Author Topic: Support for torture?  (Read 23908 times)

Dan Fienen

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2009, 08:25:06 PM »
Dave,

I understand your point.  But I am a contrarian at times.  You say "If that means we lose some information,  then so be it."  Would you be willing to say that to the widows, widowers, orphans and parents of those who died in another 9/11 that could have been prevented if better intel had been gathered?  Sorry for your loss, but we could not push harder to get information.  Would those be martyrs to American morality?

Granted, it would be very hard to prove that the information was available but not obtained because we did not push hard enough.  But provable or not, it is a real possibility.

It makes for a a difficult moral dilema.  But anyone who finds the line too easy to draw, or too easy to cross, has not adequately considered the consequences of becoming savages in the name of protecting one's country and her people, or adequately considered the consequences of becoming too timid in their defense.

I do not see how anyone who must make these decision can keep their hands clean.  On the one hand they may well be stained with the blood and suffering of those captives in their power.  On the other they may well be stained with the blood and suffering of those at home who may be lost because you did not find out the threat in time to save them.

There is a certain moral cowardice in easily justifying the means of torture by the possible good it may do in providing information needed to protect others.  But is there not also a certain moral cowardice in not recognizing the lives that may be destroyed by those who have chosen to be our enemies.

Dan
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Erme Wolf

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #16 on: May 05, 2009, 09:04:12 PM »
     Peter, all I am saying is call a thing what it is.  Let's not pussy-foot around and say, well, since we didn't push it to this extent, or cause this technical harm, or because we made sure medical personel were present to keep us from actually killing the prisoner, it didn't rise to the level of torture.  Waterboarding prisoners is torture.  If our government wants to make a case for using it under certain circumstances, it can and should do so.  The world may be able to find ways to make exceptions, or allowances, for its use. 

    But call it what it is.  It is torture.  Then, whether it is justifiable or not is the issue.

Jim_Krauser

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #17 on: May 05, 2009, 09:05:38 PM »
Add to the example the fact that one of terrorists is captured and is able to be interrogated for information or plans.  To what extent can/should the authorities become rough/torturous in their interrogation if that seems to be the only way to possibly free the children.

Since you can have no assurance that what they tell you is in fact the truth and by your scenario you have not the time to verify the information, it is probably worthless and a waste of time in itself.
Quote

What is the difference between lying and torturing in terms of sin?  What is the difference between the possible destruction of lives somewhere and the almost certain death of several hundred children?

Thoughts, theology?   Harvey Mozolak

I would argue that the difference is that one does violence to another person which falls under the 5th commandment; the other does not do violence to a person but is, as the RC Catechism would say, a sin against the truth falling under the 8th commandment.  The question would the be, Does either violation does harm to another?  And that is the distinction one should probably make.  One could argue in either case that it might prevent harm to other, but one cannot be certain of that.  We can only be certain of what we do, not what the outcomes of our actions will be.  And therein lies the fault with morale reasoning through hypotheticals such as these.  All of them are predicated on a large and presumptive "might" for their justification.
  
Lying in such an instance raises the question whether or not, under such circumstances, the hostage takers are entitled to the truth, since they would be using it to do harm.  Some would regard that as a dangerous slippery slope.  Some people don't like morality in those kinds of shades of gray.  For me, it is a question worth pondering.  
Jim Krauser

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RevSteve

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #18 on: May 05, 2009, 09:07:28 PM »
Even as a veteran (OK, an honorary one since I was a medic) I find the use of torture abhorrent and totally out of place in a country that holds the sanctity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Fisrt of all, as a former US Navy Hospital Corpsman/Dental Tech who considers myself every bit the veteran that a former Marine Corps grunt might be I take umbrage with your designation of "honorary" based on the fact that you were a medic.

Now that I've got that off my chest I must say it is because of the sanctity of life that you mention that indeed all people, but most certainly all Christians should hold sacred that Bishop Hanson's name being on this rings hollow and opportunistic.

I am not nearly informed enough on this issue to say whether or not waterboarding is torture so for the sake of argument I will assume it is. That said, I know enough and have spoken to enough Marines and Navy Seals to know that sometimes, whats the phrase that is being used, "escessive interrogation" methods are necessary and we have benefitted from using them. But that really has nothing to do with my point I am just clarifying where my knowledge of what constitutes torture is.

Now back to Bishop Hanson. While, on one hand I commend him for speaking out on this issue, on the other hand I can't help but be extremely dissapointed and even confused at how he can see the biblical case against torture and yet be so ambiguous when it comes to abortion. I know I am beating a dead horse here, but every time he makes one of these public declarations on social issues, I am always left asking that same question.

