough on the side of the greater good. So what?

    Of course you will say that isn’t answering your question. The fact is it’s just not answering it the way you would like.

    But that seems to be typical of your approach in these matters.

    Buh bye.

    Itsme (7facd4)

  383. Sorry, Patterico, I missed your comment 342. Thanks for acknowledging that.

    I think you do need a separate thread for follow-ups, and you should have started one for the first follow-up.

    David Blue (88156b)

  384. Do I believe that it is morally acceptable for me to torture KSM if my family is in danger? No, I do not.

    Andrew, you seem to insist on recasting the question I ask so that it’s a little different, and then answering your own question.

    Is there a reason it makes you uncomfortable to answer what I actually ask?

    The issue isn’t whether it’s morally acceptable to torture KSM if your family is “in danger.” That leaves out several variables I deliberately included, that render it tougher to give a “no” answer.

    Let me pose the question yet yet again and see if you can give a straight answer to what I actually asked.

    a) What if the people saved included everyone you held dear? Your parents. Your children, if any. Your spouse, if any. Your closest friends. Would you believe it is morally correct to waterboard KSM for 2 1/2 minutes under those circumstances, if it were established that doing so would save the lives of those closest to you?

    b) 2 1/2 minutes is too much. How about 2 minutes? 90 seconds? A minute? 30 seconds? 20? 10? Or is even 5 seconds of pouring water on KSM’s face not worth saving thousands of lives?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  385. Itsme,

    “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer if it’s the truth. I’m just looking for a straight answer, even if it’s “I don’t know.”

    You have no given a straight answer — and now you are turning tail and running from the discussion.

    I think I understand why. These questions are very, very uncomfortable for someone with your self-righteous mindset.

    As I say, after you give a straight answer, you can complain all you like about the question — saying it’s irrelevant, unrealistic, etc. You can try to pose hypos to me.

    But don’t expect to evade the question and then think we won’t notice.

    We all notice.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  386. “My response to your post at this thread has been, and still is, that it is just a pointless hypothetical that does nothing to further real discussion.”

    Translation:

    “My response is to refuse to answer the question.”

    Patterico (bad89b)

  387. And that is the sort of response I expected from everyone.

    To my surprise, some liberals (and other waterboarding opponents) had the guts to answer the question. Kudos to them.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  388. To DRJ, Christoph, and other rational commenters, let me add/clarify:

    I don’t know how I feel about waterboarding and have never presented myself otherwise.

    As to this hypo, yes of course waterboarding KSM would have been “worth it” in restropect. So would have been beating his soles with a hose, pulling out his fingernails, or burning his crotch with a blowtorch.

    So what?

    Does this really further any sort of intelligent discussion as to what the course of our policy should be?

    I don’t think so. So I guess I don’t belong on this thread.

    Have a nice day.

    Itsme (7facd4)

  389. P #375 etc.:

    I posted an additional note to DRJ etc. before I saw yours.

    Truthfully, I don’t care what you think of my responses. I find you dishonest, at least in this thread.

    So again, have a nice day.

    Itsme (7facd4)

  390. 378 is an answer. Now what was so hard about that?

    My follow-up question is this:

    Look at this clip.

    Now, if Brian Ross is right, then the people who waterboarded KSM acted morally, in your view, right?

    Not necessarily legally — but morally.

    You’re welcome to run from the discussion if you feel you must run, Itsme. But I’d be interested in your answer to that question.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  391. Itsme, one thing I’ll say is whether as military training (was once in the military) or just to test myself (I’m a bit crazy) I would try waterboarding under controlled conditions. Thumb screws, no. So I think there’s a difference somewhere.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  392. “Was waterboarding the morally correct choice under the circumstances posed in the hypothetical?”

    That I don’t know. But it was worth it. It’s an efficient allocation of misery.

    whitd (10527e)

  393. Truthfully, I don’t care what you think of my responses. I find you dishonest, at least in this thread.

    Well, truthfully, I haven’t been dishonest at all in this thread. But I’ll overlooked your unevidenced slur, because I actually am interested in your responses.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  394. a) What if the people saved included everyone you held dear? Your parents. Your children, if any. Your spouse, if any. Your closest friends. Would you believe it is morally correct to waterboard KSM for 2 1/2 minutes under those circumstances, if it were established that doing so would save the lives of those closest to you?

    b) 2 1/2 minutes is too much. How about 2 minutes? 90 seconds? A minute? 30 seconds? 20? 10? Or is even 5 seconds of pouring water on KSM’s face not worth saving thousands of lives?

    I’ll answer…

    a) No, it is not morally correct. I’d do it in a heartbeat and be willing to face any repercussions, but I would be completely in the wrong, morally, when I was carrying out the act.

    b) It’s worth it. 5 years of waterboarding is worth it if it saves thousands of lives. But, (and this wasn’t part of the followup question) it’s still morally wrong. Also, the perpetrators should still be brought up on international war crimes charges and face the sentence head on. If it is an act of a single renegade interrogator, then that interrogator should be the one facing charges. If it is a policy to torture detainees, the person(s) who approved the policy should face the tribunal.

    Chuck Foxtrot (bec298)

  395. b) 2 1/2 minutes is too much. How about 2 minutes? 90 seconds? A minute? 30 seconds? 20? 10? Or is even 5 seconds of pouring water on KSM’s face not worth saving thousands of lives?

    This is a silly question. If you say that torturing him was wrong than you can pour water on his face up to the point that it becomes torture. How much electrical current can you apply to his balls before it becomes wrong?

    Is the whole point of this to make someone admit that the ends justify the means? That’s sort of silly. It’s wrong to kill babies but it’s okay to kill baby Hitler if you could go back in time and do so. Does that statement have anything to do with a right to life stance?

    joe (fd0080)

  396. That I don’t know. But it was worth it. It’s an efficient allocation of misery.

    Like I say, “I don’t know” is a fair answer if that’s your answer.

    I posed some questions to the people who said “no,” whitd, and I’ll pose them to you as someone who has said “I don’t know” to the moral question.

    a) What if the people saved included everyone you held dear? Your parents. Your children, if any. Your spouse, if any. Your closest friends. Same answer?

    b) 2 1/2 minutes is too much. How about 2 minutes? 90 seconds? A minute? 30 seconds? 20? 10? Or is even 5 seconds of pouring water on KSM’s face not worth saving thousands of lives?

    Do you still say “I don’t know” to the moral question, whitd?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  397. Chuck Foxtrot,

    You are confusing me now. Do you think whether an action is “justified” is different from whether it is “morally correct”?

    Earlier you said:

    If we know with absolute certainty what the outcome of torture would provide, there can be an argument made that the torture of 1 person is justified to save the lives of thousands. It’s a very utilitarian argument, and utilitarianism is often rejected as an appropriate decision structure within society. I would support it if the outcome was known.

    But now you say:

    No, it is not morally correct. I’d do it in a heartbeat and be willing to face any repercussions, but I would be completely in the wrong, morally, when I was carrying out the act.

    I don’t understand. How can something be “justified” and not “morally correct”?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  398. “Do you still say “I don’t know” to the moral question, whitd?”

    I can’t see why the moral question would change if they were people I know.

    But its worth it. Moving towards a distribution which minimizes total misery is worth it.

    whitd (10527e)

  399. Is the whole point of this to make someone admit that the ends justify the means? That’s sort of silly. It’s wrong to kill babies but it’s okay to kill baby Hitler if you could go back in time and do so. Does that statement have anything to do with a right to life stance?

    So you wouldn’t find it revealing if an anti-abortion activist were to say they wouldn’t kill baby Hitler even if they knew doing so would prevent the Holocaust?

    I would sure like to know how an anti-abortionist activist would answer that question. Because even if it’s obvious that they should say they would kill the baby — and even if we stipulate that such an answer doesn’t mean they are wrong to be against abortion — it is interesting because some of the activists will answer that they shouldn’t kill baby Hitler.

    And that will cause some who are on the fence to say “Hmmmmm. This person seem more fanatical on this subject than makes me comfortable.”

    Patterico (bad89b)

  400. whitd,

    What about question b?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  401. I still don’t know. At some point i suppose it would become so trivial that it wouldn’t matter. Though I think we passed that point when this question was first posed.

    whitd (10527e)

  402. AJL did opine

    Scott Jacobs is, I think, the first person I’ve ever seen proud of the fact his word is worthless. Funny position for a conservative. Looks more Leninist to me.

    Allow me to spell it out more simply for you, since you seem unable to grasp the higher concepts.

    When I pledge an oath or give my word, I most certainly do mean it. There is a large number of people who can’t stand me to this day because I take such things very seriously.

    But in instances such as torturing some terrorist POS who wants to kill me for no other reason than I am not muslim but am American, then I have to make a decision.

    Do I keep my word (which I never recall saying I wouldn’t torture someone, and I don’t think there are many in congress who were even around for that treaty), or do I do what is needed to save what might me thousands of people?

    Forgive me, but my word does not trump the lives of even one person.

    If I told you that I would never cause you physical harm – if I swore upon the Bible in a ceremony presided by all the justices of the Supreme Court, the USAG, and the pastor who oversaw my first communion – then I would never put harm upon you.

    But if, after I give my word, you decide to try and violently rape a woman while I am near by, I would end your life without hesitation. The well being of your victim comes before whatever shame and guilt I might feel for breaking my word.

    And if you can’t even begin to grasp that notion, you are bt far and away more dense and insipid than I’d ever given you credit for.

    And buddy, that was a lot.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  403. Oh geeze, P, sorry I POINTEDLY went to bed, got up, ate breakfast, and worked out before checking into your compelling blog. Super tool that I am !

    Ah — now THAT’S dishonest!

    I don’t do that to people. I say it’s POINTED only when they do what you did — affirmatively stop in and leave a comment, but pointedly not answer the question. (Yes, you eventually did answer, but at first you POINTEDLY did not.)

    Patterico (bad89b)

  404. I do not equate justifiable action with morally correct actions.

    I would say that if someone raped and murdered your wife or child, I think your murder of that person is justified. But, I do not think that murder is ever morally correct (murder in the legal definition — ignoring all ways that you can legally kill someone).

    Just as I think that saving the lives of countless people through torture is justified, but it is morally wrong.

    In both instances, there would also be legal repurcussions. But, as you stated, this is a discussion of morals.

    Chuck Foxtrot (bec298)

  405. At some point i suppose it would become so trivial that it wouldn’t matter.

    At what point do you suppose that would be?

    Give a range if you can.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  406. Sure, given your hypothetical: the waterboarding session was worth it.

    It’s still a slippery slope to start ordaining this kind of thing as the government’s modus operandi.

    Leviticus (43095b)

  407. I do not equate justifiable action with morally correct actions.

    Then you should have your moralizer recalibrated. You can’t be justified in committing an immoral act.

    Pablo (99243e)

  408. “At what point do you suppose that would be?”

    I said: “I think we passed that point when this question was first posed.”

    whitd (10527e)

  409. Patterico,

    Sorry if the question seems rude but where are you going with this? Endless loop seems to be the direction it is going right now.

    voiceofreason (983846)

  410. Then you should have your moralizer recalibrated. You can’t be justified in committing an immoral act.

    It may simply be an issue of semantics, but to me, “justifiable” is something that passes a test of reason or logic whereas “morally correct” is more of a internal and societal view of an action.

    I understand why someone murders the perpetrator of their spouse’s murder. I still do not think murder is a moral act.

    Chuck Foxtrot (bec298)

  411. I asked some follow-up questions, and people are mostly not answering. I’m thinking maybe I can get Levi to answer the ones I posed to those who answered “yes.”

    Patterico (fe6565)

  412. whitd,

    “I said: ‘I think we passed that point when this question was first posed.’”

    Now you’re going to start evading questions too?

    Disappointing.

    Patterico (87a8d8)

  413. “Now you’re going to start evading questions too?”

    Thats not an evasion. Thats a clear answer: We passed the point of triviality a while ago. Thats partially why I don’t know about the morality: because it’s so trivial.

    whitd (10527e)

  414. Nope, it’s a evasion. Calling it a clear answer doesn’t make it one.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  415. “Nope, it’s a evasion. Calling it a clear answer doesn’t make it one.”

    Then the clear answer is the same one i gave earlier: I don’t know about the morality that your a and b do. Because we’ve passed the point of triviality.

    whitd (10527e)

  416. As to b it’s still an evasion. You don’t know even if it were one second of waterboarding?

    You’re just finding different words to evade the question.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  417. Your evasion is just a rewording of the “it’s an unrealistic hypo” evasion.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  418. I can see why Patterico posed this question and why he is persisting with it and follow ups.

    This thread should have consisted largely of “yes”, “no”, “I don’t know” and various provisos. Straight questions allow straight answers.

    Instead there has been a frustrating amount of evasion, vagueness, re-framing the question and so on.

    Not always. But enough to be an irritant that would make a reasonable man stubborn.

    David Blue (937788)

  419. Nobody will answer the follow-ups.

    Well, almost nobody. David Blue did.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  420. David Blue, you have been a model for how others ought to behave.

    But remember: I predicted evasion.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  421. “Your evasion is just a rewording of the “it’s an unrealistic hypo” evasion.”

    I said I don’t know. In answer to your moral question, to your a, b and all followups. And i’m telling you in part why I don’t know: Because its trivial.

    But it is all very much worth it.

    whitd (10527e)

  422. So the conservatives didn’t accomplish their mission?

    voiceofreason (983846)

  423. Patterico, I am sorry I did not fill out the complete list of hypotheticals.

    I do not believe it is moral to torture KSM even if it would save all the blah, blah, blah. As I said, I think I would do that, and many other immoral acts, in the right circumstances. However, I am not of the opinion that my having done an act makes it morally right, not that my having done an act means it should be legal if it was not.

    Scott, if we intended to have exceptions for certain circumstances, we should not have signed treaties that specifically deal with difficult cases and admit of no exceptions “whatsoever”. I am not aware of occasions where we found the enemy’s justifications for torture sufficient, and I do not think that is a coincidence.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  424. @ Andrew Lazarus

    Is Title 18.2340 the effective legislation that the International Convention Against Torture refers to?

    If it is then waterboarding would appear to not be covered by that convention, at least as interpreted by the US Congress.

    I posted the text of the law at comment 297.

    chad (582404)

  425. Patterico: “David Blue, you have been a model for how others ought to behave.”

    Thank you. The respect is entirely mutual.

    Patterico: “But remember: I predicted evasion.”

    Yes you did, and there has been heaps of it, so you were right about that.

    David Blue (937788)

  426. Andrew,

    Is there any amount of time you think waterboarding KSM would be justified? You implied even on second would be too much — but made it a legal question, when I asked a moral one.

    Will you answer my part b?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  427. Also, Andrew, how do you justify saying you would do an act you believe is immoral?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  428. Also, Andrew, “blah, blah, blah” is a pretty dismissive way to refer to everyone you hold dear in this world.

    Makes me think you aren’t taking the question seriously, which causes me to distrust your answer.

    I think if you were really confronted with the situation you’d have a different view of the morality.

    ‘Cause you wouldn’t be saying “blah, blah, blah.”

    Patterico (bad89b)

  429. ” I’m thinking maybe I can get Levi to answer the ones I posed to those who answered “yes.””

    -Patterico

    Could you reiterate said hypotheticals? I didn’t follow this thread over the weekend, so I don’t really know how the various arguments have unfolded.

    Leviticus (43095b)

  430. “the weekend”?

    Dude, try “the last 24hours”… lol

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  431. uhhhm you mean you want the “liberals” who answered “yes” to the original hypothetical to answer the follow up.

    EdWood (c2268a)

  432. Levi,

    See # 245.

    Patterico (11e539)

  433. “If, like Stace, they are willing to sacrifice thousands of lives for the principle of not scaring the architect of 9/11 for a coupla minutes, that is very, very revealing.”

    Sure. They’re gandhi, jesus, whatever. They take tough moral stances.

    While going back through these comments, I happened upon the above, and felt like I should point something out.

    Even Ghandi said that you should act to defend your wife if she is threatened. Your stance on non-violence should never cause someone else their life. Your “ethical well-being” is not more important than their life.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  434. Patterico,

    I don’t have good media software on this computer; I can’t hear what Ross is saying.

    Just paraphrase for me, and I’ll try to sate your lust for Straight Answers.

    Leviticus (43095b)

  435. He VERY breifly describe the interogation of KSM (slap, slap to the chest, sleep dep, cold room, loud music, then waterboarding), including telling us that when told “if you don’t talk we’ll kill your children” to which he replied along the lines of “I don’t care, they will see Allah soon”.

    Said that the less than 2.5 minutes of waterboarding broke a guy that had taken everything else and was not going to crack. After the soaking, he told them EVERYTHING, including a plot to destroy (i forget exactly how) the tallest building is LA (Library Tower?).

    In addition to that one plot, have gave up details about many others, plus names, addresses, and phone numbers of people.

    I would say that all in all, it sounds like KSM spouted forth a gold mine of good, solid, reliable, actionable intel.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  436. 416: Yes, I left out the link to the ICAT. I don’t think your interpretation is correct, though. In my reading, severe physical pain and suffering, which I believe waterboarding induces via the gag reflex, qualifies as torture irrespective of mental harm.

    Patterico: I admit that I may commit immoral acts because I am a human being. I’m sure Ted Haggard and Jim Bakker and other assclowns like them claimed everything they did was moral, praise Jeebus, but I’m not so far advanced as they are. Torture becomes torture at the point where it satisfies the definition. I doubt if one second of waterboarding induces panic and physical suffering. I have no idea where between one second and two minutes the cut-off should be.

    Let’s trade: is it legitimate to torture KSM if he is going to fly an airplane into a cow pasture? A completely empty building? One person? 120 people? I can play with the Paradox of the Bald Man, too.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  437. “Now, either a) Brian Ross is wrong, or b) the people who did this to KSM acted morally, in your view, right?

    Please answer that.”

    Your narrowly defined hypothetical has remained consistent throughout the thread.

    Let me ask you; How many persons would you be willing to torture to get the info? A hundred,
    a thousand? Ten thousand? Now. remember, there are going to be a few who are completely innocent of any terror connections. Does that matter? If so, to what degree does it matter? Could you morally justify the waterboarding of thousands to save just one American? Just a hypothetical……………

    Semanticleo (edcd09)

  438. Semanticleo, you have to answer the question before you pose your own hypothetical. Patrick has made that very clear throughout this thread.

    Paul (ec9716)

  439. My own two cents on the follow up to those who said yes:

    Now, either a) Brian Ross is wrong, or b) the people who did this to KSM acted morally, in your view, right?

    The answer is b, 24/7.

    Paul (ec9716)

  440. Makes me think you aren’t taking the question seriously, which causes me to distrust your answer.

    It’s a silly question. How seriously should we take it?

    will you answer 429?

    joe (c0e4f8)

  441. i answered his his hypo. so i’ll ask it if that satisfies the rule.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  442. Aph:

    Your moral blindness is staggering. Its the kind of insufferable sanctimony enlived by feral rage that states all men are equal, regardless of their acts and behavior. According to whom?

    The agitprop that drips from those jowls doesn’t pass the laugh test. You don’t draw moral boundaries? Exactly who tehn calls men who behead innocents the equals of their victims?

    Men do not come from men they come from God. And as a progressive secularist I know this eludes you or you wouldn’t make such an idiotic comment.

    Sorry the concept of occupying some sort of secularist moral height built on the grves of innocent Americns holds no interest for me or most Americans. Even Schumer, radical Marxist that he is said there was a place for torture.

    What is interesting is the fact that no one can make the case that the world would be a better plaqce if torture were eliminated so that terrorists could enjoy their air coinditioned cells in comfort.

    Soory Alp-snakeoil salesman need not apply here. Daily Kos is your kind of place.

    Thomas Jackson (bf83e0)

  443. joe,

    It’s a hypo based on an actual media report.

    The hypo may have happened.

    Patterico (89cf86)

  444. sorry, i meant your hypo where the potential targets are everyone you know and care about. you know, the blah blah blah

    now about 429?

    joe (c0e4f8)

  445. btw, your hypo included certainty about some key things. That makes it very different from any real world case.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  446. my comment about silly was in response to 420.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  447. To be fair Semanticleo, you should probably state the hypothetical in a manner similar to that of the original – but parameterized, since the scale seems to matter regarding the moral calculation.

    The hypothetical:

    1. Interrogators have performed the “enhanced” techniques described with respect to KSM, on X subjects.

    1.1 “Subjects” is defined here as those individuals captured abroad who are not under the protection of the fifth amendment of the US Constitution.

    1.2 Of the subjects captured, Y are guilty. Y is known to be at least ’1′.

    The KSM situation is similar to X=1,Y=1. Most here have expressed concrete opinions regarding the KSM situation, primarly (in my opinion) because it is posited with so many apriori facts established.

    How about X=1000,Y=1? Is the answer as clear, even with the other assumptions held as true?

    For me, the answer is not nearly as obvious. I don’t know my threshold for X, but I can bet it varies depending on what I have to lose because of the crime at hand, or how pissed off I am at the moment the question is posed.

