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Situational Ethics and the argument for torture
Posted by: McQ on Monday, May 30, 2005

Last week I talked with Dale, and subsequently with Jon, after they’d again expressed their opinions about torture and abuse of prisoners in our custody by members of the US military. I believe my question was, after a quick chuckle, “are you boys having fun?”

As usual, the mention of torture and abuse by members of our military brought responses from both sides of the political spectrum, but particularly from those who lean to the right. Many of the comments were, quite frankly, surprising. The seeming desire to wave it all away with rationalization and excuses was telling, and disappointing. The thread running through many of the comments received was “we’re certainly not doing it to the extent that they are” as if numbers of dead due to torture was much more important than the act itself. Completely ignored was the principle involved and invoked. We believe in human rights, therefore we don’t torture and abuse prisoners.

Others argued that while distasteful, it was necessary in order to acquire vital information, again ignoring principle. Lastly there was the group that considered any criticism of the US military to be out of bounds, distracting and potentially destructive to the morale of those fighting in Iraq.

A couple of points before I discuss these basic arguments. I supported and continue to support the war in Iraq. It was and is necessary and in the long term, it will make the world a safer place. Secondly, I’m a veteran of 28 years military service. I criticized the military during those 28 years, when it deserved criticism, and I will criticize it now, when it deserves such criticism. That’s my right and duty as an American. That’s not to say I think that it is a bad organization. Quite the contrary, I think we have the finest military we and the world has ever seen. But like all large organizations, it has problems and it can be better. Those problems must be surfaced, discussed, criticized and have action taken to correct them.

The charges of torture and abuse of prisoners in our custody is one of those problems. In the most recent of the posts, one of our commenters, JWG, summed up the side rationalizing torture and abuse in the following list:

1.The terrorists are worse
2.The GC doesn’t apply
3.It’s not enough deaths to be a problem
4.War is hell
5.People are dying in other parts of the world
6.The anti-war crowd thinks it’s bad

“The terrorists are worse”. By condoning torture and abuse by our soldiers, it becomes a matter of degree and not principle. Principle is thrown right out of the window with the acceptance that our torture isn’t as bad or as widespread as theirs. Because their's is “worse”, ours, apparently, is then acceptable. It’s the same sort of rationalization which occurs in other arguments in which people are driven by anger to abandon principle for vengeance. We’re upset by what the terrorists do. It’s a natural human phenomenon to want vengeance for acts of terrorism. We want to punish and get even with those who perpetrate such atrocities. But then, when we indulge ourselves in such behavior, we abandon the moral high ground for the same fetid pit in which our enemies exist. We become no better than them.

“The Geneva Conventions don’t apply.” Maybe, maybe not … but basic principles of human rights do apply, that is if you really believe in such things. And those principles do not lend themselves to torture and abuse of prisoners who are in our custody and essentially defenseless, regardless of their alleged crimes. It’s rather difficult to make the argument to the rest of the world that the United States stands and fights for the human rights of everyone when we’re found to be violating them among prison populations under our control.

Arguments “3”, “4” and “5” are simply variations on the rationalization theme found in “the terrorists are worse” argument. The “it’s a small percentage” argument is particularly heinous. Compared to Vietnam, our losses in Iraq are a small percentage. Does that mean we shouldn’t be concerned with the deaths in Iraq until they reach the proportions of Vietnam? Of course not. Nor should we callously wave off these deaths with a “it’s a small percentage” argument. There should be no deaths in our custody due to torture or abuse. None. That speaks to principle, not convenience, vengeance or rationalization.

The last argument, “the anti-war crowd thinks its bad” is one of the more interesting arguments. Its premise is “if they think its bad, then it probably isn’t because they think everything the military does is bad ”. Naturally the rationalization begins based on that premise. It becomes more important to win politically than to recognize they may have a valid argument and stand on principle yourself. Politics over principle.

A very dangerous corollary to that premise is “our military can do no wrong”. Well, it can, and has. What’s interesting about the military is it works very hard to correct those things it has done badly or actions it considers to be wrong. Abu Ghrab wasn’t “broken” by CBS, it was broken by our military launching an investigation. The abuses we’ve recently found out about in Afghanistan came from an internal Department of Defense investigation the military conducted. If they know it is wrong to torture and abuse prisoners and have taken the time to investigate and punish those committing such acts, why are there those among us that feel compelled to defend such practices? And why do they think they’re doing a favor to the military by doing so?

There’s one other argument I want to address and it was brought up by commenter Tim Higgins:
“You see, if the argument being made is "look at all the torture and murder going on - we need to do a better job training and disciplining our troops, and identify and punish, if applicable, whoever in the chain of command is responsible for ordering that this take place" then I would come off as much more sympathetic.”
Well Tim, that is the argument being made. This blog, from the beginning, has said this sort of behavior by members of our military (not by the military as a whole) is completely unacceptable and against every principle we as American’s hold dear. We’ve argued that the occurrences are more than random and speaks to a very apparent lack of leadership or at least emphasis by leadership. That’s not an indictment of all of the leaders, or the administration, or even most of the leaders. It’s an indictment of those leaders charged with the custody of prisoners in various locales. They’ve not done the job. And they’ve either disregarded guidance or ignored it. They’ve also either been ignorant of the activities or implicitly condoned them. That’s unacceptable.

But in a broader argument, we’re saying that you can make all the technical arguments you care to make, rationalize torture and murder as some sort of burning necessity upon which our safety is dependent and claim that abuse is fair pay-back for the behavior of our enemies, but we, all of us, reject any argument which tries to legitimize torture and abuse, and we reject it on principle. None of us want to hear bad things about our military. But when it does bad things, it should be criticized. This is an argument about who we are and what we support on principle, not what we can rationalize as appropriate given the current circumstance.

The most surprising part about the rationalization seen in the pro-torture (or "who cares", or "they're worse" or "its only a small percentage" or "they aren't covered by the Geneva Conventions") argument are the situational ethics adopted by many on the right in making the arguments. It demonstrates, very well, how successful the left has been in selling this odious concept over the years.
 
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My concern with the "widespread" argument put forth by Jon Henke and Dale Franks is their reliance on a "fake but accurate" narrative.

I would like someone at QandO to address this. The "small percentage" criticism should not be an excuse on principle, however, it is a very valid criticism of the "widespread" fallacy put forward on this blog.

They have misrepresented the deaths listed in their sources and made a misleading comparison to the deaths of sentenced prisoners in state and federal prisons.

Please address this.
 
Written By: Sisyphus
URL: http://sisypheanmusings.blogspot.com/
I would like someone at QandO to address this. The "small percentage" criticism should not be an excuse on principle, however, it is a very valid criticism of the "widespread" fallacy put forward on this blog.

They have misrepresented the deaths listed in their sources and made a misleading comparison to the deaths of sentenced prisoners in state and federal prisons.


I’ve addressed my concerns with the "small percentage" argument, Sisyphus. Since I’m not making the other argument, I’ll let those who are (Jon or Dale) address your concerns.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
The most surprising part about the rationalization seen in the pro-torture (or "who cares", or "they’re worse" or "its only a small percentage" or "they aren’t covered by the Geneva Conventions") argument are the situational ethics adopted by many on the right in making the arguments.
So let’s run the logic.

Because someone might think the abuse and/or torture is not widespread, and unavoidable in some respects (same as, say, making plane travel 100% safe) therefor that person is: pro-torture.

Because someone might think that the detainees are not covered by the Geneva Convention, i.e. not POWs, then they are pro-torture.

Only the "they are worse" makes any sense to be considered truly "pro-torture."

Let’s not blanket everyone who disagrees about the problem as "pro-torture."
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
You certainly knocked the stuffing out of those strawmen. Color me unimpressed.

Apparently there is no answer for the flawed statistics, mischaracterizing deaths and investigations as "murder," or faulty contentions the Geneva Conventions require better treatment than is being provided (e.g., speedy tribunal).
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
flawed statistics
Are you denying that abuse and death have occured? If no, then the exact number is unimportant. If yes, then explain why the DoD says there have been.
mischaracterizing deaths and investigations as "murder,"
Again, are you saying that there have been no incidents of "murder"? And do you not think deaths due to negligence are worthy of notice? Do we have an obligation to prevent the killing of our prisoners or not?
faulty contentions the Geneva Conventions require better treatment than is being provided (e.g., speedy tribunal)
The argument is about the torture and killing of prisoners regardless of their status.

Your arguments are the strawmen. You are trying to divert attention from the issue: the DoD is reporting and investigating multiple occurances of abuse and killing of prisoners under the care of military personnel. This is happening in multiple areas. What do we need to do about it? Most commenters seem to think we should not worry about it for a variety of reasons.

 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://www.qando.net
Like McQ, I’m a veteran. 18 years of service, physically disabled due to my service, and a veteran of Desert Storm.

Maybe, just maybe, those who argue that it’s not torture, not bad, not wrong, etc. will understand this.

Torture, abuse and murder, whether of prisoners or non-combatants, by members of the military is corrosive and destructive to the morale of the military. It breaks down military discipline. Soldiers become thugs and worse. These soldiers involved in the systematic abuse, torture and murder of prisoners are just as bad as the men of the SS who guarded the concentration camps and formed the Einsatzgruppen and no military organization should tolerate their behavior or presence within their ranks.

If you think I’m some kind of leftist, visit my blog and find out for yourself. I’m proud of my service, proud of the military and proud of what this country stands for. The men, women and units that have behaved in this abominable fashion neither deserve the appellation of soldier nor to continue their military service.

You either stand for the principles of life and liberty, or you don’t. It’s that simple. You have to decide which you choose.
 
Written By: Eric
URL: http://grumbles.mu.nu/
Because someone might think the abuse and/or torture is not widespread, and unavoidable in some respects (same as, say, making plane travel 100% safe) therefor that person is: pro-torture.

Uh, no ... your argument breaks down right there.

Pro-torture means precisely what it says. It means someone who condones torture as a legitimate tool to be used in the war on terror. Read the comments. The arguments for torture will be found in there.

Let’s not blanket everyone who disagrees about the problem as "pro-torture."

The only one doing that is you. Note the - or "who cares", or "they’re worse" or "its only a small percentage" or "they aren’t covered by the Geneva Conventions" - which adds other arguments specifically.

I have no problem with those who disagree Harun, its your absolute right to do so. I disagree with those who are using the arguments I’ve pointed out and I think they’re engaged in a bout of situational ethics. That was the point of the post.

