Torture As an Absolute Wrong

If waterboarding works, does that make it morally acceptable?


In an interview on Sunday, NBC's Chuck Todd asked former Vice President Dick Cheney if he was "OK" with the fact that a quarter of the suspected terrorists held in secret CIA prisons during the Bush administration "turned out to be innocent." Todd noted that one of those mistakenly detained men died of hypothermia after being doused with water and left chained to a concrete wall, naked from the waist down, in a cell as cold as a meat locker.

Cheney replied that the end—to "get the guys who did 9/11" and "avoid another attack against the United States"—justified the means. "I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective," he said.

Charles Fried, a Harvard law professor who served as solicitor general during the Reagan administration, and his son Gregory, a philosophy professor at Suffolk University, offer a bracing alternative to Cheney's creepy consequentialism in their 2010 book Because It Is Wrong. They argue that torture is wrong not just when it is inflicted on innocents, and not just when it fails to produce lifesaving information, but always and everywhere.

That claim is bolder than it may seem. As the Frieds note, most commentators "make an exception for grave emergencies," as in "the so-called ticking-bomb scenario," where torturing a terrorist is the only way to prevent an imminent explosion that will kill many people. "These arguments try to have it both ways," they write. "Torture is never justified, but then in some cases it might be justified after all." The contradiction is reconciled "by supposing that the justifying circumstances will never come up."

The Senate Intelligence Committee report released last week, for instance, argues that the CIA's brutal methods did not yield valuable information that could not have been obtained through other means. In fact, it says, waterboarding and the other "enhanced interrogation techniques" were often counterproductive, eliciting false information or discouraging cooperation.

Maybe that's true, but it's awfully convenient. If torture is never useful, eschewing it entails no tradeoffs. It is a cost-free commitment.

The Frieds' argument requires no such assumption. They acknowledge that torture may save lives but reject it anyway, arguing that "there are things worse than death."

They offer an example that most people would consider beyond the pale: Suppose the most effective way to elicit lifesaving information from a terrorist is to torture his child. Is that tactic morally acceptable, provided the payoff is big enough?

If not, then certain forms of torture are absolutely wrong. The Frieds go further, contending that "innocence and guilt are irrelevant to torture," which desecrates "the image of God" or, in the secular version of the argument, "the ultimate value of the human form as it is incorporated in every person."

The Frieds argue that we lose our humanity by denying someone else's, by treating him as an animal to be beaten into submission or an object to be bent or broken at will. "To make him writhe in pain, to injure, smear, mutilate, render loathsome and disgusting the envelope of what is most precious to each of us," they write, "is to be the agent of ultimate evil—no matter how great the evil we hope to avert by what we do."

That is just a taste of the Frieds' argument, which deserves to be considered at length. It surely will not persuade Dick Cheney, but it goes beyond mere squeamishness in an attempt to articulate the moral intuition underlying legal bans on torture and other forms of degrading treatment.

If the Frieds' reliance on the concept of sacredness strikes you as superstitious, consider what can happen when nothing is sacred. During a 2005 debate, John Yoo, who helped formulate the legal rationale for the interrogation techniques the Frieds condemn, was asked whether encouraging a prisoner's cooperation by crushing his child's testicles would be legal as well. Yoo replied that "it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that."

NEXT: Brickbat: Jesus Christ

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  1. Did I miss something? I thought the "guys who did 9/11" died in the attacks.

    1. The 19 dead hyjackers were not all of the people involved.

    2. I find rules of war kind of an insane idea because if you are really in a war you never follow them. The big issue I have with Cheney's logic was that we tortured those that did the 9/11 attacks. To me there is a huge difference between torturing for retribution and torturing to prevent an attack. Lot's of people say we tortured to prevent attacks - didn't seem to be Cheney's prerogative.

      1. We never tortured anybody. We used coercive interrogation techniques. Big difference. If you're still not sure, I would be happy to Waterboarding you for ten minutes. Then show you what real torture involves.

        I promise you will understand the distinction after that.

        1. Actually I don't consider waterboarding to be the significant form of torture. We may not have broken bones, but sleep deprivation and hypothermia (to death) falls as torture in my book. Again the point isn't that we tortured, it's why Cheney thinks it is ok to torture - which is as retribution.

  2. Well you know, if you want to make an omelet, you gotta break a few eggs.

    1. Do a google search on 'vegan omlet' sometime, and you'll find out that's not even remotely true in the cooking sense.

      *note, I am not a vegan, and have a tendency to mock anyone who willingly crawls lower on the food chain, I just had a hunch that one of them came up with a way to mimic real food out of longing for it.

      1. Vegan omlet is an oxymoron.

      2. "...the ultimate value of the omelet as it is incorporated in every egg..."

    2. Show me the omelette.

      I know Dick Cheney insists it's a delicious omelette, but I only smell rotten eggs. (That could be the stench of brimstone rolling off of Dick Cheney, of course.)

      1. Adjust your sarcasm meters, guys.

        1. The Model 82 Sarcasm meter is notorious for shorting out. It's too high voltage to use with newer parts, and physically incompatable with older parts. It's a royal pain to keep functional, especially the midplane, but it's the only one that works with my brain.

