I Disagree With People Who are Defending the Torturers

I noticed that many people are defending torturers and think they did the right thing. Some of those defenders are from the military and use their jobs to justify the practice of torture. The argument is either that

1)Their jobs are hard and dangerous, and those who don’t have to fight wars, should just shut up.

2)Their jobs make sure that civilians are safe, so civilians should just shut up.

3)It’s not torture, because we had that as a part of our training.

In 1 and 2, there is the assumption that a CIA worker, army man or other government agent simply knows best, and you, who have not been there, don’t know enough to judge. Hey, you can justify almost anything that way, but I digress. I’m not an army or CIA person and I know military and CIA people know lots of stuff I don’t. But I don’t buy into any of those arguments.

1) Their jobs are hard and dangerous, and those who don’t have to fight wars, should just shut up.

I don’t think it’s right to coddle CIA agents and defend them from their bad actions just because their job is hard. They always coddle cops as well, yet it’s farmers and fishermen who have the deadliest jobs among civilians. Who actually wants a capricious warrior class that both has power to be cruel, and the right to get away with it?

2)Their jobs make sure that civilians are safe, so civilians should just shut up.

I also don’t buy that civilians must choose between torture and being blown up by terrorists. I think it’s a false dichotomy. Apparently, the reason many Americans think it’s a real dichotomy, is because they think torture works in preventing terrorist attacks, perhaps because it works so well in the movies (http://www.npr.org/2014/12/12/370264893/even-if-torture-doesnt-work-in-the-real-world-tv-has-us-convinced ). I have my doubts for various reasons (http://www.newsweek.com/neurosciencetorture-doesnt-work-and-heres-why-79365 ). I guess one reason is that torture was used in the distant past to prove witchcraft existed. Another reason is that damn report, which insists that no useful intelligence was produced as a result of the torture sessions.

Plus what happens to people who trade freedom for safety? They get NEITHER. When you take someone and start torturing them, even if you aren’t sure they are guilty of anything, “for safety”, you are digging your own hole. Preparing your government to feel less guilty to ignore your rights in the future, if you ever seem suspicious or they don’t need you anymore. Some say torture is not acceptable in times of peace, but in war, all bets are off. I don’t know. There is always some war going on somewhere, and terrorists live in peaceful countries. How to distinguish war time and peace time then?

Some of those who were tortured, were later considered to be innocent and mistakenly kidnapped. Not everyone was acknowledged as a victim of torture though, or gotten any compensation. They were not the “bad guys” who “deserved it”. The only way you can argue this was okay, is if you think the needs of a tiny minority are to be ignored because 1000s of lives are at stake. “Screw due process, preventing X and persecuting Xists is way more important” – where have I heard that reasoning before?..

3)It’s not torture, because we had that as a part of our training.

I don’t think it’s comparable. You might as well compare running away from a bear with a nice afternoon jog. Or a real street fight where you might get killed, with training. Or rape with sex. Of course training prepares you, but it’s not the real thing. Pain is not a mere physiological phenomenon, it’s also hugely psychological. If it was purely physiological, the CIA would have hired two anatomists, not two psychologists. How you perceive pain is influenced by the situation you are in. Are you surrounded by allies, or enemies? Can you expect to walk out after your training, or are you stuck there indefinitely? Does it last a while? It’s possible and probable to feel very little pain, even with a major injury, because an injury means being taken out of the warzone, being bandaged up and sent home to one’s family. And pain can be much worse than it should be, all because you have no control over the situation.

I also question the idea that a CIA or military person is a true expert. Someone from the army or CIA might be good at physically defeating groups of enemies and surviving, but I have no reason to automatically trust such a person on what would end the war, and produce peace. I would not automatically trust such a person to know what’s best in the long run (hell, even a politician, whose job we think is supposed to be to make things better, rarely does that). And I definitely don’t think their job gives them any authority on what’s morally right. You just have to read a little history to know that. Someone’s job as agent, military leader or politician doesn’t make them an expert automatically. Their wisdom, knowledge and actions do.

At the end, I will say one thing – I understand people are angry when their families are bombed, blown up and otherwise harmed. I’m not against a concept of personal revenge, even in a country with a strong justice system. However, the revenge is PERSONAL and a person who enacts it, should still go to jail and be punished, because it’s not the government’s job to support barbarism. And even though I find it repulsive, I also understand that someone might be okay with sacrificing a few people for the good of the 1000s. But when you make such a sacrifice, you must accept that you’ve done monstrous things, and accept your punishment. It’s not a sacrifice at all, if you only sacrifice other people. In short, if you must do something “evil, but necessary”, at least don’t pretend to be clean, and don’t ask the law to sink to the same level.