You certainly knocked the stuffing out of those strawmen. Color me unimpressed.

As opposed to your technical (and irrelevant) argument about percentages (thereby avoiding the crux of the issue)? Color me the same.

Apparently there is no answer for the flawed statistics, mischaracterizing deaths and investigations as "murder," or faulty contentions the Geneva Conventions require better treatment than is being provided (e.g., speedy tribunal).

Speaking of strawmen ...those aren’t the issues I’ve addressed in this post, are they?

Had you read the post carefully you’d have noted that I’m not much impressed by technical arguments such as yours about what is or isn’t said in some convention or whether it’s 1 or 41 that have been murdered.

I’m more interested in whether we do or don’t apply the principles for which we claim to stand.

Only those who are more interested in rationalizing bad behavior and or denying the reality of a situation wrap themselves in your sort of argument. And that gets us back to the salient point of the title: situational ethics.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Are you denying that abuse and death have occured? If no, then the exact number is unimportant.
Nonsense—of course the numbers matter. If the relative risk of death is the same as sitting in a cafe in Baghdad, then it’s a non-issue. If you want to claim it’s disproportionate compared to other conflicts, you need to show that. In any event, I note you’re not even trying to defend the number, so I’ll just assume that part of the post is invalid. (Which it fairly obviously is.)
Again, are you saying that there have been no incidents of "murder"?
I’m sure there were. But again, the numbers matter. (And at least one of the deaths characterized as "murder" was ruled as justifiable.)
The argument is about the torture and killing of prisoners regardless of their status.
Well, I don’t want to interrupt your hand-wringing, but maybe we ought to consider some corrective action? The earlier post suggested the proper course was: "due process, followed by 1) release, 2) a prison cell and POW status, or 3) an execution." I’d suggest keeping detainees is perfectly appropriate, and the proper course should lean more toward aggressive enforcement of orders and criminal prosecutions as indicated. Apparently you don’t think any of that’s important.
You are trying to divert attention from the issue: the DoD is reporting and investigating multiple occurances of abuse and killing of prisoners under the care of military personnel.

You suck at mind-reading.
What do we need to do about it? Most commenters seem to think we should not worry about it for a variety of reasons.
If the military is in fact "reporting and investigating" as you claim, and punishing offenders appropriately as they claim, why do you need to get involved?
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
But then, when we indulge ourselves in such behavior, we abandon the moral high ground for the same fetid pit in which our enemies exist. We become no better than them.

Such a load of crap. The moral high ground isn’t defined by how we treat subhuman scum who think nothing of blowing up innocent children. The moral high ground is defined by who we fight, why we fight, how we fight, and when we fight.

WHO- Subhumans who oppress, wantonly destroy, commot geoncide etc.

WHY- For liberation, to spread democratization. NOT for conquest, riches, ethnic cleansing etc

HOW- Smart bombs, targeted cruise missles instead of indiscriminate fire bombing

WHEN- Only when we’re attacked or otherwise clearly threatened.

This is what makes us better than them. Now if you want to flog yourself endlessly, go ahead. I’ve heard this argument before ad nauseum: USA is no better than [anyone] because of the way we treated the Indians.....because of slavery.....because of racism.....because we have homeless.....because we dropped the Nuke on Japan.....because we have the death penalty.....etc. So instead of torture, why not pick one of these instead? It all amounts to the same thing- moral equivalance run amok.

Maybe you don’t think we’re better than suicide bombers, terrorists or the like, but I for one value us a bit more than that.



 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Such a load of crap. The moral high ground isn’t defined by how we treat subhuman scum who think nothing of blowing up innocent children. The moral high ground is defined by who we fight, why we fight, how we fight, and when we fight.

Subhuman scum.

Trying to remember the last culture that referred to it’s enemies like that.

Oh yeah, now I remember. It was such an abhorent concept to the rest of the world that it eventually destroyed them.

The moral high-ground is defined by sticking with our principles no matter who, why, how or when we fight.

Trying to redefine that in order to justify and rationalize becoming like your enemy is called situational ethics.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
As opposed to your technical (and irrelevant) argument about percentages (thereby avoiding the crux of the issue)? Color me the same.
Fine. I think we all agree the statistics are silly. As a matter of intellectual honesty, I suggest you could respond to those of us making the arguments, rather than JWG’s less-than-sympathetic summary of points he doesn’t agree with.
Only those who are more interested in rationalizing bad behavior and or denying the reality of a situation wrap themselves in your sort of argument. And that gets us back to the salient point of the title: situational ethics.
It’s not "rationalizing bad behavior" to suggest those who violate laws or orders be held criminally responsible. Or to expect a certain amount of that behavior from troops in combat situations. The question is what we’re going to do about it. (Or, indeed, if it is already being appropriately handled by those in charge.) I note no enthusiasm to support various contentions that it’s widespread, out of control, etc. If you’re not willing to support them, I’m going to assume you can’t. And if you can’t, the logical conclusion is that those in charge are taking appropriate action.

There are fairly obvious national security reasons to detain enemy combatants and to interrogate prisoners. The suggestion that we release them all doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. (To respond to Jon’s conclusion—your position doesn’t appear to have any recommendations.)
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
I’ve addressed my concerns with the "small percentage" argument, Sisyphus. Since I’m not making the other argument, I’ll let those who are (Jon or Dale) address your concerns.
Fair enough. Then let me make my position clear. I agree with you that it is important our war effort reflect our principles.

I agree with Henke:
That’s just about where I stand: full transparency and due process, followed by 1) release, 2) a prison cell and POW status, or 3) an execution.
The only addition I would make is: 3) a prison cell and "illegal combatant" status, or 4) an execution.

I have no problem speaking out against, and holding officials responsible for, abuse and torture. Eric’s comment above is exactly right.
 
Written By: Sisyphus
URL: http://sisypheanmusings.blogspot.com/
As a matter of intellectual honesty, I suggest you could respond to those of us making the arguments, rather than JWG’s less-than-sympathetic summary of points he doesn’t agree with.

I happen to agree with JWG’s summary. You may not like the characterizations, but they seem to be a valid summarization to me based on my reading of the comments on the post linked.

If you have something to add, do so. That’s what the comment section is for.

It’s not "rationalizing bad behavior" to suggest those who violate laws or orders be held criminally responsible.

It certainly is when they’re used to do precisely the opposite ... and it is to those doing so to whom I’m addressing the point about situational ethics.

Like this one:
I’m not going to be morally browbeaten so far as Al Qaeda is concerned, however. I have absolutely no problems using torture against a guy like Kalik Sheik Mohammed. They could skin him alive and cover him in salt, for all I care.
If you aren’t doing so, quit trying to wear the "situational ethics" clothing.

Or to expect a certain amount of that behavior from troops in combat situations.

This has nothing to do with troops in ’combat situations’. It has to do with troops running confinement facilities who abuse and torture prisoners under their control.

And no, I don’t EXPECT any of that behavior from those running the facilites. I don’t have standards that low. I’ve also seen what proper training, leadership and command emphasis can do and know those sorts of low expectations can be avoided by proper application of all three.

So no, I don’t expect a ’certain amount of that behavior’ from any but poorly led troops.

The question is what we’re going to do about it. (Or, indeed, if it is already being appropriately handled by those in charge.)

That may be your question and what you’re interested in pursuing, but it wasn’t the purpose nor the subject of this post.

I note no enthusiasm to support various contentions that it’s widespread, out of control, etc. If you’re not willing to support them, I’m going to assume you can’t. And if you can’t, the logical conclusion is that those in charge are taking appropriate action.

Context. This post addressed certain arguments concerning this issue and why I found them wanting. It has nothing to do with what I do or don’t support in relation to "various contentions", although I am completely against any use of torture and abuse against prisoners. This post is certainly doesn’t address how I feel about the size of the problem. I thought I made it clear - I find those type arguments to be irrelevant and without merit.

So your assumption is invalid. There is nothing then that would cause anyone capable of critcal thinking to conclude that since I didn’t address your false assumption that I must logically conclude appropriate action is being taken.

It may very well be, but that isn’t the subject of this post.

There are fairly obvious national security reasons to detain enemy combatants and to interrogate prisoners.

No kidding. And it’s also fairly obvious that both can (and, in the past, have been) done in such a manner consistent with our principles.

THAT is the subject of this post. Those who rationalize bad behavior, for whatever reason, are engaging in situational ethics and abandoning principle.

The suggestion that we release them all doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. (To respond to Jon’s conclusion—your position doesn’t appear to have any recommendations.)

Then address them to Jon on the post Jon wrote. They aren’t the subject of this post. And you’re right, I’m not recommending anything, because such recommendations weren’t the subject of my post.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I’m afraid you lose me at the unreserved condemnation of so-called "situational ethics". The insinuation that the concept is an invention of the left is particularly silly: the notion that public or private necessity can justify or excuse acts otherwise tortious or criminal has its roots in English common law, which, I’m afraid, predates the advent of both leftism and the Enlightenment (from which republican/libertarian principles largely arise) by several centuries.

Now, we can certainly have a healthy conversation about whether what’s transpired has legitimately constitited necessity, and I think in many if not most of these cases you’d find me an ally. But to blindly insist on sticking to our principles even in cases where our enemies use our principles as a weapon against us? Sorry: I’m not signing onto that particular suicide pact, and this is why I cannot support the contention that torture and even murder are always and without exception wrong.
 
Written By: Sinbad
URL: http://
This has nothing to do with troops in ’combat situations’. It has to do with troops running confinement facilities who abuse and torture prisoners under their control.

There were firefights between guards and prisoners at Abu Ghraib (including one of the Iraqis beaten by Graner and testifying against him). The top incident on the list of supposed "murders" was during an ambush in Afghanistan. Combat is an integral and unavoidable part of the problem.
This post is certainly doesn’t address how I feel about the size of the problem.
The referral from Jon and your point number 3 led me to believe otherwise. My mistake.
Then address them to Jon on the post Jon wrote. They aren’t the subject of this post.

