Now that I have your attention, let me say "Okay, it CAN work."

I'm not arguing here that torture always works or that it should be the first resort. That in some cases it is reprehensible is beyond doubt. I'm just saying that the notion that it never works simply doesn't pass the giggle test.

Let's take a hypothetical example:

The President (don't think of a particular one) hears that the CIA has gotten wind of a major attack on one of America's major cities, as yet unidentified. Their primary handle on the attack is a man they have very good reason to believe built a biological weapon around the Marburg hemorrhagic fever virus, genetically changing it to delay the onset of symptoms and making about 1/4 of those infected asymptomatic carriers. They have him in custody.

There are two worries. Of course, there's the deaths of perhaps 25% of the population, but the contagion could devastate the American economy first, and then the world's, for there would be no way to contain it. 

One additional consideration, there are also strong indications that they have only two days to figure out where the virus will be released and the identity of the person releasing it. 

Now, if I were President, I suppose I have two choices. I could try all kinds of mental jiu-jitsu to get him to give up the goods or I could tell the CIA "Do what ya gotta do. We need results fast."

Now, torture needn't involve the direct affliction of pain or proximate terror. It can appeal to more nebulous psychological fears. For example, it could involve threatening his wife and children. They might start off by showing him evidence they've already punctuated the threat by killing his 12 year old son just to show they mean business (the "death" could have been staged, of course, but he needn't know that). 

Anyway, in starkly practical terms, what form of interrogation might work better? Truth serum (that's more a reality in the movies than in real life). Hypnosis? Don't make me laugh.

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Are you attempting to derail this post into the "CIA lied to Congress" area because you know deep in your heart that torture can and has on many occasions actually produced important life-saving information?

If you want to talk about CIA lies regarding torture, why not start a thread about that?

My point isn't that it always works, but that it sometimes works and in some cases there may be no real alternative. In fact, I said so:

I'm not arguing here that torture always works or that it should be the first resort. That in some cases it is reprehensible is beyond doubt. I'm just saying that the notion that it never works simply doesn't pass the giggle test.

Be honest with yourself, there must be something an interrogator would do that would force you to give them the information they want. 

From Ugly Truth: Sometimes torture works:

...(W)here did the CIA learn the identity of (Bin Laden's) courier? And the answer, we now know, is from victims of some of the most brutal interrogations of the CIA and its allies:

• The first mention of Ahmed the Kuwaiti came from a young al Qaida member held at Guantánamo named Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Slahi, before giving up the name, was tortured so grievously — beaten, deprived of sleep, exposed to extreme heat and cold, and threatened with the arrest of his mother — that the U.S. Marine colonel assigned to prosecute his case before a military commission quit.

• Slahi didn’t offer much more about Ahmed the Kuwaiti except that he existed. (Or had — Slahi thought he was dead.) But the next Guantánamo prisoner to talk offered much more: that Ahmed was a member of bin Laden’s inner circle and sometimes functioned as his courier. That disclosure came after the prisoner, al Qaeda militant Mohammed al-Qahtani, was interrogated 20 hours a day for 48 straight days, subjected to a mock execution, forced to perform dog tricks, drugged and given enemas until he hallucinated. His treatment was so brutal that the Pentagon decided it couldn’t prosecute him, even though he was scheduled to be one of the hijackers on Sept. 11.

• Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, also confessed to knowing Ahmed the Kuwaiti at some point during the 183 waterboardings given him by U.S. interrogators. But Mohammed insisted that Ahmed was an unimportant member of al Qaeda and had left the group years before. The CIA knew he was lying — by that time, Ahmed the Kuwaiti’s senior status in al Qaeda had been widely confirmed — but found the attempted deceit even more interesting than the truth. They must be getting close to something important, the CIA trackers concluded.

• Ahmed the Kuwaiti’s real name — Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed — was finally supplied in 2004 by a bin Laden aide caught slipping into Kurdish territory with bomb-making documents. In the TV documentaryManhunt, one of the CIA’s trackers is asked what the Kurds did to make the aide, Hassan Ghul, talk. She just offers a sly smile that slowly broadens in a Cheshire-cat grin.

Once the CIA had Ahmed the Kuwaiti’s real name, it was able to zero in on his cellphone, his vehicle and the Pakistani compound where he lived with a tall, mostly-unseen man who would eventually prove to be bin Laden — a process that took another seven years. Torture may not have led U.S. forces right to bin Laden’s front door, but it surely pointed the way to the first steps.

