Amph Zero Dark Thirty

Discussion in 'Community' started by Adam of Nuchtern, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. Darth Guy Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 16, 2002
    star 10
    I imagine the point would be is that the Obama administration used information from-- or continued an investigation and continued to employ people that had-- waterboarded detainees in order to catch bin Laden, whether it was done under the administration or not. I think the best comparison would be to the West using data Nazi and Imperial Japanese scientists collected from experiments on prisoners as well as employing the scientists themselves. In many ways it's a tacit approval.
    Oh well, that's a shame.
    Last edited by Darth Guy, Dec 3, 2012
  2. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    I wasn't aware anyone had tried to credibly make that assertion outside of Liz Cheney.
  3. solojones Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    That's what I figured, and I'm glad. I really enjoy spy films, especially ones with more semblance of real spycraft. I will be quite happy if this is that. The politics of it all shouldn't be the focus in a film like that. I'd much rather a solid, intelligent spy film than yet another film that's just a platform for espousing viewpoints and complaints. I'm not saying those things aren't valid or that there's nothing to be said about the wars in discourse. It just often bogs films down and makes me feel like they should have been magazine articles, not films. There's a time and place for different things.
    Last edited by solojones, Dec 4, 2012
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  4. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
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  5. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    I'm totally exasperated with how the torture "debate" as it has played out in America, and my exasperation is fueled by both sides.

    1. Blanket torture apologists for using ad hoc scenarios such as the ticking bomb to justify systematic (and, as we saw during the Bush Administration, recreational, which is beyond despicable) torture.

    2. Likewise, high-minded liberals who accost anyone who thinks that torture may sometimes be ethically justifiable as some sort of idiotic, jingoist fool. And this doesn't just apply to the hackneyed "ticking bomb" example. Read the entry on "The Beating" here and then try and make an argument that torture wasn't justifiable in this case. It seems nigh impossible, to me.

    3. The self-assured boasting that Obama has "banned torture". Who the hell knows what has or hasn't gone on at US black sites under the Obama Administration, with or without his approval?
    Last edited by Condition2SQ, Dec 13, 2012
  6. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    Your number two is stupid. You can't take a successful end result from a anecdote and propose that as evidence/argumentation in favor of a point. In addition, it's essentially an "ends justifies the means." Hint: They don't.
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  7. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    Well, I'm certainly pleased I was able to bear witness to you single-handedly, with two words, solving one of the most vexing philosophical conundrums of all time. In fact, my degree of pleasure is matched only by my degree of conviction that, were you to find yourself in the exact same scenario as the mother, with the life of your own most-beloved at stake, that you would adhere dispassionately to your absolutist "torture is wrong" position.
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  8. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Besides that, the example is prey to all the classic problems of torture. What was stopping the culprit from simply lying about the location of the child, and sending the police on a wild goose chase? They wouldn't have had time to make multiple rounds of it, so they actually could have guaranteed the kid's death. Likewise, many torture suspects are broken over a series of sessions. A child would begin to see real harm in only a few hours. What's to have kept him from just holding out until it was too late? The inadmissible material from the torture also softened the man's punishment. Does it serve society to let him out sooner or (in an example more typical of the actual debate we're having) better yet be made unprosecutable altogether? If, in this state, he repeats his crime, would his subsequent victims also be so wholly saved? It was pretty fortunate and serendipitous that the disastrous behavior of the police in this case ended up working out. That doesn't make it a justification for torture.

    EDIT: What? How is that a response to Vivec? "If you were in a situation were you lost any objective perspective, you probably wouldn't be such a rational decision maker!" Yeah, no, he probably wouldn't. But what does that demonstrate about the quality of his reasoning in instances when we are actually trying to use it?
    Last edited by Jabba-wocky, Dec 13, 2012
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  9. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    Not only a tu quoque fallacy, but a hypothetical tu quoque at that! You have absolutely no idea what I would do in this scenario, so to hinge your point on that is ridiculous beyond words.