    JSinAZ (e2c10c)

  448. Something about how you phrased what we are clearly in agreement with troubled me, Patterico, and I just figured out what it is.

    “Isn’t choosing the less immoral of two choices the correct moral choice?”

    I would say no. For example, if a person had to choose between robbing someone and murdering someone, then robbing someone is clearly the least immoral choice. It is still immoral. So I assume you mean if there truly are only two choices. In life, as others have pointed out, there are more than this.

    So to use the example I gave, on which I will refresh your memory:

    A rapist murderer has just savaged someone close to you and is ten feet away from them mocking her and telling you how he’s going to slice her throat as he moves toward her with a knife. You have a gun.

    The only good choice is to use force to stop the guilty person from attacking the innocent. Other choices are immoral cowardice and contemptible. The best defense if a person didn’t act is they froze and couldn’t do anything in time — but not that they decided not to do anything to save her life.

    So when I say it is good to harm someone in that situation, I mean it. It isn’t simply least bad. It is actually the right thing to do. You can do God’s work with a pistol or with a scalpel — just as you can do the devil’s work with either. It all depends on motive.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  449. sorry, i meant your hypo where the potential targets are everyone you know and care about. you know, the blah blah blah

    That was just a device to make Andrew care about the human lives at stake.

    Obviously it didn’t work, with the blah blah blah. Thousands of human lives lost, yada yada.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  450. No lives lost. No lives at stake. It’s a thought experiment. I don’t see how it’s especially serious. You’re a lawyer so I assume you’ve taken at least 1 ethics or philosophy class. This sort of thing has been covered extensively. The last time I remember spending this much time on a basic philosophy question I was in a dorm room. I think we went to the bar shortly after someone pointed out that not only do you really have to design the system assuming imperfect knowledge you should also assume there’s an equal chance to die in the explosion as there is to be mistaken for the person with crucial information.

    We were using a different hypothetical but it was the same principle: “Under what circumstances do moral ends justify immoral means.”

    joe (c0e4f8)

  451. Actually, Patterico, “blah, blah, blah” it was a device to save some typing time. Is your hypo like some college Honor Code where it must be written out longhand verbatim every time?

    How many people have to be in the building before it’s moral to torture?

    How many innocent people have to be mixed in with guilty before torturing them all is immoral?

    When KSM expresses a willingness to trade his info for your wife’s ass, is it moral to ask her to do go with him? Is it moral to force her to do this? (Funny how we always get to play the sadist role in the hypos, never the victim, isn’t it?)

    Andrew J. Lazarus (9419ae)

  452. The hypothetical:

    1. Interrogators have performed the “enhanced” techniques described with respect to KSM, on X subjects.

    1.1 “Subjects” is defined here as those individuals captured and suspected of being terrorist. abroad who are not under the protection of the fifth amendment of the US Constitution. I see no reason to assume that I’d be safe due to citizenship.

    1.2 Of the subjects captured, Y are guilty. Y is known suspected but not known to be at least ‘1′.

    1.3 There is small but real chance one or more person could die.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  453. “How many people have to be in the building before it’s moral to torture* waterboard (one of the guilty people planning and plotting the terrorist attack)?”

    One innocent.

     
    * or torture

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  454. Andrew #443,

    You are [a crude metaphor for nonsensical implying a desperate need to defecate] in this comment. We don’t let our enemies set the rules. We don’t negotiate the terms under which we will get them to do what we want. The question is how much do we hurt our enemies to protect ourselves.

    nk (09a321)

  455. Is it good that they prevented people from dying? Yes.

    Is it bad that they waterboarded Khalid Shiekh Mohammed? Yes.

    What would I do to protect someone I love in a personal situation? I don’t know. Would I expect to be exempted from the legal process because I felt that acts of protection were neccesary? No.
    But this is not a question of what I would do personally.

    Do I approve of the CIA agents doing this fictional action? I don’t. Collectively, I admire a society that values humane behavior over self-preservation. That’s what I want my government to look like. That’s how I want it to behave.

    The situation is a cookie-cutter fantasy that doesn’t intersect with the real world, but it’s still wrong even on its own fantastic terms.

    glasnost (b7ddae)

  456. Funny, nk, looks to me like it’s more important to you to hurt the enemy than to save the thousands of innocents, including your family, in the Towers. KSM has made his sex-for-info offer. That’s the hypo. You torture him instead and he miraculously holds out (or maybe he croaks, we’ve made that little booboo a few times). Wow, how immoral of you.

    (This silliness masquerading as a discussion of morality is fun, isn’t it?)

    Andrew J. Lazarus (386b6a)

  457. No, Andrew, it’s not “anything goes”. If it were “anything goes”, I’d be taking out my garden shears and slowly snipping off his pants an inch at a time on my way to his groin. Letting him imagine what I’d be sniiping off once I got there. Or hanging him upside down over a slow fire. The discussion is waterboarding as we do it for the reasons we do it.

    nk (09a321)

  458. Funny, Andrew, looks to me like it’s more important to you to allow the thousands of innocents, including your family, to die in the Towers, than to harm a singe hair of the enemy.

    So if you ask KSM nicely and he refuses to give the info, you’ll simpy shrug your shoulders and say, “Oh well, we tried.”

    Is that what you’re telling us?

    Paul (ec9716)

  459. Sure it’s worth it.
    KSM conducted himself in a way that killed or would kill others.
    People that do those things forfeit rights…

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  460. Christoph,

    I would say no. For example, if a person had to choose between robbing someone and murdering someone, then robbing someone is clearly the least immoral choice. It is still immoral. So I assume you mean if there truly are only two choices.

    You’ve left out an important factor in your hypo: Why do you have to make the choice? Suppose you’re a bank manager, and your family has been taken hostage by people who will kill them unless you either rob the bank for them or kill them first.

    Is it still immoral to rob the bank?

    Pablo (99243e)

  461. Honestly, as a matter of pragmatism, I’d rob the bank in that case, since it is less likely to end in someone dying.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  462. Right, but what’s the morality in it? If you’re forced to choose between two evils, if you have no option but to pick one of them, can it be immoral? Is it possible that the only moral choice is to let your family perish? Is that moral?

    I don’t see how. It seems to me that morality requires that you pick the least immoral path available to you and that doing so is indeed the moral act, the moral choice.

    Pablo (99243e)

  463. Actually, Patterico, “blah, blah, blah” it was a device to save some typing time.

    Nah, it was a device to mock the question and minimize the stakes.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  464. I think this might be a good time to review this blurb from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, via Bill Whittle’s Tribes:

    I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin’s egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.

    “Then there are the wolves,” the old war veteran said, “and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy.” Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

    “Then there are sheepdogs,” he went on, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.” Or, as a sign in one California law enforcement agency put it, “We intimidate those who intimidate others.”

    If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath–a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

    Let me expand on this old soldier’s excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial; that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids’ schools. But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid’s school. Our children are dozens of times more likely to be killed, and thousands of times more likely to be seriously injured, by school violence than by school fires, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their children is just too hard, so they choose the path of denial.

    The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog that intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

    Pablo (99243e)

  465. Oh for God sakes, Pablo, at some point it is just stupid. The point is capping someone’s ass because they’re about to off someone or getting medieval on someone who’s out to kill en masse in order to save a gazillion people is not teh ghey.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  466. That’s helpful, Christoph. Suddenly, it’s like all the lights have been turned on in this heretofore darkened room. Thanks for that insightful response.

    Pablo (99243e)

  467. Actually I think you’d have to work it like this
    KSM tells Andrew that if Andrew will let him do whatever nasty thing to him, then KSM will tell Andrew everything
    Or Andrew can waterboard KSM instead.
    So the question is:
    Bend over or waterboard?

    Leaving aside the obvious danger of letting a mass murder conspirator assume a dominant physical position, I’d assume that nearly every woman here (and most of the gay men) would be kind enough to point out that men lie for sex all the time… in other words, once he’s done, he won’t care. Then you’d have to waterboard him anyway.
    But the reality would probably be KSM does the nasty, then indulges in a little post passion strangulation which you are vulnerable to since you are in a submissive position..
    My advice?
    Don’t expect flowers and chocolates

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  468. Ah, but Andrew could take him out mid-coitus with the Power Glutes™!

    Wait, are we talking about the same Andrew?

    Pablo (99243e)

  469. Pablo, I was joking. Don’t take it personally. I’m tired. Really. Check out how I usually type and the faux hip approach I tried above. I’m sure you made a good point and I thought of it while typing my original comment. But I’m not sure how many levels of complexity are helpful here.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  470. SteveG – The Balloon-Juice hypo, of course. Do you have to buy KSM dinner first?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  471. @428

    I guess we disagree on the definition of severe physical pain then. I have never been waterboarded but I know aircrewmen and some Special Warfare types who have and all of them have told me it isn’t painful but it is scary. I did almost drown as a kid (jumped into what I thought was three feet of water and it turned out to be over 6ft and I couldnt swim) and as I remember it wasn’t painful just scary so that’s my experience with that.

    chad (582404)

  472. OK, you have your hypothetical and I have mine. Here’s mine! Let’s say a Canadian citizen suspected of being a terrorist has a stopover in New York. Do you think he should be arrested, flown to Syria by the CIA, handed over to the Syrians to be kept in a grave-sized hole for year and be tortured to find out what he might know? Oh wait! That’s not a hypothetical; that really happened! And your insipid hypothetical question, a lame attempt to justify real and despicable acts of torture is, well, despicable!

    Kevin Marki Doe (56a0a8)

  473. And your insipid hypothetical question, a lame attempt to justify real and despicable acts of torture is, well, despicable!

    I think you mean “dethpicable.”

    Patterico (bad89b)

  474. First, an answer to your original hypo: Yes, it’s worth it.

    For the record, I agree with those who have said that in sufficiently urgent circumstances, you take the illegal/immoral action and you suffer the consequences. Gladly. Further, I expect others pledged to protect me and mine — soldiers, police, etc. — to suffer the consequences on my behalf. I’m not *comfortable* with my own expectation on that count, but there you have it.

    I’d like to tweak the original hypo a bit and re-pose it to those who answered yes:

    Instead of waterboarding KSM, substitute killing his baby (and assume that, because he’d fear the deaths of his remaining children, the tactic would be effective). Worth it?

    Not Rhetorical (b0b0f4)

  475. Further, I expect others pledged to protect me and mine — soldiers, police, etc. — to suffer the consequences on my behalf.

    How very noble of you. Do you expect them to go to prison for protecting you and doing what you say is illegal/immoral “gladly”?

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  476. Not rhetorical, kids don’t bounce right back from killing. And of course, kids aren’t responsible for the situation at hand. So, no, you don’t target the child.

    Pablo (99243e)

  477. Actually Not Rhetorical, they threatened to kill his kids, and he apparently didn’t give a damn. But since you’re is a hypothetical, I would say “yes, killing one of his kids would be worth it”.

    And his boys ain’t exactly todlers, Pablo…

    As for Slap Nuts above you in #464
    OK, you have your hypothetical and I have mine.

    Here’s mine! Let’s say a Canadian citizen suspected of being a terrorist has a stopover in New York. Do you think he should be arrested, flown to Syria by the CIA, handed over to the Syrians to be kept in a grave-sized hole for year and be tortured to find out what he might know? Oh wait! That’s not a hypothetical; that really happened! And your insipid hypothetical question, a lame attempt to justify real and despicable acts of torture is, well, despicable!

    See, flying him to Syria is wasteful. I say keep him here. What, we can’t dig holes to keep a guy in?

    And it’s not like Syria the most trustworthy place in the world.

    You people seem to keep missing all the times I’ve said “I don’t care, I’d do what I needed to do”…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  478. Scott do you make any distinction for a US citizen?

    how about no ticking bomb just useful info?

    joe (c0e4f8)

  479. Pablo and scott, please stop dodging and answer the question: “would you kill an innocent child, in cold blood, to defuse the bomb?” Remember, the bomb will blow up the building that holds all you personally care about.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  480. Yes Joe I would.

    And fuck every single person who WOULD have blown up that would dare judge me. I’d sleep fine at night, thanks.

    And if a US citizen has useful info about terror attacks, well he best get to like the cold, enjoy loud music, and prepare to become familiar with the sensation of drowning, because by god I’d put him through the ringer to get him to talk.

    A US citizen who has knowledge of terror attacks and isn’t willingly giving us all that they know is no kind of citizen. A citizen has an obligation to their country – an obligation completely ignored when they willing withhold such info.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  481. Funny, Joe, have you noticed that we aren’t getting a single serious answer to our hypos? You might almost think this has been an exercise in “Show up the liberals as weak” or “Let’s get together and pretend our sadism makes us strong”, and not one of the great moral discussions of the age.

    It’s starting to sound familiar.

    And to have seen this through, and — with the exception of human weaknesses — to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned.…We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have taken on no defect within us, in our soul, or in our character.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (2fe6b7)

  482. Explain to me, AJL, how I have failed to answer.

    And to ask a hypothetical, you have to answer all of Patterico’s first.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  483. Patterico?

    Could you paraphrase the Brian Ross follow-ups?

    Leviticus (b987b0)

  484. Of course it’s worth it.

    The “definition” of torture that many use today is ludicrous. The term torture should only apply to practices that inflict pain (of any kind) simply for the purpose of inflicting pain.

    Waterboarding is downright innocuous compared to real tortures that some people inflict on others. You can find examples in the news on a daily basis.

    Otto Didactic (355cda)

  485. The simple solution for everybody, seems to me to be: do not take prisoners. Dispose immediately. Take the consequences. See? Simple.

    Sue (b3ba52)

  486. Levi:

    I think it’s something like teh following…

    Ross suggests that the Waterboarding of KSM was justified. Is he wrong?

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  487. I for one would be happy to answer hypotheticals if I understand what the questions are. Of course this isn’t my site so I can’t post them on the front page or anything like that.

    To make it easy here is what I believe:

    1. The current approved enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding, the attention, grab, the belly slap etc. are not torture in the legal sense in that they don’t cause SEVERE physical pain or lasting mental harm. Therefore using them is not illegal and in my opinion not immoral.

    2. Techniques such as breaking bones, pulling nails, electric shock or anything which is going to cause long term mental effects beyond the “holy crap that was scary’ or “shit he scares me i better tell him what he wants” level are torture.

    Uisng the techniques in number 2 would be immoral (as well as illegal) in almost all cases. At some point the calculus changes. I’m not exactly sure where that is but if I knew for sure that a group of people were going to walk into schools with suicide vests and the only way I could get that information would be to start breaking fingers, I think I would do so. At that point their immorality of action outweighs my immorality of action. I would just have to hope for a good lawyer and some jury nullification.

    Would I kill one of KSMs kids to get an answer. I don’t think so but again at some point morals shift and I guess it would depend on what we were trying to prevent. If I did I would expect to be tried for murder.

    chad (582404)

  488. If that’s the question, then no, Ross isn’t wrong.
    It’s a clear-cut case of The Greater Good.

    The problem is, the concept of The Greater Good has been (mis)used by a variety of men to justify a variety of atrocities. Many of the problems with Socialism/Communism, for instance, can be traced to an abuse of the concept of The Greater Good.

    Leviticus (b987b0)

  489. The other problem is, few if any cases lend themselves so nicely to the concept of The Greater Good as this one. Few cases are so clear-cut.

    This thing is cherry-picked for polemical value.

    Leviticus (b987b0)

  490. Now, let me ask a question of everyone who has answered yes.

    Look at this clip.

    Now, either a) Brian Ross is wrong, or b) the people who did this to KSM acted morally, in your view, right?

    Please answer that.

    Responding specifically to #245:

    The two choices presented do not supply me with an answer that I believe states my position.

    If I accept that Brian Ross is correct, then the interrogators have committed an act that was “worth it,” but did not act morally.

    My responses #386 & #396 clarify this position.

    I do not believe that torture is ever a moral act. I do not believe that the use of torture should ever be an approved policy for our government or any agents acting on the behalf of our government. I believe that waterboarding is torture.

    Saving countless lives is almost always “worth it.”

    Chuck Foxtrot (33ce8e)

  491. Levi:

    Usually, in those instances you sight, the “Greater Good” isn’t actually the greater good. It’s the “greater good for me”.

    Getting someone to talk so they tell you about where the next terrorist attack is going to be, or where the IEDs are planted, or where the bad guys are hiding/hiding their weapons/explosives isn’t for a personal good or gain, it is truly for the greater good.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  492. errr… Damn laptop touchpad helped submit the comment before I was done

    Last line should read:

    Saving countless lives is almost always “worth it” when viewed in hindsight

    Chuck Foxtrot (33ce8e)

  493. Patterico;

    You say the matter is a complex one, then you ask a yes or no question. Why didn’t you ask “Have you stopped beating your wife yet? Your question is a philosophical trap, a rhetorical cul-de-sac masquerading as a debate. My hypothetical has a little more wiggle-room than your straight-jacket in a rubber room. Breathe some life into this discussion and tell us how many innocents you are willing to torture to find the needle in the haystack

    Semanticleo (edcd09)

  494. “Usually, in those instances you sight, the “Greater Good” isn’t actually the greater good. It’s the “greater good for me”.”

    -Scott Jacobs

    That’s overly simplistic, Scott. Socialism (like waterboarding, in this example) was (and is) justified by an appeal to the Greater Good – “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”, and all that. Theoretically, Socialism achieves the Greater Good; practically, of course, it runs into problems.

    In the same way, waterboarding is justified by the same appeal to the Greater Good. Theoretically, it’s a no-brainer; practically, waterboarding (like Socialism) will be abused.

    For the record, I think waterboarding is torture. For the same record, I think there are instances where it’s justified. Just being the realist on this one.

    Leviticus (b987b0)

  495. “This thing is cherry-picked for polemical value.”

    No, Levi, it’s picked because of its similarity to an actual event as reported by a Big Media outlet.

    If Brian Ross’s report is accurate, then you believe our government has morally waterboarded someone.

    Patterico (fa3ad8)

  496. Yeah, but Levi…

    Usually the people running the Socialist State live pretty good, and free of having stuff taken so it can be given to others.

    Yuo think Hillary would be so in favor of socialized medicine if she knew she’d have to seak treatment under the same exact plan as the rest of us?

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  497. Criminal trials in the US are structured to protect the innocent. As a consequence, some who are guilty as hell, get away with their crime. Do you think that justifies ‘Dirty Harry’ type cops who issue ‘street-corner justice’ to the perps?

    If a Prosecutor knows the defendant is guilty, should he/she withhold exculpatory evidence?

    more later…………………

    Semanticleo (edcd09)

  498. Semanticleo,

    If asking a hypothetical question based on a Big Media news report is your view of a “gotcha” then maybe the problem is with you and not the question.

    I think the American people don’t trust Democrats on terror issues because of the kind of evasion and lack of seriousness we have seen in this thread. When the concept of saving thousands of lives is dismissed as “blah blah blah” and people like Semanticleo treat hypos based on news reports as gotchas, you folks come across as unserious.

    Patterico (6d5738)

  499. I dunno Leo… Are they a terrorist?

    You seem to be thinking we’re talking about something besides terrorism here. There-in, I believe, does lay your mistake.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  500. I just watched the Brian Ross video and I don’t see anything that makes me think that the interrogators acted immorally.

    chad (582404)

  501. Sure; in your hypothetical, it was worth it.

    That’s easy. I’m not sure where it takes the discussion, but, heck: sure. Easy.

    Now, that established, let’s make it a little less easy.

    Change it to “and after KSM refused to cave under the waterboarding, and only gave up the information when the hypothetical interrogator took out bolt cutters, and started in on his toes; KSM gave up the information halfway through the fourth one” and I’ll say it was worth it, too; I care about the lives of the innocent folks on the plane more than I do about this hypothetical KSM.

    But that’s not the only hypothetical that can reasonably be posed about the issue, either.

    Put the bolt cutters back in the drawer for a moment, but add on to your hypothetical the following: “KSM was the the tenth such person to be interrogated with waterboarding; the previous nine, also performed by the same people working from what they honestly thought was reliable information, resulted in horrible suffering by seven pretty awful people — real terrorists — and two poor schlumps who the interrogators mistakenly thought were terrorists, but actually weren’t, and produced no useful information from any of ‘em.”

    Was all the waterboarding worth it? It’s your blog; you get to duck the above hypothetical, if you care to, and you can answer or duck the following, too:

    How about if it’s a hundred people who get waterboarded, and only one gives up useful information that saves lives? A thousand?

    Was that worth it?

    And once you’ve answered those, consider this: assuming waterboarding doesn’t work on any of those thousand, people that the interrogators really (and in some cases accurately, and in other cases inaccurately) believe have committed murderous terroristic acts and also have information that can prevent imminent terroristic acts that they believe will kill innocents . . . is it okay if they go beyond waterboarding to the bolt cutters? To the beatings like those that (watch it — here comes a loaded hypothetical) his NVA interrogators inflicted on John McCain? Are there limits on the means that the results — real and/or possible — don’t justify?

    Is that worth it? If I could tell you that you’ll get useful information out all but one of the thousand that way, is it worth it? If you only get useful information out of one, it it worth it?

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  502. My opinion is 95% of this situation is pure political posturing with no shame at all and using false framing of the issue to the max.