Steve:

My "honorary" designation to the Medical Service is because we always represent something that was "in, but not always of" the mission of the military.  Our service was to provide care to the troops, and if necessary to captured enemy prisoners.  As an NCO and commissioned officer, I am very proud of my service to my country.  Having served on active duty during the Vietnam era (though not in-country) there was a distinct cultural difference between the "hospital" guys and the line guys (they were mostly guys then).  The exception was the FMF medic (I spent a couple of years drilling for points in the Naval Reserve as a HM2).

Dave
I was mainly being facetious. I was FMF and so I was well aware of the unique position that medical, dental and religious personell were in, particularly in the FMF since we were Navy personell serving in Marine units. That said, in my situation I actually was something of a "line guy." Although technically not front lines as in serving as "Doc" to a Mar. Div. infantry unit, I was in country during the Gulf-War and served at a Batallion Aid Station where I was frequently within 5 miles of the front-lines. And I knew Marine grunts who served with corpsmen who did go to the front-lines with Mar Div units who would tell you that their "Doc" was every bit the Marine that anyone else they served with was. I understand what you're saying, but I just don't think I draw as bold a line as you. I never saw myself as being "in, but not of."  Maybe the military culture was different at the times we served. For me it was emphasized that the mission of the military is "preserving the peace" (an ironic description undeniably) and all military played a part in it.  

Pastor Steven M. Bliss LCMC and NALC-  St Olaf Lutheran Church, Bode, Iowa

New quote, got tired of questions about Dante quote...

"Doin stuff is overrated. Like Hitler did a lot of stuff but don't we all wish he would have just sat around all day and got stoned?"-Dex from the Tao of Steve

Jim_Krauser

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2009, 09:23:38 PM »
I do not see how anyone who must make these decision can keep their hands clean.  On the one hand they may well be stained with the blood and suffering of those captives in their power.  On the other they may well be stained with the blood and suffering of those at home who may be lost because you did not find out the threat in time to save them.[/b]There is a certain moral cowardice in easily justifying the means of torture by the possible good it may do in providing information needed to protect others.  But is there not also a certain moral cowardice in not recognizing the lives that may be destroyed by those who have chosen to be our enemies.

Dan

I am not moved by the argument that "if we did not find out in time" there would "be blood on our hands."  Whose hands?  The government, the interregators, society in general?  Nonsense.  If evil people accomplish their evil purposes the blood is on thier hands alone.  

Yes, we can and do talk of negligence and dereliction of duty, but that is when people fail to take the most basic, reasonable, and prudent actions to prevent a harm that is forseeable.  In such cases we may rightly seek to assign blame; but certainly not because they failed to take every conceivable (or extreme measure) to prevent it.  That is expecting too much of others and/or ourselves.  It is foolish and unreasonable to expect that of our leaders; and probably megalomanical on their part if they think can do so.

Is there not a certain moral bravery that is willing to stand for principles even if they cost us dearly?  It is a difficult question, because as public policy, the decision belongs to all, whether each individual has that courage or not.  I do ask myself though, why should I consent to sending our young men and women to die in defense of our principles on foreign soil, if I am not willing to risk my life by living by them at home?
Jim Krauser

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MaddogLutheran

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #20 on: May 05, 2009, 09:29:16 PM »
     Peter, all I am saying is call a thing what it is.  Let's not pussy-foot around and say, well, since we didn't push it to this extent, or cause this technical harm, or because we made sure medical personel were present to keep us from actually killing the prisoner, it didn't rise to the level of torture.  Waterboarding prisoners is torture.  If our government wants to make a case for using it under certain circumstances, it can and should do so.  The world may be able to find ways to make exceptions, or allowances, for its use. 

    But call it what it is.  It is torture.  Then, whether it is justifiable or not is the issue.
Except, Pr. Wolf, in this case, because potentially the people involved are in legal jeopardy, there is a very specific definition of torture.  I believe the secret torture legal brief referenced a European Court of Human Rights opinion from the 80's that said similar tactics by the British in Northern Ireland did not constitute torture.   All this talk in the public square is potentially prejudicing the jury, as the lawyers might say. I don't think anyone would quibble that in laymen's terms, there was torture going on.  You are quite right about the idea of exceptions or allowances, similar to a just war line of thinking.

For myself, I am disappointed that "enhanced interrogation" was being used as much as it was.  I think there are a very narrow set of circumstances when it should be used, as Alan Dershowitz has opined, but it needs to be approved by the man in the Oval Office.  I don't think George W. Bush would disagree that the buck stopped with him on this.  But the congressional leaders of both parties were in this loop on this, and it's only 6 years removed that they are raising any objections, now that it appears public opinion has shifted.  (I'm not sure it has, but they seem to see political advantage by the pivot.)