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17 Responses to I Disagree With People Who are Defending the Torturers

  1. I tend to agree with you. Besides torture doesn’t really work. People will simply start to tell you whatever you want to hear. From a security standpoint, it would seem like you would just waste a lot of time chasing false leads.

  2. Liz says:

    Per torture and “legality”, I’d summarize my opinion as follows:

    Juries as determiners of whether a just law, in accordance with the facts, is justly applied in this particular instance. The Jack Bauer scenario would be a constructive parallel. No jury would convict Bauer if his torture resulted in saving millions of people.
    The important consideration, IMO, is: When the ends serves to justify the means, better be successful in reaching the ends. Good intentions are not enough.

    • emmatheemo says:

      Good point about the jury nullification scenario, Liz, and I agree.

      “When the ends serves to justify the means, better be successful in reaching the ends.”

      Indeed. There is a high chance of fuckup in this case, since we don’t magically know the person we’re torturing is guaranteed a terrorist, and it’s not an effective method anyway. But even if millions are saved, yet some innocent people traumatized for life, IMO the torturer should still be charged. Of course, jury nullification would release such a person, but that’s the only fair way they could get away with it.

    • @CaJoBr_ says:

      Yes but the prolem is thoser kinds of scenarios doesn’t really happen if they did the CIA would point to those cases and say look as these ticking timebomb scenario where torture saved millions of lives. But they don’t and the reason is becouse they don’t exist. there is no evidence tourture ever worked or ever lead to any lives being saved.

  3. Scott Vater says:

    Man, this is pretty loaded yo!

    For one as “insanitybytes22” says above, torture often leads to people just saying “yes” to make the pain stop. If someone was trying to get me to admit that I belonged to whatever terrorist organization and the only way to stop them from water boarding me or pulling my fingernails out was for me to admit that I’m a terrorist then guess what? I’m a goddamn terrorist!

    So the whole torture thing to being with is rather flawed. If you want accurate information I say a lie detector test or, hell, even “truth serum” (sodium thiopental) could be used. As I said, torture is basically forcing those to just agree with you. No different then getting false confessions from suspects when being “interrogated” by police.

    As far as the whole “it’s their job” or “it’s what they’re trained to do” bullshit…yeah…I’m not buying that. There is this thing called “morals” and “mental fortitude” that people love to gloss over.

    If I’m in the military and someone just tells me go kill whoever or bomb what ever town I want to know WHY I’m doing this. Someone just TELLING me to do something is never going to be reason enough for me to just do it. So those that torture or kill blindly are either completely weak minded pussy ass sheep, psychopaths, or those ignorant enough to believe they’re doing “good” for their country (like most now in the US military). You take your pic.

    Either way, in the end, I’m just against all this stuff anyways…wars…killing…propaganda…enough is enough. When the hell is the human race going to grow the fuck up and realize that all this money and time and effort spent on this dumb shit could do SO much more elsewhere.

    • Eric says:

      In WW2, the Underground used to give false information to its members with the understanding that if they were captured and couldn’t hold up under Gestapo torture, they were to give the false information instead.

      Figure that someone who’s been captured and facing torture is not going to have anything to lose: people who are willing to torture are generally not concerned with the well-being of their suspect afterwards.

      • Liz says:

        One of the best interrogators of WWII was a Luftwaffe soldier (not even an officer) Hanns Scharff. He never used torture. I’ve heard (at least, from the bio on Hanns Scharff, and a friend in the same field has confirmed it, and he is against torture also) that it’s extremely difficult to train a master interrogator, and some will never get it (kind of like an artform). They have to be a certain personality profile, in addition to having the technical, cultural, and linguistic expertise.
        And “torturing confessions out of people”…not sure where anyone comes up with that. Maybe the Salam witch trials? There’s not much point in that. I can see a ticking timebomb type scenario, however, when information it time critical and a lot of people are going to die.

        The morality of an act depends on its character, but also circumstances and motive. Killing is not always wrong. If a person had shot Muhammad to save 50 hostages from blowing up with the push of a button on his bomb vest, the person who killed him would be a hero. So it is permissible to even take Muhammad’s life to save lives, but not make him uncomfortable to save lives?

      • emmatheemo says:

        “So it is permissible to even take Muhammad’s life to save lives, but not make him uncomfortable to save lives?”