Fair enough. It’s obvious he’s not going to answer them, but I shouldn’t have expected you to. On your topic, I’d suggest there is an apparent assumption the cases of abuse/torture/murder are not being appropriately handled by the military justice system, and I don’t think that’s proven. Cheers.
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
I would like someone at QandO to address this. The "small percentage" criticism should not be an excuse on principle, however, it is a very valid criticism of the "widespread" fallacy put forward on this blog.
I quite disagree. First, I think it’s important to note that we didn’t come up with the comparison of murder as a percentage of total deaths between the US military and prison system. A commenter in a previous post had suggested that the military was doing much better, so Dale went and found the actual breakdown. If you think the comparison is flawed, fine. I agree that it’s not a direct comparison, but that’s the situation we were given.
They have misrepresented the deaths listed in their sources and made a misleading comparison to the deaths of sentenced prisoners in state and federal prisons.
I fail to see how our comparison was misleading, and I do not believe we’ve misrepresented the deaths listed in the sources. One commenter brought up the case of M. Sayari, which was ruled a justifiable homicide, but I think you’ll find the details of that case are much more ambiguous. The soldiers claimed he’d lunged for a soldiers gun after he’d been detained. Yet, he was shot in the back of the head, and the Captain who was punished got the reprimand because he destroyed pictures of the scene.

I actually left out quite a lot of information. If the 15 "criminal homicide or abuse" instances—and many other incidents still under investigation—don’t convince you, there is cerainly more evidence of abuse. In any event, I call it "widespread", because it has happened at bases across Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in Cuba.

And of course, that’s just what we know about. Much of it has only come to light after extensive digging by media and human rights organizations.
Because someone might think the abuse and/or torture is not widespread, and unavoidable in some respects (same as, say, making plane travel 100% safe) therefor that person is: pro-torture. Because someone might think that the detainees are not covered by the Geneva Convention, i.e. not POWs, then they are pro-torture.
No, but we’ve got quite a lot of people who are openly claiming that, since the other side is doing it, we might as well do it, too.
If the relative risk of death is the same as sitting in a cafe in Baghdad, then it’s a non-issue.
NO!!! My risk of being killed by a serial murderer is quite low, but that does not exhonerate a serial murderer, nor does that exhonerate a system that—by order, inaction or just poor discipline—allows such a thing to happen.

Torture and abuse is Bad, even if it’s statistically unlikely to happen to any given person. It shouldn’t happen at all. That is has happened—and has happened so often—indicates a crucial failure in the chain of command.
Such a load of crap. The moral high ground isn’t defined by how we treat subhuman scum who think nothing of blowing up innocent children.
Really, Shark? Is it defined by how we treat a plain old enemy soldier in our captivity? How about how we treat an innocent taxi driver in Kabul? Perhaps its defined by how we treat people about whom we know nothing.

Now, perhaps you have some special inside information on the technique our military uses to determine the fact—fact!—that each and every instance of torture is used only against people who blow up innocent children, but the fact that we are having to release these people in droves—from Abu Ghraib, from Gitmo, etc—tells me that we’re not dealing with a really high degree of certainty here. In far too many cases, we’ve abandoned due process for sheer thuggery.

Are we better than the insurgents, Islamists and terrorists? Of course. But are we better than the innocents and petty criminals that we’re beating, abusing and killing? Not so much.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Fair enough. It’s obvious he’s not going to answer them, but I shouldn’t have expected you to.
Good lord, a fellow can’t be away from the computer for a couple hours before his integrity is questioned. On a holiday no less!

Well, I’ve answered the questions above.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Now, we can certainly have a healthy conversation about whether what’s transpired has legitimately constitited necessity, and I think in many if not most of these cases you’d find me an ally. But to blindly insist on sticking to our principles even in cases where our enemies use our principles as a weapon against us?

That’s why they’re called principles, Sinbad. Human rights is either something you always work toward or never. But it can’t be something you work toward only when it is convenient to do so and still have it considered to be a principle.

I’m afraid you lose me at the unreserved condemnation of so-called "situational ethics"

I’m sure I do, as evidenced by your appeal to situational ethics in the paragraph above. Acceptance of the point sure would be inconvenient to your argument, wouldn’t it?

Sorry: I’m not signing onto that particular suicide pact, and this is why I cannot support the contention that torture and even murder are always and without exception wrong.

Can’t conceive of any possibliity of success without them? Interesting.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
On your topic, I’d suggest there is an apparent assumption the cases of abuse/torture/murder are not being appropriately handled by the military justice system, and I don’t think that’s proven.

No, my objection is to the arguments which find no problem with the cases of abuse/torture/murder, and in fact support the use of all three.

Where the military is on its handling of the cases is neither here nor there as concerns those arguments.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
One commenter brought up the case of M. Sayari, which was ruled a justifiable homicide, but I think you’ll find the details of that case are much more ambiguous. The soldiers claimed he’d lunged for a soldiers gun after he’d been detained. Yet, he was shot in the back of the head, and the Captain who was punished got the reprimand because he destroyed pictures of the scene.
Actually, I brought it up in response to your complaint that he only receieved a reprimand. And I’d submit that if he in fact lunged for a gun in his truck, the logical place for someone to shoot him would be in the back (and if he was sitting in the truck at the time, it’d likely be a head shot—though they are normally bad form). Regardless, I know bupkus about the incident, as do you—but the point is that comanders on the scene ruled it justifiable, and you’ve characterized it (and many others) as "murder[s]." That’s clearly incorrect.
It shouldn’t happen at all.
This to me is the critical argument, and it’s nonsense. Murders happen everywhere. If the system condones it, it’ll happen at a higher rate. If not, it’s not an issue, and you just punish the perpetrators. Is the murder rate of detainees out of line with expectations? I don’t know (it’s certainly lower than Vietnam, but that’s not a very high standard). Seems to me that’s your burden, and IMO, you haven’t met it.
Good lord, a fellow can’t be away from the computer for a couple hours before his integrity is questioned. On a holiday no less!

Heh. Good point and my apologies. I mistakenly took your referral to mean you two were tag-teaming. (And hence inappropriately jumped all over McQ—apologies there as well.)
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
No, my objection is to the arguments which find no problem with the cases of abuse/torture/murder, and in fact support the use of all three.
Well, you can include me in those who think detaining and questioning enemy combatants is appropriate. And for those who don’t qualify for POW treatment, I support "stress and duress" measures (up to and including waterboarding) as well. If that rises to your definition of "abuse," I’ll happily argue the issue. (But I’m not interested in the con side of the "murder is bad" debate.)
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
Jon,
If you think the comparison is flawed, fine. I agree that it’s not a direct comparison, but that’s the situation we were given.
OK, couple of requests:

1) Link to the originating post/comments where the comparison was presented.

2) Point out the where the comparison fits and/or breaks down—or remove the 25% v. 1.7% comparison.

3) Link to the presentation on BJS statistics due out this summer: Deaths in Custody
If the 15 "criminal homicide or abuse" instances—and many other incidents still under investigation—don’t convince you, there is cerainly more evidence of abuse. In any event, I call it "widespread", because it has happened at bases across Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in Cuba.
Please be clear on this point. Is it geographically "widespread" (which I would then agree with your post), or is it widespread among our troops - or both?
 
Written By: Sisyphus
URL: http://sisypheanmusings.blogspot.com/
Subhuman scum.

Trying to remember the last culture that referred to it’s enemies like that.

Oh yeah, now I remember. It was such an abhorent concept to the rest of the world that it eventually destroyed them.


Well McQ, I’m calling you on an indirect violation of Godwins Law here :)

Seriously though, one of the best posts I remember reading here (don’t remember who posted) was about how there was going to be no apology for making a value judgement regarding thinking a certain culture (radical Islamist culture) was inferior to our western culture, and about how all this cultural equivilance was rubbish.

What I said isn’t all that different, now is it? I’m a bit suprised to be called out on that. The contributors to this blog eschew "moral equivilance" and embrace value judgements. So I made a value judgement. I stick by it.

 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Well McQ, I’m calling you on an indirect violation of Godwins Law here :)

You saw how hard I worked to keep "the name" out of it didn’t you? ;)

Seriously though, one of the best posts I remember reading here (don’t remember who posted) was about how there was going to be no apology for making a value judgement regarding thinking a certain culture (radical Islamist culture) was inferior to our western culture, and about how all this cultural equivilance was rubbish.

Shark, there are a number of cultures I find inferior to other cultures. However that doesn’t change the status of those within that culture from human to subhuman. Only those of the ideology we dare not mention made that sort of "judgement". And it was wrong.

What I said isn’t all that different, now is it?

As I just pointed out, its quite different.

I’m a bit suprised to be called out on that. The contributors to this blog eschew "moral equivilance" and embrace value judgements. So I made a value judgement. I stick by it.

Great. Live with it. Glad I don’t have too.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Actually, McQ, you would be wrong on the identity of "the last culture that referred to it’s enemies like that."

That would be the United States, re the Japanese Empire in WWII. (Nips, yellow monkeys, pick your descriptive.)

"Oh yeah, now I remember. It was such an abhorent concept to the rest of the world that it eventually destroyed them. "

Not yet. Although I’m sure you can find many on Kos to agree with you that we deserve it.

And that really gets down to the meat of it. I’m not willing to hand our enemies more clubs to beat us with. You want to court-martial these people, no problem. You want to write fitness reports that result in them having an incredibly short career in the military, no problem there, either. Although I will point out that an argument can and has been made that the refusal to put Patton in command of Army Group 12 instead of Bradley, because of the "soldier slapping incident," prolonged the war by a year and kept us from taking Eastern Europe away from the Russians (at least Germany, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Hungary). How many millions of ruined lives can be laid to our refusal to put that incident in perspective?

Oh, and as for your comment about not seeing a way to win without it, don’t make me laugh. We can win, defined as leaving the countries where our enemies live incapable of mounting any further effective resistance, in the flight time of a Trident missle or 12. And frankly, I’d just as soon do it that way. "Let them hate us, so long as they fear."
 
Written By: SDN
URL: http://
McQ, you don’t say what you did for 28 years in the military. But I can assure you that methods that you may consider torture are sometimes necessary when many lives are at risk. As you may know, there is a hidden war behind the scenes that does not end where the battlefield does. Conducting interrogations in a manner you may consider torture, is well worth saving tens of thousands of lives. There have already been many plots foiled that you and the media may never know about because of these tactics.

The perpetrators at Abu Ghraib were just bored on the night shift and served no other purpose but to relieve that boredom. That kind of activity is dead wrong. If it had been a necessary activity, there would have been no photos and no one would have known about it. Recreational torture, like this, is reprehensible. I will join you in condemning this. But I cannot agree with you, when the lives of your family and mine are in danger. Sorry.
 