The Miami Herald article you're quoting came out in May 2013: well before the story broke about the CIA report broke. Congress says the CIA report admits torture had little or nothing to do with getting intelligence of value against al-Qaeda. The report is not public so it depends on who you believe: Congress or the CIA.

A tough choice, I admit (Congressmen or CIA officials). However, I only have to think isn't there SOME valuable information that could be extracted from me once they strap my feet into a balogna slicer or poke out one of my eyes?

Then there's the fact that our own troops aren't expect to never break under torture.

The evidence shows that, far from it never working, it sometimes does work. That doesn't make it right, necessarily, but the notion that it never works is clearly a myth.

Maybe it doesn't work well most of the time, but what if there are no other options and time is of the essence?

This article lays out the role torture played in finding Bin Laden. Was it worth it just to find a pathetic man restricted to an obscure building in Pakistan? Perhaps not. But my contention is only that it sometimes works, not that it always works or that it's the right thing to do, but to say that it never works is nuts. Few things in real life are that absolute.

Tellingly, American military members are instructed that it's not treason to break under torture, though of course they are expected to start with drib and drabs of the least crucial data, giving their military leaders a chance to weigh the fact that their plans may have been compromised and to make adjustments.

"(don't think of a particular one)." Riiiiiight.

Torture certainly seems to work on those that don't know that torture doesn't work.

Your scenario is the stuff of Hollywood and is extremely improbable, thus it wouldn't justify torture as a norm. I don't know of one such extreme case like that in the real world.  If there were more common occurrences of your scenario then your argument might hold more water.

To reiterate, this thread isn't about whether torture is ever justified. I'm saying it has to work at least sometimes.

My argument is this: to say that it never works defies common sense and can't possibly be true. It's like saying tossing heads 10 times in a row is impossible because most times it doesn't happen.

But with torture, there may be circumstances indicating a higher degree of success. Or, it may be the only option left.

Anyway, there certainly are cases, however few, when it has yielded important information that saved lives or helped win a battle. 

What criteria is used to determine when the use of torture is justified? How many lives need to be at risk? Five or five thousand?

Torture as a tool is as despicable as war itself. We still drag our knuckles on the ground while clenching a club made of fiberglass instead of wood.

The criterion used by a President is probably going to be dictated by the urgency of the situation and the time available to try less extreme interrogation techniques. Even President Obama, who has grave reservations about 'enhanced' interrogation for ethical reasons is likely tu turn a blind eye to torture if many lives are involved.

He would have little choice,would he?

What would we think of a President who didn't do whatever it took to prevent a dirty bomb from being detonated in downtown Minneapolis? Would we really say "Well, 25,000 people died, thousands will die of cancer, and Minneapolis is no longer inhabitable, but at least Obama didn't authorize enhanced interrogation"?

Torture may be extreme, but saying it should never ever be used under ANY circumstances is also extreme.

You should read the book by Michael Ignatief "The lesser evil". He covers the efficacy of torture and the conditions in which extreme torture should be used. I wasn't at all convinced by his theory but it's a good first book to read on theories of torture..

When intellectuals say torture doesn't work I don't think they mean that extracting useful information from a victim is impossible but that the information extracted it's not reliable and that in general it is a waste of time.

OMG, another person who read a book and wants me to read it, too. I don't have the time for reading assignments in order to reply to someone's comments in a thread. Think about it.

When intellectuals say torture doesn't work I don't think they mean that extracting useful information from a victim is impossible but that the information extracted it's not reliable and that in general it is a waste of time.

What do they mean by "not reliable"? Of course, no interrogator is going to take "information" derived by torture as gospel truth. It's going to be checked out, of course. 

Their fallacious reasoning seems to be that since torture sometimes (or even often) results in misinformation or various kinds of distractions, it's never useful. Looked at that way, their conclusion is as obvious as it is useless, since surely sometimes it must result in useful info.

It seems to me that the naysayers always posit a subject who is a hardcore, willful, determined, zealot who doesn't care about ANYTHING other than keeping his secrets. He cares not for his fear of pain, for the safety of his loved ones, nor even for his own life.

I grant, that depicts some subjects but even you can see that it can't possibly depict all of them.

My position is that sometimes it works and to say that "generally, it's a waste of time" doesn't refute that position at all.


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