          1. Be careful, your future Reptilian Overlords will not accept that as an excuse.

            1. Oh yeah? My current Robot Overlords might have a few things to say about that claim.

              However, the post of Underlord is currently unfilled.

              1. Ya but I bet their SARC meters actually work

                1. Once I find a replacement midplane and textual subprocessor, I'm going to try to figure out if you're even serious.

            2. I only answer to my Swiss masters!

              ...so...when do the Reptilians take over?

              *practices lizard hiss-greeting*

              1. As soon as you mammals stop being entertaining.

                Or when we find an appropriate hot sauce.

    3. That never made any sense. In making an omelet you use the eggs in it. The expression should imply that you have to get the eggs out of the way, in the sense that you have to sacrifice a few undesirables to build your utopia.

      1. Okay, let's make this simpler:
        You know who else justified doing immoral things to achieve their desired goals?

        1. Epi's mom?

          1. the spice must flow

        2. Tony?

        3. The Invid?

          1. Sit back and enjoy, o scaly one:

        4. The captain and crew of the Sea Shepherd?

        5. I can think of several people who would do immoral things to satisfy their desire for goats.

        6. "You know who else justified doing immoral things to achieve their desired goals?"

          The individual who pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall?

      2. That never made any sense. In making an omelet you use the eggs in it. The expression should imply that you have to get the eggs out of the way, in the sense that you have to sacrifice a few undesirables to build your utopia.

        It makes perfect sense. The terrorists have hard gritty shells and savory gooiness inside the shells that can be baked into an omlet or whipped to a nice frothy meringue, coated in sugar, and served to the public. You can even whip their interiors with miracle whip and, dust them with paprika and have devilled eggs... I mean terrorists.


        "It is not a matter of being compelled to break eggs before an omlet can be made, but the eggs doing their own breaking in order to be able to aspire to omlethood."

        -paraphrased from Anon.

    4. WTF.

      "Well you know, if you want to make an omelet, you gotta break a few legs."


  3. Cheney is an absolute wrong.

    1. oh, give it a rest.

  4. Why can't interrogators just trigger some hurtful memories in the terrorists past ? Wait , that is torture. My bad.

    1. Won't you think of the entitled, coddled, emotionally-stunted Millenial children?!

  5. Moral absolutism. Groundbreaking shit.

  6. I bet I could've gotten the same intel using a pack of Marlboro Reds and a juicy steak.

    1. They didn't get any useful Intel. Cheney is a fucking full time liar. Saddam didn't have anything to do with 9-11 but the retards that watch Fox News still think he did.

      1. Don't lock eyes with 'em, don't do it. Puts 'em on edge. They might go into berzerker mode; come at you like a whirling dervish, all fists and elbows. You might be screaming "No, no, no" and all they hear is "Who wants cake?" Let me tell you something: They all do. They all want cake.

        1. Even the warmonger McCain doesn't believe Dickless Cheney. Cheney is beloved by your average redneck conservative though. And people attack me because I don't cater to this filth.

        2. Even the warmonger McCain doesn't believe Dickless Cheney. Cheney is beloved by your average redneck conservative though. And people attack me because I don't cater to this filth.

          1. Sure you wanna keep playing, shreek? The game's always between you and getting called a cunt. That dropped eye of yours looks like the hood on a cunt to me, shreek. When you talk, your mouth looks like a cunt moving.

            1. Turds have cunts?
              I guess they do.

        3. I want some frickin' cake, Guv-Mint Almighty Dammit!
          Torture? Torture, you say? Well, so WHAT if it destroys the human spirit, and all that we believe in?!?! It's an ECONOMIC STIMULUS, for the sake of Guv-Mint Almighty!!! If destroying perfectly good cars, to stim the economy, is good, then so, too, is torture, for the same reasons! "Patient" does not die? Money, stimulus, in the hands of his doctors and therapists! "Patient" dies!? Money in the hands of the funeral directors! Money all around! I rest my (brain) case?

      2. We were at that time still at war with Saddam's government in Iraq. He had never ever come sort of close to meeting the terms of surrender that he had agreed to. Whether he had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks was and is irrelevant. His government had to be taken down, or no negotiation we entered into going forward would be taken seriously.

        I could wish that the Bush administration had made this explicit as one of many reasons for invading Iraq (another, for example, being that it made a splendid object lesson), but seeing how few people of any political stripe have brought up the issue in the years since, I guess that Bush assumed correctly that it would be a distraction and take too long to explain to people who didn't like the logic.

        1. I don't remember Congress declaring war on... nevermind.

          1. Bush Sr. did go to Congress for approval of offensive operations in the Gulf War;

            "The Senate adopted the resolution 52 to 47; the House vote was 250 to 183.

            The action was the most explicit authorization of war by Congress since the Tonkin Gulf Resolution "

            LA Times Jan 13 1991

      3. Shut up fuckball.

  7. I want to know what happened to Cheney between 1992 and 2001. They are 2 different people.

    1. Original Cheney died of a heart attack and was replaced with a Replicant.

      1. You misspelled Reptile...he's one of ours.

        1. Well, he did pass the Voight-Kampff test which caused a lot of confusion at the time, so your theory seems plausible. I suppose he always did seem cold blooded too.

