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Thread: Can Torture Ever Be Justified?

  1. #1

    Default Can Torture Ever Be Justified?

    Can the use of torture ever be justified? Dick Cheney thinks so, according to his response to the US Senate Report. In the fight against international terrorism does the use of torture remove us from the moral high ground and reduce us to the same level as the terrorists or does the end justify the means? A moral maze or simply knowing the difference between what is right and what is wrong?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/wo...pgtype=article
    Last edited by Wobert Wedford; December 14th, 2014 at 08:45 AM.

  2. #2
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    ...a technique that the C.I.A.'s chief of interrogations described as a way to exert “total control over the detainee.
    Torture is the same as hard-core pornography - depraved.

    In what way does degradation, humiliation and the total removal of dignity procure the information PRESUMABLY being sought?

    C.I.A. medical staff members described the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, as a “series of near drownings".
    Medical? Seriously?

    Aside: Whenever Guantanamo Bay is in the news, stock footage is used of prisoners shackled and otherwise incapacitated. It doesn't get any less disgusting each time it's shown.

    The mainstream prison system has comprehensively proved that deprivation of dignity does not result in a positve outcome.

    Maybe it comes down to what the desired outcome, in the eyes of the authorities, actually is.

    Whatever the answers are to any questions posed, hypocrisy rules the day.

    PS: Dick Cheney is a dickhead. And as for Bush, humane and legal? What would he know.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Merry View Post
    Torture is the same as hard-core pornography.
    I don't think so.

  4. #4

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    Hasn't there been torture throughout all conflicts, WW2, Korean war, Vietnam, the 'Troubles' in the north of Ireland, etc etc, doesn't it go hand-in-hand with the depravity of war when all men are reduced to cogs in a huge killing machine for the sake of the 'common good'? Can war ever be 'sanitised', isn't it by it's very nature a dirty sordid business that compromises our humanity?

  5. #5
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EastMillinocket View Post
    I don't think so.
    You missed the point by omitting the most significant word in the sentence.

  6. #6
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    The NYT article was specifically about the fight against terrorism, not an particular war or conflict. Human beings have been fighting and doing horrible things to one another forever. That doesn't mean it's OK to continue doing so.


    In wake of Senate report, Dick Cheney says terrorists 'not covered by the Geneva Convention'

    By Louis Jacobson

    Former Vice President Dick Cheney has had a relatively quiet couple of years since leaving the White House. But with the recent release of a Senate report on alleged torture by the CIA, it was inevitable that Cheney -- who is closely associated with the post-9/11 policy of "enhanced interrogations" for captured terrorists -- would return to television screens.

    On Dec. 9, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report about the CIA’s interrogation techniques in the wake of 9/11. About 500 pages of the 6,700-page report were made public. The report concluded that the techniques were not an effective way to gain intelligence from detainees, and that the CIA misled Congress and the White House. The report detailed such techniques as "rectal rehydration" and the use of coffin-size confinement boxes.

    A few days before a scheduled appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Cheney sat for an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. Here’s a portion of their exchange on Dec. 10, focusing on the fate of the detainees discussed in the Senate report.

    Baier: "Is there anything to the Geneva Convention, to the world rule of law on this?"

    Cheney: "Sure there is. But remember, the terrorists were not covered by the Geneva Convention. They were unlawful combatants. And under those circumstances, they were not entitled to the normal kinds of courtesies and treatment you would accord to those."

    There’s significant disagreement between Cheney and his critics on the issue of torture or "enhanced interrogation techniques." Still, experts told us that the question of what protections, if any, the detainees qualified for under the Geneva Convention -- is somewhat more clear-cut than other aspects of this policy debate. So we’ll take a closer look at Cheney’s claim that terrorist detainees "were not covered by the Geneva Convention. They were unlawful combatants. And under those circumstances, they were not entitled to the normal kinds of courtesies and treatment."

    The Geneva Conventions
    First, some background on the Geneva Conventions. They are a group of four international treaties covering different aspects of how civilians, prisoners of war and soldiers are to be treated once they are rendered incapable of fighting. (Read more about them here.) The most recent version of the treaties in force date from 1949; the United States has ratified all four though it has not ratified some of the protocols added later.

    The conventions guarantee a certain level of protection for former combatants, including prisoners of war and civilians. They set out in detail the requirements for food, clothing, shelter, safety from combat, access to medical care, and other matters.