    But hey, I'll play. Let's say I do change my mind. Let's say I do the torturing myself. Guess what? I'd be wrong to torture. Just because I changed my mind then doesn't make my new position correct and my old position incorrect. That's not how it works.
    Last edited by Lord Vivec, Dec 13, 2012
  10. GenAntilles Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 24, 2007
    star 4
    Does torture work? In some cases yes. Does it always work? No. Do humane interrogation methods work? In some cases yes. Do they always work? No.

    If torture doesn't work people wouldn't still be using it when other better methods are available, to say that torture isn't reliable to gain intelligence is complete foolishness. Does that mean we should use it? I would argue no, were the good guys. And being the good guys means we don't take the easy road, it means we suffer and lose more. But we get to feel better about ourselves when we go to sleep.
  11. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    You raise very good and provocative points. The point I'm trying to make is that it's a complex issue. Is there really an argument to be made that, in this sort of scenario, torture is absolutely wrong? There clearly isn't. And for that matter, there clearly isn't an argument that torture is absolutely right in this case. It's something that perfectly good and upstanding people, vigorously using reason, can genuinely disagree about.For example, though you raise very real concerns, it's pretty easy to conceive a rejoinder for all of them: For example, your worries about the suspect lying are pretty silly. This is a petty criminal, not some jihadist convinced that he has some Divine Reward awaiting him if only he withstands the torture. He knows the police have video evidence of him stealing the car. What are the chances that, under the most excruciating of circumstances, he'll make a calculated decision to let the child die, adding a manslaughter charge to his eventual conviction? Close to zero, I would imagine.

    The sheer reprehensibility of torture compounded with your numerous, well-founded concerns clearly make it something that is to be approached with most extreme caution. But not being categorically "against torture" does not make one some manifestly ignorant monster. For something less emotionally charged and viscerally unnerving, let's take trespassing. Am I "against trespassing"? For the most part, yes; but if someone sees, say, a mutilated body gasping for help on private property, trespassing is suddenly completely benign. And I'm not really making an especially novel argument here; duress, commensurate with the crime, of course, is a legitimate legal defense for all sorts of things. For what reason, in principle, does it not extend to torture?

    (Also, as for the film itself, if it directly implies that torture was an integral part of the successful tracking down of Bin Laden, which is not sufficiently documented anywhere, then I am strongly against such depiction)

    EDIT: Vivec, no offense, but I notice in a lot of these threads that you are always brandishing all sorts of formal terms of rhetorical fallacy, without really demonstrating how they apply. How does "tu quoque" in this case make your moral absolutist position regarding torture any more salient than "slippery slope" arguments lend credence to conservative opposition to gay marriage?

    EDIT 2:
    Because there's nothing inherently "rational" about being "against torture". It's contingent upon how much one values refraining from torture vs. preventing an irrevocable tragedy.
    Last edited by Condition2SQ, Dec 13, 2012
  12. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    No, I'm saying your argument is a tu quoque fallacy, just like "gay marriage leads to beastiality, etc" is a slippery slope fallacy. You brought up that I would support torture in a case of my loved one missing. That is a textbook case of a tu quoque fallacy. "X is correct because you would do X if Y."

    Your last sentence makes no sense.

    "How does "tu quoque" in this case make your moral absolutist position regarding torture any more salient than "slippery slope" arguments lend credence to conservative opposition to gay marriage?"

    Slippery slope arguments are used to support banning gay marriage. How am I using a tu quoque argument to support banning torture? I am claiming you are using one as i outlined above.