    2. Cheney was always a douchebag. He was carpetbagged to Wyoming to represent people he made fun of. He was and is a neocon. A Liberal if you will. Cut from the same mold as Hillary or even Barack, just on the other team.

    3. He regenerated.

  8. That dude is a bit over the hill I think.


    1. And Anon Bot inches just that much closer to sentience.

      1. That was frighteningly on target, wasn't it?

        1. Ya, I think my bosses should be a little more concerned about the competition.

  9. OK, you know - whatever. I'm as tired of this as Ferguson now. Sorry for giving up, but all the hand wringing one way or another won't change Cheney and damned sure won't change what happeneed a decade ago.

    Now, what COULD be important is disentangling the US from all this galavanting on foreign soil and meddling in the affairs of others. But I'm sure electing Hill or Jeb in 2016 will solve that, so IT'S ALL GOOD, amirite?

    Fuck Cheney, fuck terrorists, fuck the US govt and its bureaucrats, fuck the UN, and fuck you.

    1. Well fuck

    2. Keep this up and you will have no fucks left to give.

    3. fuck Mobb Deep, fuck Biggie, fuck Bad Boy as a staff, record label, and as a mother fucking crew. And if you want to be down with Bad Boy, Then fuck you too. Chino XL, fuck you too. All you mother fuckers, fuck you too. (take money, take money) All of y'all mother fuckers, fuck you, die slow motherfucker.

    4. won't change what happeneed a decade ago.

      It might change what happens a decade from now.

      There's a reason why we didn't have internment camps or conscription during the War on Terror, and it isn't because people in the past didn't make a stink about those things--before the next war started.

      If we don't want this to be SOP for the next war, the time to call out the disgraceful torturing bastards is now.

      Hell, the sick fucks are claiming they did it to keep you and me safe. How can we be silent about that?

      Don't torture anybody for me! If they tortured somebody and I was sitting on the jury, I'd throw their cowardly traitorous asses in jail.

      1. There was no torturing. You're a fucking pussy if you think waterboarding is torture. Drowning people for real would be torture.

        If you can't stomach what rough men have to do to safeguard innocent people from committed psychopaths, then stay out of the way.

        1. People who think this is torture need to read a book. Shame on John McCain for not coming out and illuminating people as to the real nature of torture.

    5. Well, we could adopt a very simple policy; leave our people and our interests alone or we land on you like a ton of bricks. We won't STAY. We won't try to "nation build", but YOU will be gone.

      Don't think it would fly with the Liberal Establishment, and not reacting to attack is inviting more attack.

      1. I agree completely.

      2. Gosh, do you think that rule might apply to us too?

      3. Please define "our people and our interests." Remember, Putin is only protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine. I like where you are going, but I want more strict criteria to what constitutes our interest and our people.

        1. Remember, Putin is only protecting Russian invaders that didn't leave Ukraine.


  10. Well at least the innocents we held for a time at CIA Black sites had better outcomes than the innocents involved in drone attacks.

    1. They shouldn't have been running around with bad guys . You know what mom used to say about hanging out with bad company?

    2. "Well at least the innocents we held for a time at CIA Black sites had better outcomes than the innocents involved in drone attacks."

      Todd Chuck ran a segment on Drones right after the interview with Cheney. Oddly enough, the panel wasn't nearly as irate at the hundreds of drone attacks in the last 6 years as they were over the three men subject to water boarding.
      Definitely an ideological bias driving the conversation, at least on Meet the Press.

      1. I'm not surprised, JWatts.
        I see this a great deal from adherents of both "teams" - Drones are generally accepted by Obama supporters and torture is generally accepted by Bush supporters. It's not because either program is morally superior it's because of "team" loyalty.

        I'm confident that if President Bush authorized the number of drone attacks that President Obama has, his supporters would defend his actions against the "torture-supporters" of President Obama.

        This is rather obvious to me and others who are more independently minded, and if you glace through the comments here and read the comments on "left" leaning sites you'll probably see it too (if you haven't already).

        1. I think that the criticism of Obama's drone use by Bush supporters is largely intended to point out Democrat hypocrisy. I don't know that the critics disagree with the drone strikes themselves.

  11. "nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law"

    "nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted"

    Pretty much covers it.

    1. If they're U.S. citizens it does.

      1. If they happened to be US citizens, then you just strip them of their citizenship. Duh.

        1. Pretty sure that requires a federal court hearing so there IS due process but then again, we're talking about a government willing to drone citizens so I'll cede the point.

      2. Where does it say these only apply to US citizens?

        1. I'm of the not so outrageous opinion that the protections of the U.S. Constitution are only afforded to U.S. citizens. That's the legal side of the debate. The moral one is a whole other can of spam.

          1. But it's absolute nonsense, legally.

          2. and yet the constitution says all people,or do you think ,say,a French citizen on vacation here has no civil rights?That's what your saying dumb ass

            1. The Right to Habeas Corpus Applies to Everyone:

            2. The Constitution says "We the People of the United States..." it does not say "We the People of the World."

              When it comes to your French citizen, legally it should come down to a binding agreement between our two governments and what makes good sense diplomatically. I also believe the vast number of rights enshrined in the Constitution should be extended to human beings as a moral exercise and in order to hold them up as an exemplar for the world. Keep in mind not all of those rights - some of which we rightly consider to be fundamental to human existence (franchise, RTKABA, etc.) aren't extended to foreigners so I'm surprised your shocked by the concept. It's a question of "have to" and "should" for me and I could've been clearer about that.