Whatever else, the United States didn't "torture" because we thought God wanted us to do, or because we were angry at Muslims.  We did it to get information to help fight terrorism.  Now maybe much of that was misguided or mistaken.  But it certainly was not ordered from of the Oval Office or the vice president's office out of malice or revenge.  Doesn't excuse the excesses, but it's not equivalent to beheading an American journalist.  And I'm not addressing all this at you, Pr. Wolf, just my jumping off point.  Much of the political witch-hunting now makes having a public discussion of when such extreme measures might be justifiable all but impossible, especially since politicians in the loop back then seemed to have made a decision on that years ago.  I lament the demonization and criminalization of political differences in our public discourse over the past 30 years.

Sterling Spatz
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MaddogLutheran

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #21 on: May 05, 2009, 09:44:18 PM »
I am not moved by the argument that "if we did not find out in time" there would "be blood on our hands."  Whose hands?  The government, the interregators, society in general?  Nonsense.  If evil people accomplish their evil purposes the blood is on thier hands alone.  

Yes, we can and do talk of negligence and dereliction of duty, but that is when people fail to take the most basic, reasonable, and prudent actions to prevent a harm that is forseeable.  In such cases we may rightly seek to assign blame; but certainly not because they failed to take every conceivable (or extreme measure) to prevent it.  That is expecting too much of others and/or ourselves.  It is foolish and unreasonable to expect that of our leaders; and probably megalomanical on their part if they think can do so.
What you say is not unreasonable.  But I'd have more faith in it if not so many people, including those in the chattering classes, hadn't accused George W. Bush of negligence for not connecting the dots on 9/11, as if he was somehow responsible and not the evil men who committed the heinous act.  Because if they had arrested the hijackers before they carried out their mission, certainly there would have been cries of racial profiling and lack of evidence of wrong-doing intent.  If Bill Clinton had authorized the Killing of Osama bin Laden in 1998, when apparently a team had him within their sights, would that have been wrong?  Maybe 9/11 would have been prevented, or maybe not.  My point is not to try and catch you in a logic inconsistency, merely that things are not always so morally black and white as people such as yourself would make it sound.  Let's not kid ourselves, I think the way the war on terrorism has been prosecuted has certainly been influenced by the backbiting on the failure to prevent 9/11.  All actions have consequences, even the newspaper editorial or the political speech.

Sterling Spatz
« Last Edit: May 05, 2009, 09:53:07 PM by MaddogLutheran »
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jpetty

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #22 on: May 05, 2009, 10:10:02 PM »
So far, Bill Clinton is the only American to have fired a shot in anger at Osama bin Laden--missed him by about half an hour.

Michael Slusser

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #23 on: May 05, 2009, 10:45:48 PM »
Back to the stimulus for Jim Krauser's initial post: why are churchgoers so much less critical of torture than non-churchgoers? Do we inculcate a tolerance for mistreating people as part of our preaching of Law and Gospel?

Why the differential?

Peace,
Michael
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peter_speckhard

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #24 on: May 05, 2009, 10:53:51 PM »
Except, Pr. Wolf, in this case, because potentially the people involved are in legal jeopardy, there is a very specific definition of torture.  I believe the secret torture legal brief referenced a European Court of Human Rights opinion from the 80's that said similar tactics by the British in Northern Ireland did not constitute torture.   All this talk in the public square is potentially prejudicing the jury, as the lawyers might say. I don't think anyone would quibble that in laymen's terms, there was torture going on.  You are quite right about the idea of exceptions or allowances, similar to a just war line of thinking.
Sterling nails it here. It would be all fine and dandy to call a thing what it is without a definition of that thing if people's lives and reputations were not on the line. Pornography, like torture, is another thing that has a definition of "I know it when I see it." And I think that is true. But if the photographer who shot the Victoria's Secret catalogue were up on porn charges that called for severe penalties, don't you think he'd be entitled at least to know the definition of the law he violated? Lots of people would look at his catalogue and conclude it was obviously pornography. Others would call it erotic art, and others effective advertising, or all three. By calling waterboarding torture with such matter-of-fact certainty, you're saying that people who volunteered to defend you with their lives and who in good faith carried out their duties according to established policy are essentially war criminals. I'm not willing to say that and can't imagine anyone in any other profession facing such severe penalties on such subjective criteria.  

Erme Wolf

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #25 on: May 05, 2009, 11:20:50 PM »
By calling waterboarding torture with such matter-of-fact certainty, you're saying that people who volunteered to defend you with their lives and who in good faith carried out their duties according to established policy are essentially war criminals.  

    I'm saying nothing of the sort.  And I agree with the decision made by the President not to go back and prosecute those who conducted these interrogations, believing that they were legal and did not constitute torture.  Also, because of my own age and life experience, I have a great deal of respect for those who have served this nation, particularly in the armed forces (volunteer or otherwise), and who have borne the responsibility of defending this democracy with their lives if called upon. 