    My viewpoint surprisingly matches to Hillary’s stated position on abortion (till she flip flops again)

    Water boarding should be Legal, Safe and Rare.

    The rest of this whole mess is simply political gamesmanship using the situation without any real regard for the procedure itself.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  503. Scott, just so I’m clear. You think the US government should be able to torture anyone (citizen or not) who they believe has useful information regarding a terror attack?

    Also, you would kill an innocent child if it might prevent a terror attack. Is there an upper limit to the number of innocent children you’d kill to get someone to talk?

    joe (c0e4f8)

  504. The first question was pretty good in my opinion. (I think it gets silly when the building starts to contain all that I hold dear and I don’t think it’s really that profound.) I think it would be better if it didn’t assume perfect knowledge before the actions are taken.

    I’d really like to see Patterico’s answer to Joel’s question, or one of my previous questions about what he thinks the moral action is without perfect knowledge. So far as I know I’ve answered all of his questions. Fair’s fair.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  505. Joel:

    Are each one of this thousand an insurgent/terrorist captured attempting to harm civillians/millitary personell?

    If so, then I seriously have no issue with it.

    “This little piggy went to market…”

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  506. “maybe the problem is with you and not the question.”

    It’s not the question, so much as how you want to constrain the discussion.

    “Are they a terrorist?”

    Scott;

    They could be. Is it your point to say the person described as a terrorist is less human than a criminal, therefore not subject to the mores of civilized society?

    Another Hypo;

    Say KSM successfully resists waterboarding. Proponents of same tout the ‘no physical harm’ inherent in the procedure. Should we enact
    ‘Mock Execution” whereby the subject has what appears to be a loaded revolver pointed at his temple. The interrogator slowly squeezes the trigger retracting the hammer to the point of no return, then comes the sickening ‘click’.

    Is that OK?

    Semanticleo (edcd09)

  507. Scott, you don’t get to know if the people were actually terrorists or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. You don’t get to know if they have useful info until after you torture them. In fact, it’s reasonable to assume that some of the people might be totally innocent. (Say for instance that one of the people was apprehended at the airport because their name has been used as a terrorist alias)

    joe (c0e4f8)

  508. 500. I don’t believe it.

    htom (412a17)

  509. Are each one of this thousand an insurgent/terrorist captured attempting to harm civillians/millitary personell?

    Maybe. You don’t know, although you do get to know that some of them were believed to be.

    In real life, the actual KSM — while unquestionably a real terrorist — was captured not while attempting to harm anybody, but while attempting to avoid capture. I’m not sure about Patterico’s hypothetical KSM; you’d have to ask him.

    On the other hand, if it’ll make you feel better, you can, if you’d like, know for purposes of this hypothetical among the thousand are both detainees captured on the battlefield by US forces in both ambiguous and unambiguous circumstances, and detainees sold by locals to US forces, and that each every one of the detainees sold to US forces was turned over by folks who swore, up and down, that they were captured while attempting to harm civilians and military personnel.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  510. Joe.

    Regarding the Airport issue, it’s easy enough to verify they either are or are not the person who is actually sought (fingerprints are a great start, as are photo comparison), so in that case I think it’s a non issue.

    For the rest? Captured at the same time as a pile of terrorists in a “wrong place, wrong time” situation?

    Well, then should likely break long before we get to play “This Little Piggy”…

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  511. Joe, I’d like to see an answer to those sorts of questions, too. Even if, a la Hillary, torture is to be safe, legal, and rare, it will, in practice, be safel, legal, rare and applied to the wrong folks, from at least time to time.

    Is that worth it, assuming there’s enough safeguards to keep the wrongful application of it very, very rare? (In Patterico’s hypothetical, that issue doesn’t apply — in his hypothetical, we’re only looking through a soda straw at something that is at worst a relatively mild form of torture being applied to a mass murderer with operation details of an imminent mass murder in his head that can’t be extracted any less horrible way, and ignoring everything that might take place outside of the soda straw view. That’s easy for a narrow hypothetical, but I’m not sure, as I’ve suggested, where it takes any of the larger issues.)

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  512. Semanticleo: that doesn’t create a problem for me; I’m willing to, given Patterico’s hypothetical, accept the standard of “least horrible thing that gets the information,” and would argue that your “mock execution” is less horrible than waterboarding.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  513. You know, the real sheepdogs (see comment 456) don’t seem enthusiastic about waterboarding. I would suggest that, if we wish to employ this metaphor, waterboarding is done by jackals and hyenas.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  514. Thanks for that, AJL.

    On behalf of the people willing to do what is needed to keep you from dying, thank you for your kind words…

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  515. “your “mock execution” is less horrible than waterboarding.”

    I didn’t differentiate the two methods. But would you allow someone to take one of KSM’s loved ones and ‘mock execute’ them in his presence?

    Just testing the waters.

    Semanticleo (edcd09)

  516. Well, then should likely break long before we get to play “This Little Piggy”…

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 11/13/2007 @ 9:13 am

    Scott, first you’re dodging the question by challenging the hypothetical wrt to being captured at the airport. Assume whatever string of errors makes the most sense to you

    2nd how do you propose to tell the difference between a terrorist telling you he doesn’t know anything and someone that doesn’t really know anything? Hell yeah that innocent guy will break, but he doesn’t have anything to tell you.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  517. I’m sorry. Am I applying some level of logic to your stupidity?

    My bad.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  518. Yucko, Semanticleo. No; I’d much we rather chop off a few of the guilty’s toes than threaten an innocent.

    Scott Jacobs: terrorists, schmerrorists — you’ll get me to break a long time before you start playing with my toes. Heck, threaten to not be sure that the Chardonnay is properly chilled, and I’ll tell you everything I know, and not just because I dislike warm wine.

    Trouble is, no matter how mean you are to me, you won’t get me to give you actionable information about imminent terrorist actions, as I don’t have any. Fortunately for me, nobody’s under the mistaken impression that I do; it’s clear that other folks with similar lack of knowledge haven’t been as fortunate.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  519. I’m sorry. Am I applying some level of logic to your stupidity?

    My bad.

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 11/13/2007 @ 9:40 am

    No, you’re not. It was part of the stated hypothetical. Challenging the question was one of the things Patterico predicted liberals would do when they didn’t want to answer. Can you stop being a jerk long enough to answer the questions?

    If you really need me to I can string together a plausible scenario where the wrong person picked up at the airport was believed to have sensitive info. But I’m assuming you can do that for yourself. If you really lack the imagination maybe Joel will help out? I think he’s pretty good at writing.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  520. Someone who knows what they are doing with an interogation can likely tell when someone has broken. If they aren’t giving you anything, odds would be good they don’t have anything.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  521. Example:

    A scumbag has hatched a plot to cut off a little girl’s pinkie finger. It goes into effect in 18-weeks and has a high probability of success.

    People responsible for this diabolical scheme, all 59 of them, are captured. The persons are extraordinarily resilient to torture, but feel every bit of pain.

    If necessary, I would use coercive interrogation on the evil torture-resisting supermen for four solid months, hours each day, plus other coercive methods like cold, sleep deprivation, stress positions, blow torch on testicles, etc. Overall, 17-odd weeks of this applied to each of the 59 is more traumatic than a little girl having her pinkie caught off.

    But it’s still worth it. Why? Because they are guilty and have the power to do the right thing, to save the little girl from harm, at any point to make it stop and the other person is innocent and the other person has no right to harm her.

    Leftists don’t differentiate between good and evil, except when actually supporting evil (but calling it good and vice versa). It’s that lack of differentiation, of judgment, that is the problem with these people.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  522. #

    Someone who knows what they are doing with an interogation can likely tell when someone has broken. If they aren’t giving you anything, odds would be good they don’t have anything.

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 11/13/2007 @ 9:58 am

    I see, so now we have to posit an error proof interrogator?

    Are you ever going to answer the hypo or are you just going to evade and dodge?

    joe (c0e4f8)

  523. Chris, what if you actually capture 60. You know you’ve got 1 COMPLETELY innocent person. But you don’t know, and may never know, which one it is. Do you still torture them all?

    joe (c0e4f8)

  524. No Joe, you don’t need to posit an error free interogator. But perhaps you could posit some level of common sense into the equation?

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  525. No, I wouldn’t, Joe. I’m indicating the moral difference between guilty people and innocent people. And that it is morally right to harm guilty people who are actively engaged in (including through plotting) harming the innocent — if harming the guilty will protect the innocent.

    That is the theory behind militaries, police forces, etc’, in free nations.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  526. Chris, what you’re not paying attention to is the fact that don’t get certainty about who’s guilty and who’s not. The moral policy has to take this uncertainty into account.

    Scott, does this mean you’re going to evade the questions forever? Can Liberals who don’t think patterico’s hypo had enough common sense (or was otherwise flawed get a pass on not answering?)

    joe (c0e4f8)

  527. Andrew, I’ll give it a shot…I think your hypo is to give my wife to KSM for anal sex if he’ll talk…

    No, I won’t….because I won’t give the pain to anyone but the enemy….the risk is that the enemy will not talk….just as I think you said above he holds out from the waterboarding, and the innocents die…the risk of war…but I will not make other innocents suffer….so, yes, my morality has limits…

    However, there would be something special for KSM in the end….he would get his anal sex….just not be the method of delivery….

    Now, yes, I know that I’m sounding like revenge is the mode….but I think that so many on this thread forget that the enemy in this, KSM and his like, are living from a point that everything they do to us is a form of revenge in their belief systems, that they are avenging what they perceive is wrongs by us….no, I probably wouldn’t act on the revenge, but, I would act on the torture…

    Whitd, for your question about burying your sister to get the info? Yes, I would….the difference is that I’d unbury her after you talked….and if you didn’t, you would know the pain I know as she dies….

    reff (bff229)

  528. Also…I think everyone here needs to remember that morality is a crooked line….and that our belief system, that the law should come first, IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE, nor should it be….

    I do, however, find it interesting that so many of the “liberals” here think there should be laws against torture, YET THE LAWS SHOULD BE BROKEN IF NECESSARY…..

    reff (bff229)

  529. Scott, I think this line is just for you.

    We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  530. I do, however, find it interesting that so many of the “liberals” here think there should be laws against torture, YET THE LAWS SHOULD BE BROKEN IF NECESSARY…..

    Comment by reff — 11/13/2007 @ 10:24 am

    If waterboarding is torture (some argument there) and if it’s justified to do it, we appear to have a prosecutor who’s saying that it’s moral to break the law.

    Not exactly new ground. Stealing a loaf of bread to feed your starving kid is the classic example.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  531. If there is good reason to believe that the person being questioned has important information that could result in saving even one life then any form of torture is justified — We did not ask to get into the conflict and we would be very happy to have it end but as long as we are in it we are justified in any thing we do

    Stan O (e4b937)

  532. Semanticleo,

    you state You say the matter is a complex one, then you ask a yes or no question. Why didn’t you ask “Have you stopped beating your wife yet? Your question is a philosophical trap, a rhetorical cul-de-sac masquerading as a debate. My hypothetical has a little more wiggle-room than your straight-jacket in a rubber room. Breathe some life into this discussion and tell us how many innocents you are willing to torture to find the needle in the haystack

    Why not just answer his question? the point is, the question comes down to one issue – do you believe waterboarding is immoral even if it works and saves lives? That is a simple question, and seems like you could give a good faith answer – either yes, or no.

    You could say “yes” you would oppose waterboarding even if it would save many lives b/c you believe it is “torture” and therefore always wrong, regardless of the good it might do.

    Or, you could say “no”, that if waterboarding would result in real, uselful information that would save hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives you would believe the waterboarding was justified and not immoral.

    It really is a simply question. You want to make it more complex b/c you are obviously not comfortable with answering a simple moral question.

    I could respect either answer, but cannot respect a refusal to give a good faith answer b/c you don’t want to be pinned down. that is the problem. If you believe that the immorality of waterboarding would not be worth saving lives, say so. How hard is that?

    Just to be fair, my own view is that waterboarding is not “torture” and thus I would have no problem using that technique in the hypothetical outlined here.

    Great Banana (aa0c92)

  533. “If Brian Ross’s report is accurate, then you believe our government has morally waterboarded someone.”

    -Patterico

    Yes. I do. So what? What inference do you draw from that?

    “Usually the people running the Socialist State live pretty good, and free of having stuff taken so it can be given to others.”

    -Scott Jacobs

    Exactly. And usually, we won’t have KSM on our hands, who we know has valuable information. Usually, torture won’t be such a clear choice, because it could turn out to be utterly useless (for whatever reason), or the victim could turn out to be innocent.

    Leviticus (35fbde)

  534. Coming back to this conversation after work and school have intervened …

    Christoph, at 351: I would say that killing him is pragmatic, and simply the least immoral course available. Say I kill him. I’ve accomplished a good thing: i’ve rescued the victim and saved her life. But I’ve also accomplished a bad thing: I’ve killed a man. The fact that I accomplished good while accomplishing evil does not mean I have not done evil, and it does not exempt me from the spiritual price which must be paid for committing that evil. It simply means that i have chosen to pay that price because I think the good is worth it.

    Patterico, at 352: You’ve framed the question silghtly differently than Christoph. Certainly choosing the more immoral of the two choices is the incorrect moral choice. I might go so far as to say that choosing the less immoral choice is the *correct* choice. But it’s not a *moral* choice; the moral choice would have been to have avoided the situation in the first place — and if I choose the less immoral choice, i’ve still chosen to do something immoral.

    I understand that this means there are circumstances in which there are no morally correct options, and I am guilty no matter what i do. Such is life: some situations have no moral solutions, only differing degrees of immoral solutions. But that doesn’t relieve my guilt when I commit an evil act.

    Christoph, ar 358: I don’t think the soldier should berate himself for the rest of his life. But neither should he say he did the right thing … because that’s just an excuse, a nice white lie he tells himself to salve his conscience, rather than accepting the notion that sometimes there *is* no right thing.

    Patterico, at 389: in my world view, something is justified but not morally correct if it is an immoral act which is nonetheless the best available option.

    Patterico, at 419: like all humans, I am not perfectly moral; i may aspire to that, but under certain circumstances, I know I will fail. There is a price to be paid for that failure. In some circumstances, I am willing to pay that price.

    Christoph, at 440: For example, if a person had to choose between robbing someone and murdering someone, then robbing someone is clearly the least immoral choice. It is still immoral. I agree. I would extend this to the situation in which there are only two choices. *Even then*, the least immoral choice remains immoral, and you still pay a spiritual price for engaging in it.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  535. Pablo, at 366: Yes, just one second of waterboarding KSM makes us just like the head chopping, jihadis who rig children with suicide bombs. I don’t think anyone on my side of the issue is actually *saying* that. There are degrees of evil, just as there are degrees of good, just as there are degrees of brightness and darkness. To say that waterboarding KSM is an evil act is not to say that it is the same degree of evil as rigging children with suicide bombs, and I find the inability of some people on your side of the argument to grasp that to be perplexing.

    Chuck Foxtrot, at 386: that’s very, very, very close to my position.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  536. And if a US citizen has useful info about terror attacks, well he best get to like the cold, enjoy loud music, and prepare to become familiar with the sensation of drowning, because by god I’d put him through the ringer to get him to talk.

    A US citizen who has knowledge of terror attacks and isn’t willingly giving us all that they know is no kind of citizen. A citizen has an obligation to their country – an obligation completely ignored when they willing withhold such info.

    “Is there in all republics, this inherent, and fatal weakness? Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?”–Abraham Lincoln

    Fritz (d62210)

  537. Thomas Jackson, at 439: your comment does not appear to be a response to what i’ve actually said; and, for all that you claim that i’m being sanctimonious, i’ve been very careful to avoid casting aspersions on those who disagree with me.

    I operate under a very rigid moral frame which holds that I am responsible for every act I commit, and that that responsibility is inescapable; and if it is an immoral act, then I will pay a price for it which is not aviodable.

    I’m not strictly speaking a secularist, but neither am I a Christian. Still, I can pose my position in the Christian frame: are the commandments of God absolute? If I violate one of God’s commandments in order to prevent evil, have I still sinned? I would say that I have. I had a responsibility to avoid the situation in which violating God’s commandment was the least bad option, and I failed in that responsibility.

    I do not expect you to operate under this moral frame. I do think that this is how the universe operates, though, and that you *will* pay a moral price for an immoral act, even if you believe it is good; but that is a different question, and i’m not going to call you names for having a different moral cosmology than I do.

    Even Schumer, radical Marxist that he is said there was a place for torture.

    As have I, as much as I don’t like it. My first comment in this thread posited that if there were no other way to get the information, then torture would be worth it, even though it would be evil. But the torturer would still pay a price for doing it.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  538. I think, though, that his hypothetical (which I’ve answered, unambiguously) is even less useful than it seemed at first blush. Somebody who can support waterboarding given some hypothetical level of certainty about both the subject’s guilt and knowledge can ease their hypothetical conscience with the hypothetical thought that maybe, just maybe, waterboarding is really just a strenuous kind of meanness, not across the line into torture.

    What it’s useful, though, is to point at liberals who won’t say “I’m okay with that under those hypothetical circumstances” and accuse them of a lack of moral seriousness.

    Fair enough: some liberals lack moral seriousness. For his next trick, perhaps Patterico can prove that the Grand Canyon looks largish from certain angles.

    Perhaps, though, it’s also a lack of moral seriousness not to face the non-hypothetical consideration that, in most real cases, knowledge and belief aren’t the same thing.

    The certain question framed about this specific hypothetical KSM will rarely, if ever, apply to all of a thousand real guys; the person conducting the interrogation will, willy-nilly, at times be interrogating somebody who they believe is a bad person who has actionable intelligence about imminent bad things, but be wrong.

    And it’s really, truly not okay to, say, strap an innocent upside down on a board and pour water down his nose, even if you were darned sure that he was a bad guy who had actionable information about a horrible thing about to happen.

    Reminds me of the death penalty argument. There are those who — like me — say that there is some level of awfulness of crime and certainty of guilt that makes it easily acceptable, morally, for society to execute somebody. On the other hand, when DNA evidence has been dispositive, it’s turned out that a lot of folks sitting on death row really are not-guilty-by-reason-of-they-bloody-well-didn’t-do-it, and defending the reality of how horribly often folks have been sentenced to death who didn’t do it by the hypothetical gets weaker and weaker.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  539. “Is there in all republics, this inherent, and fatal weakness? Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?”–Abraham Lincoln

    I’ve always liked “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country.”

    Helping terrorists attack us isn’t quite in the “doing for your country” catagory…

    And those who are claiming they can use my “use some common sense” arguement to avoid Pat’s hypo’s, I’d like to point out that every relivant detail is included in his, while yours leaves a LOT of holes.

    Hypotheticals can’t have holes if they are to be useful.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  540. Scott,
    I;m the one that said that. I answered his question.
    And i was making fun of you for being hypocritical.

    Do you really not understand the hypo I and Joel posed?

    joe (c0e4f8)

  541. Re Scott jacobs 509….. Whos dodging noooooooowwww????? Whooooos…dodgingnoooooowwwww?

    So is Patterico gonna flip the hypothetical and see if the “Libbies” can manage to keep the pro-torture crowd on topic when presented with a situation with much less certainty?

    As an addition to the second hypothetical with the mpeg of the O’Reilly interview.
    If there have been 3 waterboardings and one produced actionable intelligence (and so what if some of those plans were bogus, if just one of them was real the intelligence was real)..one sucessful waterboarding out of 3 is a very very small sample size to start claiming or implying that waterboarding is an accurate technique. To argue it either way you would have to examine many many more confessions from waterboarded prisoners and then somehow come up with a metric for its utility as an interrogation method. How useful does a technique have to be before we add it to our arsenal? contrasted to this, how desperate does the situation have to be before our guys throw the waterboarding hail mary? KSM wasn’t sitting on a nuke. As far as we know his interrogators were hungry (as they should be) not desperate.

    EdWood (c2268a)

  542. Hmmmmm.

    I should point out that I am in favor of waterboarding and other techniques on terrorists.

    My opinion?

    The only people who are in a position to truly decide this question are those who are in senior positions in the US government. And almost universally these individuals swear an oath when taking office to uphold the Constitution, the laws of the United States of America and, paraphrasing, to safeguard the American people.

    Quite simply this oath transcends any personal opinions. An person who is in a position to prevent an attack on the United States by virtue of torturing a terrorist *must* then torture that terrorist in order to fulfill the oath.

    It’s really that simple.

    memomachine (0b5c51)

  543. Joe, I don’t recall you answering the follow-ups…

    Word your hypotheticals in a useful fashion, or stfu.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  544. Scott, You’re jerk with poor reading comprehension. I answered “yes’ the the initial question. As such, the follow up questions weren’t directed at me.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  545. What part of the hypo’s didn’t you understand? Maybe I’ll just repost it

    The hypothetical:

    1. Interrogators have the performed the “enhanced” techniques described with respect to KSM, including bolt cutter (per one of Scott’s previous comments) on X subjects.

    1.1 “Subjects” is defined here as those individuals captured and suspected of being terrorist. Both within the US and abroad.

