Print Story Consigned Conscience
Ranting
By Gedvondur (Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 10:39:10 AM EST) politics, torture, freedom, liberty (all tags)
I know this is an old topic and perhaps I am late to the party in expressing an opinion.  But in some ways it has taken me a long time to crystallize how I feel.

I'm talking about torture, government sponsored/inflicted torture.


Asshats like Karl Rove, Dick "Darth" Cheney and others have been advocating the use of torture, especially methods that are at least on the surface less damaging such as water boarding.  This is being done in the name of security.  The idea seems to be that regardless of the inherent evil involved in torture, if we are able to save one innocent life it makes torture acceptable.  I reject this notion in its entirety.

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering the prisons."
~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The House of the Dead or Prison Life in Siberia (NewYork: Dutton, 1911)

The act of torture, the infliction of pain on someone who is helpless to me is an evil act.  When you have a person, or really any living thing under your control and you cause he/she/it pain for your own purposes, that is an evil act.

To illustrate my seriousness regarding this issue I submit the following:  I would rather die in a terrorist attack than condone torture.  To torture prisoners is to abridge all that we stand for in Western society.  Our vision of a better future crumbles under the need to feel "safe."  A free society will always have an element of chaos and danger.  When we embrace freedom we must accept that with freedom comes some danger.  When we condone torture, we ask for torture for our enemies but for ourselves.  We pollute the very liberties we claim to be defending.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
~ Benjamin Franklin, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin

It is inconceivable to me that a man such as John McCain has bent to the point of condoning torture, in order to appease the rabid wing of his political party.  I often do not agree with John McCain on a political level, but his prior honorable stance on torture was understandable.  The man WAS tortured by the Viet Cong.  There are principles that we can all agree on, regardless of political bent.  Reagan William F. Buckley Jr. did not condone torture, as a matter of fact he condemned  the practice regimes that practiced torture.  Yet this is a debate in some people's minds.

Edited 4:01pm March 12, 2010:
 It has come to my attention that it is entirely likely that Reagan did condone torture, considering his support of the Contra rebels who's human rights abuses are well documented.  I changed it to reflect a different conservative figure opposed to torture.


Can our enemies confound is with their silence?  Yes.  But on the road to a more noble humanitarian society, this is a danger we MUST accept.  Torture, mutilation, killing all hold us back.  It is NO excuse that the enemy practices torture to do it ourselves.  We should be better than that.  We need to be better than that.  Otherwise, what are we fighting for?  Doing the right thing is more important that pursuing the unobtainable dream of perfect safety.

We take burdens upon ourselves, burdens given to us by our good natures and by the dictates of our moral code. Murderers live in prisons on taxpayer dollars for their entire natural lives (with some state exceptions).  They are a continued burden on society.  Why do we not simply execute these evil and damaged men and women?  Because killing the helpless, which they essentially are when in custody by the government is wrong, as well as the fact that the government should not be in the business of killing its citizens.  The other reason we pay for them to live is much crueler, and is the real punishment for these people. We have taken away their freedom, their liberties. To a member of Western society, that is a far greater punishment than simple death. Oh, many claim "better than being dead", but honestly would you rather dirt nap or spend your life in prison?  I know what I would choose.

To a man, regardless of what country you hail from, we must resist the forces that push us towards barbaric acts in the name of safety and nationalism.  We should be and can be better than that. Torture is NEVER acceptable.  I am saddened and appalled that we even need to discuss it.
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Consigned Conscience | 47 comments (47 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
te money quote on NPR this AM by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 10:47:49 AM EST
was essentially "the ends (preventing all these terrorist attacks) justified the means (waterboarding)"

Yes by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #2 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 11:00:12 AM EST
I have heard that.  I do not believe it, however.  Or should I say I do not believe IN it.  They may have prevented terror attacks, I concede that possibility. 

I would also say that standard interrogation techniques often yield the same results and information gotten by torture is often false.  Too many people think that Jack Bauer in "24" is exactly how government should operate.



Gedvondur

"I have a high threshold for taking it in the bum..." - MissTrish
[ Parent ]
for the longest time by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #3 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 11:16:52 AM EST
Chaney parroted the "prevented numerous terrorist attacks" line with out providing any real evidence..

At least the quote on NPR was "plane hijacking in London and Israel" .. But damned if I ever heard anything of foiled plots like that..