Written By: LASunsett
URL: http://poli-yy.blogspot.com
McQ,

I think you have driven home the point about situational ethics, let me ask some questions from the perspective of a man willing to listen to reasons why he should adopt your stance.

1) If I lose the abilty to gain valuable intelligence from prisoners by adhering to your belief system, what should I do to compensate for that loss?

2) You mentioned supporting the war in Iraq, how can I take a stand against situational ethics if I support violence through warfare, but not elsewhere?

3) If I support Operation Iraqi Freedom, shouldn’t I therefore support Operation Cuban Freedom? Operation North Korean Freedom? Etc., etc.

Not meant to be flamebait, just trying to get my brain around exactly what you are proposing.
 
Written By: FRNM
URL: http://
I may be nitpicking here, but could you please expand your citation of my comment to include the immediately following line: "In fact, I totally agree with that argument, and have made it myself." Though I gather that you don’t consider it germane to the discussion, I feel that my position is being misrepresented. Thanks!
 
Written By: Tim Higgins
URL: http://willgolfforfood.blogspot.com
McQ, you don’t say what you did for 28 years in the military.

I was an infantry officer.

But I can assure you that methods that you may consider torture are sometimes necessary when many lives are at risk.

Not in my experience.

As you may know, there is a hidden war behind the scenes that does not end where the battlefield does. Conducting interrogations in a manner you may consider torture, is well worth saving tens of thousands of lives. There have already been many plots foiled that you and the media may never know about because of these tactics.

Really ... and your proof of that is?

If it had been a necessary activity, there would have been no photos and no one would have known about it.

Don’t bet on that.

I will join you in condemning this. But I cannot agree with you, when the lives of your family and mine are in danger. Sorry.

So if they feel the same way, then morally you guys are in agreement, right?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I may be nitpicking here, but could you please expand your citation of my comment to include the immediately following line: "In fact, I totally agree with that argument, and have made it myself." Though I gather that you don’t consider it germane to the discussion, I feel that my position is being misrepresented. Thanks!

You know I thought about it at the time but didn’t see it as gemane to the way I planned on using it since in effect I was agreeing with you. If you feel I misrepresented your position, I apologize. That certainly wasn’t my intention.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
If I lose the abilty to gain valuable intelligence from prisoners by adhering to your belief system, what should I do to compensate for that loss?

Find a different and better way of obtaining that information. Make it a priority. Torture isn’t the only way immediate information can be obtained. Nor is it necessarily the best way nor does it yield the most reliable information by any means.

You mentioned supporting the war in Iraq, how can I take a stand against situational ethics if I support violence through warfare, but not elsewhere?

Well first, I’m not categorically against the use of violence. IOW, I’m not a pacifist by any stretch. There are situations which justly call for the use of violence ... war is one of them.

While war is violent, it supposes an enemy that is armed and has similar capabilities as you do. But even war has rules. In warfare we find it to be morally repugnant to kill or harm those we fight after they have given up and are in our custody. Obviously that would apply to torturing them as well. On principle, or at least as I was taught when in the Army, we don’t torture or kill defenseless people be they civilian or military prisoners.

If I support Operation Iraqi Freedom, shouldn’t I therefore support Operation Cuban Freedom? Operation North Korean Freedom? Etc., etc.

It’s not about supporting war per se, its about supporting the underlying reasons for going to war. I felt the reason for going to war with Iraq was morally supportable (actually, if I remember correctly, there were 9 reasons stated). That doesn’t mean I should or would automatically support a war against Cuba or North Korea just because I supported Iraq. In both cases the reasons would have to be morally compelling. For instance I spoke out strongly against our intervention in Kosovo because I thought it was a problem which Europe should have handled. I saw no morally compelling reason for our involvement that couldn’t have been handled by Europeans.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
The biggest problem in your post is the phrase "torture or abuse". It indicates the moral deficit in Amnesty International’s carping and the recent statements by the International Red Cross—lumping "torture" with "abuse" lowers the threshhold for the wrongful acts, if any, by the gaolers at Gitmo. Torture is not abuse—it is much more than that. But by lowering the level of discomfort to the prisoner by which torture is deemed to have been committed (mistreatment of a Koran? please), the various human rights organizations have made a mockery of the concept.

McQ and Jon fall far into this trap by conflating torture and abuse by blurring the line to such insignificance that it becomes as insubstantial as a will-o’-the-wisp. And Jon compounds this by swallowing the terrorists’ pre-rehearsed line that they have been subject to various forms of mistreatment even though the vast majority of those cases have been revealed as false.

Finally, I agree with Dale’s statement that none of these SOBs (captured without uniform) are covered by the Geneva Convention and with his sentiment that the firing squad is about as good as they deserve.
 
Written By: The Monk
URL: http://thekeymonk.blogspot.com
McQ and Jon fall far into this trap by conflating torture and abuse by blurring the line to such insignificance that it becomes as insubstantial as a will-o’-the-wisp.

They’re only conflated if you do the conflating, Monk.

Both are adequately defined in any dictionary you’d care to consult and they’re obviously different things. Anyone who wants to explore this issue honestly isn’t going to resort to semantics and parsing in an attempt to score points. He or she will use the commonly understood definitions of the words and engage in argument with that understanding.

Torture is torture. And it isn’t insignificant, nor is it acceptable. If you want to play parsing games, enjoy yourself. I’m not interested.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/

# War is not an intelectual excersize.

# There are no rules in war, other than the rules dicated by the winner, afterward.

# The Geneva Convention which proports to be civilized warfare, is in fact nothing of the sort, and is not worth the paper it was written on, having repeatedly been broken in every war ever waged since it’s signing. There’s a reason, here; Warfare is not civil under any conditions. War is, instead, the utter lack of civility. It is therefore unrealistic to assume or demand any degree of civility in wartime.

# Those seeking closer adherence to the Geneva Convention during wartime, even on moralistic ground, particualrly when the enemy is overtly not adhereing to said convention, are themselves immoral, given they end up costing their own side lives, by causing their own military to, in effect, fight with one hand tied behind their back.

# When a people go to war, it is by definition a last resort against an immoral enemy. It’s understood that war of itself is an immoral act. In going to war the line of immorality has already been crossed... but it is also understood that the greater immorality is to allow the enemy to continue it’s immoral activity. It is assumed, thereby, that whatever actions are taken in pursuit of winning said war against said immoral enemy, are in the immediate sense, of lesser moral consequence than the defeat of the enemy, and the actions of the enemy, both before and during said war.

# Hindsight is a luxury a nation at war cannot afford. For example, consider the post 9/11 world, and the discussions about ’How far would you go to stop another 9/11?" We succeeded in stopping any more such attacks on us, and we continue to hold them back. Being concerned now with the ’rights’ of those attacking us is at least counter-productive, and self-defeating.

# One does not win a war by respecting the rights, the beliefs, or the demands, of the enemy. One wins a war by killing the enemy in as great a number as possible, and barring that, by breaking their will to fight.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
May I propose a gedankenexperiment?

Suppose each combatant, upon being captured, were read the following formal statement: "You are an enemy combatant not covered by Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention, and you have violated the Geneva Conventions in one or more significant ways. I have the right under the accepted norms of warfare to summarily execute you. Indeed, some would say I have the obligation to execute you, so as to not cheapen the status of persons who do legitimately qualify as prisoners of war and to encourage your associates to adhere to the Conventions in the future. Nevertheless, I offer you the following choice. If you desire, I will have you executed now. As an alternative, you may submit and be taken captive, to be treated in whatever manner I or others of my nation may decide and possibly—or possibly not—to be released at some future date. Should you at any time regret choosing the second option, you will be allowed to invoke the first option, immediate execution. Which do you choose?"

How is this different from the current situation?

Is "depriving" the Guantanamo captives of execution such a terrible thing?


 
Written By: Mike G in San Diego
URL: http://
McQ,

No problem. On first reading your comments sounded contrary to me, but now that I’ve looked at it again I see that it is not meant that way.

-Tim
 
Written By: Tim Higgins
URL: http://willgolfforfood.blogspot.com
McQ, you don’t say what you did for 28 years in the military.

I was an infantry officer.

But I can assure you that methods that you may consider torture are sometimes necessary when many lives are at risk.

Not in my experience.

Your job was to lead troops into battle. There were other jobs behind the scenes that you never had knowledge about that helped keep you and your troops alive. Most of that was on a need to know basis. The same holds true today. The war on terror emcompasses more than just the troops on the ground and the infantry doesn’t always know what goes on in intelligence operations, unless they need to know. In fact, today’s "hidden war" not only must be conducted to keep the troops on the frontlines alive, it must also be conducted for the purpose of keeping civilians, living in this country, alive.

This war is unlike any, we have ever fought. So, past experiences aren’t always of a lot of value.

But more importantly, please understand that the purpose of my comments was not to put you on the defensive. I read your blog almost daily. I love it and respect your right to write anything you wish on it. I link to it on ocassion and have blogrolled it to my own, because I do agree with most of what you (and the others) write.

But, I am not going to get into a major argument over this (or any other issue) with you (or any other person). I just wanted to point out another angle on this, for you to consider. That’s all, nothing more. I have disgreed with many others (that I also agree with 90% of the time), that agree with you.

Your blog, you get the last word, if you wish.

 
Written By: LASunsett
URL: http://poli-yy.blogspot.com
There were other jobs behind the scenes that you never had knowledge about that helped keep you and your troops alive.

Of course I had knowlege of them. In fact, we are the ones who told them what we wanted to know. Intelligence preparation of the battlefield is planned in conjunction with the trigger-pullers.

In fact, today’s "hidden war" not only must be conducted to keep the troops on the frontlines alive, it must also be conducted for the purpose of keeping civilians, living in this country, alive.

Its no different than the "hidden war’ we fought in the Cold War, LA. But because we fought such a war doesn’t mean we have to resort to torture.

The implicit assumption those who condone torture have to make is that the information desired is available no other way and is so critical that principle is laid off to expedience.

First, I can’t buy into that assumption at all. And secondly, why claim to have principles that you live by if you’re prepared to throw them overboard the first time they seem to get in your way?

But more importantly, please understand that the purpose of my comments was not to put you on the defensive. I read your blog almost daily. I love it and respect your right to write anything you wish on it. I link to it on ocassion and have blogrolled it to my own, because I do agree with most of what you (and the others) write.