              1. So if you're pulled over by a cop, you should have to produce proof of citizenship or else he is entitled to ignore your due process?

              2. Ugh. Fucking conservatives sometimes.

                The constitution guarantees protection of these right from the governement for US citizens. No where does it give the government the right to do so to other citizens. Reread the DOI. Government does not grant rights nor can they take them away. Your rights are because you are human. Not because you are a US citizen.

                1. Oh and fuck you Tony, didnt see you there you fucking idjit.

                  1. Good point though. You're right like Warren is right. Completely by accident and probably hypocritical.

              3. I think you should go back and reread the Constitution. It says, paraphrasing a little, "We the People of the United States set up these rules. Rule #1..." not "these rules FOR the People of the United States". And most of the Bill of Rights makes no reference at all to who the actors or the subjects are, simply stating things in the form "X shall not be done".

                1. I've admitted elsewhere that I look at the Constitution as a contract between government and the governed. Government is to protect the pre-existing rights of the governed who have given their consent for government to do so. The governed by definition are citizens. There are no other parties to this contract. We can't give the consent of others to be governed by the terms of our agreement. The Bill of Rights is a series of amendments to this contract and therefore still only applies to the parties.

                  Again, I have zero problem with entering into contracts with the governments of other nations that incorporate the terms of our own contract and, as I said above, think that we should not only as a function of policy but morality. My only objection is the blanket statement that everyone in the world is the beneficiary of our contract simply based on the fact that our contract exists.

                  If you don't believe in the validity of government to enter into such a contract or, in the alternative, believe that we should have a contract enshrining the pre-existing rights of the entire world between one government and all peoples, I acknowledge my position doesn't carry much water.

              4. That is not how it works,your an idiot

            3. Foreigners have basic human rights in the United States, they do not have the full constitutional rights afforded to its citizens.

  12. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do...... ?????? http://www.jobs700.com

  13. If I was in the U.S. military I'd be pissed at these a holes.They have to follow so many rules, if they did any of this crap they would be up on charges and sent to prison. But the CIA can do this and never pay a price.Plus there's so damn many idiots on FOC,MSNBC and CNN that are ok with it because,911!They always use the 'ticking bomb' example,but,that was never the case.A soldier in combat would be more likely to face that example and ,yet,are barred form using these methods.

  14. I think the "ticking bomb" scenario is a bit of a red herring in this debate. Is it possible that a scene from 24 is reenacted? Sure but it's highly unlikely and really is used as a distraction by both sides. I'd rather the conversation focused on the legal AND moral justifications/criticisms in the more likely case of a dude who you know through other sources is involved with the baddies and possesses valuable intelligence.

    1. Yeah, you have to make a couple of bad assumptions every time you torture someone, and in the ticking time bomb scenario, those assumptions are even worse than usual.

      1) You have to assume the person you're torturing has the information you want.

      If we torture him long enough, he'll tell something something, but it may not be valid information--because he doesn't have it. If he doesn't have the information, what are we going to do? Keep torturing him until he gives us information he doesn't have?

      2) You have to assume the information he has is correct?

      If he gives us bad information, we're not going to find out until we go check it out. Meanwhile, the time bomb is ticking! The whole point of the ticking time bomb scenario is that we don't have any time.

      So, yeah, the efficacy of torture in the ticking time bomb scenario is even more questionable than usual.

      1. IMO, because the only way you can justify torture is by having reliable information in the first place (they are bad guys, run with bad guys, know where/what their fellow bad guys are doing), the scope of use is very narrowly restricted. I don't think it should ever be used as a screening technique to find out IF they know something, only WHAT they know specifically when you already know from confirmed outside sources that they're up to some really bad shit.

        I don't disagree with the Frieds that there is a moral cost even in this narrowly tailored scenario but I think there's a greater one in allowing the life of someone like KSM to outweigh those of innocent people. I realize this is a pretty horrific moral calculus and, based on the propensity of governments for abuse of power it puts us on that dreaded slippery slope, so maybe I'm actually just positing my own personal boundaries.

        1. "I think there's a greater one in allowing the life of someone like KSM to outweigh those of innocent people".

          It isn't about the life of one person like KSM.

          KSM's Fifth Amendment and Eighth Amendment rights are my rights, too.

          When I stand up for the rights of pornographers, believe me, it isn't because I think well of them. Those are my First Amendment rights, too--and the government shouldn't violate them.

          When I stick up for the right of murders, rapists, arsonists, and child molesters to have a trial, a trial by jury, the right not to testify against themselves, the right to an attorney, the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, the right to not be subjected to double jeopardy, etc., etc., believe me! It is NOT the murderers, rapists, arsonists, or child molesters that I'm standing up for.

          Those are my rights, too! And if you can ignore them for those people, you can ignore them when it comes to me, too! There isn't anything about the qualitative value of the people involved that changes my understanding of everyone's rights.