    1.2 Of the subjects captured, Y are guilty. Y is suspected but not known to be at least ‘1′.

    1.3 There is small but real chance one or more person could die.

    would it be moral to torture these people?

    joe (c0e4f8)

  546. I grew up in a country called the United States where you couldn’t kill a guy, torture or jail him for what he MEANT to do.

    If he went and did it, it was probably going to be jail, too- not torturing the dude in case he was thinking of anything else.

    Sucks to piss away the rule of law this way. The rule of law means that HOW you do something trumps what you’re doing- ‘he was really really bad’ isn’t an excuse.

    I’ll deal with all this Gestapo tactics IF the torturer-guy is then subject to the legal system as it originally was, to stand trial and run the risk of being locked up as if he’d pulled a little girl off the street. I’m talking a jury trial, too, not a star chamber. If the situation was REALLY TRULY one of those exceptional ones that people cook up as hypotheticals, maybe the guy will go free, or get out on parole after he’s had a few years in the joint to cool off a bit.

    All you guys who would happily torture people because you THOUGHT some guy was GOING to do something especially awful, would you still do it if you were going to stand trial for it? If not- what are you doing running around loose, much less looking for governmental permission to be sickos?

    jinxtigr (37cf93)

  547. I grew up in a country called the United States where you couldn’t kill a guy, torture or jail him for what he MEANT to do.

    If he went and did it, it was probably going to be jail, too- not torturing the dude in case he was thinking of anything else.

    So no matter what, until they actually blow up the building your family is in, they haven’t done anything wrong?

    Gotcha.

    I’ll now start thanking god that you too shall likely nver be in a position to watch over the safety of this country.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  548. #537

    Yup.

    What part of my repeated “don’t ask what I’d be willing to do to safeguard this country” have you been having a hard time grasping?

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  549. #471 Joe

    Pablo and scott, please stop dodging and answer the question: “would you kill an innocent child, in cold blood, to defuse the bomb?” Remember, the bomb will blow up the building that holds all you personally care about.

    Geez Joe, I’d love to dodge the question, but alas, I’ve already answered it. See my 468. And I’ll add an addendum to that to state that the hypothetical is ridiculous, as I don’t see how you get someone to help you by killing their progeny. By the threat, maybe. But by the act? No.

    Pablo (99243e)

  550. #481 Leviticus,

    The other problem is, few if any cases lend themselves so nicely to the concept of The Greater Good as this one. Few cases are so clear-cut.

    This thing is cherry-picked for polemical value.

    Exactly right. Now, who did the cherry picking? Why, in the grand scheme of things, are we even talking about this? Who is throwing the rhetorical bombs over this?

    Pablo (99243e)

  551. You know, the real sheepdogs (see comment 456) don’t seem enthusiastic about waterboarding. I would suggest that, if we wish to employ this metaphor, waterboarding is done by jackals and hyenas.

    Andrew, JAG’s don’t exactly fit the sheepdog mold, and that you have a handful of them agreeing with you about something the military doesn’t do anyway is pretty much meaningless.

    Pablo (99243e)

  552. “Exactly right. Now, who did the cherry picking? Why, in the grand scheme of things, are we even talking about this? Who is throwing the rhetorical bombs over this?”

    -Pablo

    Not me.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly: Why are we even talking about this?

    Leviticus (b987b0)

  553. aphrael,

    Pablo, at 366: Yes, just one second of waterboarding KSM makes us just like the head chopping, jihadis who rig children with suicide bombs. I don’t think anyone on my side of the issue is actually *saying* that.

    Let me introduce you to Senator Chris Dodd, who is currently vying for the Presidency of the United States.

    Pablo (99243e)

  554. I agree with you wholeheartedly: Why are we even talking about this?

    It seems there are some people screeching about what a horrible nation we are and how mightily we have fallen because of this. And they’re doing it because trying to blame the actions of a few idiot rednecks at Abu Ghraib on Karl Rove and Don Rumsfeld doesn’t have quite the cachet it once did.

    We’re talking about it because the narrative states that WE’VE GOT DIRTY HANDS!!1!!

    Pablo (99243e)

  555. some people seem to be spending a lot of time breaking patterico’s hypothetical by using the reductio ad absurdem tact (ie you begin cutting the fingers off his child as he breastfeeds while screaming out but I am an innocent child). I am going the other direction with my hypothetical.

    Assume that:

    1. The nuclear warheads that were once reported as being missing from Russian stocks are actually missing.
    2. Congress has outlawed waterboarding.
    3. We have received multiple credible warnings that al-qaeda has possession of these warheads and intends to set them off in the US.
    4. Thru good detective work on the part of the FBI and CIA we have managed to identify many of those involved in the plot but we have lost track of some of them.
    5. By backtracking movements we know that many of them have met with a high level al-qaeda figure whom we have in custody in GITMO.
    6. We have tried all the legally available interrogation techniques and while he acknowledges a plot he refuses to give any details.
    7. On the first day of Ramadan an nuclear bomb explodes in downtown NYC. This is followed by a taped message from bin-ladin that a device will be set off each day in a different american population center until their demands are met.
    8. An interrogation officer requests permission to waterboard the AQ figure in custody.

    Remember responding to complaints that waterboarding is torture it is now illegal so permission is likely to be refused.

    If it is refused should the officer perform the waterboarding anyway?

    If he does and gets information that allows us to recover the other nukes so he be court-martialed? That is what the International Convention Against Torture requires.

    What if he doesn’t and another city is blown up before the rest of the devices are recovered and it then turns out that the AQ leader in custody had information that could have prevented both devices from being detonated. Did the officer act correctly / morally?

    chad (719bfa)

  556. Yes, waterboard the guy. The rationale is harm one to save many.

    But (and a BIG but at that) is what if the guy has no info? Now having waterboarded the guy, is the onus of criminality on the interregators?

    I’d imagine that everyone sees thmeselves on the side of good in this, having extracted the info in time to save the many, but what if the roles were reversed?

    What do you tell the guy who got waterboarded without cause? Sorry, have a nice day?

    Who’s ass are you going after if they dragged YOU into the room and started waterboarding YOU?

    If they did that to innocent me, my settlement figure would be amount to several hundred million dollars. -or- I get to waterboard those who did it to me.

    BeachBumBill

    BeachBumBill (f095c1)

  557. In my scenario he has already confirmed the plot but refused to give details, he isn’t innocent.

    chad (719bfa)

  558. Now, either a) Brian Ross is wrong, or b) the people who did this to KSM acted morally, in your view, right?

    Yes.

    Does that make two, or am I missing others?

    Hypothetically, if (and I’m not saying that it’s the case; I doubt that it is) the people who did this to KSM also waterboarded ninety-nine other people (who, hypothetically, they believed had actionable intelligence just as they believed that KSM did), and got no actionable intelligence out any of them, and in fact drowned one, who they later found out, they had mistakenly but sincerely thought was involved in terroristic plans and had actionable intelligence, did they act morally?

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  559. Garrison Keillor reminisces about a young Patterico:

    I remember when we were kids we had similar arguments: What would you do if communists came to Lake Wobegon and they lined us up and they made us either renounce the Lord or else you would die. Which would you choose? Well, that was easy. We chose to die, you know, rather than say we didn’t believe in the Lord.

    But then somebody said “Well, what would you do if you had a choice between renouncing the Lord or drinking a pitcher of warm spit?” (It wasn’t spit, it was something else, but never mind that.) Well, that was more difficult for people to figure out. What would you rather do?

    Somehow this was a Real Thing to children in Lake Wobegon. The idea of Chinese communists all coming in, in this sort of dark green uniforms with the red star and the flag with the hammer and the sickle, and they would line up all the kids at a long table with pitchers of warm spit (or whatever) right on Main street there and you would have your choice between renouncing the Lord or drinking this. What would you do? …

    It was an odd, odd question but we took it so seriously when we were kids. It never happened, the Chinese communists did not come and make us drink pitchers of warm spit. The most they did was send over toys with lead-based paint. I mean, that’s all, and we sent them back.

    And yet, politics today seems to be dominated by people who are interested in those “renounce-the-Lord-or-drink-warm-spit” sorts of questions. It’s a strange world that we live in.

    http://download.publicradio.org/podcast/phc/2007/09/29_nflw_64.mp3

    Oregonian (3d76e7)

  560. The thing is, Joel, the total number is 3.

    This has been used in an extremely selective manner and it isn’t as though they’ve waterboarded everyone they’ve grabbed just on GP’s.

    Pablo (99243e)

  561. Chad, your hypothetical is so close to Pattericos that its been done. The legal vs moral question has been discussed too. Why start over?

    EdWood (c2268a)

  562. Pablo: i’m not following the current presidential debate, as I don’t have time. I was following it before school started. Anyhow: I missed that.

    I should have restrained my statement to cover only those engaged in the debate on this site, but I did not, and so your point is a good one. :)

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  563. sorry pablo, I missed your response. The question is ridiculous but most hypo’s are. If you want it more grounded, lets assume you have to kill his first kid so he’ll believe your threat against his 2nd. But whatever.

    Scott’s one creepy dude btw, hapilly torture innocent children if it might stop at attack? wow.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  564. Oregonian #551,

    Got any clue why the Chinese communists never came?

    nk (09a321)

  565. Armchair sheepdog (more of a poodle, I’d guess) Pablo rags on the JAGs. OK, here are some other sheepdogs on waterboarding.

    Sens. McCain, Graham, and Warner (OK, Graham is a JAG, but 2 out of 3)

    Waterboarding, under any circumstances, represents a clear violation of U.S. law.… We share your revulsion at the use of waterboarding and welcome your commitment to review existing legal memoranda covering interrogations and their consistency with current law. It is vital that you do so, as anyone who engages in this practice, on behalf of any U.S. government agency, puts himself at risk of criminal prosecution, including under the War Crimes Act, and opens himself to civil liability as well.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  566. OK, Patterico, you called me out. There were three reasons I didn’t respond to the post a couple of days ago:

    First, while you demand that we accept your hypothetical to be true, it just isn’t. There is absolutely no evidence that torture elicits truthful information. It just gets the victim to say what the torturors want to hear. The best evidence of this is to ask the question, when does the torturing stop? Not when the victim professes not to have the information sought. Not when the victim gives a response the torturers don’t want. The torture only stops when the victim can give a credible response (credible to the torturers’ mindset) that the torturers want to elicit.

    Second, I do not want to spend my time going through 332 posts (at the time) or 555 today. On the most simplistic of straw men — What if the terrorists had a nuclear bomb set to go off in NYC?!? What if the guilty criminal knew where my precious daughter was secreted and about to expire?!? Time to reread George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” where all of the ills are blamed and the society is enslaved by fear of the “terrorist” Napoleon.

    Third, post #6 by Stace summarized my feelings very well. As David Byrne sings, “Said it once, Why say it again?”

    This “ends justify the means” thinking on waterboarding, torture, the invasion of privacy, and this entire War on Terror is shortsighted, counterproductive, and immoral. Sure, it disgusts me when the Jihadists behead Americans and applaud the videotapes. But if this battle of ideologies is going to be a long one, we have to be more intelligent. Just look at poverty and birthrates. We invade a sovereign Iraq and create hundreds of thousands of new Islamic extremists. Iran can mock us because except for our air power, we are bogged down and a paper tiger. We talk about spreading democracy but have no options in a nucear-armed Pakistan other than to support a dictator and further inflame the populace. (Anyone remember the Shah?)

    We cannot torture. Under any circumstances. Any short-term gain is not only questionable, but of tremendous longterm harm.

    nosh (53dd5b)

  567. Nosh, can we put panties on their heads?

    htom (412a17)

  568. There is absolutely no evidence that torture elicits truthful information.

    Well, I suppose that’s true…

    If you ignore the times that it has.

    Like, for example, the real life instance this hypothetical is based on.

    But hey, details details.

    Torture would not have been used by militaries since time unmemorable if it never ever worked.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  569. Nosh, can we put panties on their heads?

    Only if the interrogator takes the panties off her body in front of the detained person and puts the panties on their heads immediately. This may be torture to the detainee, but is it really? I’ll do it for free — to prove this interrogation technique is not inhumane to me.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  570. Only if the interrogator takes the panties off her body in front of the detained person and puts the panties on their heads immediately.

    then

    I’ll do it for free

    Dude, not that I’m judging, but I didn’t need to know what kinda underpants you wear… :)

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  571. actually i thought i had changed some important facts but if you dont feel so then dont answer.

    chad (719bfa)

  572. lol… hey, my underpants would be even more effective ’cause they have this thing about homosexuality.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  573. Scott’s one creepy dude btw, hapilly torture innocent children if it might stop at attack? wow.

    Two things.

    1) Yes, I am very creepy, or at least most liberals find me to be so. It’s the fact that I actually love my country as it is. Freaks them out.

    2) I would not GLADLY do it, but if doing so gave a chance to stop an attack then I would do it. I would derive no pleasure from it, I assure you.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  574. Actually, Scott, I’m not aware of any evidence of a serious plot against the Library Towers that wasn’t obtained by torture. In other words, there’s just as much evidence for the Doctors’ Plot against Stalin. (Oooops, forgot again: their guys are evil.)

    However, I think nosh slightly misstates his case. I don’t think he means to say that everything that comes out of a tortured detainees mouth is false, just that the fact he says it is no reason to believe that it is true. Hence, his having said it is of little value if false positives are a problem.

    In this case, for the pro-torture crowd false positives are actually a plus: the more (false) plots and (fake) confederates and (unplanted) ticking bombs to which KSM or anyone else confesses, the more necessary, the more valuable, the more valiant the torture becomes. Yeah, from outside it looks like a lot of cowards running around in terror like chickens with their heads cut off, but from inside it’s all courage and bravery. Don’t ask me, check out Himmler or Scott Jacobs, whichever scrolls onto the screen first. Goebbels had something to contribute to the thread, too.

    Our entire war effort requires revolutionary changes. The old rules of war are outdated, and have no use at all in our present situation. […]In such a situation, any means is justified. We are in a state of national emergency; it is no time to ask what is normally done! Does the enemy worry about that? Where does international law allow for the tens of thousands of German women tortured and raped in the East, or the tens of thousands of German children who have been murdered in a cowardly and terrible way, or the many who have fallen victim to barbaric enemy bombing terror? All normal ideas of warfare have long since been discarded by the enemy. Only we good natured Germans still hold to them in the mistaken idea that we might thereby bring the enemy to reason.

    Have we ever found the enemy’s rationale for torture sufficient? The answer should tell you how shopworn and inadequate our own excuses are.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  575. Have we ever found the enemy’s rationale for torture sufficient?

    Since at least these days their rational seems to be “Torture him because we can… Praise Allah!” I would say “probably not”.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  576. Patterico:

    “I’d chop off every finger and every toe of a guilty person, who had knowledge that could save my daughter. I’d cover him with honey and stake him to a red ant pile. There’s no torture so barbaric that I wouldn’t do it. To save my daughter’s life.”

    The point that you, and those who agree with you, are completely missing is that in most if not all applications of torture, it is impossible to extract specific details. Nor is it likely that the guilty or innocent nature of the criminal being tortured will be known. You seem to assume that the criminal in question will be guilty

    The truth is that most victims of torture have not *got* specific information to prevent crime.
    Like others have said earlier, a human being tortured will say anything to make it stop – which makes it fundamentally pointless and destructive and inhumane.

    It is scary because it presumes guilt rather innocence (throwing all of that fair trial stuff out the window) and allows the brutal treatment of a potential innocent. Which is ironic, really, given that its proponents are driven by the assertion that they will compromise their morals to save another’s life.

    When I read comments such as yours I get horrible flashbacks of 1984, reading Orwell’s novel and wanting to vomit during the passage in which Winston is tortured. This is the same thing, the same brutality.

    To presume guilt before innocence without sufficient evidence, and to treat an alleged criminal accordingly (waterboarding them, sending them to Guantanamo bay, not giving them a fair trial, whichever) is sick. It really is the death of morality, the stuff of nightmares.

    lilian (f21849)

  577. Godwin’s Law violation. Penalty, 15 yards.

    Fritz (cab0df)

  578. If that post is in response to mine:

    Look, it may sound like trite hyperbole to compare the situation to Orwell’s dystopia but it is not ridiculous. If torture is allowed, a line has been crossed. If torture without solid evidence of guilt, or justification, is allowed, as has been the case in several recent instances, then it is not hyperbole to call it the stuff of nightmares, at least in my opinion.

    And if you take issue with something that I have said, please respond with actual criticism.

    lilian (f21849)

  579. Scott, fwiw, I’m a registered republican, and creepy was a nicer way to saying I think you’re sick in the head and reprehensible. Also, you made it pretty clear upthread (when you said you’d sleep fine) that it wouldn’t bother you.

    Patterico, This thread was fun. Would like to hear how your answer would change (if at all) in the presence of uncertainty.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  580. I thought it was mine. At one point I brought up the old chestnut “If you could go back in time would it be good to kill Hitler/Hitler’s parents and stop the holocaust.”

    joe (c0e4f8)

  581. Ah joe… I missed that. Well, whichever post it was, I still stand by the points that I have made.

    lilian (f21849)

  582. I think it was mine, for quoting both Himmler and Goebbels. Of course, the Himmler quote (comment 473) didn’t get much notice, as it sounds an awful lot like Scott, Pablo, et al.

    If you don’t want to be compared to Nazis, don’t spend your time finding excuses to commit torture.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  583. Well-put, Andrew.

    And also… something that’s bothering me quite a lot:

    We can’t really pretend to be discussing hypothetical situations, can we? Torture is actually taking place. Putting the ‘hypothetical’ label on the discussion sort of suspends the immorality of it, and certainly the reality of it.

    I guess what it comes down to is that people are viewing certain lives as disposable, that a supposed terrorist can be destroyed in the name of safety even if he or she is, in the end, discovered to be innocent. What if that was you? Or a loved one? The torture tactics used by the States may not be physically fatal, but have been proven to be psychologically damaging, often to a tremendous degree. I cannot understand how people cannot find this disturbing.

    lilian (f21849)

  584. Fritz, if calling Godwins law means the thread is played out then you may be right, but in this particular thread quoting the Nazi’s excuses for torture (although I bet they did worse than waterboarding) isn’t too Godwinish. I am curious if all nations that have resorted to torture have felt the need to justify it… or define it away, or if some just do it as a matter of course. Do our even our enemies have to invoke some sort of scriptural justification?

    EdWood (c2268a)

  585. Saw this comment on another board:

    “In response to “Stace”’s condemnation of torture in this hypothetical situation, Patterico replies:

    “I’d chop off every finger and every toe of a guilty person, who had knowledge that could save my daughter. I’d cover him with honey and stake him to a red ant pile. There’s no torture so barbaric that I wouldn’t do it. To save my daughter’s life.”

    I wonder if Patterico would be quite so sanguine about someone deciding that Patterico’s daughter was a guilty person, and that chopping off her fingers and toes might save their daughter’s life.”

    Indeed.

    elephant (f21849)

  586. lilian #575:

    I cannot understand how people cannot find this disturbing.

    We’re at war … which means we have to make hard choices. Not all people make the same choices but I find it disturbing you don’t realize people can make different choices and not deserve the label of a person who views “certain lives as disposable.”

    DRJ (9578af)

  587. Also, you made it pretty clear upthread (when you said you’d sleep fine) that it wouldn’t bother you.

    Sleeping ok and deriving pleasure are two very different things in my world.

    I think it was mine, for quoting both Himmler and Goebbels. Of course, the Himmler quote (comment 473) didn’t get much notice, as it sounds an awful lot like Scott, Pablo, et al.

    If you don’t want to be compared to Nazis, don’t spend your time finding excuses to commit torture.

    And if you don’t want to be treated like a douche, try to stop acting like one.

    You really think calling me a Nazi gains you any credability in my eyes? In anyone’s eyes that isn’t as unhinged as you are?

    Torture is actually taking place

    FFS people. It’s happened all of a couple of times, none in the last couple of years. Is your view of reality that warped? Is then now? Is now then? Are cats sleeping with dogs?

    Look, is torture a good thing? No. I would much rather someone just hand over what they know without any fuss or bother.

    Here’s the problem. These people are willing to die in order to take even one person out. Threats don’t work, nor does theats against their family. They are convinced that death is a good thing, and they invite it.

    The only way you get useful information out of people like that is to make LIVING so god-aweful they spill it all. You hurt them, mind or body, and you keep your finger on that pressure point until they break.

    These aren’t drug dealers we’re trying to get to tell us who their supplier is. These are mobsters we’re trying to get to rat out the big boss. These aren’t a group of embezelers or con artists or even kidnappers, who still hold some sense of true self preservation.

    These are people who think dying for their cause is the one things that brings the greatest glory.

    You don’t reason with that. You don’t ofter plea deals with that.

    The strongest instinct in a human being the the desire to avoid pain. We keep because we’re hungry, we go inside because its too hot or too cold, whatever the reason, we seek to minimize pain.

    The insanity of “Death for the cause” might block that for a little while, but sooner or later the hard-wired parts of the brain go “ok, this fucking SUCKS! I’m done.” and they talk.