    However, whether fighters could qualify for these protections depended on whether they adhered to some basic rules of lawsuch as wearing uniforms, carrying arms openly, answering to a chain of command, and not committing war crimes. Many of those who would one day end up in Guantanamo Bay and other sites were from non-state terrorist groups and did not adhere to these rules. So these fighters were not guaranteed the same protections afforded POWs.

    Cheney’s strongest point in his interview with Baier was to draw this distinction between prisoners of war, who receive these extensive protections, and "unlawful combatants," who do not.

    There is, in fact, a distinction in the level of protection.

    What undercuts the accuracy of Cheney’s claim, however, is a different part of what he said. It’s misleading for him to say that such combatants are "not covered by the Geneva Convention."

    While detainees who do not have POW status don’t get the top level of protection, they do get more basic protections from the Geneva Conventions.

    And glossing over those less-stringent protections hides an important point: Even the lower level of protection would have shielded detainees, at least on paper, against some of the harsh treatments now alleged in the Senate report.

    Experts pointed us to identical passages in each of the four conventions, known as "Common Article 3."

    Among other things"prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever" by Common Article 3 are "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" as well as "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."

    In other words, despite the implications from what Cheney said, even unlawful combatants "have minimum protections under the Geneva Conventions," Richard D. Rosen, director of the Center for Military Law & Policy at Texas Tech University Law School.

    The Hamdan decision

    In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was considerable debate inside and outside the Bush administration about how captured members of al-Qaida and the Taliban should be treated.
    The Bush administration contended that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to terrorism suspects held abroad, siding with White House and Pentagon lawyers over objections from the State Department. Administration lawyers also approved the "enhanced interrogation techniques" and said they were legally permissible.

    The debate about the Geneva Convention piece of the equation ended in June 2006, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld, a watershed case on detainee rights. The 5-3 majority wrote that Common Article 3 "affords some minimal protection, falling short of full protection under the Conventions, to individuals associated with neither a signatory nor even a nonsignatory who are involved in a conflict 'in the territory of' a signatory."

    In other words, by this decision, "our own Supreme Court has made it completely clear that, whatever their status, (detainees) are entitled to some minimal protections under the Geneva Convention," said Steven R. Ratner, a University of Michigan law professor. "That ruling is binding law in the United States, no matter what the former vice president says."

    University of Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell, a specialist on international law, agreed. "The Supreme Court's ruling in Hamdan conflicts directly with the vice president’s assertion," she said.

    We will also note that while Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is one source of basic protection for detainees, their rights to these protections may be bolstered by other international agreements as well.

    One is Article 75 of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, which includes minimal protections for all people, whatever their status, who are caught in a conflict. While the U.S. has not ratified this protocol, the U.S. government has said that, "out of a sense of legal obligation" it will adhere to Article 75 for "any individual it detains in an international armed conflict, and expects all other nations to adhere to these principles as well."

    And despite resistance during the Bush administration, two other international agreements to which the United States is a party -- the 1984 Torture Convention and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -- would also prohibit torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, experts said.

    Our ruling

    Cheney said that terrorist detainees "were not covered by the Geneva Convention. They were unlawful combatants. And under those circumstances, they were not entitled to the normal kinds of courtesies and treatment."

    Cheney has a point that unlawful combatants are not afforded as high a level of protection as prisoners of war or civilians. However, his comment glosses over the fact that unlawful combatants are still accorded a minimum degree of protection, including a ban on "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment," both of which have been validated by the Supreme Court.

    This is an important omission, since some of these very actions have been alleged in the Senate report. Because the statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, we rate it Mostly False.


    http://www.politifact.com/punditfact...errorists-not/

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Merry View Post
    You missed the point by omitting the most significant word in the sentence.
    I don't think EM missed it.

  8. #8

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    Just my own personal view - I don't see consensual commercial videotaped sexual activity as equivalent to waterboarding.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Merry View Post
    Torture is the same as hard-core pornography - depraved.
    Torture is a forced act, pornography is not. Torture is illegal, consensual sex is not.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wobert Wedford View Post
    Can the use of torture ever be justified? Dick Cheney thinks so, according to his response to the US Senate Report. In the fight against international terrorism does the use of torture remove us from the moral high ground and reduce us to the same level as the terrorists or does the end justify the means? A moral maze or simply knowing the difference between what is right and what is wrong?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/wo...pgtype=article
    Legally Dick Cheney is wrong. Ronald Reagan himself signed into legally binding agreements that we would not practice torture under any circumstances.