          Those rights are rights against the government. The government may not do this to anybody, the government may not do that to anybody, etc. I'd like to see the 9/11 conspirators crucified and set on fire, but I'm willing to settle for the benefits of living in a free and just society instead.

          1. P.S. I may have forgotten to turn off an italics tag in there somewhere--it's just a theory.

            1. I gotcha :). And I 100% agree with you as it pertains to the pornographers, rapists and murderers that are U.S. citizens. But, as you can see above where I'm being pilloried by Tony and Adans, I see a distinction between the rights those U.S. citizens possess and the rights a non-citizen combatant intent on not just mass murder but the overthrow of the very system of protections we both espouse. I do see merit in the moral argument that we shouldn't even go near this kind of behavior for fear of being tarred with the same brush as these barbarians (and the way it was instituted it's pretty clear we're deserving of a lot of that criticism). And like I say above, I'm certainly fair game for being accused of making an arbitrary distinction. I just happen to believe that legally speaking, a guy like KSM is not a party to the document protecting and enshrining our rights. However, outside of the Constitution, I admit that I'm clearly vulnerable as it pertains to the issue of legality when it comes to the UN Convention Against Torture.

              1. See my post here:


                And it isn't just about the legality of the Constitution. Our Constitutional rights are a pale shadow of the real thing, and our real rights are about ethics.

                Even if it wasn't in the Constitution. The government forcing people to say things against their will through the use of torture is fundamentally unethical in that free agency is the axis on which our morality spins.

                Rape isn't wrong because the government says so. Rape is morally wrong because victim didn't consent. That consent, that free agency, is the difference between right and wrong. Fraud is wrong because the victim didn't really consent to what they thought they were consenting to. Theft is wrong because the thief didn't obtain the consent of the victim.

                When the government enforces contracts, that's alright--so long as everyone involved agreed to the terms of the contract. When the government forces people to say things and divulge things against their will through the use of torture, it is fundamentally unethical because it completely ignores the consent of the tortured.

                A criminal is someone who violates another person's right to make choices for themselves. Injustice is when the government does the same thing. A free society is when people's actions are all consensual. Torture completely ignores consent, so torture is fundamentally incompatible with a free society.

                1. Let's set aside the legality and constitutional aspects of it. I agree that our rights pre-exist government (my argument above regarding who is afforded protection of those rights stems from a belief that the constitution is a contract between government and the consent of the governed, ie citizens). So let's focus on the morality of the act in a free society where it is the individual and not the state as actor. Is it your position that torture is 100% immoral all the time because it ignores the consent of the person being tortured?

                  I realize this little thought experiment is likely very rare (and I acknowledge we're getting close to Jack Bauer territory) but let's say a van drives down your street and your niece is snatched up. In the course of this, a dude in a ski mask falls out of the van. You apprehend him. We live in anarchist utopia. There are no state actors. Are you morally barred in a free society from using torture to restore the freedom of your niece? If no, are we dangerously close to absolute pacifism?

                  I'm not trying to be a dick on any of this. This is exactly what I meant by seriously exploring the legal/moral concepts beyond Cheney's asinine sound bites.

                  1. Sorry, Ken, I meant "If YES, are we dangerously close to absolute pacifism."

                    1. "Are you morally barred in a free society from using torture to restore the freedom of your niece? If no, are we dangerously close to absolute pacifism?"

                      Like I said, we let rapists go free if the evidence gathered against them was gathered in a way that violates their Fourth Amendment rights.

                      That isn't pacifism. That's a free society. That's a just society.

                      Freedom entails risk. In other ways, though, it's less risky than the alternative to freedom.

                      What does society look like after we decide it's okay for the government to torture people so long as it's an emergency? How risky is that?

                  2. "So let's focus on the morality of the act in a free society where it is the individual and not the state as actor. Is it your position that torture is 100% immoral all the time because it ignores the consent of the person being tortured?"

                    I would argue that the answer is yes.

                    Volition is central to my morality, and I see libertarianism as a fundamentally moral philosophy.

                    Doing things to people without their consent is morally wrong.

                    Shooting someone is morally wrong, generally speaking. There can be mitigating circumstances, like when it's done in self-defense, but claiming self-defense is essentially saying that I didn't have any choice in the matter--and people aren't necessarily wrong for doing something if they had no choice.

                    I'm trying to imagine an individual torturing someone else in self-defense, and I'm having a hard time imagining a realistic scenario in which they had no other choice but to torture.

                    From a legal perspective, people should be free to make their case to the jury for self-defense when they're prosecuted for torturing someone--if that's what they want to do.

                2. So how does this apply to prison? If I don't give my consent, is it morally wrong to imprison me?

                  1. You do give your consent to be imprisoned--when you violate someone else's rights.

                    Remember, the government doesn't really decide to send you to jail.

                    The proper purpose of a jury of your peers (which is not the government) is to determine whether you voluntarily forfeited your rights. This is tied up in the idea of mens rea

                    Mens rea means you intended to violate someone's rights. It's important to remember that every freedom has a flip side responsibility. When I say I have the right to do something, it means I can be held responsible for what I. (And I should be free to do most anything I can be held responsible for).