    If you think I would ENJOY torturing someone, even just waterbaording, you’re nuts. I don’t actually LIKE to cause pain.

    But if it means saving someone’s life, then I’m sorry but I am more than capable of supressing what *I* want.

    Do I care that their “rights” are violated? Not in the slightest. The idea of “Civil Rights” is predicated on the concept of, well, civility. Plotting to kill people is not, I think you will agree, a form of civility. Hell it’s only human in the “base emotions are still human” sort of way. These people have dedicated themselves to slaughter, and by god if you aren’t willing to take one for the fucking team to stop that, I don’t even want to meet you on the god damn street. You aren’t even close to human.

    And anyone who thinks that by saying “sure, torture the SOB” we are saying “get the blowtorch, pliers, bamboo shoots, electrodes and go to town on every single one we catch”, you are just GRASPING at ways to try and pain us as monsters.

    KSM was a Top Guy in AQ. Betting that he DIDN’T know something probably had odds around those of winning the lottery three times in a row.

    That guy you give the business to.

    The asshole you grabbed throwning rocks or hanging out with the local No Good Boys? Probably not gonna know about the next attack on the US. Odds are good.

    You don’t torture everyone. That’s pointless, and yes, then it starts to become sadistic. But when you pick and choose the very most likely, you’re playing the odds in your favor by a long shot. Every name, every address that is a weapons cache, every day and time and method they divulge is one more game we don’t even have to play.

    Forget calling those wins or losses, the game doesn’t even happen.

    And if we stop enough like that, then maybe, just maybe, it’ll all stop.

    Until then, you can take your sanctamonious “you’re a monster”, and your holier than thou attitude because you think you’re so much fucking better than us because you’d let people die when you KNOW you could have done something to stop it (but didn’t because how DARE we consider asking you to bend your personal rules for the good of someone that isn’t you), and you can shove it up your ass.

    Like DRJ said, we’re at war. This isn’t a game of god damn tiddly-winks. Shit will blow up, and people will be mained and will die.

    I’m sorry if I value our lives more than theirs, and that I’d prefer the dying and the being maimed be done by people who aren’t us.

    then again, a lot of you folks are the same people who think Iraq was better off before we showed up, which means you DO support not just torture, but rape. Violent, ruinous, body-destroying rape and torture.

    So forgive me if your judgement of me doesn’t amount to a hell of a lot in my book.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  588. Any justification for torture relies on the competence and effectiveness of the CIA, NSA, FBI, and other intelligence organizations. Anybody paying attention tonight to the woman who passed all of her background checks and now is found to have an unauthorized interest in Hezbollah? Anybody remember how much we based our pre-Iraq war intelligence (hah!) on Chalabi?

    nosh (53dd5b)

  589. Nash, we hear all day about the mistakes the CIA, NSA, FBI and others make. 9/11 tore them all new ones…

    But what if they had stopped it. Do you think you’d have ever heard about it in enough detail to impress upon you what might have happened?

    “Terrorists today were captured as they attempted to board airplanes”

    We’d have though simple hijacking, made demands, maybe kill everyone on the planes/blow it up.

    Would ANY of us have grasped the idea of “flown into three buildings and but for the grace of god a field in PA”?

    We only hear about their fuck ups. They don’t brag about the wins, because that undermines their ability to do more.

    And considering the raping the CIA/NSA budget got for the past couple of decades, I’m surprised the huns haven’t busted down the gate.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  590. EdWood, for far too many people, their only interest in the debate on interrogation is the opportunity to call Republicans Nazis.

    They give themselves away with how often they resort to the rhetoric.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  591. Hey there, new reader here.

    Hell yes I’d waterboard him!

    Thanks!

    deskbox (0bc142)

  592. YES

    But then, I’m not a liberal.

    bt (31352b)

  593. We can’t really pretend to be discussing hypothetical situations, can we? Torture is actually taking place. Putting the ‘hypothetical’ label on the discussion sort of suspends the immorality of it, and certainly the reality of it.

    I guess what it comes down to is that people are viewing certain lives as disposable, that a supposed terrorist can be destroyed in the name of safety even if he or she is, in the end, discovered to be innocent.

    This comment ignores several relevant facts:

    1) If Brian Ross’s report is to be believed, it is not a hypothetical question. (This, incidentally, is why Semanticleo and Oregonian’s dodges are so transparent, shameless, and indefensible.)

    KSM is not innocent.

    Waterboarding someone for 2 1/2 minutes is not “destroying” them.

    Otherwise, it’s right on point!

    Patterico (bad89b)

  594. Scott Jacobs

    In your lengthy and sanctimonious post (#578) you seem to have made the assumption that the people that will be tortured are already guilty.
    You also promote an “Us vs Them” view. Who is “us” and who are “them”?
    Who is immune to torture, and who is a candidate for torture?

    How do you respond to the fact that all too often torture only extracts false confessions? People want to live. If pushed to their limits they will say *anything* in order to live. That anything is not necessarily the truth. To believe that what will be extracted from the person tortured will be the truth is to revert to the circular logic of a witch hunt.

    And to engage in horrendous cruelty to boot.

    So you can dismiss those of us who criticize torture, fine. That is your own opinion. But to say that WE have got the ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude going, well, just incites us this opponent to torture to suggest that you take a good look in the mirror.

    ps

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arWJ358tZgU

    elephant (f21849)

  595. If you don’t want to be compared to Nazis, don’t spend your time finding excuses to commit torture.

    Ok, Andrew J. Lazarus, you are like Neville Chamberlain.

    If you could have prevented 9/11 by waterboarding Osama bin Laden for 2 1/2 minutes, you would have taken a pass.

    You would have let thousands die.

    Fathers. Mothers.

    Children.

    You want to start moralizing and comparing people to Nazis? How can you live with yourself when you would consign thousands to their death, all for the delicious little frisson of satisfaction you get from being ever so goddamned self-righteous about how delicately you would treat an admitted mass murderer?

    You elevate your own precious little principles above human life. You are the personification of Neville Chamberlain.

    You don’t like that? Then stop wasting your time talking about how much better you supposedly are than people with 50 times your common sense.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  596. Gee, that was satisfying! It’s fun to climb up on a soapbox and demonize others!!

    Now I know what it must be like to be Andrew J. Lazarus!

    I think I’m still feeling the high . . .

    Patterico (bad89b)

  597. Now, if we can move past the chest-beating moralizing and back to the discussion . . .

    Patterico (bad89b)

  598. spqr I agree with you that nazis are brought up too often, this particular question lends itself to that, but other regimes then the nazis should also come up. Was the Nazi torture (just of combat troops or saboteurs, NOT camp detainees) more justified becuase they thought their cause was just and desperate, as opposed to torture by Stalin who only wanted to consolidate his power?

    EdWood (419b6b)

  599. Patterico:

    You are mistaken.

    1.) I was not referring *only* to KSM. I am saying that there may have, and may possibly be, instances of people being tortured who are innocent. And on the point you have made, you might be interested to know that: KSM may have been guilty of certain crimes, but not of what he “confessed” when waterboarded: please read the entirety of http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/13/070813fa_fact_mayer/

    2.) I was not referring only to waterboarding. Waterboarding is not the only form of torture utilized by the US. Sensory deprivation (in which the prisoner is either exposed to constant light or darkness [and loses all sense of time] or blocked from sound), which has tremendous psychological impact), sleep deprivation and several other techniques of psychological torture have in cases reduced prisoners to vegetables. I will post some links soon.

    I take it your final point is sarcastic. You seem to have ignored my question: what if someone important to you were wrongly imprisoned? And tortured? And forced to confess horrendous things that they had not actually done in order to escape?

    I am not saying that every person imprisoned and tortured will be innocent. But does that matter? Given that confessions given under such duress will likely be nonsense ANYWAY, to reduce ourselves to the *level* of terrorists in such a way, and commit such cruelty, is certainly questionable. Do you agree, Patterico?

    To me it reeks of McCarthyism, sadism and bad logic.

    lilian (f21849)

  600. Patterico:

    You are mistaken.

    1.) I was not referring *only* to KSM. I am saying that there may have, and may possibly be, instances of people being tortured who are innocent. And on the point you have made, you might be interested to know that: KSM may have been guilty of certain crimes, but not of what he “confessed” when waterboarded: please read the entirety of http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/13/070813fa_fact_mayer/

    2.) I was not referring only to waterboarding. Waterboarding is not the only form of torture utilized by the US. Sensory deprivation (in which the prisoner is either exposed to constant light or darkness [and loses all sense of time] or blocked from sound), which has tremendous psychological impact), sleep deprivation and several other techniques of psychological torture have in cases reduced prisoners to vegetables. I will post some links soon.

    I take it your final point is sarcastic. You seem to have ignored my question: what if someone important to you were wrongly imprisoned? And tortured? And forced to confess horrendous things that they had not actually done in order to escape?

    I am not saying that every person imprisoned and tortured will be innocent. But does that matter? Given that confessions given under such duress will likely be nonsense ANYWAY, to reduce ourselves to the *level* of terrorists in such a way, and commit such cruelty, is certainly questionable. Do you agree, Patterico?

    To me it reeks of McCarthyism, sadism and bad logic.

    elephant (f21849)

  601. Joe at 522….not even close to the same criterion…

    And, I teach that exact thing, using the exact example, to my elementary students as one of our lessons on right and wrong, or legal and illegal….

    And, it is always illegal, and it is always wrong, to steal the loaf of bread to feed your starving children…

    Why? Because there are other options….other ways to get food….and you would have used those before it got to the point of stealing….

    There may not be other options in your hypo..

    Try, try again….

    reff (99666d)

  602. I’m glad I stopped by. This is an excellent post/thread to remember.
    Things will change – sooner than we think – and what’s here will help illuminate the past.

    Gold Star for Robot Boy (c6b982)

  603. Patterico:

    If you could have prevented 9/11 by waterboarding Osama bin Laden for 2 1/2 minutes, you would have taken a pass

    Mr. Bauer ;), the POINT is waterboarding probably would have made no difference. Also, how would they have *known* to waterboard him before the attack? If they had not known any significant details about the plot beforehand how would they have known to target him?

    You are making arguments based on emotion. I agree, 9.11 was hideous… but to say that opponents of torture would have simply allowed the deaths of “children and parents” is just ugly. There are other ways. Instead of attacking one another we should have an actual *discussion* on the matter. Then we might get somewhere.

    elephant (f21849)

  604. Scott,

    In your lengthy and sanctimonious post (#578) you seem to have made the assumption that the people that will be tortured are already guilty.
    You also promote an “Us vs Them” view. Who is “us” and who are “them”?
    Who is immune to torture, and who is a candidate for torture?

    How do you respond to the fact that all too often torture only extracts false confessions? People want to live. If pushed to their limits they will say *anything* in order to live. That anything is not necessarily the truth. To believe that what will be extracted from the person tortured will be the truth is to revert to the circular logic of a witch hunt.

    And to engage in horrendous cruelty to boot.

    So you can dismiss those of us who criticize torture, fine. That is your own opinion. But to say that WE have got the ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude going, well, just incites us this opponent to torture to suggest that you take a good look in the mirror.

    elephant (f21849)

  605. Do I care that their “rights” are violated? Not in the slightest. The idea of “Civil Rights” is predicated on the concept of, well, civility.

    Natural rights, my son, we’re talking about natural rights. Now go forth and sin no more.

    Fritz (cab0df)

  606. The only natural right we have is to be part of the food chain.

    nk (09a321)

  607. “elephant”:

    1) Why do you think I’m talking to you?

    the POINT is waterboarding probably would have made no difference.

    the POINT is that the hypo assumes that it did.

    You are making arguments based on emotion. I agree, 9.11 was hideous… but to say that opponents of torture would have simply allowed the deaths of “children and parents” is just ugly.

    I think you are missing the POINT of my comments 585 through 587. In particular 586 and 587. In particular 587.

    It was pretty obvious irony, my elephantine friend.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  608. I read this thread with great interest. I haven’t chimed in for two reasons.

    1) I’m somewhere between a liberal and a conservative as I see the terms bandied about these days. I have no use whatsoever for the lunacy of progressives and I’m far closer to a conservative as I suspect most folks would define the term, but not nestled in there by any means either. So for what it’s worth, my answer to the hypothetical posed in the post would be an unequivocal yes. But it’s meaningless in context because:

    2) I don’t consider waterboarding torture. Inducing panic and fear is not torture. I recognize Mr Patterico’s intention to subsume the question of whether waterboarding is torture in the hypothetical, but that still leaves the framing of the hypothetical rickety in my opinion. Because I would give the same unequivocal yes to the use of sleep deprivation, contrived Russian Roulette, staging an ersatz torture or execution (Costner’s Untouchables had a great example of that), use of drugs, and so on. There would be a limit, but waterboarding doesn’t come close too it.

    Just Passing Through (d7a06d)

  609. This came across wrong:

    1) Why do you think I’m talking to you?

    I’m happy to talk to you.

    I’m just not aware that I already was.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  610. Now go forth and sin no more.

    Right after I stop them from slamming a tanker truck into your kids’ school building. I’ll get right on that.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  611. Lilian – You created a virtual herring run in the course of just a few comments.

    “The truth is that most victims of torture have not *got* specific information to prevent crime.”
    We’re talking about terrorists, not criminals, but nevertheless, do you have anything to back up this assertion or is it just your opinion?

    “To presume guilt before innocence without sufficient evidence, and to treat an alleged criminal accordingly (waterboarding them, sending them to Guantanamo bay, not giving them a fair trial, whichever) is sick.”
    Hopefully you are aware that we do not have to try prisoners of war and can hold them until the cessation of histilities, rendering your comment, inane. A CSRT will be held, but no trial peoving innocence or guilt is required.

    “The torture tactics used by the States may not be physically fatal, but have been proven to be psychologically damaging, often to a tremendous degree.”
    Lilian, could you give us some expert citations here, not just defense lawyers or human rights groups on the effects of the U.S. tactics, since the government doesn’t discuss them much?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  612. AJL I’ve lost track of the number of times you have used a variant of the following sentences over the past several days:

    “Actually, Scott, I’m not aware of any evidence of a serious plot against the Library Towers that wasn’t obtained by torture. In other words, there’s just as much evidence for the Doctors’ Plot against Stalin. (Oooops, forgot again: their guys are evil.)”

    I guess the size of your ego precludes you from believing that a serious plot could have been planned against the Library Towers outside of the evidence obtained from KSM because YOU have not heard of or read about such evidence. After all, don’t these government bastards know who you are, you have a right to know about all such plots. They don’t exist by definition if Andrew J.Lazarus doesn’t know about them.

    Lighten up Andy. Entertain the frightening possibility that you don’t know everything. Everyone else here already shares that view.
    Why should the government reveal all the details of every terrorist plot? I would not if I were in charge of those disclosures. What a concept!

    AJL has no need to know everything.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  613. Reff at 590; I didn’t mean to imply that there’s no difference. I was pointing out that the hungry child/bread example is (afaik) the classic hypo for end justifying means. Some of the comments here seem to imply that “would you do a bad thing to accomplish a good end?” is a new question.

    Pointing out that there might be other ways to achieve just ends would likely be seen by patterico and other’s as evasion. Although P did a great job of closing out any thing that would move the question away from “do the ends justify the means?”

    As has been pointed out the original hypo would be more difficult (and useful) if perfect knowledge weren’t assumed.

    I’m still curious to see how, if at all, patterico’s answer changes in the absence of certainty.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  614. Whatever errors Neville Chamberlain committed, failure to waterboard Osama was not one of them. Indeed, as far as I know, he was never offered the opportunity to waterboard Hitler and Mussolini. Winston Churchill was likewise not a practitioner or supporter of torture, so what exactly would be your point? That you are flailing away looking for a way to convert human weakness—indiscipline, cruelty, fruitless violence—into strength and bravery. Himmler thought the Holocaust was an act of bravery. When he saw it in practice, he puked. I could confect a hypo where slaughter of Jews was a necessary evil to halt Judeobolshevism: Stalin’s ability to take over Europe was far greater than Osama’s chances of establishing sharia in the United States. The Holocaust would still be ineffably evil. Take it from there.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (fbbbca)

  615. The Jews were innocent victims. KSM wasn’t. Again, you miss the moral point, Andrew J. Lazarus.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  616. “Whatever errors Neville Chamberlain committed, failure to waterboard Osama was not one of them.”

    Whatever errors Hitler committed, waterboarding KSM was not one of them.

    Now that we’ve established that analogies aren’t equations, I think we’ve all earned a cookie, don’t you?

    What was my point? To mock your sanctimonious analogy to Nazis, by letting you have a little wallop of the ol’ self-righteousness from the other side. You missed the fact that I wasn’t being serious.

    Patterico (1726bd)

  617. Joe in 601, I don’t think they change in the absence of certainty. I think that certainty is not possible in the pursuit of terrorists, so, the best we can expect is to have some semblance of certainty. That is why I’m amazed that liberals want to have the law, then expect someone to break it when it becomes necessary. I also think this is why waterboarding is not illegal (yet). But, I also believe that our system of justice and laws gives us a higher moral authority in situations such as the hypos kicked around in this thread. While that is just an opinion, the basis in fact that I come from is our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, the Monroe Doctrine, our tremendous charity to the world, our history of not being conquerors who take from the defeated enemy, and the rest of our history that shows just these things….the things that tell the rest of the world we are just trying to do what will protect all…..

    reff (99666d)

  618. absolutely feel that waterboarding is the moral choice, in that circumstance.

    Kat (5938d1)

  619. JPT sums up my position quite nicely, and is exactly why I have attempted to avoid this conversation. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that waterboarding is torture is just wrong. Hell, sleep deprivation, heat, cold, loud music? Torture has become this all encompassing word that the Leftist throw about to proclaim their moral superiority, and childishness. Their expansive meaning of the word is so broad, and so vague, so as to render it meaningless. Also, it allows the terrorist, or suspected terrorist to define, by ways of being uncomfortable, what is and is not “torture”. Being unable to accept the underlying premise, there is no need to further explore the hypotheticals.

    I do note that despite the Yes/No nature of the hypothetical, so many cannot bring themselves to answer the question as asked. Usually, the Leftist changes the question to suit themselves, and then asks and answers their version of the actual question. Asshattery at its finest here folks.

    JD (33beff)

  620. Asshattery at its finest here folks.

    My work here is done… :)

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  621. joe

    I got in late so maybe I missed your point amidst the 610 or so comments.
    I think everyone on earth has stretched the means towards a just end
    Speed limit is 25 but your pregnant wife is in labor and extreme pain so you go 45.
    But life is messy.
    Lets say that on the way you tag a little kid while speeding to the hospital who later dies at the same time your wife gives birth.
    You get to be both right and wrong. Congratulations and say hello to a couple of lawyers; one criminal defense and the other civil and say goodbye to your savings.

    But really, KSM had evil ends in mind. He was involved in a group of conspirators of evil ends.
    Waterboarding KSM exposed the means he and his co conspriators were using. Evil end was avoided by using waterboarding.
    KSM forfeited his right not to be waterboarded by indulging in evil criminal activity which had a stated end of murdering thousands.
    Terrorists assume some measure of risk when they try to kill thousands
    One of the risks 3 of them assumed was getting waterboarded.
    Big deal.
    Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time…. and… you got nothing coming.
    Words to learn and know when you begin criminal activity

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  622. I’m still curious to see how, if at all, patterico’s answer changes in the absence of certainty.

    Of course it does. I said as much in my post about “Thinking Out Loud About Waterboarding.”

    Patterico (bad89b)

  623. IF waterboarding is torture, then why in the hell would Congress ever consider a bill to ban it, as it would already be banned?

    Quite simply, the bill(s) to ban waterboarding will never see the light of day, because that would be a tacit acknowledgement that it was legal prior to the passage of the legislation.

    JD (33beff)

  624. I really want to move to the next step of this analysis, but Oregonian and Semanticleo are still avoiding the question.

    This, despite the fact that, as I have said several times, the question is directly based on a Big Media report that says exactly this set of facts did in fact happen.

    Do I know that the report is correct? No, but Oregonian and Semanticleo don’t know that it’s wrong.

    If it may have happened, then it’s certainly a serious enough question to merit an answer.

    I can only conclude from their silence that they know any answer they could provide would be embarrassing. Either they sanction the waterboarding, which makes them look hypocritical because of their past chest-beating sanctimonious stand that Torture Is Always Illegal Always No Takebacks . . . or they refuse to admit any ambiguity, and look like ideologues without a shred of common sense.

    No wonder they’re wussing out of answering.

    For cripes’ sake, nosh answered. blah answered. Andrew J. Lazarus answered.

    Why are Oregonian and Semanticleo so gutless?

    If someone asked me “Knowing what you know now, was the war in Iraq a mistake?” I would be gutless if I kept dodging that question. I would lose any authority to discuss anything about the war if I couldn’t commit.

    Same goes for this. Why should we ever listen to anything Oregonian and Semanticleo ever say on torture if they are unwilling to tell us the price tag they put on their self-righteous view of the matter?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  625. elephant:

    Indeed.

    Indeed, indeed!