Rest assured I’m not feeling defensive about this, LA. I have a tendency to argue forcefully and passionately. I enjoy the argument and I certainly appreciate the fact that you read our blog when you have the choice of 8 million others to choose from.

I feel strongly about this issue. Always have, always will. And I appreciate your measured words and questions. None of us is every going to agree on everthing, but its probably more important to discuss those things we disagree on than those upon which we agree.

But, I am not going to get into a major argument over this (or any other issue) with you (or any other person). I just wanted to point out another angle on this, for you to consider. That’s all, nothing more. I have disgreed with many others (that I also agree with 90% of the time), that agree with you.

Well there’s no real middle ground to had here, that’s for sure, but I appreciate your comments very much.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
It’s understood that war of itself is an immoral act.

BS. So much BS it’s not even worth rebutting.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Subhuman scum.

Trying to remember the last culture that referred to it’s enemies like that.

Well, in that case, is there ever anything anyone could do that would make them in your eyes to be "subhuman scum"? How about just "scum"?

I’m for the tribunal and firing squad (if appropriate), myself. Frankly, I don’t think that will win over any "hearts and minds" but it stamps the rule of law upon our doings so we aren’t creating our own monsters. (Well, until the tribunals are accused of being corrupt and rubber-stamping; I’m sure that won’t take long.)

 
Written By: Mark Flacy
URL: http://
On principle, or at least as I was taught when in the Army, we don’t torture or kill defenseless people be they civilian or military prisoners.
Its no different than the "hidden war’ we fought in the Cold War, LA. But because we fought such a war doesn’t mean we have to resort to torture.
You know, the more I read of this the more confused I am. If you’re talking about the Law of War (the prisoner treatment part being derived from the Geneva Conventions) the standard is: "Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." So if you’re allowing treatment up to but not including "torture," you obviously aren’t giving them the benefit of the Law of War.

Similarly, comparing today’s abuse cases with Vietnam-era experience doesn’t make any sense. However bad you think the current situation is, it’s an order of magnitude better than back then. So what’s the point?
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
McQ,

I guess one of the things I am having trouble grasping relates to this part;
There are situations which justly call for the use of violence ... war is one of them.
If I kill a man in a firefight, or I kill a man during an interrogation, what is different ... besides the situation? Why is one ethically acceptable, and not the other?
 
Written By: FRNM
URL: http://
You know, the more I read of this the more confused I am. If you’re talking about the Law of War (the prisoner treatment part being derived from the Geneva Conventions) the standard is: "Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." So if you’re allowing treatment up to but not including "torture," you obviously aren’t giving them the benefit of the Law of War.

Which part of this was unclear?

...we don’t torture or kill defenseless people be they civilian or military prisoners.

Where is it inconsistent with "Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind."?

In that case the context was very specific, that of a soldier actually fighting and capturing enemy.

Similarly, comparing today’s abuse cases with Vietnam-era experience doesn’t make any sense. However bad you think the current situation is, it’s an order of magnitude better than back then. So what’s the point?

The point was anecdotal, not general which should have been pretty obvious. The fact is I and many others like me were able to do what we had to do in Vietnam without resorting to the mistreatment or torture of prisoners. So it stands to reason that if we were able to do it then, it can be done now.

That was the point.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
If I kill a man in a firefight, or I kill a man during an interrogation, what is different ... besides the situation?

Murder vs. a killing.

In the combat situation, both are able to excercise of the right of self-defense as they both have the means to do so. Neither exercise that right in an interrogation (and the person being interrogated doesn’t have the means to do so anyway).

One or the other in a combat confrontation can choose to surrender and not fight with no lethal consequence (ideally) for surrendering.

The man in the interrogation does not have the ability or chance to defend himself should the interrogator become violent. He is completely at the interrogator’s mercy. He is defenseless. The person who kills a defenseless person in interrogation certainly isn’t defending himself. He’s murdering someone.

Why is one ethically acceptable, and not the other?

Because our ethics are such that we understand and accept the fact that war is sometimes a necessity, and, of consequence, killings in that context to also be necessary. But few ethical codes ever find the wanton murder of a defenseless human being to be acceptable under any circumstances.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Well, in that case, is there ever anything anyone could do that would make them in your eyes to be "subhuman scum"? How about just "scum"?

Scum? Sure. But it doesn’t change the fact that they’re human beings. And it certainly gives me no superior rights over them (like the right to round ’em up and torture them).

The "subhuman" remark just struck a nerve with me. I’m a huge WWII buff and I still get chills when I think about where the acceptance of such a characterization led during that war ... what it justified in the minds of those who committed the atrocities we all decry today.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Bruce; Your response was expected, but unavailing.

War is not a version of morality. It is the LACK of morality.

The reason we engage in it is we accept that there is a larger immorality we need to fight against.

And ummm... Bruce? Perhaps you’d be interested in knowing the number of responses I’ve gotten form those statements in Email?

One that got made public:

In the end, it is how many of them can you kill, wound or otherwise disable. Ask the Germans or their pals the Japanese, and they will tell you that the punishment they took was hell. So be it, they asked for it and we were fighting for our very lives. We are in the same situation today, but it seems that our people don’t get it. It is them or us, their is no other way. That is the nature of war. The way we are proceeding with this war, I fear it will be us.
MSG.M.Brown,USA,(Ret.)


If it’s so much crap, Bruce, you should have no problem taking it apart.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
War is not a version of morality. It is the LACK of morality.

I don’t have time nor the patience for this sort of pseudo-intellectual silliness, Eric, and this is profoundly contextless nonsense. Go troll someone else who’ll rise to this sort of crap.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
WHo’s trolling?
I’m seriously asking for a straight answer.

I’m suggesting what I’ve listed are the basic conditions.

I’m also suggesting they apply completely to warfare in every situation. Since to apply to so broad a set of situations, the context of the statements need to be fairly broad, as well.

I am also suggesting they apply directly to our current situation.

And finally, I’m suggesting they challange, on a foundational level, the basis for concern over the use of tourture.

Again, I’m completely serious, here.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
The fact is I and many others like me were able to do what we had to do in Vietnam without resorting to the mistreatment or torture of prisoners. So it stands to reason that if we were able to do it then, it can be done now.


There was far more prisoner abuse during Vietnam than there is today. So you weren’t able to do it then, by the same measure you are applying to today’s soldiers. (Or, if you want to claim you were able to do it then, then we also do it today, and better.) Again, you’ve got a double standard here that makes no sense.
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
McQ,

I’m still pondering, how about this one:
The person who kills a defenseless person in interrogation certainly isn’t defending himself. He’s murdering someone.
What if the sentence read this way:

The person who kills a defenseless person in a bombing raid certainly isn’t defending himself. He’s murdering someone.

How are they different?







 
Written By: FRNM
URL: http://
Oh, come on, McQ. You’re just being disingenuous, now.

Your argument is premised on the assertion that "situational ethics", as you term them, are a violation of principle. I am pointing out that the notion of necessity as a privilege is a principle—one that is several centuries old and still much in favor in both culture and law, on both the right and the left.

You don’t get to handwave past that point just because you don’t like it.

And no, I do not imagine that victory can be won through a unilateral laying down of arms. I submit that history amply illustrates the foolishness of bringing a knife to a gunfight.
 
Written By: Sinbad
URL: http://
Will someone remind me why we are so horrified and angered at the torture our POWs received in Vietnam, because it sure seems as if their suffering was justified according to most of the posts that argue how foolish it is for a nation at war to avoid torturing its prisoners.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://www.qando.net
Oh, come on, McQ. You’re just being disingenuous, now.

Oh please, Sinbad, spare me the "you’re being disingenuous" argument and then try to redefine "principle" as something mutable and changeable at will.

Its utter nonsense on a stick .. and that’s not a handwave, it’s a declarative sentence.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
How are they different?

Purpose and intent.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I’m suggesting what I’ve listed are the basic conditions.

And I’m suggesting its contextless crap, and thus we have nothing to discuss as I’m not interested in discussing contextless crap.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
How are they different?

Purpose and intent.
If a building housing civilians was a legitimate target because of the presence of an enemy force, how would it be justified to level it to prevent an attack but not justified to employ extreme measures on a detainee to gather information to prevent a similar attack?

Isn’t the purpose and intent the same?
 
Written By: FRNM
URL: http://
Will someone remind me why we are so horrified and angered at the torture our POWs received in Vietnam, because it sure seems as if their suffering was justified according to most of the posts that argue how foolish it is for a nation at war to avoid torturing its prisoners.

It’s quite simple JWG ... its only immoral when THEY do it. We, on the other hand, engage in moral torture. You see the information our guys had was not critical and no lives would have been saved had they gotten it out of them in a timely manner. But "untold thousands" will be saved by the results of our torture.

Yeah, its sorta hard to condemn on one hand what you support on the other, isn’t it?

That’s where situational ethics come in right handy.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
It’s quite simple JWG ... its only immoral when THEY do it.
The selective morality argument would be more convincing if we were more concerned about when WE did it in Vietnam, as well. Apparently it’s only the relatively few violations by our side in the current conflict that are at issue . . . but I still can’t figure out Why.
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
When in heaven’s name did I redefine principle as something mutable and changeable at will? I simply pointed out the obvious fact that necessity, as a privilege, is itself a basic principle of our culture and law, and has been for many hundreds of years.

You simply embarass yourself by declaring this to be nonsense. You’re doing nothing more than engaging in the same moral preening that Dale was, earlier.
 
Written By: Sinbad
URL: http://
The selective morality argument would be more convincing if we were more concerned about when WE did it in Vietnam, as well.

Who’s "we" and who says some of us weren’t very concerned with Vietnam?

...but I still can’t figure out Why.

I’m beginning to believe that.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Who’s "we" and who says some of us weren’t very concerned with Vietnam?
You’re carping about a few cases of abuse today, whilst claiming Vietnam experience—which was far worse—proves: "if we were able to do it then, it can be done now." Arrant nonsense. If you want to compare individual units, there are many with no infractions whatsoever (and far more now than then). If you want to compare the military as a whole, again the Vietnam crew suffers by the contrast. Claiming there’s any lesson there that’s going to satisfy the zero defect standard you are apparently hoisting is nonsense.