                    Our Second Amendment rights do not mean that I have the right to indiscriminately shoot people. It means I have the right to choose to own a gun, but if I use my gun to violate the rights of others, I can still be held responsible for what I did with my gun.

                    If I willfully choose to rob a bank with my gun, I willfully choose to be held responsible. Deciding to confine me to prison isn't something the jury really decides to do; given mens rea, what they're really doing is determining whether I willfully chose to forfeit SOME of my rights.

  15. Meanwhile, torture is incompatible with the Fifth and Eighth Amendment, actively disregarding human agency is fundamentally immoral in every valid ethical system, and torture is fundamentally incompatible with a free society.

    The rationalization I keep hearing (elsewhere on the interwebs) goes something like: How many millions of Americans would you let die before you were willing to torture someone?

    As if my morality were somehow the culprit.

    We should ask these sickos the same question but change it to something else. If the only way to save millions of Americans from terror was to molest some kid, ...

    No, I would never condone that either! And if they would, and they aren't ashamed to say so in public--then they should be mocked and then shunned. There are psychopaths among us, and many of them, presumably, don't realize they're psychopaths. They can rationalize anything--surely there is nothing can't be rationalized by a psychopath somehow. That's what makes them psychopaths.

    Save everybody else with torture? I don't even want the government to torture people to save me!

    1. I don't even want the government to torture people to save me!

      nor would I want them to institute the security bs that we have been subjected to had I been killed on 9/11. It's all the same crap, just different strengths.

    2. Foreign terrorists are not entitled to the protections of the U.S. Constitution.

      1. How do we know someone's a foreign terrorist if they aren't afforded due process?

        1. Tony you won't even admit that Jews had a right to their lives during the holocaust or that Rosa Parks had the right to sit in the front of a public bus--for fear that might mean people's rights came from somewhere other than the government.

          You have no moral authority here. You're a fucking disgrace to humanity. Please shut up, Tony, and stop doing so much harm to the cause of human rights.

          1. Where is this place they come from? Why does nobody ever answer that?

            1. Evolution, human nature, god, whatever.

              Fucktards like you would claim government invented language, money or whatever else. There are things that are inherent to being a human being. Our natural rights are part of that.

              You're the fucking retarded spawn of of your rapist uncle, Tony.

            2. They are inherent.

              You will think your own thoughts regardless of what anyone says--unless someone uses force to stop you.

              You will speak your mind--unless someone uses force to stop you.

              You will defend yourself--unless someone uses force to stop you.

              Do you see? They're built in.

              What we enshrine as 'rights' are things humans will do naturally--and we protect them by saying governments cannot use force to stop us from doing them.

              So the place they come from is our own intrinsic nature.

        2. Due process is not the same as finding out if an individual is a citizen. Asking them, for one, is probably a good place to start. If they say yes, afford them citizens rights until otherwise proven, if they say no, even if they are a citizen, you have a person who has informally rejected his or her citizenship.

          You are better than this, Tony, bring your A-game.

        3. Are you deliberately obtuse, or just fucking stupid?

      2. Trust the top men, I guess?

        1. Thats good enough for the kill list.

        2. Give it up, Tony.
          You can't argue with people from la-la land.

      3. if they are in the US they are ,that include ships at sea and territories,if their in the custody of the military they are POW'S,there is no gray area.

        1. We may be in a crossed-wires situation regarding whether they ARE or whether they SHOULD.

          1. no,we are not

      4. "Foreign terrorists are not entitled to the protections of the U.S. Constitution."

        The Fifth Amendment right not to be forced to testify against yourself is a prohibition on government action--whether someone is a citizen has nothing to do with it.

        The Eighth Amendment right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment is a prohibition on government action--it isn't about the person involved. As long as we're talking about government in the United States, we're talking about what the government cannot do.

        The only rights that I can think of that foreigners don't have is the right to vote and the right to hold certain offices.

        Other than that, you show me where it says the government doesn't have to respect the rights of foreigners.

        1. Best statement that I've heard of the premise that the US Constitution is about limiting government.


    3. The "kid molestation" is a bit of a non sequitur, Ken. The kid's not guilty of anything and therefore your scenario is a blatant exercise in utilitarianism. Once you substitute a dude you know makes bombs used to blow up schools that have the audacity to educate women, you've now introduced another component to the analysis: the consequences of that individual's actions.

      This isn't to say I don't respect your position that any torture tears at the moral fabric of the torturer and the society he/she purports to defend, I'm just saying your comparison is a bit apples and oranges.

      1. "Once you substitute a dude you know makes bombs used to blow up schools that have the audacity to educate women, you've now introduced another component to the analysis: the consequences of that individual's actions."

        It was in answer to a particular point: the charge that there has to be a spot where my morality on torture breaks down. The response suggests that (if they aren't psychopaths) they have issues, too, where they can't imagine their morality breaking down either.

        Regardless, this isn't about the relative value of the people involved--even from a legal rather than a moral perspective.

        We let child molesters go free if the evidence against them was collected in a way that violated their Fourth Amendment rights--as well we should--on principle.

        Again, I'd love to see child molesters dipped in salt and whipped to death as much as the next guy, but I'd rather live in a free and just society.