    Waterboarding is not new.  It's definition is well established.  When it has been used on our own armed forces personnel when they have been taken prisoner, it has been seen as torture.  Why is it different if it is done by our side?  It is what it is.  I can see that my plainspoken take on this is offensive to you.  That is not my intention, but it is the case.  And as I said, our government has and might again make a case for its use, under certain circumstances.  I am one who disagrees with the argument in favor of using it.

jpetty

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #26 on: May 05, 2009, 11:50:48 PM »
By calling waterboarding torture with such matter-of-fact certainty, you're saying that people who volunteered to defend you with their lives and who in good faith carried out their duties according to established policy are essentially war criminals.  

    I'm saying nothing of the sort.  And I agree with the decision made by the President not to go back and prosecute those who conducted these interrogations, believing that they were legal and did not constitute torture.  Also, because of my own age and life experience, I have a great deal of respect for those who have served this nation, particularly in the armed forces (volunteer or otherwise), and who have borne the responsibility of defending this democracy with their lives if called upon. 

    Waterboarding is not new.  It's definition is well established.  When it has been used on our own armed forces personnel when they have been taken prisoner, it has been seen as torture.  Why is it different if it is done by our side?  It is what it is.  I can see that my plainspoken take on this is offensive to you.  That is not my intention, but it is the case.  And as I said, our government has and might again make a case for its use, under certain circumstances.  I am one who disagrees with the argument in favor of using it.

Waterboarding was used during the Spanish Inquisition, so, yes, it's been around for awhile.  If I remember correctly, waterboarding is specifically defined as torture by the Convention on Torture, recommended by Ronald Reagan and passed in 1988.

I do think those responsible should be prosecuted.  I can't believe we're even having a discussion about it.   Torture is against the law, waterboarding is torture, and those who directed it should be tried, and, if found guilty, they should do time.  At the time, Pres. Reagan said, any nation signing the convention "is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."

Besides, it doesn't even work, as most of the military brass readily admits.

rcephd

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #27 on: May 06, 2009, 12:42:04 AM »
The UN treaty on Torture etc.  signed in 1988 did not specify any single technique or practice. It defined torture as "severe pain or suffering whether physical or mental." Waterboarding is ambiguous as it does no physical pain or harm, and "mental suffering" is a highly subjective term. Personal opinions on what constitutes "torture" are mildly interesting but irrelevant and useless for any deliberative purpose. When issued under color of official position as by certain functionaries of the Obama regime they can be downright damaging to the discourse. Opining is a lot of fun but I'm surprised no one has bothered to put up an official definition by now. It isn't hard to find.

Oh and BTW, in case anyone wonders, the letter from Dennis Blair, National Director of Intelligence, released by the White House on April16, asserted that "high value information came from interrogations in which the methods were used." Waterboarding, which is functionally harmless, thus apparently may have saved numerous innocent lives. Just thought some of you would like to know.

Jim_Krauser

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #28 on: May 06, 2009, 12:45:22 AM »
By calling waterboarding torture with such matter-of-fact certainty, you're saying that people who volunteered to defend you with their lives and who in good faith carried out their duties according to established policy are essentially war criminals. I'm not willing to say that and can't imagine anyone in any other profession facing such severe penalties on such subjective criteria.  

You words seem to suggest that waterboarding is or was, before this espisode, a longstanding option available to agents of our governemnt or that its use is a matter of a close call, a method that was once standard operating procedure but mothballed until needed.  Established policy?  Who was making such arguments before 9/11?  If it was so clearly not a war crime, why did the Justice Department memos have to parse their terms so closely and why after all the outrage hit the fan were the memos withdrawn?  The answer: because the practice is legally and morally indefensible.

If waterboarding is not torture, I don't see how the word torture has any meaning at all.  Waterboarding is the current term for it...when I was in elementary school 40 years ago it had a different name:  Chinese Water TORTURE!



Jim Krauser

Pastor-Grace Evang. Lutheran Church, North Bellmore, NY

Jim_Krauser

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Re: Support for torture?
« Reply #29 on: May 06, 2009, 01:01:33 AM »
Back to the stimulus for Jim Krauser's initial post: why are churchgoers so much less critical of torture than non-churchgoers? Do we inculcate a tolerance for mistreating people as part of our preaching of Law and Gospel?

Why the differential?

Peace,
Michael

Looking at the bar graphs it is at least hearting that the number of persons who felt that torture was never or only rarely justified was the highest 53% among the white mainline Protestants (including Lutherans, I would guess).   62% of White Evangelical Protestants thought it could be often or sometimes justified.
Among those who attend regularly (weekly) 54% were more inclined to see torture as justifed.  It probably reflects that Evangelical go to church more than mainliners.

It's only a hunch, but my suspicion is that there is a somewhat higher degree of civil religion and authority figues in Evangelical Christianity (though this shouldn't be confused with support for any particular administration) and as such they would be more sympathetic to national interests.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2009, 01:03:08 AM by Jim_Krauser »
Jim Krauser

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