  11. #11

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    We are in the midst of a 21st century World War. A war against enemies who have no regard for any life, as such, rules need to be changed. Maybe some "torture" might have saved over 130 children in Pakistan yesterday.

    What is hard to quantify are the events that have been prevented by aggressive interrogation techniques. We don't know what we don't know.

  12. #12
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    I don't think EM missed it.
    Quote Originally Posted by EastMillinocket View Post
    Just my own personal view - I don't see consensual commercial videotaped sexual activity as equivalent to waterboarding.
    Quote Originally Posted by Teno View Post
    Torture is a forced act, pornography is not. Torture is illegal, consensual sex is not.
    Your interpretation of pornography is obviously different to mine. I certainly was NOT talking about "consensual commercial...".

    If it's consensual, it shouldn't be referred to as pornography, in my own personal view, despite any official definitions. Referring to recorded consensual sex acts, nude photos in Playboy magazine, etc. as pornographic conveys a negative, stigmatised view of sex IMO, which in turn perpetuates the view that sex is dirty, nasty, naughty and sinful (etc., etc.), which it isn't.

    I was referring to any NON-consensual, forced sexual behaviour, like that depicted in snuff films or when paedophiles record what they're doing to children or when serial killers torture their victims for their own sexual gratification, for example, i.e. depraved...and illegal.

    I was also referring to how torturers may be thinking about what they're doing and whether those thoughts stray from the official line...or go way over the line. I find it very hard to believe that the forms of degradation and humiliation we have all seen and heard about in news reports is purely professional with one clear goal in mind. If people in positions of authority do that to others, what kind of message does that send to the general public about what is acceptable? It also brings to mind the past practice of executing prisoners by electrocution and where this required witnesses. It just seems so scarily obscene...as does torturing people to (allegedly) obtain information and/or confessions.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by IrishInNYC View Post
    What is hard to quantify are the events that have been prevented by aggressive interrogation techniques. We don't know what we don't know.
    Putting aside for the moment the debate over whether torture is effective or counter-productive, there are equivalency arguments going around, such as:

    More people are killed by drones than abused by torture. Why is no one complaining about that?

    Well, some people are complaining, but it seems no one in government wants to debate it. The fact is, drone attacks are legal, while torture is illegal.

    A sharper example is that states are legally authorized to commit homicides; they can execute convicts, but they cannot torture them. No matter how heinous their crime, or how much they may deserve it, torture is outlawed.

    With all the things that go on, you can argue, "What's the difference?"

    The difference is huge. While we break and twist laws all the time and try to justify actions, ignoring a law as not-relevant steps over the line. It changes how we regard ourselves as a society. Even Cheney won't take that position, arguing instead that what has been done isn't illegal.

    If we think torture is OK, then we should debate it, codify it, and stand behind it.

  14. #14

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    Honourable motives do not turn a fundamentally wrong action into a 'right' wrong. Article 2.3 of the UN Convention against Torture specifically states that 'No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.'
    'Torture' also does not admit of degrees, and cannot be redefined to suit the purposes of those wishing to justify it; recall the cynical attempts of US government lawyers in the Bush era to reclassify so-called lesser degrees of mistreatment as 'torture lite' and to redefine this as 'enhanced interrogation' simply to suit their highly selective use of special pleading argument in order to justify what was, in effect, state-sanctioned torture.
    The prohibtion against torture is an absolute, not a qualified one; the right not to be tortured does not admit of any exceptions. If civilised communities attempt to derogate from this basic right, no matter what the purported justification, then they become 'morally no different' from those who torture.

  15. #15

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    Cheney is one of the most detestable rodents ever to crawl on this earth but - obviously - he has to argue that what was done wasn't illegal because, in the eyes of international law, torture is illegal. So he/they have to remold what was done.

    He shouldn't have to do that. Trying to stop a repeat of 9/11 or finding those involved in the first one? I think any and all means necessary to carry out that task are justified.

    Too many climb up on their high horse to proclaim their pacifism and morality in a debate like this - geographical separation from downtown Manhattan or the Middle East often being a factor.

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