      2. Cat, you assume that those being tortured are suspected criminals. They may not be criminals, but loyal to their party and we believe they have information.

        BBEG (big bad evil guy) hires Stinky McWrinkles to deliver a letter, te contents of which he doesn't know and never learns. The letter contains a terrorist plot. InterPol (lololol) folils the plot and, in the process, BBEG is killed. However, they find Stinky's fingerprints on the package. Well, says the CIA, let's break out the thumbscrews and Iron Maiden (and maybe Nickleback's new album) and see what ELSE Stinky might know.

        Was Stinky involved? Kindasortamaybe. Could he be subjected to torture as a possible enemy combatant? Yes.

        So Ken's comparison is more valid than you are suggesting. It isn't perfect, but not irrelevant.

  16. Is there any reason why we shoul;d give a fuck about what some people, who are not protected by the Geneva Conventions, did to a bunch of other people not protected by the Geneva Conventions?

    1. Michael Ejercito|12.17.14 @ 10:33AM|#
      "Is there any reason why we shoul;d give a fuck about what some people, who are not protected by the Geneva Conventions, did to a bunch of other people not protected by the Geneva Conventions?"


    2. There are those of us who believe that torture degrades the torturer as much as the tortured.

      1. So let the torturers be degraded with them.

        1. There are those of us who resent our tax dollars used to degrade humanity.

        2. Not in my name!

      2. What specific torture is it that you speak of? If you're talking about waterboarding, deprivation, and the other things were done to the Gitmo detainees, none of that constitutes torture.

  17. This was not supposed to be something up for serious debate. Of course it's always wrong. Are we ignorant Medieval psychopaths? Torture works for people who don't care if confessions are true but who just want confessions. It doesn't actually work to get real intel. That it doesn't work as advertised by the likes of Cheney (possibly the most consistently wrong human being ever to hold high office) adds farce on top of depravity. It's one of the most war-crimey thing you can imagine. Do we go around wondering about the practical uses of genocide or civilian murder? Jesus Christ, these people were elected! And all you idiots would put them there again if it meant the libruls weren't agitating for a 2% higher marginal tax rate.

    1. Damn it Tony, get your facts straight. There are plenty of us who would just as soon see Cheney in hell as Obama.

      1. GT, don't blow Tony's self-righteous narrative; if it weren't for irrelevant comments, he'd have nothing to post.

    2. The most consistently wrong human being to ever hold office is Obama. Oh, and fuck you.

  18. Cheney's views are reflective of America's as a whole. Two separate polls show up to 60% of the country believe torture is justifiable and procures useful information.

    Thanks Mr. Bauer.

  19. Yes. War is Hell. I'd much rather be waterboarded than step on a bouncing Betty-type mine. As the military's huge Search and Rescue efforts attest. Men go into combat with noticeably less vigor if they don't believe they friend's will bring back their body and move Hell. and Earth to free them

    1. Lawman45|12.17.14 @ 11:11AM|#
      "Yes. War is Hell. I'd much rather be waterboarded than step on a bouncing Betty-type mine."

      I missed the part where POWs are forced to step on mines.

    2. Has no one at Harvard seen "Blackhawk Down"?

  20. They are terrorists. The chose to kill thousands of innocent civilians and still continue. The murdered scores of children yesterday and yet so many people still whine about the morality of enhanced interrogation. War is ugly, cruel and distasteful. We are in a battle with a group of people who are using religion as justification for murder. People argue we should and cannot become like them , but I have to ask why? If the true goal is eliminate the threat and future wars the solution is simple. 1) only get involved in conflicts which are an actual threat to US security, not US business. 2) Fight to win - engage is total war and wipe any opponent off the face of the earth. If the US responded to ISIS by sending EVERYTHING into Iraq and wiping them out to the last sympathizer and then seized and KEPT control of the oilfields and everything else the Iraqi army gave up when then ran, the world would get the message. Worked with Germany and Japan at the end of WWII. So we tortured terrorists- WHO CARES!!! they are TERRORISTS. They are lucky we didnt kill them when finished.

    1. TxJack 112|12.17.14 @ 11:28AM|#
      "We are in a battle with a group of people who are using religion as justification for murder. People argue we should and cannot become like them, but I have to ask why?"

      If you don't see that you've just answered your own question, there's not reason to continue.

  21. Of course, people who set Ticking Time Bombs always tell the truth under torture, like they do on "24", rather than lying their heads off to send the interrogators on a wild goose chase.

  22. Oh well we are in good company with waterboarding. It was used by the Spanish Inqusition, Pol Pot, and the Gestapo. It's not torture though...

    1. At least no one expected it in one of those situations.

    2. And it is not actually torture at all.

      1. Suicidy|12.17.14 @ 4:37PM|#
        "And it is not actually torture at all."

        And we're to believe you why?

        1. Then, please, provide your definition of "torture".
          But, before you do, ask if that definition wouldn't allow all prisoners, who are uncomfortable with their situation, to be released, immediately.

        2. During my time in the military, some of my more advanced training involved resisting interrogation after capture. This included water boarding.

          It was definitely unpleasant. But in no way did it rise t to the level of torture. Nor did it even count as the worst part of the training I experienced.