    My response to that comment on the other board is awaiting moderation, but I’ll reproduce it here:

    I wonder if Patterico would be quite so sanguine about someone deciding that Patterico’s daughter was a guilty person, and that chopping off her fingers and toes might save their daughter’s life.

    That makes no sense. My hypothetical assumed that there was an evil man who was harming my daughter, and who would kill her if he didn’t reveal the information that could save her. It also assumed (again, unrealistically — it’s a hypo) that the torture would be 100% effective in getting him to reveal the situation. In other words, in this purely philosophical exercise, the choices are

    a) No torture; my daughter dies
    b) Torture; my daughter lives.

    Keep in mind that the person to be tortured is the guilty party who is trying to kill her. Again, it’s an assumption made in a hypo designed to explore morality.

    In such a situation, I can’t imagine a torture so brutal that I would not engage in it.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  626. Comment by Patterico — 11/13/2007 @ 9:39 pm

    Shorter Patterico:

    Hypothetically, Oregonian and Semanticleo, you have the choice and you have the power:

    a) KSM waterboarded for 2.5 minutes
    b) Library Tower destroyed, thousands dead, economy damaged followed by, in all likelihood, military action against someone somewhere with collateral casualties and unforseen consequences

    Pick one. Just give me a letter: a or b?

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  627. Lee Oswald wakes up one morning realising for absolutely certain that the President poses a grave and imminent danger to the United States and all he holds dear. He knows this beyond doubt and has to decide whether to take action and shoot the president or to ignore his certain knowledge and let events unfold.

    Given the above hypothetical, was he right to shoot the president?

    Bernard (08fd8d)

  628. Patterico, I didn’t read that post. I’ll go check it out before i comment further.

    Reff at 601

    But, I also believe that our system of justice and laws gives us a higher moral authority in situations such as the hypos kicked around in this thread. While that is just an opinion, the basis in fact that I come from is our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, the Monroe Doctrine, our tremendous charity to the world, our history of not being conquerors who take from the defeated enemy, and the rest of our history that shows just these things

    The bolded portion is funny. I’m not saying that we give the land back to the Indians, but we sure as hell conquered them and took everything they had.

    joe (c0e4f8)

  629. Pablo, I’m not at all sure that the number is actually 3 — even in terms of waterboarding, much less other means of interrogation that are at least arguably torture. There’s good reasons for secrecy about some things, but the downside to secrecy is the practical guarantee that some folks will hide things for the wrong reasons.

    That, though, is a real issue, and Patterico seems to want to stick to hypotheticals, so I’ll try to respect that.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  630. Andrew is 603. If you really think this:

    “Winston Churchill was likewise not a practitioner or supporter of torture” you are truly ignorant of history.

    Did you know that Winston Churchill allowed the Germans to carpet bomb and destroy a British village because vacating that village would have tipped off the Germans that the British had broken their code? Churchill was willing to do whatever had to be done in order to win the war.

    I’d bet my left *** that he would be totally willing to pour water over the face of some terrorist in order to help win this war.

    headhunt23 (9e1243)

  631. Pablo, I’m not at all sure that the number is actually 3 — even in terms of waterboarding, much less other means of interrogation that are at least arguably torture.

    Joel, that leaves us in a place of debating things which we don’t even know have happened, are happening or will likely happen in the future. We might as well debate the merits of forced sex changes or the unlawful use of witchcraft. And the assumption that such tactics are used on every Tom, Dick and Achmed we come across are founded more in BDS than anything else. There simply wouldn’t be any point in it, save sadism.

    The available evidence tells us there were 3.

    Pablo (99243e)

  632. I’m not saying that we give the land back to the Indians, but we sure as hell conquered them and took everything they had.

    So that one “event” (it was a long process, but essentially it is one event) makes us in your eyes the oposite of what Patterico describes?

    So giving German back to it’s people twice (and working to make sure they got the other half back the second time), Japan, Italy, etc etc etc were just aberations, and not the norm?

    Seriously, didn’t you say that you were a registered republican?

    Are you SURE you checked the right box there bubba?

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  633. 616,

    Given the above hypothetical, was he right to shoot the president?

    David Berkowitz was sure he was doing the right thing, as the neighbor’s dog told him so. Absolute certainty. I’m going to have to say yes, Bernard, because you can’t argue with a crazed mind.

    Pablo (99243e)

  634. The available evidence tells us there were 3.

    Yup. But the evidence is controlled by people who have motivations to tell us that the number is low. That doesn’t make them liars; it does make the evidence less reliable than admissions contrary to interest.

    As to the rest of your posting, well: huh? You’ve made the 620th post on a hypothetical; that’s hardly the place to be complaining about “that leaves us in a place of debating things which we don’t even know have happened, are happening or will likely happen in the future.”

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  635. Why should we ever listen to anything Oregonian and Semanticleo ever say

    You listen to them?

    An assumption that the number orf people that have been waterboarded is anything other than what we have been told is premised on BDS.

    I still call BS on waterboarding being torture.

    JD (33beff)

  636. Scott, you moron, that’s not even close to what I said. Please try to read what I actually wrote.

    I just thought it was funny to say that we were morally justified in torture because, among other things, the US has never conquered anyone to take their stuff when that was how we founded the country. Conquering people to take there stuff was an actual policy; Manifest Destiny. We thought that God really wanted us to control what is now the USA. I’m happy with the current state of affairs but it’s silly morally unserious to pretend that 200 years of conquest never happened.

    Also, that wasn’t patterico.

    joe (6dd049)

  637. Yup. But the evidence is controlled by people who have motivations to tell us that the number is low. That doesn’t make them liars; it does make the evidence less reliable than admissions contrary to interest.

    The evidence is controlled by people who have motivations to never speak a word about it, and yet, here we are. That doesn’t give us license to assume facts not in evidence. And I don’t see much point in debate based on suspicions.

    As to the rest of your posting, well: huh?

    Actually, this hypothetical is not really hypothetical at all. It has been reported as fact, as Patterico noted in the post. And we weren’t talking about the hypo, you and I, we were talking about the real world incidence of waterboarding.

    Pablo (99243e)

  638. elephant,

    A guest blogger pointed out that you are posting from the same IP as lilian. No wonder you thought I was talking to you when I didn’t think I was. Please maintain a consistent identity.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  639. Pablo, the crazed factor is indeed one of the problems with relying on an individual’s certainty as a guideline (though, of course, we can never entirely get away from the possibility that delusion will skew decision making).

    The bigger problem, though, is that hypotheticals are never very useful in informing real world behaviour. A person who had the chance to kill Hitler at 11 knowing for sure what the future would be would be absolutely right to in my book, but in the real world they’d have been recorded as another cold blooded murderer and Hitler as the tragic loss of a child. The question is interesting in uncovering whether individual’s objection to torture is contingent or absolute (in my case i’d definitely support torture if the calculation was clearly positive, but I’m not at all sure it’s practically useful and I worry that the negative consequences of authorising the government to use it are too scary).

    The guardedness of most people in responding to hypotheticals is precisely because overzealous politicos may misinterpret the subtlety of the responses (eg. by interpreting the ‘yes i’d kill Hitler in 1915 if I could’ response to indicate that eugenics is a good idea).

    Bernard (08fd8d)

  640. I’ll give Oregonian and Semanticleo one more day to answer the hypo, which is, again, based on a reported news story about information we allegedly got from KSM. In real life.

    Meaning it is not a “when did you stop beating your wife” question, or a Garrison Keillor thumbsucker having no possible bearing on the real world. Any such complaints are an obvious, utterly transparent dodge.

    If they continue to dodge the question, I’ll do up a post showing the real-world story the hypo is based on, showcase their evasion and lack of seriousness, and discuss what it exemplifies.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  641. The theme will be smug, sanctimonious self-righteousness, and the desire to maintain that posture at all costs — even if it makes you embarrassingly unwilling to discuss possibly real-world hypos that might undercut your self-satisfied predispositions.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  642. Pablo, the crazed factor is indeed one of the problems with relying on an individual’s certainty as a guideline (though, of course, we can never entirely get away from the possibility that delusion will skew decision making).

    Bernard, you seem to be assuming that such decisions as the one to waterboard KSM are undertaken by individuals. That is not the case, so your hypo doesn’t correlate to the question at hand. Lone wackos are an entirely different kettle of fish.

    Pablo (99243e)

  643. joe,

    I am not answering any of Semanticleo’s hypos because s/he didn’t answer mine.

    Also: “If waterboarding is torture (some argument there) and if it’s justified to do it, we appear to have a prosecutor who’s saying that it’s moral to break the law.”

    joe, don’t say things like that. I repeatedly said this was not a legal discussion. For purposes of the discussion you should assume that you can set the law consistent with your moral views. Leave my profession out of it. I won’t say that again.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  644. Pablo, I think it does. My hypothetical deals with whether Oswald acted correctly with the information I assume he had (whether he was crazed or not didn’t enter into the hypothetical, though it clearly does in real life). Patterico’s hypothetical deals with whether the interrogator’s act correctly with the information they are assumed to have (whether they did or not doesn’t enter into the hypothetical). In both cases, the question is whether taking extra-legal action is morally justified.

    The reason I picked an example that rightly makes most of us squeamish is to demonstrate on the side that these hypotheticals aren’t terribly useful in formulating real world policy (because answering ‘yes’ in one or both cases doesn’t make one in favour of torture or assassination).

    Bernard (08fd8d)

  645. Actually, Bernard, your hypothetical really isn’t hypothetical either. It asks for a post facto assessment of the “rightness” of the Kennedy assassination, based on Oswald’s viewpoint.

    In both cases, the question is whether taking extra-legal action is morally justified.

    No, because there’s nothing to indicate that the actors in Patterico’s took extra-legal action. And he asked “Was it worth it?” You want to know whether Oswald was right to shoot the president. I don’t know how to wrap my head head around the question “Was shooting Kennedy worth it?”

    Oswald was a nut. The guys who broke KSM were professionals doing the job we tasked them with, within the structure we give them to work in, and that does not include, in these cases, solo freelancing. You cannot make a comparison between one nutjob and a team of interrogators. We also have the benefit of hindsight here that tells us the KSM guys got it right. Are you willing to suggest that about Oswald?

    Pablo (99243e)

  646. Well, 619, instead of some vague guess on your part, try finding a case where Winston Churchill supported torture. You can’t. The depravity represented by the Bush Administration and this thread is not part of Churchill’s legacy. He ridiculed the idea of employing barbarism as a means of saving civilization (read Lord of the Flies for an understanding of this thread).

    The genuine Churchill on World War One:

    When all was over, torture and cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves: and these were of doubtful utility.

    Somehow I don’t see why letting the Germans bomb Coventry was a war crime and a transgression of traditional norms, the way torture is. Even the bombing of Dresden (which Churchill supported enthusiastically) was merely a more intense application of a principle (you can bomb the hell out of the enemy) that was already established during the war. Indeed, Churchill and Coventry would seem to me to be an example of accepting short-term losses for long-term gains. I have little doubt that (re-)establishing torture as an international norm is a long-term loss.

    It would be more honest for Patterico et al to admit we wish to withdraw from the International Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions, forfeiting whatever claim to moral clarity we might wish to make, than to come up with all these tortured hypotheticals.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (fbbbca)

  647. I’m glad to hear — but not particularly surprised — that your answer, Patterico, changes absent certainty.

    But, really, other than in hypotheticals, we all make decisions absent certainty (as opposed to the conviction of certainty), and the effects of decisions are only restricted to the framer’s choices in hypotheticals.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  648. Andrew J. Lazarus,

    Quiz for you.

    My hypo is based on a real-life news report.

    a) True
    b) False

    Patterico (ee186c)

  649. I guess to people like AJL, the fact that our opponents flagrantly and intentionally ignore and flaunt these same convntions against “torture” and the Rules of War means nothing. It is more important for them that America be the bad guy, and Republicans specifically, so that they can stand tall on their self proclaimed moral high ground, lecturing us barbarians.

    JD (33beff)

  650. Somehow I don’t see why letting the Germans bomb Coventry was a war crime and a transgression of traditional norms, the way torture is.

    And that’s why I – at least – have no respect for you.

    You are saying that making an individual or small number of individuals, is worse than allowing the killing of fellow citizens.

    You have a disconnect somewhere…

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  651. The depravity represented by the Bush Administration and this thread is not part of Churchill’s legacy.

    Yes. George Bush, our CIA and those who support the tactics used on KSM are just like the headchopping, child suicide bomb rigging, civilian mass murdering jihadis. Utterly depraved.

    Moral relevance: It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

    Take note, Aphrael.

    Pablo (99243e)

  652. Actually the Coventry story is a myth based on a Winterbotham’s inadequately researched book since debunked.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  653. It would be more honest for Patterico et al to admit we wish to withdraw from the International Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions, forfeiting whatever claim to moral clarity we might wish to make, than to come up with all these tortured hypotheticals.

    Because our guys gain so much protection from those two things when dealing with terrorists and extremists.

    Or is videotaping a guy’s beheading and posting it to the web not covered?

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  654. Pablo, the fact that my hypothetical is based in real events doesn’t make it any less hypothetical (I have no idea what Oswald was really thinking when, I assume, he shot Kennedy). You’ll note in reading the original post that Patterico’s hypothetical is also knowingly based in real world events but with assumptions about details of who knew what and when.

    The ‘you can’t compare’ line is no different than the line Patterico assumed the ‘liberals’ he mentions would take in trying to find a reason not to address the question.

    As for the ‘there’s nothing to indicate Patterico’s assumed actors took extra-legal action’ line, you’ll note in reading comments from him and others that his intention is to determine people’s moral attitude to taking extra-legal steps in this specific hypothetical scenario (the ‘if the stakes were high enough then I would baulk at no form of torture’ comments demonstrate this).

    The benefit of hindsight point is also a red herring for reasons given throughout the comments. A man who spends his kid’s college fund buying lottery tickets does not get proven a genius because he happens to win. In divining useful real world information we have to decide if their actions were justified on the facts during, not after the event (it’s also worth noting that this last point of yours strays beyond the hypothetical by referencing the real world scenario on which it’s based – which was explicitly declared out of bounds in the initial thread).

    Bernard (08fd8d)

  655. Pablo, the fact that my hypothetical is based in real events doesn’t make it any less hypothetical (I have no idea what Oswald was really thinking when, I assume, he shot Kennedy).

    But the premise of your hypo requires assuming the validity of Oswald’s mindset, as you describe it. That’s a hell of a jump to make, and it bears no relation to the cause of the waterboarding at hand. Because, you see, I think Oswald was thinking very much along those lines and I think he was a nut.

    As for the ‘there’s nothing to indicate Patterico’s assumed actors took extra-legal action’ line, you’ll note in reading comments from him and others that his intention is to determine people’s moral attitude to taking extra-legal steps in this specific hypothetical scenario (the ‘if the stakes were high enough then I would baulk at no form of torture’ comments demonstrate this).

    We’re talking about the hypo, Bernard. The question was “Was waterboarding KSM worth it?” Not “Would you stick a red hot poker up his ass, or cut his nuts off?” I know it’s getting to be a long way to scroll, but it’s up there, in the post, in bold, twice.

    In divining useful real world information we have to decide if their actions were justified on the facts during, not after the event (it’s also worth noting that this last point of yours strays beyond the hypothetical by referencing the real world scenario on which it’s based – which was explicitly declared out of bounds in the initial thread).

    The hypo asks us to make a judgment in hindsight. We know what happened and we know what we got out of it before we’re asked to judge it. We don’t know the facts they had before and during, other than that we know he planned 9/11. But we can understand that their reasoning lay somewhere along a continuum from wild ass guesses to highly educated assumptions. I’m inclined to think that with the one fact we do have, the planning of 9/11, their suspicions land toward the latter end of that continuum.

    Pablo (99243e)

  656. Arrgh. Extensive response to Bernard caught in the spam filter.

    Pablo (99243e)

  657. joe, don’t say things like that. I repeatedly said this was not a legal discussion. For purposes of the discussion you should assume that you can set the law consistent with your moral views. Leave my profession out of it. I won’t say that again.

    Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to step on your toes. I think there’s a moral case for following the law, even in some cases an unjust law and that it was relevant. If you don’t want to have that discussion I won’t bring it up again. Your blog your rules.

    joe (6dd049)

  658. http://www.reason.com/news/show/117073.html

    Here’s another poser: Suppose you’re an innocent suspect whom your captors are convinced is a terrorist. They don’t believe your protestations, so they decide to torture you into a confession. The more you protest your innocence, the more frustrated they get that you won’t “crack.” What do you say to get them to stop? How do you get them not to decide they need to hurt you even more?

    anonymous (f21849)

  659. http://www.reason.com/news/show/117073.html

    Here’s another poser: Suppose you’re an innocent suspect whom your captors are convinced is a terrorist. They don’t believe your protestations, so they decide to torture you into a confession. The more you protest your innocence, the more frustrated they get that you won’t “crack.” What do you say to get them to stop? How do you get them not to decide they need to hurt you even more?

    anon (f21849)

  660. My hypo is based on a real-life news report.
    a) True
    b) False

    Your hypo is based on a real-life news report. That, however, doesn’t mean the news report is “true”, and moreover doesn’t put it in any sort of context. There is no evidence that the Library Towers threat was anything more than KSM promising a repeat of his previous operation: no recruits, no schedule, no nothing. There are lots of vague dark threats around, to provide some context for abandoning civilized norms. I like that link in the previous comment and I made it myself: why don’t people even think of offering KSM sex-for-info deals? Why? Because neither these threads nor the torture program are about intel. They are about the power to transgress civilized norms.

    Orwell said: The reason for torture is torture.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (fbbbca)

  661. And there you have it folks, in a nutshell. AJL simply knows better, simply is better, than everyone else.

    JD (33beff)

  662. Sorry, Orwell said: The purpose of torture is torture.

    Blanked for a minute.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (fbbbca)

  663. JD, do you have nothing better to take down his opinion with than a flippant dismissal? How is he being self-righteous? I think he’s made an extremely valid point. If you have real criticism, please elaborate. Otherwise you’re just what you seem to be, a reactionary troll.

    anon (f21849)

  664. My hypo is based on a real-life news report.
    a) True
    b) False

    False, the lack of uncertainty is too key an element for me to think it’s a real world example.

    joe (6dd049)

  665. So, joe … Ross was lying then?

    JD (33beff)

  666. Excuse me, but why was my comment deleted?

    #651 was originally mine.

    Could someone explain?

    anon (f21849)

  667. I should add, just to be clear, that the content of #651 is not mine, but that I had posted a comment in that place an hour or two ago.

    anon (f21849)

  668. Never mind – it’s back now. Strange.

    anon (f21849)

  669. I seem to be having trouble posting – forgive me if this is a repeat – but it seems to be back now. That was strange. Thanks.

    anon (f21849)

  670. joe,

    “False, the lack of uncertainty is too key an element for me to think it’s a real world example.”

    Bzzzzzt.

    That was a question with a right and wrong answer. You got it wrong.

    I’m not vouching for the accuracy of the report. But it is an actual, real-world report that forms the basis for my question.

    Didn’t you follow the links in my post?

    And lilian,

    You are now posting as “anonymous” when I told you to maintain a consistent identity. It should not surprise you that your comments aren’t being posted.

    Patterico (90bd01)

  671. “During this session KSM feels panicky and unable to breathe. Even though he can breathe, he has the sensation that he is drowning.”

    That’s not an accurate description of waterboarding. He cannot actually breathe, and he is actually drowning – it is not a sensation. It is simply a controlled drowning; pints of water will fill his lungs, but the interrogators and doctors will not allow him to die.

    HiredGun (3704e1)

  672. Patterico:

    I do not recall being told to maintain a ‘consistent identity.’ I will continue to post under anon.

    I am a bit disgusted that you actually went and deleted all of my posts because of this. You obviously have no interest in discussing this issue.
    And I have no further interest in commenting on this board. Please do not censor me again.

    Thanks. Lilian/Anon

    anon (f21849)

  673. note: I realize that this is your blog and you can delete whatever posts you like, but to do so to comments that are not offensive in an open discussion strikes me as sort of odd. Censorship is too strong a word but still, why did you react that way?

    anon (f21849)

  674. I surfed over here from a post by Sebastian at Obsidian Wings. I agree with his response to your hypothetical. Do you call it a dodge?

    Tom (a76808)

  675. AJL – “There is no evidence that the Library Towers threat was anything more than KSM promising a repeat of his previous operation: no recruits, no schedule, no nothing.”

    Phrased differently, other than being a preening suspicious lefty, I have no reason to doubt government reports of a plot to bomb the Library Towers.

    daleyrocks (4b828b)

  676. Actually, Patterico, as I posted over at Feministe, it looks like there was more to KSM’s interrogation than waterboarding:

    Ali Khan, the father of Majid Khan, another one of the fourteen “high-value detainees”, released an affidavit on Monday April 16, 2006, that reported that interrogators subjected Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s children, aged six and eight years old, to abusive interrogation.[33][34][35] Ali Khan’s affidavit quoted another of his sons, Mohammed Khan:

    “The Pakistani guards told my son that the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs, and were denied food and water by other guards. They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.”

    You can read the whole affidavit here:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letter_from_Ali_Khan%2C_Majid_Khan%27s_father

    Was this worth it?