    Regardless of whatever we decide to call it, my hypothetical actions are irrelevent to the conversation.
    Last edited by Lord Vivec, Dec 13, 2012
  13. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Hey man. There's killed, and then there's the righteous vengeance of Will Smith...
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  14. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    I didn't say torture was correct because you would do it; I was saying that your dispassionate, academic arguments would likely fall by the wayside were you to find yourself in such a position, and were they to, nobody would have any rational basis to say you were right or wrong to do so.
  15. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Experts agree torture is a highly unreliable method of obtaining HUMINT. It's politicians and chest thumping idiots who don't agree.
  16. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    That's an empirical argument against systematic torture and not at all relevant to the question to the ethics of ad hoc torture.
  17. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

    Member Since:
    Nov 2, 2000
    star 8
    That's like saying that there is no objective way to say that anyone in history has ever made a bad decision. Do you feel the same way about murder? Say that I find myself in a position where I feel, perhaps irrationally, that someone needs to die. So I kill them. You're saying that nobody has any rational basis to say whether I was right or wrong? I mean, haven't you just destroyed the entire criminal justice system?
  18. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Well, if the entire point of torture is to coerce vital information from a suspect; and that suspect is more likely to say what they think their captor wants to hear (a view put forward by experts), then the ethical consideration changes considerably. You're no longer torturing people for security, you're torturing them for revenge. I fail to see at what point you feel there's a viable ethical debate here?
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  19. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    This entire example hinges on your "perhaps irrationally" qualifier. Just how irrational is your conviction, exactly? It depends on a variety of things. The criminal justice system itself freely and uncontroversially acknowledges this by distinguishing between pre-meditated murders and those that are not. Now, is the bare fact that a human being has been killed any less abhorrent? No. But for reasons that don't apply to ad hoc torture; the person is permanently dead, and his death served no positive end whatsoever.

    The criminal justice system is no point in favor of your argument in another respect. For example, are you "for" locking people up in cages for months or years at a time and curtailing their freedoms? I'm not. But we, as a society, recognize that attendant circumstances sometimes make this an appropriate measure for a mixture of punitive and preventative reasons.

    You're being extraordinarily obtuse regarding the dynamics in the scenario. They know the man stole the car. They know that if they don't find the car fast enough, the child will die or suffer brain damage. Furthermore, this is a petty criminal, not some war-hardened captive who has undoubtedly been trained to resist this sort of thing. Again, all of your expert studies aside, what are the chances that this person, in this scenario is not going to acquiesce under torture? Close to zero, I would say. And even if you want to raise it to 51%, so that it's "more likely" he will lie, how can you characterize torturing him in a desperate attempt to safe an infant as "for revenge"? That's beyond absurd.

    I want to be clear on this, since people seem so unnerved by what I'm saying; I'm not "for torture" any more than I am "for murder" or "for petty theft". I just think there are scenarios that are not at all merely fanciful in which it can be ethically justified.
  20. AAAAAH Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2012
    star 4
  21. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

    Member Since:
    Nov 2, 2000
    star 8
    How do you know his death served no positive end whatsoever? I happen to think that it did. And you have no rational basis to say whether I was right or wrong to think so. Correct?

    Two very important details: people know a great many things in the moment that turn to be wrong. Even if they know the man stole the car, it is quite possible that it would actually turn out that he hadn't. Secondly, let's just point out that, after they torture the guy, whether they find the car in time to save the kid or not, the criminal is going to walk and will probably continue to commit crimes. He may even walk with a hefty settlement from the people who tortured him which will in turn effect their ability to carry out their duties and may even send some of them to prison in the place of the criminal. It is quite possible that they will torture this guy, still not get there in time to save the kid, and then have to release the guy to kill again, while the person(s) who did the torturing goes to prison. Plus, given that the criminal is portrayed as incredibly defiant, I think it's in fact quite likely that he wouldn't acquiesce under torture. I see no reason why he wouldn't, as was stated above, give the police the wrong location; it stops the torture and doesn't implicate him in the crime at all. He can later claim that he gave a false location because he was innocent and didn't know the real location. It's a win-win for him to give misinformation.

    Also, I love how you just say, "all your expert studies aside." You're basically saying, "But, no, see, you have to approach my theory without any of the facts that would go against it; then you'll see that I'm right." Well . . . YEAH.
  22. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    I'm sorry, my wording here was indeed a bit clumsy. What I meant to say was that the killing was not explicitly committed to prevent a worse event from occurring, or if the killer claimed that it was, it's not demonstrable beyond a reasonable doubt that it actually was.