Speaking of which, I note your addition to the post:
We’ve argued that the occurrences are more than random and speaks to a very apparent lack of leadership or at least emphasis by leadership.
Here again, any possible comparison to Vietnam as a positive standard is laughable.
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
It’s quite simple JWG ... its only immoral when THEY do it. We, on the other hand, engage in moral torture

Lets see....beheading some innocent Journalist like Daniel Pearl vs torturing some murderous cretin at Abu Ghraib to try to gain information.

Are you sure you want to draw a moral equivilance between the two?
 
Written By: Shark
URL: http://www.qando.net
I see we’ve had about 16 cases of prisoner homicide in four years of war. Given how many troops we’ve got over there, that’s about half our expected civilian murder rate, and thankfully military record-keeping allows a higher rate of prosecution. If just "better training and supervision" could eliminate the problem, then why don’t we try that over here? I’d love to see the US homicide rate reach zero.

I’m not alarmed when the entire US military has committed a lower number of homicides, even when lumping in every in-custody death as a "homicide", than my own distant German cousin inflicted on helpless American servicemen in WW-II. If my one cousin can out body-count the entire United States military, even handicapping by counting heart-attacks, strokes, and riots as murder, then we probably don’t have something running out of control.

All we can do is keep after the problem.
 
Written By: George Turner
URL: http://www.nicedoggie.net
You’re carping about a few cases of abuse today, whilst claiming Vietnam experience—which was far worse—proves: "if we were able to do it then, it can be done now."

Good lord ... I’m not carping about any cases in particular, I’m arguing that the use of torture is immoral.

Period.

And you’re the one who can’t seem to move off Vietnam, like it proves somehow that what I’m arguing is invalid.

If you want to compare the military as a whole, again the Vietnam crew suffers by the contrast. Claiming there’s any lesson there that’s going to satisfy the zero defect standard you are apparently hoisting is nonsense.

Cecil, this is your strawman so enjoy your date.

Here again, any possible comparison to Vietnam as a positive standard is laughable.

I’m convinced ... you don’t know what "anecdotal" means.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Lets see....beheading some innocent Journalist like Daniel Pearl vs torturing some murderous cretin at Abu Ghraib to try to gain information.

Are you sure you want to draw a moral equivilance between the two?


Ah, so torture isn’t torture, right Shark?

Its only torture when the good guys are undergoing the infliction of severe pain to coerce information.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I see we’ve had about 16 cases of prisoner homicide in four years of war. Given how many troops we’ve got over there, that’s about half our expected civilian murder rate, and thankfully military record-keeping allows a higher rate of prosecution. If just "better training and supervision" could eliminate the problem, then why don’t we try that over here? I’d love to see the US homicide rate reach zero.

I’m not alarmed when the entire US military has committed a lower number of homicides, even when lumping in every in-custody death as a "homicide", than my own distant German cousin inflicted on helpless American servicemen in WW-II. If my one cousin can out body-count the entire United States military, even handicapping by counting heart-attacks, strokes, and riots as murder, then we probably don’t have something running out of control.

All we can do is keep after the problem.
 
Written By: George Turner
URL: http://www.nicedoggie.net
I’m convinced ... you don’t know what "anecdotal" means.

Yeah, it means you’ve got a BS war story to back up your nonsensical claims about a "leadership problem." Unfortunately, in this case it does exactly the opposite. Have fun with the outrage and pretending you could do better.
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
I’m surprised so many people think torture is wrong, but are willing to allow it because they think benefits us.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that I think torture is justified in war, just as killing is justified in war. I don’t want to understate how bad torture is, but death is also very bad. Losing four limbs to a landmine is bad.

I also think the Geneva Conventions are nothing more than conventions. If both sides follow them, they make life better. If one side stops, the other needs to break them as well or suffer strategic disadvantage.

However, in this conflict, the benefits of torturing the enemy are small and the costs in negative propaganda, morale, et cetera are large. So we should pobably stop.
 
Written By: Effeminem
URL: http://ethermind.blogspot.com
Yeah, it means you’ve got a BS war story to back up your nonsensical claims about a "leadership problem."

Heh ... pretty pitiful, Turner. So you’re of the opinion that leadership doesn’t play a major part in any situation like this, correct?

Unfortunately, in this case it does exactly the opposite.

Really? How so? I’m not even sure, to this point, you have any idea of what I’ve been talking about.

Have fun with the outrage and pretending you could do better.

Don’t have to pretend ... I did do better. Its back to that, you know, anecdotal evidence thingie.

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I’m not alarmed when the entire US military has committed a lower number of homicides, even when lumping in every in-custody death as a "homicide", than my own distant German cousin inflicted on helpless American servicemen in WW-II. If my one cousin can out body-count the entire United States military, even handicapping by counting heart-attacks, strokes, and riots as murder, then we probably don’t have something running out of control.

All we can do is keep after the problem.


This may shock you George, but I agree with your point.

And you’re right "all we can do is keep after the problem" which is precisely what this blog has been doing.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Heh ... pretty pitiful, Turner. So you’re of the opinion that leadership doesn’t play a major part in any situation like this, correct?
Yeah, the leadership that only did about 10 times better than your compatriots is obviously a huge problem.
Don’t have to pretend ... I did do better. Its back to that, you know, anecdotal evidence thingie.
Sure ya did. Keep tellin’ yourself that. Pretty pitiful, indeed.
 
Written By: Cecil Turner
URL: http://
I’m surprised so many people think torture is wrong, but are willing to allow it because they think benefits us.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that I think torture is justified in war, just as killing is justified in war. I don’t want to understate how bad torture is, but death is also very bad. Losing four limbs to a landmine is bad.

I also think the Geneva Conventions are nothing more than conventions. If both sides follow them, they make life better. If one side stops, the other needs to break them as well or suffer strategic disadvantage.

However, in this conflict, the benefits of torturing the enemy are small and the costs in negative propaganda, morale, et cetera are large. So we should pobably stop.
 
Written By: Effeminem
URL: http://ethermind.blogspot.com
Of course, there’s torture and then there’s torture. I endured 8 years of "torture" when I heard the phrase, "President Bill Clinton". But that hardly counts as the type of thing that the Gestapo dished out. Some in the media apparantly consider things like touching the Koran as equivalent to application of the thumb screws. I expect that there is some of that here.

Let us be clear what we mean by torture. Touching the Koran is not torture—using it for toilet paper wouldn’t be torture either. Being made to wear underwear on one’s head is not torture. It’s stupid, but it’s not torture. Torture involves the physical abuse of prisoners. Ripping out fingernails. Electric shocks. Beatings. That sort of thing is torture.

If the author considers the Koran "abuse" and the underwear on the head to be torture, then there is really no sense in having this discussion. Anything short of hiring a personal chef and masseur for each and every prisoner would be considered torture. If the author has evidence of real torture—the kind dished out by the Spanish Inquisition—then let him trot it out. He has made accusations against the people serving in the military—let’s have some evidence to back it up. If the author has no such evidence, then let him apologize and shut his trap.

That being said, actual torture is categorically wrong. Furthermore, it is ineffective. Back when I was being trained as an MI officer, we received training on interrogation. The trainers pointed out that under torture, people were likely to tell you anything they thought would stop the torture. Even if they told you the truth, you wouldn’t know it was the truth. Information gained by torture has to be considered unreliable.

As for deliberate mistreatment of prisoners that does not include torture (i.e., making them wear underwear on their heads), that is inexcusable too. It is also stupid and counter-productive.

Don’t get me wrong. The very act of holding someone prisoner is mistreatment. But that is part of war. War is a nasty, ugly business and if the author cannot come to grips with that fact, then this discussion is pointless.
 
Written By: Corbett Coburn
URL: http://
Again, I respectfully submit that thinking the percentage rate of deaths to detainees is not high enough to warrant the public hand wringing does not make one pro-torture. It means that you realize it is IMPOSSIBLE to achieve ZERO defects in a system...I don’t care how many years in the sevice you had, or how many years on the Motorola factory line, or how many surgeries you have performed, there will be accidents, mistakes, and problems.

Wait, I guess if we had ZERO detainees, then it could be easily achieved. In any case, it also doesn’t mean the problem shouldn’t be addressed internally or that people shouldn’t be punished.

To be pro-torture would mean you support the use of torture. I do not.

And you guys are the ones sitting there asking for executions based on militray tribunals. The chance for error, accident, or mistakes is just as great, but you’d feel better about it because "it’s legal."

 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Re-reading your comment, I think you are saying that some pro-torture people use those arguments, not that anyone using those arguments is pro-torture...if so, I think we have a simple misunderstanding.

Also, so far I have yet to hear a decent answer as to why we only have 15 military tribunals convened so far. I think faster trials would mute a lot of the critcism.

200 released, but only 15 tribunals. Why are the lawyers so slow? or is there a reason?
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Again, I respectfully submit that thinking the percentage rate of deaths to detainees is not high enough to warrant the public hand wringing does not make one pro-torture. It means that you realize it is IMPOSSIBLE to achieve ZERO defects in a system...I don’t care how many years in the sevice you had, or how many years on the Motorola factory line, or how many surgeries you have performed, there will be accidents, mistakes, and problems.

But in every one of the places you cite, they strive for zero defects. They don’t quit trying even if they agree with your premise. If they see a problem they fix it, whether it be technical, instructional or in leadership, and ever fix gets them closer to their goal.

To be pro-torture would mean you support the use of torture. I do not.

Good.

And you guys are the ones sitting there asking for executions based on militray tribunals. The chance for error, accident, or mistakes is just as great, but you’d feel better about it because "it’s legal."

I’ve never said a single, solitary word in support of executions.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
If the author has evidence of real torture—the kind dished out by the Spanish Inquisition—then let him trot it out.
Jeebus, Corbett, I just pointed out quite a lot of it here. There’s no shortage of torture that we know about. I’m a skeptic about the government, so I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that we don’t know close to everything.

At any rate, in my post I note "torture" and "abuse". The two are certainly different. In most cases, I’d put stress positions in the realm of "abuse", along with the psychologically destructive actions. (sexual indecency, etc)
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
If the author considers the Koran "abuse" and the underwear on the head to be torture, then there is really no sense in having this discussion.

Torture is the purposeful inflicting of severe pain (and bodily harm/injury) in an effort to coerce information.

Putting underwear on a naked man’s head and parading him around is abuse.

Both are inconsistent with prinicples Americans claim to support, but they are separate and distinct things.

As I said earlier, common dictionary definitions suffice in this discussion.