    Seraph (bcc033)

  677. Seraph – These people, there would be no reason for them to lie, to make things up, etc …

    JD (33beff)

  678. Seraph – You ask “Was this worth it?” as though you know that it happened. There is no evidence, nothing, zero, zip, nada, to suggest that we torture 6 and 8 year olds. None. The affidavit decreased the value of the paper it was written on, and even were the affidavit true, they witnessed … drumroll … nothing. All they can say is that a Pakistani guard told them a story.

    JD (33beff)

  679. Moral relevance: It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

    indeed. “Moral relevance” is the basis of the entire post.

    cleek (0f7a25)

  680. Phrased differently, other than being a preening suspicious lefty, I have no reason to doubt government reports of a plot to bomb the Library Towers.

    Would you be as credulous about news reports of the Jewish Conspiracy?

    Yeah. I bet you would.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (fbbbca)

  681. JD –

    Why go into denial-mode about this? Y’all were proud of waterboarding KSM and the results it produced. If those results were produced that much quicker by making two kids go to bed without supper a couple times and “scaring” them by putting ants on them, isn’t it worth it? Who knows how many lives were saved?

    Seraph (bcc033)

  682. Seraph – These people, there would be no reason for them to lie, to make things up, etc …

    And the government doesn’t have any such reasons, either.

    Where are the WMD’s, again?

    Seraph (bcc033)

  683. Your assertion, your burden of proof. So far, we have the word of a brother of a terrorist, as told to his father, of the word of a Pakistani guard. Wow. So incredibly convincing.

    How does it feel to hate America?

    JD (33beff)

  684. Seraph,

    You have shown that a terrorist’s father says that one of his other sons says that a Pakistani guard says that some bugs were put on KSM’s children’s legs. At Feministe, they’re lapping it up. But here, fourth-hand hearsay relayed through a terrorist’s father is not considered impressive evidence.

    Patterico (debb21)

  685. lilian/elephant/anon/anonymous,

    I see comments from you in moderation complaining I deleted your comments. I did not. They automatically went into moderation because of the nonsense e-mail address you used.

    And I did warn you in 627 to use a consistent identity, though you claim I didn’t. Nor should a warning be necessary, as it’s both standard internet etiquette and common sense to use a consistent handle. As an example of the problems caused when you disobey this: you started responding to me as “elephant” and I had no idea who I was talking to.

    I’ll rescue youe comments from moderation if you will agree to post as “lilian” (your original handle) henceforth.

    Patterico (a92fb2)

  686. Hate America?

    LOL!!

    You’re still using that? Is that seriously the best you’ve got? My God, how many years in the past are you living?

    It’s funny. It really is. I don’t want to see America disgraced anymore, and I’m the one that hates her.

    Anyway, I’ll concede that, lacking photos and actual medical reports of the kids, what we have is word-of-mouth (and although I can see your doubting the “terrorists’” word, I don’t see why you question the Pakistani guard – they’re our allies, after all). My question remains, though: if it were true, if torturing KSM’s kids had been the factor that caused him to break and reveal the crucial information that saved those thousands of people, would it have been worth it? It’s as time-honored a method as waterboarding.

    I note that you don’t dispute what happened to the adults. As well you shouldn’t – everything except maybe the physical beatings are things that the government has admitted to. But here’s the thing: at the time, they were only accused terrorists. Have they been tried even yet? Isn’t presumption of innocence an American principle?

    Not that such behavior would have been okay if they had been tried and found guilty. That isn’t how America treats criminals or prisoners of war.

    Seraph (bcc033)

  687. Nor should a warning be necessary, as it’s both standard internet etiquette and common sense to use a consistent handle.

    How dare you speak to Saint Glenn in that manner!

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  688. Seraph – We have no need to try prisoners of war. Haven’t you heard?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  689. How dare you speak to Saint Glenn in that manner!

    Oh come on, Scott, Saint Glenn uses three consistent handles!

    Paul (ec9716)

  690. Are they licking it up? When I last stopped by, they weren’t even talking about it.

    Still, they did warn me. And I really should have known better.

    I’m not going to make a fool of myself by stamping out and shouting “you’re not worth my time”, though I do, in fact, have some work I should get done. I came into enemy territory with insufficient ammo, and I took some hits. Whatcha gonna do?

    I find the statement easy to believe because that’s the sort of thing that goes on in the places where KSM was held, and I’ve seen too much like it – and heard too many denials that turned out to be lies – over the past few years. To me, it’s the denials that require proof. That said, I should have known that I would need photos and doctor’s reports here. I’ll come back if I ever find such things, which means it’s unlikely you’ll see me around here again. Most torturers aren’t as stupid as the jailers at Abu Ghraib, to leave photographic proof of what they’ve done.

    But I have to know before I go…in earnest, no more snark or “gotchas”. Would it have been worth it? If the report were true, with the deprivation of food and water in addition to the bugs, would it have been worth it?

    And please do me the favor of not acting like I don’t know what’s at stake. My brother and sister-in-law have been to The Desert, and I work ten minutes’ walk from Ground Zero.

    Seraph (bcc033)

  691. Seraph – Your BDS is so endearing. Since this is not a criminal matter, those standards are utterly irrelevant. In your eyes, America is disgraced when the father of a terrorist relays a story told to someone else by a Pakistani guard that Americans were torturing KSM’s 6 and 8 year old? This disgraces America? It disgraces your 3rd grade teacher, and every one thereafter, as they failed to impart even the most basic critical thinking upon you.

    The rest, that happened to the adults. Unpleasant. Not torture. Torture no longer means anything given the vague and expansive definitions people like you use.

    JD (33beff)

  692. Seraph – The burden of proof is on the denier? Good Allah, what an incredible standard!

    JD (33beff)

  693. JD –

    How are you so sure he was a terrorist? Again, in earnest: how can you be so completely sure? That’s my point about the trial (and I’m pretty sure that terrorism is a criminal matter): this man was put through this “unpleasantness” as part of his interrogation, and he’s been in prison for years. Now he’s in Gitmo. What if he’s innocent?

    Seraph (bcc033)

  694. The burden of proof is on the denier? Good Allah, what an incredible standard!

    Not usually. Just when the denier has lied to me so many times before.

    Anyway. Enough. I stuck around to see if you would answer my question. If not, I really do have to go. Can’t let you keep drawing me in. Enjoy the win.

    Seraph (bcc033)

  695. I have never lied to you, nor will I. Khalid Sheik Mohammed on the other hand, is likely to lie. The father of a terrorist trying to convince us that what his other son heard from a Pakastani guard is likely to lie. It is telling that you are more willing to believe a 4th hand story from the father of a terrorist that would have us believe that his son was but an innocent goat herder.

    Seraph – Glen Greenwald buggers goats. Is it his responsibility to disprove the accusation, or my responsibility to prove it? Glenn has lied, repeatedly, so has the burden shifted to him?

    JD (33beff)

  696. Hearsay? Well, as long as the Americans look like depraved assholes, I’m OK with it.

    HiredGun,

    That’s not an accurate description of waterboarding. He cannot actually breathe, and he is actually drowning – it is not a sensation. It is simply a controlled drowning; pints of water will fill his lungs, but the interrogators and doctors will not allow him to die.

    Uh, no. Where’d you get that idea?

    Pablo (99243e)

  697. That’s not an accurate description of waterboarding. He cannot actually breathe, and he is actually drowning – it is not a sensation. It is simply a controlled drowning; pints of water will fill his lungs, but the interrogators and doctors will not allow him to die.

    Actually, the reason they have you slightly upside down is to prevent exactly that.

    Water can’t get down into your lungs because to do so it would have to go UP…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  698. simple answer.
    Yep

    Now, as the truth about our waterboarding comes out (three uses on high info targets), we waterboard more American soldiers in training than we have terrorists in Gitmo. Can something used to train a soldier be considered the horrible “Drowning”(as Ted-watching the bubbles rise-Kennedy claims) act those apposed claim?
    Maybe we could use BUD/S training as an interrogation technique? I’m sure it is physically worse on the body than ‘boarding, and AI and the rest of the left will blanch.

    JP (7d78aa)

  699. @ Pablo and Scott Jacobs:

    Here’s a source on that.
    http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/10/waterboarding-is-torture-perio/

    HiredGun (3704e1)

  700. HiredGun:

    This here is why I think this guy is full of it…

    2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

    That is simply not a physical possibility, unless you’ve found a way to make water flow “up”.

    Water can’t get into the lungs because the lungs are above the head.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  701. It’s simple.

    Torture is what bad people do, don’t tell me how nice waterboarding is, it’s torture.

    Your scenario is stupid, all the suspect would have to do it hold out until the morning of 9-11 after that the torture would stop wouldn’t it? Or would you like it to continue out of revenge?

    Anyone who wants to be protected by a police state should move to one, the rest of us will stay in civilization and live with the risks that freedom and Western Democracy hold.

    Furthermore I’d rather die in a terrorist attack than be protected by evil.

    salvage (11c2f9)

  702. Comment by Stace — 11/11/2007 @ 4:09 pm

    You must freaking hate the television show ’24.’

    :)

    I’m gonna need a hacksaw …!

    PB (df860b)

  703. How many hypotheticals can dance on the head of a pin?
    You know, anybody can make up hypothetical situations that could justify anything; all you have to do is work at it a little. I’ll bet that with a little work, I could come up with a hypothetical that would hypothetically justify the Holocaust. I could, with a little time and work, come up with a hypothetical that would Hypothetically justify Stalin’s gulags and show trials.
    Well, what the hell, let’s give it a whirl:
    O.K., Osama bin Lladen comes out and says that he has a nuclear bomb that he’s hidden in the molten nickel-iron core of the Earth, and he’ll set it off if we don’t kill all Jews on Earth. Now, we look into this, and it turns out that we have categorical proof that the bomb is there and that if he sets it off, the whole world will blow into uncountable tiny bits, and that he and he alone can set it off, and he’s hidden in an underground lair on a volcanic island in the Indian Ocean protected by laser guns and 3000 fanatical henchmen who all wear James Bond-villian orange uniforms and also have laser guns, so we can’t attack and disarm him, and to top it off, we come up with incontravertible proof that every Jewish person on Earth is a child-molesting-baby-eating cannibal.
    Now, is it morally justified to kill all Jews on Earth? Well, under the circumstances, one could argue that it might be. But does that “prove” that genocide is morally acceptable? I don’t think so.

    Mumphrey Bibblesnæð (37dc15)

  704. There is a type of drowning, vagal inhibition, caused by cold water hitting the back of the larynx. In autopsies it may resemble a heart attack because there is no water in the lungs. Waterboarding can kill you.

    nk (09a321)

  705. Noted, Savage. If there’s an attack on the US, and someone I know and care about dies, and I find out we didn’t learn of it because you pansies kept us from waterboarding some asshole, I’m gonna wanna come pay you a little visit.

    That cool with you?

    You people amaze me.

    Ask yourself what you would think the moment you found out a captive US Soldier had been waterboaded. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

    If your first thought wasn’t “Thank God they didn’t cut his head off,” you might have a slight disconnect.

    I don’t seem to recall a lot of outrage when the enemy does stuff like that. But put panties on a guy’s head, or pile them nekkid, and you go ape-shit.

    Absolutely amazing. Moral Absolutists are just god damn insane…

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  706. Hired Gun, how is that a source?

    He remembered “the Barrel” version of waterboarding quite well. Head first until the water filled the lungs, then you talk.

    They’re talking about being submerged, which, yeah, once you let your air go, you’re going to fill up with water. That’s not the case here.

    Pablo (99243e)

  707. That one’s easy, Mumphrey. We don’t have to kill all the Jews, we just need to send in James Bond and Jack Bauer.

    Pablo (99243e)

  708. More blather from The Small Wars Journal:

    Call it “Chinese Water Torture,” “the Barrel,” or “the Waterfall,” it is all the same. 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. These people are dangerous and predictable and when left unshackled, unsupervised or undetected they bring us the murderous abuses seen at Abu Ghraieb, Baghram and Guantanamo.

    Uh, yeah. Except Graner and England were prison guards, not interrogators, for starters. Malcolm is a shrieker, not a source.

    Pablo (99243e)

  709. we just need to send in James BondJohn MacLean and Jack Bauer.

    Fixed that for you…

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  710. If it really gets hairy, Chuck Norris and Bruce Willis.

    Pablo (99243e)

  711. >Noted, Savage. If there’s an attack on the US, and someone I know and care about dies, and I find out we didn’t learn of it because you pansies kept us from waterboarding some asshole, I’m gonna wanna come pay you a little visit.

    Yeah, yeah it’s not me tough guy, it’s the LAW that’s already decided it for us. Why don’t you try thinking for a second? Someone you know and care about have a greater chance of being harmed by a regular criminal than a terrorist so why aren’t you demanding that the police use torture to keep you safe? And why stop at water-boarding? Since you have no problem with torture why not go hog wild and put some elecro-shocks on the nuts?
    And we’re the pansies? Sorry Sparky but if the pussy fits… you’re the one who wants to protected by a police state because the terrorists scare you so much.

    And let’s say that it’s someone innocent you know and care about that gets arrested and tortured because of faulty intelligence (I know, that never, ever happens!)

    That cool with you?

    Oh and has there ever been a case where torture has stopped an attack? You can wank off as many “24” inspired scenarios as you like but the fact is that if a terrorist knows all they have to do is endure until the attack they will.

    >You people amaze me.

    What amazes you? The lack of compromised principles? Our dry pants as opposed to your urine soaked ones?

    >I don’t seem to recall a lot of outrage when the enemy does stuff like that. But put panties on a guy’s head, or pile them nekkid, and you go ape-shit.

    So… because terrorists do worse things it’s okay to do bad things? That’s your standard? Al Qeada? As long as you’re not cutting off heads it’s all good?

    Well you’ll have to pardon the rest of us for aiming to a higher than crazed religious murdering fanatics.

    And the prison thing, set aside the fact that there was a confirmed murder and reports of rape is that really what America does? Invades nations to humiliate prisoners? Wow, shining city on the hill city! How proud you must be of your nation! Why I think those images should be formed into the new seal of the PotUS.

    >Moral Absolutists are just god damn insane…

    See if I can put it simple enough for you, torture is wrong, doing wrong things is wrong, doing wrong things out of fear is pathetic and cowardly.

    salvage (11c2f9)

  712. Acts are neither moral nor immoral. Acts are neutral.

    Killing is wrong, unless someone is about to kill you, or a loved one.

    Lying is wrong, unless it saves someone pain.

    Stealing is wrong, unless your family will starve if you don’t.

    Acts have no morality, it is the intent that grants them a position on the morality scale.

    Intent is everything. Torturing someone because by golly you just like to torture is wrong, yes.

    But torture to save innocent lives can not possibly be immoral. The immoral act is to do nothing when you could have acted and saved lives.

    Again, if someone I love dies in an attack because of people like you salvage – people who seem so willing to die before we dare harm a hair upon poor, poor Abdul’s terrorist head – you and I are going to have some words.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  713. By the way, I should have said that in my hypothetical, the action heroes are all on Osama bin Laden’s side, so they’re in the underground volcanic lair with him and they have lasers, too. It’s hypothetically sad to see James Bond, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis and Jack Bauer fighting for the bad guys, but hypothetically, I don’t make the rules, I just play by them.

    Mumphrey Bibblesnæð (37dc15)

  714. All right, I have to ask Mr. Jacobs this:
    What if you think a guy is a terrorist who knows where the bomb is, but then after you torture him and he tells you where it is, and you send the police in to get the bomb, it actually goes off in another town 2000 miles away, since the guy you tortured wasn’t the terrorist, but only some poor guy who got picked up by mistake since he had the same name and told you anything to make you stop, and the real terrorist was sitting happily somewhere else?
    Your intent was to save lives, but all you did was torture some blameless guy while the bomb went off all the same. How does your intent make that hunky-dory?
    Maybe you’ve heard about the road to hell and what it’s paved with?

    Mumphrey Bibblesnæð (37dc15)

  715. Again, if someone I love dies in an attack because of people like you salvage – people who seem so willing to die before we dare harm a hair upon poor, poor Abdul’s terrorist head – you and I are going to have some words.

    Ooooh you’re so tough! Hate to break it to you Clubber Lame but it’s not just me, IT’S THE LAW OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Cruel and unusual? Ring any liberty bells? You’ll have to be “having words” with a whole bunch of people (living, dead and Founding Father) so I’d start your Charles Atlas program today.

    Now are you tough enough to answer my questions?

    Should criminals be tortured? The Mafia has killed more Americans directly and indirectly than al Qeada ever could so are you in favor of waterboarding organized crime figures? Bikers? How about someone who kidnapped a kid but won’t say where the kid is after being captured?

    What if someone innocent is tortured? What should happen then?

    What if waterboarding doesn’t do it? I know you’ve convinced yourself that it’s some silver bullet that could crack the hardest jihadnut but what if it doesn’t? Would you say “Oh well, that’s the line.” Or would you want the CIA to get Saddam on the suspect’s ass?

    As for

    Acts have no morality, it is the intent that grants them a position on the morality scale.

    Fill in the blank “I was right to rape that 3 year old child because ________________”

    salvage (11c2f9)

  716. Then I’ll burn in Hell doing my best to keep you from dying at the hands of a terrorist, so you can sit there – fat, happy, and oblivious to the dangers you’re kept safe from.

    You’re welcome.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  717. Why won’t you answer my questions?

    And what exactly are you going to do to protect me? Run around beating people up who understand that torture is bad?

    And while I am happy I am not fat nor oblivious. I understand that living in a free and open society carries with it risks. I accept and even embrace those risks as a small and more than fair price to pay.

    There will be another terrorists attack and it will kill people BUT (this is the important bit, pay attention) it will not destroy Western Civilization, we’re the only ones who can do that and you’re the kind trying to make it happen. That’s right Sparky, you’re a far greater risk to Truth, Justice and the American way than any bearded Allah Akbar screaming loonies.

    The laws against torture were not arbitrary nor were they crafted in a simpler and safer time (hint: there has never been such a time, no, not even the 50′s, yes “Happy Days” made it look like it but like “24″ it wasn’t real) they were made to bring an ideal to life.

    Why are you trying to kill it? Are you really that frightened?

    salvage (11c2f9)

  718. IT’S THE LAW OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

    YOu seem to be missing the point of not only the hypotheticals, but that waterboarding (specifically) isn’t actually illegal.

    But I know, details details details…

    Fill in the blank “I was right to rape that 3 year old child because ________________”

    Nice straw man. I can’t think of any reason why that would be ok, but I can not say absolutely that there is NO way it couldn’t be, since I’m not gifted with full and perfect knowledge. Nice try though, bubba.

    Should criminals be tortured? The Mafia has killed more Americans directly and indirectly than al Qeada ever could so are you in favor of waterboarding organized crime figures? Bikers? How about someone who kidnapped a kid but won’t say where the kid is after being captured?

    The amazing thing here is that only for the last one do you put forth a scenario where you would be seeking infromation.

    I said it before, but I will repeat myself since you seem to have missed it.

    Torture merely to torture would be immoral and wrong.

    There. I bolded it. And put it in italics. Maybe you’ll read it this time.

    I have not once said that torture should be performed simply because you can. It is a tool of limited application, useful and proper only under certain situations.

    Though since you sort of brought it up, I personally have no problem with punishments to criminals matching their crimes. You killed someone by raping them with a razor-studded dildo?

    Bend over.

    “Cruel and unusual” in my mind wasn’t intended to mean “make prisons into spa’s”, but that the punishment should fit the crime.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  719. Why won’t you answer my questions?

    Because you’d posted it while I was replying to the post above it.

    Way to be a winner there, pal.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  720. YOu seem to be missing the point of not only the hypotheticals, but that waterboarding (specifically) isn’t actually illegal.

    Actually it is, go ask Judge Mukasey of course for some reason he refuses to answer it, if it were legal you’d think he’d say so without hesitation wouldn’t ya?

    Fill in the blank “I was right to rape that 3 year old child because ________________”
    Nice straw man.

    Okay, let me just add “straw man” to the list of things you don’t understand.

    I can’t think of any reason why that would be ok, but I can not say absolutely that there is NO way it couldn’t be, since I’m not gifted with full and perfect knowledge. Nice try though, bubba.

    It was a hypothetical that answered your inane point that there isn’t any absolute wrongs and the reason why you can’t think of any reason to justify such a crime is because there isn’t any. You don’t have to be gifted or even special to see that, all you need is a sense of reality, morality and a belief in Western Democracy’s core principals.

    The amazing thing here is that only for the last one do you put forth a scenario where you would be seeking infromation.

    Yes, the police never want information from Mafiosi in custody.

    Torture merely to torture would be immoral and wrong.

    There. I bolded it. And put it in italics. Maybe you’ll read it this time.

    And I’m not disputing that, you’re half-way there, the reality is torture is immoral and wrong. That’s why it’s against the law! Funny how that works huh?

    I have not once said that torture should be performed simply because you can. It is a tool of limited application, useful and proper only under certain situations.

    And so far the only circumstance you can come up with is one that’s never happened and not likely to so what exactly are you arguing?

