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.

Tags: torture

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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.

Unseen (multi as Jesus Christ): So, you are opposed even to just wars? [...] Go stew in your anti-American hate.

Gallup: 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.

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

Not at all, Unseen. I'm saying you're given to eccentric or lunatic notions. That's a crackpot.

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?

Case in point: I said you attacked Ed falsely for saying World War Two was unjust and for hating America. The operational word there is falsely. Ed said absolutely nothing of the kind. Neither did I. Your persistence on this is rather strange, hence the accurate description as to the cracked status of your pot.

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.

To all those who oppose the use of the atomic bombs to end WWII, remember that all wars are terrible. [...] 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.

I sincerely hope you're not implying that I'm among those who expressed opposition using atomic bombs to end the second world war. I said I have few doubts that using them was the right thing to do.

I only doubt the necessity of immediately using them against civilian populations to induce Japan to surrender. That conversation is taking place here.

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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