If the author has evidence of real torture—the kind dished out by the Spanish Inquisition—then let him trot it out. He has made accusations against the people serving in the military—let’s have some evidence to back it up. If the author has no such evidence, then let him apologize and shut his trap.

How about reading the post cited by link in this post before shooting off yours. It is there you’ll find the evidence you demand.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Henke: I note "torture" and "abuse". The two are certainly different

I wouldn’t have recognized you thought that difference an important distinction from the frequency in which you use the two terms in close proximity.

An important (to me, at least) distinguishing factor between the to goes to intent. Just as we distinguish between Joe’s cold-blooded pre-meditated murderer’s plots regarding Jim’s demise from Bob’s hot-blooded reckless brawler’s nearly-accidental blows that unexpectedly result in Bill’s death; we can distinguish between policy and procedure leading to injury or humilitation of prisoners versus sloppiness that, in retrospect, seems likely to lead to similar result.

Strapping a devout prisoner down and making him watch as objects he holds holy are deliberately descecrated may be torture. (I think that if we do define the term that way we need ANOTHER, newer term for stuffing flaming splinters up a prisoner’s urethra...) But cultural clashes in which a prisoner is, say, offered a bag of fried pork rinds that violate his cultural dietary preferences probably falls, at very very most, under the category of negligent abuse.

If we were to plot the degrees of mal-treatment on a scale of one to one hundred with the pork rinds example at one and the flaming splinters at 100, we might also benefit from plotting the number of reported incidents. I would expect there to be dozens or hundreds of reports of "abuse"—Korans on TV sets, pork lard in the pie crust, unannounced cell searches overlapping times scheduled for daily prayers—with incidents falling off as the severity higher. Fairly sharp downward curves would be what I expect.

If we added a third dimension - time duration of incarceration—I would expect an interesting wrinkle. A lot of low-level "abuses" at first as unaware guards accidentally offend prisoners, with a downward trend. But then a higher number of reported minor abuses as time goes on and the prisoners realize and learn that their complaints are taken seriously and influence the routines of the guards.

Talking about zero-defect procedures in manufacturing—we really should be developing better metrics for analyzing all this. But who would keep such statistics? Why not the US military—Motorola doesn’t invite Intel into chip fab plants to do ISO-9002 certification, after all. Organizations should do their own measurements. Outsiders generally don’t do well. Frankly I don’t trust the ACLU or Amnesty International to be an objective umpire—all the guys on the other team would walk. Maybe, I think ... I’d trust the Polish military IG to review US procedures and ensure we’re living up to the standards older wiser experienced Europeans would consider humane. Poles, I think, have a good sense of what political torture looks like. They’d recognize it pretty quickly.

Abuse is harder to determine, especially after the initial incidents. But again I’d trust the Polish Military before civilian Non-Governmental-Organizations.

 
Written By: pouncer
URL: http://
Henke: I note "torture" and "abuse". The two are certainly different

I wouldn’t have recognized you thought that difference an important distinction from the frequency in which you use the two terms in close proximity.

An important (to me, at least) distinguishing factor between the to goes to intent. Just as we distinguish between Joe’s cold-blooded pre-meditated murderer’s plots regarding Jim’s demise from Bob’s hot-blooded reckless brawler’s nearly-accidental blows that unexpectedly result in Bill’s death; we can distinguish between policy and procedure leading to injury or humilitation of prisoners versus sloppiness that, in retrospect, seems likely to lead to similar result.

Strapping a devout prisoner down and making him watch as objects he holds holy are deliberately descecrated may be torture. (I think that if we do define the term that way we need ANOTHER, newer term for stuffing flaming splinters up a prisoner’s urethra...) But cultural clashes in which a prisoner is, say, offered a bag of fried pork rinds that violate his cultural dietary preferences probably falls, at very very most, under the category of negligent abuse.

If we were to plot the degrees of mal-treatment on a scale of one to one hundred with the pork rinds example at one and the flaming splinters at 100, we might also benefit from plotting the number of reported incidents. I would expect there to be dozens or hundreds of reports of "abuse"—Korans on TV sets, pork lard in the pie crust, unannounced cell searches overlapping times scheduled for daily prayers—with incidents falling off as the severity higher. Fairly sharp downward curves would be what I expect.

If we added a third dimension - time duration of incarceration—I would expect an interesting wrinkle. A lot of low-level "abuses" at first as unaware guards accidentally offend prisoners, with a downward trend. But then a higher number of reported minor abuses as time goes on and the prisoners realize and learn that their complaints are taken seriously and influence the routines of the guards.

Talking about zero-defect procedures in manufacturing—we really should be developing better metrics for analyzing all this. But who would keep such statistics? Why not the US military—Motorola doesn’t invite Intel into chip fab plants to do ISO-9002 certification, after all. Organizations should do their own measurements. Outsiders generally don’t do well. Frankly I don’t trust the ACLU or Amnesty International to be an objective umpire—all the guys on the other team would walk. Maybe, I think ... I’d trust the Polish military IG to review US procedures and ensure we’re living up to the standards older wiser experienced Europeans would consider humane. Poles, I think, have a good sense of what political torture looks like. They’d recognize it pretty quickly.

Abuse is harder to determine, especially after the initial incidents. But again I’d trust the Polish Military before civilian Non-Governmental-Organizations.

 
Written By: pouncer
URL: http://
But who would keep such statistics? Why not the US military—Motorola doesn’t invite Intel into chip fab plants to do ISO-9002 certification, after all. Organizations should do their own measurements. Outsiders generally don’t do well. Frankly I don’t trust the ACLU or Amnesty International to be an objective umpire—
Good point.
Add to these; the UN, the MSM and the DNC... and all for the same reason.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
I largely agree with McQ’s original post; specifically, I agree with his claim that that "Torture is Always Wrong," i.e., fundamentally wrong as a matter of moral and intellectual principle.

For those who don’t know, a principle is defined as a basic law, standard, truth or assumption. Now, I really don’t care to quibble over what constitutes a "law," "standard," or "assumption;" separately, anything subject to such general terms is subject not only to selective perception of varying degree, but to actual revision - for example, laws can be repealed.

Truth is a different matter; it seems to me that for something to be judged "true," it must meet the following criterion:

It must be an article of belief.
It can be neither demonstrably nor logically false.


So if you believe that torturing someone in the name of promoting freedom, democracy, or self-defense IN ANY CASE is a viable defense, you clearly do not believe in either freedom nor democracy. (Godwin’s Law Alert!) The Nazis set up extermination camps for the express purpose of defending the Master Race against Jews, terrorists, homos and commies.

If vilifying Hitler/Stalin/Hussein/terrorists/etc means anything, it is because torture and murder are incompatible with meaningful notions of freedom and democracy.

On a somewhat less academic note, I am frankly appalled that my fellow citizens are rationalizing torture. Not because such "arguments" demonstrate "very well, how successful the left has been in selling this odious concept over the years," but because it took something as obvious as torture to expose the right’s loud proselytizing of moral absolutism over the past 30 years to finally be exposed as the sham it always ways.

Republicans (and most Democrats) have been embracing "creeping fascism" for years. And then everyone pretends to be suprised when the creeping stops and the torture begins.
 
Written By: Monty
URL: http://
I largely agree with McQ’s original post; specifically, I agree with his claim that that "Torture is Always Wrong," i.e., fundamentally wrong as a matter of moral and intellectual principle.

Monty
Can you imagine any situation where you would consciously make the choice to be morally and intellectually wrong?
 
Written By: FRNM
URL: http://
Can you imagine any situation where you would consciously make the choice to be morally and intellectually wrong?

No.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about effective US government policy and what it means to have a moral principle.

If you think torturing 1 person makes the US only 1/10 millionth as bad as Hitler, you’re missing the point.

Time to Educate via Anecdote!
Old Joke:

Creep propositions hot babe: "I’ll give you $10 to sleep with me."

Hot babe: "Go away."

Creep: "$100?"

Hot babe: "No."

Creep: "$100,000?"

Hot babe: "Sure, let’s go!"

Creep: "How about $110?"

Hot babe: "What kind of girl do you think I am?!?"

Creep: "I know what kind of girl you are. We’re just haggling over price."
 
Written By: Monty
URL: http://
You’re already working outside morality when you go to war... Indeed, the only justification for going to war is if the larger imorallity will constinue when you DON’T go to war.

Once you make that last ditch choice of going to war, all bets are off... you’re already committing imorality... you’re just haggling over price, as you say....and your only consideration at that point should be WINING the war by whatever means needed, which is the fastest way to END the war, and the attendant immorality.

If winning the war isn’t your first, last and ONLY consideration, then you’re serving the immorality you’re claiming to be fighting, by costing your own side needlesly.



 
Written By: Anonymous
URL: http://www.qando.net
But this isn’t about me. It’s about effective US government policy and what it means to have a moral principle.
Actually I believe it is about you ... and me ... and McQ and the others. US government policy is meaningful only to the extent that it is set and followed by individuals making choices.

I’ll see your educational joke and raise you a hypothetical situation ... In the interest of exploring the issue a bit deeper.

You and I are interrogators, together in a room with two detainees. For the sake of the discussion lets assume our intelligence is as ironclad as intelligence can be. We know the two are members of a group that has already set in motion a plan that will result in casualties. We both believe they have information that will allow us to avert the attack. You have your principle against torture, and I don’t. You know that I will do whatever it takes to get the information if I feel the cost of failure is high enough. The cost of failure could be one life, tens of lives, thousands of lives, etc. What would you do?

Wait until I act and stop me? Would you act preemptively against me? Would you act not at all?

What would you do and why? and would you act differently in any way in relation to the cost of failure to obtain the information
 
Written By: FRNM
URL: http://
Add to that scenario this situation; Threats of death mean nothing at all to your prisoner, since he’s already looking for his 72 virgins.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
Good job Cecil Turner.

McQ, I agree that torture is really bad. I don’t agree with torture, and don’t find it acceptable. However, you are painting with the widest of brushes.

For certain, you have failed to convince this reader that 27 homicides equates to the US military’s (or CIA’s) systemic acceptance of torture. As long as the acceptance of torture is at the individual level and punished when those individuals actually perform torture, then I’m comfortable with the leadership of our armed forces.

I know, you take this as the "There is not enough deaths to be a problem" issue. However, you confound the issue by suggesting even 1 death equates to a grand systemic problem with the leadership of the US military. Sorry, but I’m not buying your arguments here.
 