          Real torture is the kind of things our enemies use on our troops. Electrogential torture, beatings, shallow cuts treated with salt, bullwhipping, anal rape, etc.. To compare our coercive techniques like that is incredibly insulting and just makes me want to beat the holy shit out of your whiny, ungrateful ass for even saying so.

          But i guess thats the lot in life some of us accepted. Putting on a uniform for part of our lives to protect everyone else. And as far as the CIA is concerned, they may be civilians but they take some risks of their own.

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  24. You can cite morality or categorical imperatives all you want, but many (most?) people will continue to hold that a state has an absolute right to defend its sovereignty. Even when Henry II prostrated himself before Beckett's tomb he did so because he had fallen foul of an earthly power (the Church) not because of an abstract principle of right and wrong. Torture ? whether performed on individuals at Guantanamo or on entire populations as in the USA's endless foreign wars ? will continue until Washington lies defeated by a greater power and goes through a Nuremburg-style trial.

    The problem isn't that somebody like Cheney broke some laws. The problem is much more systemic: Washington cannot rule other than by demonizing an enemy. The two political parties, the mainstream media, and elite all depend on war. And war is always ugly. And I might add - Americans love it. Even libertarians: if some of us have started to doubt the wisdom of torturing the muslim resistance to our foreign policy, then there's always a new demon on the horizon (Putin). If you think Washington can be reformed, then you're part of the problem: you'll just support the next demagogue that comes around, giving still more power to the system to continue the same monstrous acts.

    1. Islamic extremists don't need to be demonized by others. They took care of that all on their own.

  25. Just because it's wrong to harm an innocent child of a bad guy does not mean it's wrong to harm the bad guy. Just because "certain forms" of torture are wrong does not mean all forms are. The ultimate question, for the libertarian, is whether torture violates the rights of its recipient. And this turns on a theory of rights and punishment, and ultimately the question of proportionality--so the issue is : is torture always, or necessarily, disproportionate? I think most people, consulting their common sense of justice, would probably say no.

    1. Read the posts of Ken Shultz, above, and you will find your questions have already been answered, and well.

      1. Ken's responses are unimpressive, and wrong. Think harder.

    2. This. Torture is just a tool. Ken Schultz is a tool but of a different kind.

      1. Cytotoxic|12.17.14 @ 2:21PM|#
        "This. Torture is just a tool."

        Yeah, murder is similar also, right?
        What an ass.

  26. The comments don't impress me much. First the persons were not tortured, they were interrogated. Torture serves no purpose other that to impose pain without purpose. Imagine you know something I want/need to know. You kidnapped my child and at the ransom delivery I captured you. You tell me my child will die if I do not release you because your cohorts will kill him/her or perhaps s/he is locked up and will die in a few days of starvation and thirst. I ask you politely where my child is and you laugh. Now I am going to interrogate you and you can stop the interrogation by providing me with the info I need to save my child. Change the scenario to person that knows info about an imminent attack on our country perhaps with a dirt bomb. Do you think(?) saying pretty please might work?

    1. Bingo. We gave a winner.

    2. treehood|12.17.14 @ 2:51PM|#
      "The comments don't impress me much."

      Your ridiculous attempt at analogy not only fails to impress, it's positively embarrassing.
      How many presumptions do you hope no one notices?

      1. Sevo|12.17.14 @ 6:59PM|#

        Gee, I thought my analogy was right on. In a quick view I noticed that you have no original thoughts to share, merely some inane responses to original comments. I understand why you are embarrassed for yourself. You should be. Perhaps you could direct me to some original thoughts you have posted? I'm new here, are you a regular troll?

        1. "In a quick view I noticed that you have no original thoughts to share, merely some inane responses to original comments"

          Yeah, it's a real shame when you're called on your bullshit.
          *Supposed* terrorists are in no way equivalent to a *known* kidnapper for starters, but assholes trying to justify torture prolly aren't going to understand that.
          Right, asshole?

          1. So from your response I realize I am correct and you have no original thoughts nor an ability to logically think or respond. Name calling? Are you in high school? I don't approve of torture. Hope you grow up some day and see the world as it is and not the way you feel you want it to be. With any luck on your part there will always be grownups there to protect you and your naivety.

            1. You had Sevo pegged the first time. I would not waste too much time slapping him around. He is not worth the effort.

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  28. Wait the hell a minute. I thought waterboarding was torture, torture doesn't work ever, and anyone who says different is a wicked evil Cheney-esque asshole who's going to hell and stuff end of discussion no ifs ands or buts goddammit. Damn neocons. Waterboard 'em all. Hate em hate em hate em.

    1. It isn't torture.

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  30. Is it morally wrong to torture a psychopath? They don't really have feelings, do they? How about torturing and android or replicant? How about a clones? If you torture a schizophrenic are you twice as guilty?

  31. Does it bother me that we interrogated (aggressively, or torture, whatever) people we thought were our enemies? Not in the slightest. Counter-productive to pretend the rest of the world is "civilized". And self-delusional to pretend that we are.

    Failure to use every means at our disposal is equivalent to cavalry charges with lances against armor. It may look pretty for a little while, and seems oh so sentimental and noble. But in the end, you lose. I'd rather win.

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