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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I don't see it as an argument. It CAN work; I would just want some caveats included with that.  I've been discussing the peripheral argument because of two reasons.

1- Once a case is made that something CAN be done, it often is used to justify doing it whether it should be done or not.  We see a similar pattern with theists and the "you can't prove gods don't exist" bit.  Once ground is given that there may be a .0000000000000000000001% chance that a god of some type exists, it is instantly twisted into that halleluiah their god does exist.

2- I can't stand the ticking bomb argument.  It is an example pulled straight from fiction (specifically the '24' show).  These scenario so unlikely as to be barely worthy of consideration, yet they are used as a framework for justification.  So, once again, we get the above stated twist once ground is given.

If I was discussing with a theist the statement "God MIGHT Exist" I would concede that there may indeed be some type of being out there that we could consider a god, but I would insist on caveats to qualify that agreement to prevent misinterpretation down the road.  Being ex-military, and having been involved with anti-terrorism operations, I have no problem agreeing that "Torture CAN work", but its a topic that I find requires a need for the additional qualifiers.

Bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a means to an end. Effective? Yes. Inhumane? Obviously. Necessary? Probably not, in retrospect.

Leaving the U.S. with the infamous distinction of being the only country to unleash thermonuclear war on another. And  I know the retort- "We saved so many additional lives by killing so many at one time." The lunacy of war and it's trappings (aka torture, false imprisonment) continues on as mankind remains unable to solve our differences without bloodshed. 

That said, would it have scared the living crap out of the Japanese to drop nukes into the ocean a mile off Tokyo?

Perhaps, but remember the mindset of the Japanese that resulted in "fight to the last man" situations and kamikaze attacks. In that sense, you can't equate the Japanese enemy with American soldiers and sailors.

Careful, you're flirting with The Fallacy from Ignorance. There's no way to conclude an assertion that a different decision would have equal or better results. Personally, I doubt it, but of course that's just my opinion as you might have yours. To go beyond our conflicting opinions to making a positive assertion is unjustified by logic.

Truman may have couched his decision in Christian terms to help alleviate the grave doubts he had, but I'm pretty sure he would have made the same decision were he a secret atheist. As I said before, his duty was to serve the best interests of Americans as he perceived them, not the interests of the Japanese and not the world.

And, by the way, we should all be happy that the United States developed the atomic bomb before the Germans or Japanese. 

Personally, I doubt you could describe a reasonable scenario where Japan ignores an atomic blast (or two) in Tokyo Bay and continues the war anyway...

The resulting pseudo-tsunami might have killed about as many people, as long as we're speculating, and the fireball would certainly have burned or at least blinded a great number of people. A bomb exploded in the ocean still does create a significant shockwave.

As for the idea of detonating a bomb every few days until they surrendered, I think they were hampered by the fact that they had but two bombs, though the Japanese military didn't know how many we had, so it might have been good for a bluff. In fact, I think that's what it was. I think Nagasaki functioned to tell them that we might have an arsenal of these weapons whereas we shot our wad on just the two and putting more together would have taken a little time.

Torture: an unreliable source of information.

Sure, sometimes.

Just out of curiosity.  Since there is a chance that torture can work, do you advocate for its use?

So, you are opposed even to just wars? [...] Go stew in your anti-American hate.

It's pretty funny when crackpots inject comments like these into a discussion about history or politics. Because falsely attacking someone for opposing justice and lack of patriotism-- using yourself as a model patriot of course-- makes you so much more credible. Another casualty of critical thinking, weened on Fox "News", rears its ugly head.

You are name-calling me a crackpot, right? Not much reading between the lines required.

WWII was unjust? We should have stayed out of it? We should have fought it differently, even at the expense of losing significantly more American lives?

I'm not accusing you of those views, just asking for a clear position. My position is clear: I disagree with all of those statements.

BTW, a great but little-known movie about how torture can escalate horrifically in a ticking time bomb situation is Unthinkable starring Samuel L. Jackson as a seasoned black ops interrogator who operates basically under a "license to kill" and Carrie-Anne Moss, an FBI agent with scruples, at least at the start.

Of course, the movie depicts a subject who is both determined to defeat the government at no matter what cost and tricky to a high degree. In real life, interrogators never know which subject is like that and which will give in at some point, so they are forced to assume the latter because it offers the possibility of success whereas the other assumption does not.

To all those who oppose the use of the atomic bombs to end WWII, remember that all wars are terrible. The duty, assuming one is the brought into the war against one's will, is to win it as quickly as possible, with the least loss of life among one's own troops, and in a way that is definitive and final.

I sometimes marvel that so much of the hostility to the use of the atomic weapons that drew WWII to a close comes from Americans and Europeans, not from the Japanese. If the Japanese should hold anyone accountable for the way the war ended, it is their own militarists. Even the emperor was in their thrall.

Japan has even become an ally.

I get the distinct impression that you have watched far too many episodes of 24. Great show but not realistic at all.

That being said, the effectiveness of torture has been thoroughly researched and it wasn't found to be very effective.

What torture is effective at is "breaking" innocent people who have been wrongly accused and also radicalizing those who are subject to it.

A person who has orchestrated an attack of your description is more than likely extremely radical and will see his/her cause as a greater good worthy of the martyrdom of his/her family. Also the only thing needed to get the torture to end is false information which would then keep the investigators running in circles while the countdown to the attack winds down.

I guess I'll just repeat my reply above:

BTW, a great but little-known movie about how torture can escalate horrifically in a ticking time bomb situation is Unthinkable starring Samuel L. Jackson as a seasoned black ops interrogator who operates basically under a "license to kill" and Carrie-Anne Moss, an FBI agent with scruples, at least at the start.

Of course, the movie depicts a subject who is both determined to defeat the government at no matter what cost and tricky to a high degree. In real life, interrogators never know which subject is like that and which will give in at some point, so they are forced to assume the latter because it offers the possibility of success whereas the other assumption does not.

I find myself agreeing with you, Unseen.  

I grew up as the James Bond novels and movies were hitting the streets...love Daniel Craig, he's the best thing to happen to the franchise in many a moon.

The problem isn't so much that the CIA tortures...torture is a part of any war, just like rape...but that we know about it.  We should at least have the opportunity to tell ourselves a comforting lie on the subject.

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