        I think it’s because we understand self-defence, which calls for immediate action, sometimes even a fatal shot, if the person is coming towards us with a deadly weapon. It’s harder to justify taking someone who may or may not be a terrorist, put him in a helpless position and inflict severe pain until you feel sufficiently sure he told you everything he could. It’s a lot more vague.

      • Liz says:

        “It’s harder to justify taking someone who may or may not be a terrorist, put him in a helpless position and inflict severe pain until you feel sufficiently sure he told you everything he could. It’s a lot more vague.”

        I agree. The ticking timebomb scenario is and extreme, and the problem with arguing extremes is of course that 99% of cases are not this extreme, and law is based upon precident more than anything else. And we can’t base law on extremes. But we can make exceptions for the extreme, individually, under certain pressing and exigent circumstances.

      • emmatheemo says:

        I agree with that paragraph. Although I can’t agree that those exceptions means something becomes temporarily legal. If that person ends up saving lives by doing something illegal, whatever it is, the jury will judge what to do with them in the end. I already said that, but just wanted to make my stance clear.

      • Liz says:

        Just to add, and this isn’t about torture but legalities in general. Most people don’t understand that often people in the field (combat situations in particular) have to make some command decisions that might not be strictly legal. The best example I can think of was the Band of Brothers episode where Winters defied a Colonel’s orders to send his men out on a (second) suicide mission to procure some “hostages” for no useful purpose whatsoever. Many people have petitioned since the making of Band of Brothers for Winters to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor. Those people were suitably impressed by Winter’s valor…but they’re ignorant in the extreme about what it takes to qualify for that sort of honor. One thing that petition does illustrate, however, is that people are willing to overlook technical illegalities under the right conditions.

        If all a commander had to do was “follow the regs”, there would be no need for commanders. Just look in the regs, or have someone look it up, or some computer program regurgitate whatever the regs say.

      • Eric says:

        The problem with the ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario is that you’re never sure that someone that desperate is going to tell the truth, even under torture. I remember seeing a movie once where the interrogators took the suspect to another room, but set the clock ahead of when the hidden bomb was going to go off. Then they acted like ‘it was all over now’ and the suspect gloatingly told them everything. They found the bomb in time.

        There are ways you can get information if you’re cool and clever enough. LOL

    • Emma the Emo says:

      I think people follow orders because they’re susceptible to defering to authority. Have you heard of the Milgram experiment and its followups? Apparently, the majority of people would hurt someone with electric shocks despite their cries of pain and complaints of having a heart condition, just because a scientist told them to continue. The people would feel bad about this and feel serious pangs of conscience, but they’ll do it. When the scientist tells those people “It’s ok, I will take responsibility if anything happens to this man”, the people keep pushing the button, despite being directly responsible. The reasons for compliance are supposed to be deference to authority, although critics suggested a few others: for example deference to experts and suspecting a hoax. The fact that an expert tells them they must continue, makes them doubt their own judgement of the situation, and place trust in the expert instead. And some critics say some subjects felt the “victim” of the experiment was faking it. You can read on it here and decide what you think: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

  4. Liz says:

    Tangential to the topic, there was a Jag named Philip Carter who started a blog called INtel Dump a while back. It was one of the most informative blogs I’ve ever read (also Abu Mugawama, both shut down years back). Anyway, officer Carter was a huge opponent of harsh interrogation measures, Gitmo limbo for detainees, rendering and all that. There was never an advocate as outspoken for detainee rights as this guy.
    When Obama became a candidate for the presidency he was a huge supporter. Detainee rights was his “thing” and he lobbied for Obama as a candidate and worked for him. He was appointed the new Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, in 2009. He didn’t even last five months on the job, and he has remained very very quiet ever since. I’ve always wondered what he saw that shut him up permanently.

    • Liz says:

      Hey, Abu Mugawama is still up! Woohoo! (the last post was a year and a half ago…it will probably shut down entirely soon, but it’s a really good treasure trove of information for those interested).
      Here’s a link to one related article:

    • Liz says:

      Just to add, since I was a little subtle on this point:
      “I’ve always wondered what he saw that shut him up permanently.”

      I don’t suspect he saw a lot of prisoner abuse. What I suspect (based on the observations of others, and putting two and two together over the years) is that he got a more up close and personal view of the situational context and determined that his conclusions were entirely wrong, and this changed his paradigm from, “We need to help these poor habeaus corpus denied individuals” to something more along the lines of, “no wonder we’re keeping them here…”

  5. @CaJoBr_ says:

    Good post and I agree with you (maybe that’s why I think it’s good) tourture doesn’t work and is immoral and unforgivable

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