[ Parent ]
Yes by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #10 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 11:56:56 AM EST
Well I think "prevention" is often hard to quantify.  As far as I am concerned, condoning torture even to save all those on a plane is an unacceptable compromise.  Although I do have problems with that statement, as it tends to reinforce the idea that people will die of terrorism without torture.  I still maintain, as does a goodly part of the law enforcement and intelligence community, that standard interrogation techniques are just as effective.


Gedvondur



"I have a high threshold for taking it in the bum..." - MissTrish
[ Parent ]
Or, more effective even. by mrgoat (4.00 / 1) #14 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 12:42:35 PM EST
Torture by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #4 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 11:24:06 AM EST
...is for cowards.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
:s/cowards/'the stupid and sadistic' by BadDoggie (4.00 / 1) #7 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 11:46:18 AM EST
FTFY.

Hell, even Churchill knew that

woof.

OMG WE'RE FUCKED! -- duxup ?

[ Parent ]
Shame it's not true. by ni (4.00 / 1) #11 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 11:57:03 AM EST
Churchill was ruthless in prosecuting the war, and an outright prohibition on torture didn't square well with my understanding of him. Indeed, it appears he did no such thing. He was a great man, but like all great men, not always a good man.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
Huh by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #12 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 12:07:25 PM EST
I am puzzled, because I could swear I read passages in Churchill's history of WWII that called torture wrong.  Given that I read it 2-3 years ago, those passages stuck out out to me.  That's at odds with your link.

This was obviously written after the fact, without dirty laundry aired, but it seems at direct odds with "So did Churchill say "We don't torture"? Not literally, according to experts."
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Even had he said it, by ni (2.00 / 0) #13 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 12:15:06 PM EST
which it appears he didn't, it wouldn't have been true. Although it conceivably occurred without his knowledge, the British government tortured many people in the second world war.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
It works best on cowards, sure. by Beechwood 45789 (2.00 / 0) #16 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 02:34:33 PM EST
But I think you'll find it works remarkably well against even the toughest folks. You'd be surprised who cracks under a bit of the old rough stuff.

Not that some guys don't hold out forever. Some hardcases won't break no matter how long and hard you thrash them. In such cases I advise you to just write off the whole time spent beating them as just a strenuous cardio session and quit while you can still see an upside to it all.


[ Parent ]
No by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #17 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 02:43:05 PM EST
I mean only cowards torture.  Brave men realize that compromising morals to live is inferior to dying for them.

I don't think God gives free passes for "ends vs. means" justifications.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
That's not the choice they face. by Beechwood 45789 (2.00 / 0) #42 Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 05:18:59 PM EST
Few if any of the torturers face a choice in which they must engage in torture or die themselves. Rather, erroneously or not, they believe that they are put in a situation where they must chose to compromise on principles or put the lives of others - people who are not position to chose for themselves or inform them of their desires in this particular instance - in danger.

Consequently, from the perspective of the torturer, the question can be framed as such: "How many lives do you sacrifice to enjoy the luxury of a clean conscience?"

In the interest of full disclosure, I disagree with torture as a policy. Not just in our latest foreign escapades, but in the regular and daily administration of torture practices in our state and federal penal systems (a far greater travesty that few righteously indignant folks bother with because it isn't as politically expedient).

That said, the position of "I'd rather have scores and scores of other people die so that I can rest easy in the knowledge that I never compromised my principles" seems ethically complicated in a way you're not fully admitting.

As for God, the Old Testament suggests that he doesn't seem to get to hung up on this torture thing. When His blood is up, He instructs folks to do some downright ruthless things. And he's ordered far worse for things like land grabs, ethnic cleansing, and so on. If you want a transcendent reason to place torture beyond the moral pale, you're going to have to appeal to some other magical authority.


[ Parent ]
Morals by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #43 Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 06:22:20 PM EST
Of course it's not easy...doing the right thing is often very difficult...but I don't think you can really call a clean conscience a "luxury".

It's easy to build examples...if you were a German with a wife and children in Nazi Germany, would you risk them to save a Jewish family?  Perhaps not...but I don't think anyone would call refusing to rescue them "brave", nor would many consider ideal behavior.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
But again you've found a false analogy. by Beechwood 45789 (2.00 / 0) #44 Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 07:17:10 PM EST
The question is whether or not you'd call somebody brave who sacrificed somebody else's family to save a Jewish family from Germans.