Written By: Leland
URL: http://
McQ, I agree that torture is really bad. I don’t agree with torture, and don’t find it acceptable. However, you are painting with the widest of brushes.

For certain, you have failed to convince this reader that 27 homicides equates to the US military’s (or CIA’s) systemic acceptance of torture.
Leland, that’s not the point. I’m not arguing it is "systemic", never have. I’m arguing that its unacceptable, even in small quantites.

Period.

No torture, none of the time.
I know, you take this as the "There is not enough deaths to be a problem" issue. However, you confound the issue by suggesting even 1 death equates to a grand systemic problem with the leadership of the US military. Sorry, but I’m not buying your arguments here.
Please do us both a favor and point out where I said or even intimated it was a ’grand systemic problem’ with the leadership of the US Army. Please.

In the meantime, here’s what I actually wrote:
We’ve argued that the occurrences are more than random and speaks to a very apparent lack of leadership or at least emphasis by leadership. That’s not an indictment of all of the leaders, or the administration, or even most of the leaders. It’s an indictment of those leaders charged with the custody of prisoners in various locales. They’ve not done the job. And they’ve either disregarded guidance or ignored it. They’ve also either been ignorant of the activities or implicitly condoned them. That’s unacceptable.
What part of that says "grand systemic leadership problem" with the leadership of the Army? As I read it, it seems to say exactly the opposite.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Actually, I would argue that it is (inclusively, but not exclusively) a systemic problem problem with the chain of command. The myriad memos and direct orders documented here, the "ghost detainees" and "extaordinary rendition" problems that were authorized from the top until they became publicly controversial; the detention centers such as the Salt Pit which have been specifically set aside for secrecy and harsher interrogation. Many of the authorized techniques used to interrogate prisoners have been legal—or at least possibly legal—but there have been order for extra-legal interrogations, as well.

That indicates a command structure that has been, to some degree, complicit in the problem.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Actually, I would argue that it is (inclusively, but not exclusively) a systemic problem problem with the chain of command.

And you’re welcome too ... I’m just pointing out that I never made that argument in this post.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I find this:

The last argument, “the anti-war crowd thinks its bad” is one of the more interesting arguments. Its premise is “if they think its bad, then it probably isn’t because they think everything the military does is bad ”. Naturally the rationalization begins based on that premise. It becomes more important to win politically than to recognize they may have a valid argument and stand on principle yourself. Politics over principle.

particularly disturbing.

Being against something your principles say you should be for simply because your usual opponents are for it isn’t "winning politically;" it’s shooting yourself in the foot. The old saying "Politics makes strange bedfellows" started with situations like this one, where normal opponents make common cause.

I seriously question the judgement of anyone who would adopt such a stance.
 
Written By: Outside Commentator
URL: http://
FRNM,

Your dumb hypothetical scenario demonstrates quite clearly a disturbing inability to comprehend moral principle.

McQ: "when we indulge ourselves in such behavior, we abandon the moral high ground for the same fetid pit in which our enemies exist. We become no better than them."

Sounds like...
Nietzsche: Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.
 
Written By: Monty
URL: http://
You know what, torture is not the problem. No matter how screwed up Ms. England and the other guards at Abu Graihb were, torture is not the problem. In our present time of war claiming torture by the US military is in essence nothing but a red herring.

The real problem is very simple: all of us, those of us in the West, have the time, energy and will to have a very serious discussion of the issues of torture and the immorality of all who participate/encourage it, but there has yet to be a single Moslem cleric, leader or philosopher who steps forward and categorically states that the beheading of civilians is immoral and wrong.

Once that has occurred we can have a serious discussion of the morality of war, until then they have not yet shown that they have any morality, thus they really have no room to complain about any supposed immorality on our part. The same goes for those who sympathize with them, either directly or through the waving of a banner of torture.

Secondly, because the vast majority of the combatants have no national allegiance, the Geneva Convention and other Laws of War do not apply to them. Herein lies the only mistake that Bush, Rumsfeld and the Pentagon have committed to date. They should have categorically stated up front that anyone caught fighting against the US military, after the fall of the Taliban or the fall of Saddam’s government, would be summarily executed.

In other words, if you’re just going to come running at the US military in a threatening way and you’re not a designated member of a recognized national military, then you will be shot.

If the US military is so kind as to take you prisoner because they believe that you might be more useful providing information to them instead of just killing you for attacking our military, then you should not complain when an MI officer decides to use the copy of the Koran your momma gave you when you turned 12 as toilet paper.

Nor should you complain if the US military accidentally causes physical pain or harm to you while attempting to get the information they believe you have, even if such methods are counterproductive. The simple reason is because this "prisoner" is living on borrowed time and any additional time given is quite honestly out of the pure generosity and kindness of our hearts.

However, since that is not the course that the US military has chosen to take, we need to follow John Wayne’s lead:

"Never apologize, son. It’s a sign of weakness."

Because the more we apologize, the less the clerics and leaders feel the need to stop the shenanigans of the locals by telling them that what they are doing is morally wrong. And the more idiots will join forces with al-Qaeda and attempt to do us harm because they’ll believe we have no strength of character due to our weakness.

Finally, I must state categorically that we are definitely winning this war in about the most morally just way that I can think of. We have liberated nearly 100 million people from abject terror and are on the verge of doing so in a number of other countries. We have empowered those same people to have their own elections and thus enabled them to live in the exact kind of country they choose to create, just as we did 229 years ago.

Honestly, I believe that that trumps any arguments that attempt to paint us into the same corner as that awful despot 60+ years ago. He never once allowed any of the countries he invaded to choose their form of government. The same goes for the other local governments in the Middle East, none of them ever bothered to try and encourage free elections in Iraq or Afghanistan, nor have they ever denounced al-Qaeda, unless we threatened to pull our financial support, and even then its been pretty weak.

In summary, I don’t have any sympathy for people who disguise themselves as civilians and then attack military personnel, that is just asking to be killed. If you do it because you’re just stupid, then you should feel lucky to be alive when it’s all over. But if you do it with the intention to harm and end up being released for lack of evidence, or because some lawyer said the magic words, then you have no right or place to complain that you didn’t have a massuer and air conditioning, as an earlier respondent put it.
 
Written By: Andy
URL: http://
... but there has yet to be a single Moslem cleric, leader or philosopher who steps forward and categorically states that the beheading of civilians is immoral and wrong.

Once that has occurred we can have a serious discussion of the morality of war, until then they have not yet shown that they have any morality, thus they really have no room to complain about any supposed immorality on our part. The same goes for those who sympathize with them, either directly or through the waving of a banner of torture.


In a word, "nonsense".

This isn’t about "them".
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
FRNM,

Your dumb hypothetical scenario demonstrates quite clearly a disturbing inability to comprehend moral principle.

Monty
You seem quite proficient at judgments with minimal information.

My hypothetical scenario was simply a way to continue the exploration of the issue. I wanted to know whether you would go so far as to physically impede someone who chose to violate that moral principle in your presence.

My apologies for offending you by seeking to engage you in a conversation.



 
Written By: FRNM
URL: http://
FRNM:

You seem quite proficient at judgments with minimal information.

I have all the information required.

Earlier: You have your principle against torture, and I don’t.

So then: you are pro-torture. I fail to see the need to engage in unrealistic hypotheticals when your position is so clearly defined.

My hypothetical scenario was simply a way to continue the exploration of the issue. I wanted to know whether you would go so far as to physically impede someone who chose to violate that moral principle in your presence.

My apologies for offending you by seeking to engage you in a conversation.


Shove your passive-aggressive fake apology. You aren’t interested in meaningful conversation, but only in rationalizing the torture of human beings; your "arguments" are a puerile attemt to justify a fascist worldview under the "moral" umbrella of utilitarian bent towards expediency.
 
Written By: Monty
URL: http://
So then: you are pro-torture. I fail to see the need to engage in unrealistic hypotheticals when your position is so clearly defined.
I am comfortable in my position. The hypothetical was to elicit more information on your position.
Shove your passive-aggressive fake apology. You aren’t interested in meaningful conversation, but only in rationalizing the torture of human beings; your "arguments" are a puerile attemt to justify a fascist worldview under the "moral" umbrella of utilitarian bent towards expediency.
I have made no claim to being moral, but then on the internet it doesn’t really matter who claims to be moral.

The internet certainly can be effective in hashing out ideas and thoughts. Looking back at that last little box containing your response, I wonder what exactly you get from your interaction on the internet.

I did notice that besides not wanting to ponder hypotheticals with me, you chose not to answer the question.

Let me rephrase the question then for anyone else who may wish to answer. If you believe that all torture is wrong, and in fact believe you would never engage in it no matter the situation, would you act to prevent others from doing so? Would you act personally and physically to prevent others from engaging in torture, others that believed that what they were doing would avert a tragedy?



 
Written By: FRNM
URL: http://
I have made no claim to being moral, but then on the internet it doesn’t really matter who claims to be moral.

Don’t give me that. You created a loony scenario case where torturing someone(s) is morally justified via a utilitarian ethic; i.e. torturing a few to save the lives of many. This entire thread is about morality.

Further, don’t feed me this ’everyone is anonymous on the internet’ crap. Are you claiming that your anonymity affords you dishonesty?

...And in response to

If you believe that all torture is wrong, and in fact believe you would never engage in it no matter the situation, would you act to prevent others from doing so? Would you act personally and physically to prevent others from engaging in torture, others that believed that what they were doing would avert a tragedy?

My answer is an unqualifed ’yes.’
 
Written By: Monty
URL: http://
Further, don’t feed me this ’everyone is anonymous on the internet’ crap. Are you claiming that your anonymity affords you dishonesty?
Not that anonymity affords me dishonesty, but that conversations on the internet have verifiable and unverifiable facts.

I can’t verify whether someone on the internet who claims to be moral really is, so the assertion has no real value to me.

That’s why I try to work towards eliciting other types of information, such as reasons for why one believes as they do, how they believe they would act in a given situation, etc.
If you believe that all torture is wrong, and in fact believe you would never engage in it no matter the situation, would you act to prevent others from doing so? Would you act personally and physically to prevent others from engaging in torture, others that believed that what they were doing would avert a tragedy?

My answer is an unqualified ’yes.’
Thank you for answering the question.


 
Written By: FRNM
URL: http://

 
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