    Though since you sort of brought it up, I personally have no problem with punishments to criminals matching their crimes. You killed someone by raping them with a razor-studded dildo?
    Bend over.

    “Cruel and unusual” in my mind wasn’t intended to mean “make prisons into spa’s”, but that the punishment should fit the crime.

    Fascinating, hey do you know what countries practice torture with a “punishment should fit the crime” mentality? Iran, Iraq, Syria etc. You should move there, maybe then you’d feel safe.

    salvage (11c2f9)

  721. I would also loke to add that I, too, am happy, but, like salvage, I am neither fat nor oblivious.
    Here’s something that is sure to make Mr. Jacobs scratch his little ol’ head:
    I’d rather that neither you nor anyone else torture anybody to keep me safe.
    Sure, it might, conceivably, keep me safe under some contorted hypothetical situation, but would be unlikely to be of any help in any circumstances we’re likely to run across here in this place we call Earth.
    But–and here’s the bit that’s likely to befuddle our torturous friend–even if it were likely to save my life, I wouldn’t want it done.
    I guess that’s awfully hard for cowardly wingnuts who piss their pants at the very name of Osama bin Laden to understand, but it’s true.
    My life is not the most important thing in this world, and death, even at the hands of a terrorist, is not the worst thing in the world.
    To paraphrase a guy these “Christian” wingnuts claim to have read about, “What profiteth it a man to save his life but lose his soul?”
    That’s what we’re talking about here, our souls, or, if you like it better, our humanity.
    When we torture, we befoul and beshit our souls and our humanity, and throw everything we’ve ever believed in aas a society into the trash. And for what? So a bunch of whiny-ass titty baby loser cowards can feel big and strong and safe from the big, bad, bearded bogeymen.
    That’s an awfully bad bargain.

    Mumphrey Bibblesnæð (37dc15)

  722. salvage,

    You have to admit that your baby hypothetical was inane. If we could bring oureselves to do that, it would be way after we had exterminated every Muslim regardless of ethnicity and every Arab regardless of religion.

    nk (09a321)

  723. MB # 703,

    I assure you that were I to torture anyone, it would not be for your sake. It would be for the sake of the people I know and love. Rest easy on that score.

    nk (09a321)

  724. Fascinating, hey do you know what countries practice torture with a “punishment should fit the crime” mentality? Iran, Iraq, Syria etc. You should move there, maybe then you’d feel safe.

    Reason is lost on you, isn’t it. You’re completely around the bend.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  725. You have to admit that your baby hypothetical was inane.

    Scott said:

    Acts have no morality, it is the intent that grants them a position on the morality scale.
    Which is of course ludicrous, to illustrate that I said:

    So I said:

    Fill in the blank “I was right to rape that 3 year old child because ________________”

    So acts can have an intrinsic morality and while they can certainly be tempered by context and intention some acts can be categorically declared as wrong.

    Torture is one of those acts.

    Yes, yes “ticking time bomb” “torture to save lives” etc. If such an unlikely Michael Bay scenario were to come to pass and some CIA guy tortured the bad guy to get the info that saved lives then he would be in the right, obviously. But he would still need to be charged, tried and either exonerated at trial or pardoned after. The law makes exceptions for extreme circumstances, it’s called necessity I think.

    But that’s not what you wingnuts want, you want torture to be SOP because you are terrified and angry and the idea makes you feel safe and satisfied that some measure of vengeance is being inflicted on your source of fear. The fact that you won’t acknowledge the reality that America has tortured innocent people (Canadian sent to Syria before you ask) if proof of this. You don’t care if anyone innocent gets caught up, you’re in a blind panic, sort of like how people trample people running away from a fire.

    Furthermore terrorists are not the nation ending threat you dream they are in your fevered imagination, they are not going to bring down The Republic, they are not going to invade and make us pray to Mecca five times a day.

    Did you notice that the biggest terrorist attack in history did nothing to stop America much less threaten her existence?

    Losing sight of the ideals that made America however could and one of those ideals is WESTERN DEMOCRACIES DO NOT TORTURE. Dictatorships, tyrannies and other evil governments do.

    Which would you rather live in?

    The End.

    salvage (11c2f9)

  726. Joe at 617, I think…

    To complain about us taking from the Indians, 100+ years after the fact, when we have gone out of our way to make it up to them (and not all we could do either, but, I digress)…

    And, make that a part of present historical discussion….

    Straw man alert….

    And, you change the discussion again….

    Considering that….we are a nation that doesn’t take, that does give….and my point is still true….

    reff (bff229)

  727. Losing sight of the ideals that made America however could and one of those ideals is WESTERN DEMOCRACIES DO NOT TORTURE. Dictatorships, tyrannies and other evil governments do.

    So you think this is the first time in the history of the US we’ve ever tortured? Ever?

    What color is the sky on your planet?

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  728. Salvage – Since you keep bringing it up, how about the legal citation where waterboarding is illegal.

    How about the citations where the U.S. tortured innocent people (we did not torture Arar or Ginco to my knowledge).

    How about the citation where the law makes exceptions for circumstances – necessity as you called it.

    Why not back up some of you statements here?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  729. These people are pathetic.
    No matter how much they twist and twirl all their hypotheicals to make it seem like they’d only torture somebody under “specific curcumstances,” it’s clear to me, and should be clear to most anyone, that they just plain like the thought of torturing people.
    I don’t think they care much about the specifics of it; they just throw out their ticking-time-bombs and such to make it look to the rest of us that they aren’t sociopaths.
    But they do. At leaast twice on this thread (and I haven’t even read it all), somebody has brought up how he’d “only torture somebody to save somebody I love,” or some such blather. I’m sure they get off on their little hero fantasies. But I’m also sure that if they didn’t have any loved ones to “protect,” then they’d play out little fantasies in their minds about torturing people who had wronged them for revenge, or torturing some bad guy as a secret agent in the employ of some super-duper-top-secret government agency. Maybe a few of them fantasize about torturing people just for the fun of it, without bothering to come up with some “justification,” which at least would be intellectually honest.
    But, really, the only reasonable conclusion I can come up with is that torture apologists are just sociopaths.
    We’ve all heard that the love of money is the root of all evil. I think that’s wrong: It’s a lack of empathy that’s the root of all evil.

    Mumphrey Bibblesnæð (37dc15)

  730. it’s clear to me, and should be clear to most anyone, that they just plain like the thought of torturing people.

    If this is what you actually think, then nothing is actually clear to you.

    Thanks for projecting though. It’s been fun. Really.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  731. And the level to which they’d drag this country down, just to satisfy their sick blood lust:
    Some kinds of torture aren’t actually against the law!
    We only do it to terrorists!
    The terrorists cut off people’s heads! We don’t do that!
    All this boils down to: “Sure we’re depraved, but the terrorists are worse.”
    And I guess they’re right. The terrorists are worse. And so were the nazis, and so were the bolsheviks under Stalin, and so was Pol Pot, and so were the Japanese in the 30′s and 40′s.
    So what?
    Is that really the best we can do?
    Even worse, is that really the best we want to do?
    If it were up to these guys, that would be our new standard:
    “The United States: Not As Bad As the Nazis!”
    That’s a hell of a high standard to strive for.
    You freaks are doing your damnedest to piss away everything good about the country I grew up in and love.

    Mumphrey Bibblesnæð (37dc15)

  732. “If this is what you actually think, then nothing is actually clear to you.

    Thanks for projecting though. It’s been fun. Really.”

    Anybody who’s willing to spin such ridiculous, far-fetched hypotheticals in order to justify torturing people… Well, there’s no conclusion that’s reasonable other than that you like the thought of torturing people.
    Nothing reaches you:
    It doesn’t work.
    It’s wrong and depraved.
    It’s soul-killing, not only for the victim but also for the poor wretch who does the torturing.
    Anybody who cannot or will not see that just likes torture.
    You can blather all you want about how it isn’t true and I’m just “projecting” onto you, but it’s plain as day.
    You’re sad. I hope you get some help someday, I really do.

    Mumphrey Bibblesnæð (37dc15)

  733. Nice slogans…

    Where did you cut and paste them from?

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  734. It doesn’t work.

    Factually incorrect statement. It has. No one would use it if it didn’t.

    It’s wrong and depraved.

    Says you.

    It’s soul-killing, not only for the victim but also for the poor wretch who does the torturing.

    Good thing we aren’t asking you to do it.

    Anybody who cannot or will not see that just likes torture.

    Again, so you say. I wasn’t aware that you could read my innermost thought, hopes, and desires. I’m sure Patterico appriciates your accusation as well.

    You can blather all you want about how it isn’t true and I’m just “projecting” onto you, but it’s plain as day.

    You really are quite funny, you know that?

    You’re sad. I hope you get some help someday, I really do.

    Yup. A freaking laught-riot you are. I’ll tell you what. I’ll get help when you get your sanctamonious head outta yer ass. Deal?

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  735. It’s clear to me that the libs really do want somebody to torture infomation out of terrorists so that innocent Americans don’t die. They prefer not to acknowledge that fact and in no way want to codify the practice in any law. They prefer that somebody, anybody else but them, actually take the risk of the interrogation and throw themselves on the mercy of the wheels of justice after the fact. Plausible deniability is the watchword of the day. Scapegoating, prison, career and reputation ruin are the possibilities facing those in the intelligence gathering business with this enlightenened, politically correct approach. Why do Democrats wonder that people do not take them seriously on matters of national security?

    Dingleberry McBubblesnot (906622)

  736. “No one would use it if it didn’t [work].”
    You’ve never heard of sadists? I’m willing to bet a lot of what the gestapo did was just for fun, what do you think?
    How many of the “witches” who confessed in the Inquisition do you think really were witches?
    Do you think the NKVD really was on the right track with all those show trials? They were just prosecuting torture victims who coughed up all kinds of nonexistent “plots” just to make the torture stop.
    If you get the wrong guy, it cannot by definition “work” since the poor guy will have nothing to give up, but he’ll most likely begin making stuff up to get it all to stop. He might incriminate somebody else who’s also innocent. He might make up some “plot” if he thinks it’ll get it to stop.
    If you get a real terrorist, and work him over until he breaks, you might well get some useful information, but if he knows what he’s doing, he’ll spew a lot of shit, too, that we (assuming this is the U.S. doing the torturing) will have to check out, too, and there’s no way to know which is real and which isn’t, and we’ll waste a lot of time and work winnowing out the lies from whatever truth–if any–the guy gave up.
    How can you seriously believe that would be useful?
    And why do you think we train our own troops how to screw with torturers if they get caught and tortured? Because we know that if they get tortured, they can screw up the bad guys, who will have to wade through the shit to find whatever bits of truth–if any–our soldier might have let slip.

    Mumphrey Bibblesnæð (37dc15)

  737. You’ve never heard of sadists? I’m willing to bet a lot of what the gestapo did was just for fun, what do you think?

    Not everyone in the world who fucking disagrees with you is a God Damn sadist, you myopic dolt!

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  738. I didn’t say you were a sadist, nor did I say that anyone who doesn’t agree with me is one, I said that there are those who would torture even though it doesn’t work because they like to torture. Those people are called sadists.
    That said, there is often a sadistic streak among right-wing authoritarians…
    Here’s a link that tells about RWA’s.:
    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

    Mumphrey Bibblesnæð (37dc15)

  739. First: your hypothetical is wrong. During waterboarding, a person is either not breathing, or breathing in water. The idea is that you fill the nostrils with water in a continuing stream, while not allowing the person to breathe through their mouth. The person will typically breathe out (trying to clear their airway), until their lungs are empty. Then, when they reflexively breathe in, they will breathe in water.

    However, let me rephrase your question, since you mentioned it as a moral question.

    Can any moral decision ever be justified because of something that happens *after* that decision is made and carried out?

    No.

    In the circumstances in which it is known – there is no doubt – that one person has information that will save lives, torture can be viewed as the lesser evil. (See that last word? Evil? It’s there for a reason.)

    In the circumstances where it’s thought that the person might have information, torture is the wrong moral decision. It’s a bright line that you don’t cross, because once you use it, you’ve admitted that your fear of what might happen if you don’t is stronger than your determination to do the right thing. Once you start living your life by fear, you’ll keep going.

    Now, let’s pretend that a single terrorist incident was stopped by the information. Would I let that terrorist incident occur, to prevent the two and a half minutes of waterboarding? If God came down and said “You know, I can change the past. If you ask me to, I’ll make it so the waterboarding never happened, but then the terrorist attack will take place; what’s you’re choice?”

    Is that what you’re asking?

    Well, my answer to God would be “you do what you want; I don’t know how the world pieces together well enough to change history.”

    What if they waterboarding hadn’t occurred, and because it hadn’t occurred, word got around that “not even top terrorists get tortured by this government!” and Abu Ghraib had never happened?

    How much harm did Abu Ghraib cause us? How many people decided to fight us in Iraq because of that?

    But let’s pretend that God continued with your hypothetical and says “no, it’s a closed loop. Either the waterboarding happens, or the terrorist attack happens, but otherwise, the world is exactly the same.”

    Obviously then, I’d say “then let the waterboarding happen.”

    But we aren’t God. We don’t get to peek at the ending. We can’t make moral decisions based upon information we don’t actually have.

    LongHairedWeirdo (4a66a0)

  740. How many times has Abu Ghraib been brought up in this thread?

    JD (33beff)

  741. How much harm did Abu Ghraib cause us? How many people decided to fight us in Iraq because of that?

    You apparently didn’t notice the drop in violence after that story broke.

    I think that, for just a moment, they thought that we might actually be serious about this stuff.

    Sadly, they were mistaken, they figured out that we’ve been neutered, and went back at it.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  742. Scott Jacobs:

    You know, you’ve got a point. You can’t argue with a point like that.

    I mean, we can just imagine it happening this way: immediately after the story broke, there (may have been – but let’s assume it happened) a drop in violence, and then, after that, no one remembered a blessed thing about Abu Ghraib. It was gone; poof. No one could even bring it to mind with a conscious act of will. Those who read old news reports about it found their brains unable to process the words.

    People who were there found a curious blank spot in the memories and emotions. Friends and families of them said “you know, I remembered having been angry at the Americans for… something. Oh, well. It couldn’t have been important.”

    You certainly can’t argue with a point like that. Ain’t no point to trying.

    Longhairedweirdo (7b28e6)

  743. They didn’t forget. Did I say that they forgot?

    I said they realized that no, infact we were still the pansies who don’t torture as a rule. They were worried for a second, but only just.

    It’s like when a kid gets yelled at by their parent for some transgression. Yeah, they stop for a second, but they go right back to whatever it was the moment their realize mom isn’t moving from the couch where she watches her soaps, and dad isn’t leaving the computer until someone makes dinner.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  744. This hypothetical question about waterboarding is nonsense to begin with. Any first-year student in logic would be capable of constructing a similar scenario which would hypothetically justify torture, murder, or some other hideous act.

    Should we, as a society, conclude that torture is acceptable because somebody is able to cook up an imaginary thought experiment? I don’t think so. In the America I thought I grew up in, this question wouldn’t have seen the light of day; torture was wrong, and we knew it on a visceral level. But that was before the Bush administration came to power.

    One of the best arguments against waterboarding and other forms of torture is that it renders our nation incapable of standing on the high moral ground. How do we hold dictators and other nations accountable for their actions if we are guilty of similar crimes? Indeed, Bush sympathizers point to Saddam’s dungeons as one of the reasons that it was imperative to invade Iraq.

    Old-fashioned American (23f0cb)

  745. It’s 1;28 in the morning, so I’m probably having a conversation with myself at this point, but there is another aspect of the waterboarding question that hasn’t gotten enough attention, IMHO. There has been a considerable effort on the part of Bush sympathizers to create justifications and rationalizations for resorting to this particular method of torture.

    But the relevant question is: was waterboarding an illegal practice at the time it was carried out? We don’t pass judgements on crime by creating all sorts of after-the-fact hypotheticals that excuse the behavior of the accused. The only thing that matters is, what was the law at the time of the incident?

    I thought this might appeal to all you conservative law-and-order types…

    Old-fashioned American (23f0cb)

  746. This hypothetical question about waterboarding is nonsense to begin with.

    You really haven’t been following along, have you? this hypothetical actually happened, as reported by Brian Ross.

    Let me guess, you’re a member of the “reality-based” community, aren’t you?

    Pablo (99243e)

  747. was waterboarding an illegal practice at the time it was carried out?

    If it was done by the CIA?

    No, it wasn’t illegal. And that drives lefties absolutely nuts.

    When they acknowledge it at all.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  748. Scott Jacobs:
    They didn’t forget. Did I say that they forgot?

    So they still remembered, but you think it didn’t influence any of their future choices. Interesting. Do you know what memory *is*?

    (That was a rhetorical question, by the way. This entire sub-discussion is simply me mocking your ridiculous statements.)

    LongHairedWeirdo (4a66a0)

  749. No.

    To elaborate: underneath all the posturing (I find it infinitely pathetic that anyone would think it takes “courage” to write a blog comment) I see a desperate wish that the government do something, anything, just so that we do not have to endure. But only enduring will convince our enemies that we mean what we say about freedom, only enduring will convince them that they cannot coerce us, that nothing they do will make us submit.

    If we give up our moral center and use waterboarding and other forms of torture, if we say, as some of your commenters upstream have written (not that I waded through the whole thread) that we would do anything to protect the people we love, then the Salafists know they can manipulate us with fear and hate.

    On a personal level, suppose this “terror plot” will hit the first night performance in a theater where half my family will go to the first night, and half to the second? What do I want? I want the survivors in my family to turn up for that second night performance. And I want the show to go on. Mad, scared, stubborn. Letting everyone know that they have a million ways to kill us but no way to break us. That we will not abandon our ethics and our honour, not now, not ever.

    Finally, I’d like to take a whack at the basis for this little hypothetical with some hard facts. In the early 1990s, largely as a result of gang wars over the drugh trade, the US homicide rate spiked up until the United States suffered, 10000 excess homicides every year, the equivalent of a 9/11 every four months. Somehow, nobody felt the need for torture hypotheticals then. Interestingly, also according to DOJ statistics, that spike in the murder rate took place almost exclusively among Black Americans.

    John Spragge (b3bc1b)

  750. They know he planned 9/11 and therefore have a solid basis to believe he has other deadly plots in the works

    Based on DNA evidence, I know X has murdered Y. Therefore, I believe he is about to murder Z or some number of Zs. Therefore, I have the right to torture X.
    Perhaps if I somehow knew that X was about to murder someone, I would torture him. But only if I had the perfect the knowledge that he was going to. The slide from know to a solid basis to believe is what makes your hypothetical irrelevant. Especially if I am the government.

    Patrick (00c41b)

  751. I’m coming to this late in the game (via Brad Delong -> Obsidian Wings, for the curious). I don’t have time to read through the whole comment thread so there’s a decent chance I’m repeating a point someone else has made (apologies). It also unlikely I’ll have time to follow up. I did scan the first hundred-odd and have a comment on some of those below.

    First, the answer to the question: “Yes,”

    Second, the clause that follows the answer to the question: “, but that tells us nothing about the morality of torture, or whether it’s a good idea outside of Planet Hypothetical.”

    The problem is that the hypothetical has been constructed backwards: Given the outcome, were the actions that led to it justified? By juggling the details you can justify almost anything as the lesser of two evils in a particular situation — but so what? The only limit on what can be justified is either running out of hypothetical people (would you kill 49% of the world’s population to save the other 51%?) or an absolute moral boundary.

    The more interesting question comes when you try to run the hypothetical forwards: If you have a suspect in custody and you believe he knows how to stop a mass killing and you believe that he won’t tell you in time without torture, would you do it? What would you do if your guess turned out to be wrong?

    Foot-note on some earlier comments: Some people were asking follow-up questions along the lines of: “Yes, but what if it were your family?” If the answer to a dilemma depends on identities of the innocent victims, that’s a pretty strong indicator right there that the discussion has moved beyond a rational discussion of morality.

    Mat (c92505)

  752. I think the best reason to torture someone is that they say the Earth revolves around the sun. WE ARE A CHRISTIAN NATION!

    Thumpthis (21717a)

  753. oooooooooooooooooo-kay

    And that’s the view from the “I’m completely fucking insane” caucus…

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  754. LETS FLIP IT!
    If a terrorist has a ticking timebomb and he says he will give you the cancel-code if you give him a big sloppy wet BJ would you do it? Is giving a BJ is too immoral even if it saves hundreds of lives? Actaully, this whole conversation is silly because the real point is that the new breed of “conservatives” and “evangelicals” are simply sadistic immoral people who would gleefully torture given the chance. There isn’t anything more satanic than torture.
    =====================

    noodle-soup (dfb52c)

  755. oooooooooo-kay

    And that’s the view from the “I’m completely fucking insane” caucus…

    Apparently, Scott, there is more than 1 member.

    JD (33beff)

  756. My answer is NO!
    I didn’t read the 700 and something comments.
    But the question has a logical defect. It supposes that we know the answer BEFORE we torture the guy (the human being). It starts stating that he is guilty and really knows all about the bombs.

    Ildefonso García (591e60)


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