If every moral decision was a question of personal sacrifice versus compromising morals, then the brave and the cowardly would be easy to separate out. The question is whether or not it is brave to stand by a moral stance that has only the slightest chance of involving you in personal sacrifice but may lead to the suffering of others. Should we count as brave a man who has made the decision that his moral stance is more important than the lives of others.

It seems to me that we've been down that route way too many times all ready and we know where that kind of bravery leads.

It is unquestionably brave to put yourself at risk to hold true to your morals. But what you're proposing is that somebody should be counted as brave when the consequences of their potential error will be paid by others.

In my opinion, buying personal moral comfort at the cost of others is very definition of a luxury.


[ Parent ]
Well, obviously no... by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #45 Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 07:36:10 PM EST
You are right...that isn't bravery.  My irritation is more the people who somehow think that the other side of the coin is the brave one.

But in general, I think it boils down to whether or not you buy into the notion of group morals.  I personally have no moral qualms about my own behavior in regards to torture.  I've tortured no one.  But as an American, I feel like we've got a group moral failing going on.  I don't think fixing that is really buying personal moral comfort.  It's all about the group, the country, and what it stands for.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
We agree. by Beechwood 45789 (4.00 / 1) #46 Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 07:51:55 PM EST
Honestly, I only objected because I think the bravery/cowardice thing is a red herring.


[ Parent ]
Probably by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #47 Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 08:01:05 PM EST
...well yes...it is a red herring, to be honest.  For entirely collective reasons (as a citizen of this country) it angers me immensely, and it sticks in my craw that those that have supported the degradation of our values are pretending its a matter of manliness and bravery.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
So if I lead the charge up by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #18 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 02:46:52 PM EST
Hill 425 on Tuesday, I'm a hero - but if I hold a prisoner in a stress position to learn the enemy's location on Wednesday, then suddenly I'm a coward?

You seem to have a very fluid definition of coward.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Yes. by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #20 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 02:56:27 PM EST
Because you are willing to compromise morals in order to gain the extra safety of knowing the enemy's location.

Bravery is about doing what's right regardless.  Bravery is not about doing anything to defeat the enemy.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Physical courage vs. Moral courage by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #22 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 03:06:24 PM EST
You should familiarize yourself with the difference and specify which one you mean when writing.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
They are the same thing by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #23 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 03:10:23 PM EST
And real men know it.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
They're different by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #25 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 03:17:14 PM EST
and the "real men" who literally and figuratively wrote the book on military leadership disagree with you.

Different folks may have both, one of them, or neither of them. You won't know until it's crunch time.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Clearly by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #27 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 03:20:54 PM EST
The people want to torture people because their busy wetting their panties about underwear bombers on their next flight have neither.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
I follow Patton's advice: by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #29 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 03:34:30 PM EST
When it comes down to my side versus the other side, if it comes down to it, I'd rather the other S.O.B. die for his country.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Patton by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #33 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 04:09:22 PM EST
I am fairly certain Patton didn't advocate abandoning your entire moral code for victory.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
The law of non-contradiction by lm (4.00 / 1) #21 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 02:59:13 PM EST
For any object a, a cannot be not a at the same time and in the same way.

Being able to display courage in one regard says nothing about the ability to display cowardice in another regard.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
At least you already understand by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #24 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 03:10:40 PM EST
the two differing faces of courage, which I had to point out to UCB.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
The position I stated by lm (2.00 / 0) #26 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 03:18:18 PM EST
Is entirely compatible with the views that ucb has stated.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
That wasn't my point. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #30 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 03:38:37 PM EST
My point was physical courage:"one regard" and moral courage:"another regard".

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Sure by lm (2.00 / 0) #31 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 03:48:42 PM EST
But that doesn't contradict his assessment that 'if x does y, then x is a coward.

The only thing that is missing is ``even if x has also done z.''


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Coward was grossly undefined by him by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #32 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 03:58:24 PM EST
and he's being obtuse about it. That's my beef.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
I am not being obtuse by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #35 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 07:35:58 PM EST
Deciding that you have to torture because you are afraid someone might blow up a plane is an act of cowardice.  It is giving up a traditional American value because you are afraid of being blown up.

Bravery == Being willing to hold your values even if it means you are more likely to be injured/killed.

Our current willingness to do blatantly unamerican things like torture prisoners is due to fascist thugs preying on pants pissing cowards to gain power.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Ay! by BadDoggie (4.00 / 2) #5 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 11:39:33 AM EST
Get your bitch-ass back in the Hole and make me some Fish!

woof.

OMG WE'RE FUCKED! -- duxup ?