    They have him on video stealing the car. Please spare me the esoteric, semantic dissection of the word "know" and such other epistemological curiosities. I find it funny you find it absurd that I was dismissive of "expert studies" in this scenario, because it's actually absurd that they were raised as a sort of rejoinder in the first place. Have you both completely failed to notice that the torture worked?

    "Well, it might not have...A, B, and C could have gone wrong..."
    "But they didn't"
    "Well, experts say torture usually doesn't work"
    "But it did"
    "Well, it usually doesn't. So there."

    Again, I wish to emphasize again that I don't think such one-off scenarios at all justify a codified, systematic use of torture, and studies such as those cited by Wocky and Sai are certainly extremely relevant to that. But those are arguments about the efficacy of torture. They do not demonstrate that, in the most mitigating of circumstances, that it is inherently unethical.
    Last edited by Condition2SQ, Dec 14, 2012
  23. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Well, I guess a number of things confuse me about your position. In the first place, on what basis are you making a distinction between systemic torture and isolated incidents? The problems that were raised in the systematic reviews are also applicable here, so there's no reason to treat it as a separate case. In the second, why does a demonstration that something "worked" one time recommend it's usage. There's really nothing about this particular case that suggested it would overcome the problems inherent in the practice and as previously mentioned the baseline is that it doesn't really work well. So why would you try this? Even terrible ideas "work" on occasion, but that doesn't mean one should attempt to repeat them. In the third, as Vivec already noted, you are basically arguing that something becomes ethical if it does something you like. What sort of proposal is that?
  24. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    Simple. With systematic torture, the baseline is highly relevant because the overall efficacy rate guarantees that innocent people will be tortured uselessly. Because this is one highly specific case where we know the suspect stole the car, worries about false positives evaporate. Now, there is sure to be disagreement about the percent chance we would ascribe to the suspect acquiescing under torture, but again, that's a pragmatic argument, not a principled one. Is there any way to argue that the use of torture in this case was a manifestly appalling and indefensible act? Anyone who would say so is demonstrating a nauseating insensitivity, in my view, to the imminent death of the infant child.

    And I haven't raised the ticking bomb case because it's so hackneyed, but again, I've yet to hear a principled argument against using torture in such a scenario as an act of total and complete desperation. The biggest problem with this scenario, to me, was that it was constantly deployed by Bush torture apologists, as if such a hypothetical and extreme case had any relevance to the ethics of disgustingly torturing ordinary POWs for recreational purposes or to obtain intelligence of a far less impending significance.

    So I alone have determined that saving roasting infant children is something we should diligently seek to prevent, if we are able?

    And what I actually meant when I responded to Vivec--very clumsily, admittedly--was that the ethical status of an act is highly tied to intentions. Is it manifestly unethical for someone to want to snatch a random stranger and torture him in his basement?
    Yes. Would it be manifestly unethical for that same person, if he found himself as the father of the infant in the situation posited, to want to torture the suspect? Clearly not. You can make all sorts of arguments about whether such torture is likely to be effective, but can we say such a person's mere visceral consideration or desire to torture the suspect in this scenario makes them some sort of moral monster who ought to be ashamed of themselves? If it were my child, I certainly would. Once I've allowed that for myself, there's no way I cannot allow such consideration for everyone else. So, I did perhaps err in assuming that Vivec would find himself considerably more vexed about the ethics of torture were he to find himself in this scenario. Perhaps he wouldn't be. We'll have to let him clarify it for us. (Vivec, I'm not saying that in a standoffish way. As I said, the misunderstanding here was mostly due to my poorly worded response)
    Last edited by Condition2SQ, Dec 14, 2012
  25. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    I don't think that anyone said that having a desire to torture someone else while under such extreme emotional duress makes them a monster. We have said that, as with the desire to murder under similar circumstances, it is wrong. We ought not yield to every human desire.