Heh by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #9 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 11:53:01 AM EST
All in good time.  This is an "off" week for fish.

Gedvondur


"I have a high threshold for taking it in the bum..." - MissTrish
[ Parent ]
VS2FP by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #6 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 11:43:45 AM EST
Nothing in this I cannot agree with fully.


Thank you. n/t by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #8 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 11:52:22 AM EST


"I have a high threshold for taking it in the bum..." - MissTrish
[ Parent ]
re: Reagan by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #15 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 02:23:13 PM EST
Reagan suppported the torturing Contras. Your argument is invalid.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Ummm what? by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #19 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 02:50:39 PM EST
Urr, ahh, what?

Gedvondur

"I have a high threshold for taking it in the bum..." - MissTrish
[ Parent ]
Reagan funded the Contras. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #28 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 03:29:35 PM EST
Certainly you're old enough to remember them, right? Anyway, THOSE guys (still with me here?) TORTURED their opposition and Reagan gave them money through a Marine Corps Colonel named Oliver North.
This stuff's documented all over the place, in case you somehow missed being an adult during the Reagan presidency.

In summation, you're wrong about your strongly-held assertion about Reagan's actual position on torture, which casts doubt upon the other assertions you've made in this essay.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Heh by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #34 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 04:57:42 PM EST
Actually I did more or less miss out on being an adult during Reagan's presidency, assuming you meant adult in a legal sense.  I was 18 for approximately the last four months of his presidency.

Would you not agree that it is a telling point that no forces directly under Reagan's control practiced torture?  And that Reagan and his administration denied that the Contras committed the atrocities they were accused of?

I have no doubt that the Contra rebels did commit torture and other human rights atrocities.  The real question is, did the old dodger believe it?  If he did know it then he as as bad as the rest of the pro-torture crowd.  I think it is likely he knew.

Essentially your assertion that one fact may be wrong in my essay does not invalidate the validity of other claims nor does it negate my opinion on the matter.  This isn't a college research paper or a professionally published piece.  Its something I wrote in a half an hour this morning.  The pettifoggery and attempts to slur the entire piece over a single point is just bad arguing.  Had you simply approached it as "You were wrong on Reagan" I would have researched and discussed it with you. And likely ceded the point as I have above.

The point was to use a man the conservative pro-torture crowd considers a hero as an example of a person that opposed torture.  I can dig up other conservative figures who opposed torture, if you like. William F. Buckley Jr. would be a good substitute. 

Mind you, I'm not sure why I am responding.  I never know if you are serious or just chain yanking.  In this case I choose to believe you are serious.


Gedvondur


"I have a high threshold for taking it in the bum..." - MissTrish
[ Parent ]
Reagan by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #36 Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 07:38:26 PM EST
I am fairly certain Reagan claimed to have no memory of anything involving Ollie North and money.

...but if we take your argument as given, doesn't that imply Reagan was also in favor of arming Iran?
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
There was at least one instance by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #37 Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 05:28:56 AM EST
of the CIA (or other US agency) publishing a HOWTO document on torturing prisoners for use in central american puppet governments. Presumably the agency thought this good (using Inquisition/Soviet methods are more effective and have somewhat better PR than what amaturs usually pull off), but there was a bit of a stink about it.

I'm not sure why you want to compare torturing a few vs. massacring tens of thousands in Guatemala (tragedy vs. statistic perhaps). Don't try to get your history from the media and tea baggers. The Reagan they see isn't the Reagan that was in office.

Wumpus

ps. spellcheck wanted to change "tea baggers" to "buggers". Anyone know which knick it posts under?

[ Parent ]
"Imply"? by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #38 Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 05:51:49 PM EST
LOL You know we armed both Iraq and Iran during their little tiff back in the '80s, right?

And as long as I'm giving history lessons today: Pr0n sluts had pubes back then and WE LIKED IT.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Yes I know by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #39 Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 05:56:15 PM EST
You seem to have lost the thread.  I suggest going back on reading it before responding with non sequitors.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Hush ypi by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #41 Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 08:57:35 PM EST
Im drinln

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
What you terrorist-coddlers don't understand by chuckles (2.00 / 0) #40 Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 08:22:23 PM EST
is that we need to strap people (including the occasional American) into gurneys and force water into their noses and mouths (and lose a few who accidentally inhale their own vomit) in order to preserve our freedoms.

"The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin [...] would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities"
Consigned Conscience | 47 comments (47 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback