Is torture ever ok?

The programme is now off air 

Morning / afternoon / evening, it’s Peter Dobbie here with the latest on World Have Your Say, on air at 1800 GMT. Today, one topic, and one only.


The debate about “waterboarding” is back on the front pages once again after a former CIA interrogator said the tactic was effective in shaking potentially life-saving information from a leading terrorist.

It is not pleasant.

Wikipedia says this: Waterboarding is a torture technique that simulates drowning in a controlled environment. It consists of immobilizing an individual on his or her back, with the head inclined downward, and pouring water over the face to force the inhalation of water into the lungs. Waterboarding has been used to obtain information, coerce confessions, punish, and intimidate. In contrast to merely submerging the head, waterboarding elicits the gag reflex, and can make the subject believe death is imminent.


The Chicago Tribune is reporting how a retired CIA agent, John Kiriakou, has been describing how waterboarding had prompted Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah to provide critical information after he had held out for weeks. These revelations come on the heels of the disclosure that the CIA destroyed videotapes of such interrogations.

What do you think ? Can it ever be right to put someone through this ? Not just waterboarding, but any form of torture ? Is there a moral dimension to this question — what if any technique, however uncomfortable it makes us feel, saves innocent lives. Should we employ that practise (whatever the practise) at the price of one person, who may, or may not afteral, be a “terrorist” ?

Let us know what you think:


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59 Responses to “Is torture ever ok?”

  1. December 12, 2007 at 13:48

    “Torture” is never ok. You can not aspire to rid your self of a monster by becoming the monster. In the end as a net, there is still one monster. There has never been any documented evidence released showing use of techniques deemed to be torturous have resulted in credible information.

    I would suspect the reason why the CIA tapes got destroyed is not because of what they did show, but because of what they didn’t show. If they showed that water boarding technique actually working and causing the subject to give up useful credible information, they would have been spotlighted during a press conference. “See look how well this worked.”

    Dwight in Cleveland

  2. 2 Mark
    December 12, 2007 at 14:00

    I don’t think the founding fathers of the United States contemplated the possibilities of the kind and magnitude of danger we face today. Even twenty or thirty years ago, nobody gave it serious thought. A vast international group of religious fanatics who are well financed, well organized, utterly ruthless, totally lacking in value for any human life including their own, have no allegiance to any country, are determined to destroy our civilization with any and all means they can acquire and will work relentlessly to achieve their messianic mission to create a worldwide government in which all humanity is subservient to an unyielding religious doctrine against which any opponent is brutally murdered. They demonstrate their determination and potency almost every day somewhere in the world with one or more heinous atrocities. There is no place on earth safe from them. What other effective strategy is there except to use the most extreme measures available to us to root them out and eliminate them as effectively as we can? Not only does strict universal adherence to some of the doctrines we have adopted prevent us from using cruel methods to extract their immediate plans for upcoming attacks, some say we cannot even detain them without a criminal trial in which the means and methods to detect and capture them would be revealed openly rendering those tools ineffective for capturing their co-conspirators in the future. Furthermore, notions of so called international laws which were intended to protect the collective security of all nations actually thwart that security now by granting these terrorists sanctuary behind national borders where the governments are indifferent or incapable of apprehending them and preventing them from preparing for their crimes or recruiting and training additional terrorists.

    We are therefore forced to choose between those doctrines which are no longer adequate to protect us or our own survival or setting them aside. Besides all of those American Constitutional guarantees in the body of the Constitution which restrain us are the first words of the Preamble to that Constitution which says first and foremost that the purpose of government is “to provide for the common defense.” If the remainder of the Constitution is in direct conflict with that purpose then the Constitution and government cannot fulfill its primary function. Above all, the framers of the Constitution were practical men who recognized the dangers their new nation faced and realized that were it to disappear, the Constitution would just be a dead scrap of paper, an artifact of history, a remnant of a country which could not survive.

    Faced with this stark choice, American governments have recognized that the Constitution was never intended as a suicide pact, never meant to allow itself to be undone because it did not anticipate threats that its provisions prevented being neutralized. The distorted lens of time draws 21st century Americans to look back with disgust at the internment of Japanese including Japanese Americans during the second world war but it was the right thing to do. So was suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War. And so is GITMO, waterboarding, monitoring telephone calls and other communications coming from outside the United States and pre-emptive strikes on some nations today with whatever means are available to our nation. Tying the hands of the American government with laws, pacts, treaties which prevent it from carrying out its primary responsibility is not acceptable and they should be ignored and then discarded, temporarily until the threat is gone or permanently if that is what is appropriate. Does that make the United States a rogue nation? Maybe but who cares, it owes the world nothing and should act in its own self interest just like every other nation. BTW, it is not America’s obligation to get into the heads of foreign terrorists and understand why they do what they do to try to satisfy their objectives in some alternative peaceful way, it is only necessary to find and destroy them before they destroy America. If I have one objection with the way the present government has pursued that objective, it is not that it has been too aggressive but that it has not been nearly aggressive enough. And if it cannot enlist the cooperation of other nations then it should go it alone if necessary. It has no legitimate excuse for any other course of action.

  3. 3 safia
    December 12, 2007 at 14:09

    All those who subscribe to the justification of any kind of torture (for “torture” read: cruel, inhumane, barbaric practice[s]) ought to agree to those particular types of torture being applied to their person – for the lengths of time that they would ordinarily be carried out.

    Perhaps it should also be a condition that all those who are tasked with the application of any torture, should first undergo it themselves – to satisfy themselves that it is, in fact, justifiable !!!

    By subscribing to the application of torture, we merely condone violence against others – becoming no better than those who are perpetrators of violence and aggression that we say we despise !!!

  4. December 12, 2007 at 14:42

    In my URL http://stopnukes.rediffblogs.com/ I have brought out the most insidious form of violating the body by involuntary internal contamination by radionuclides and how this has tortured the body and brought about perfect mass murder of millions of Indian(and other) infants and millions of still-births since 1945. This perfect torture has been aided by cold war control and secrecy by agreement between the IAEA and the WHO: This has been revealed by the European Committee on Radiation Risk in their Nuclear Safety Recommendations 2003(Ed: Dr Chris Busby et al). We need a change from the modern civilisation to the normal so that slavery is abolished and human rights are fully respected. The concerned leaders knew full well the consequences of their actions. But if mass murder can be perfect, they can proceed with torture with impunity(See Andrei Sakharov: Memoirs).

  5. 5 gary
    December 12, 2007 at 15:13

    Hello All,
    If very tiny men commit crimes in the name of a “good” (Name your own good.), employ very tiny marketing people to rename the acts and stress their “new and improved” points, and very tiny spokespeople to talk about “enhanced interrogation” and “grey areas,” why, pretty soon you have a bit of horror real people are discussing as if it were “discussable.” The answer to the question is NO!
    You still need convincing? Here’s a simple test: Obtain a stray dog form the local pound, treat it to some “water-boarding / enhanced interrogation fun” on a busy street, and see how long you remain free.
    The entire episode speaks volumes about the tiny people, but the idea; “We tiny people do not trust our defense to the Constitution, or to the people who actually live by it,” comes through most loudly.

  6. 6 Xie_Ming
    December 12, 2007 at 15:50

    There are two mentalities involved here (see above), and they are fighting for control of our World.

    For shorthand: they involve the Zoroastrian-derived and the Eastern.

    At the moment, the Zoroastrians control the commercial media, so the contest is unequal.

  7. 7 John D. Anthony
    December 12, 2007 at 16:42

    If we allow torture we sanction every atrocity ever committed in the name of a common good and accepting the rationale used by the Nazis and the Inquisition.
    The answer is no, NEVER.

    John in Salem

  8. December 12, 2007 at 16:44

    The idea of terrorism and torture has been around since the dawn of humanity. “Iron Maidens”, “racks”, “drawn and quartered”, “prices on heads”, “guillotines”, “fake firing squads” and many other forms of both have been subjects of fact and fiction for ages. This is not a “new threat” any more then it is original to the extremist. The first time i heard about warriors committing suicide was the Japanese Kamikaze fighters. In the US the settlers burned Indian villages, raped their women, killed indiscriminately because they were not considered human. They did not believe in the religious doctrine of the new founder so therefore they must be exterminated. The British didn’t treat US insurgents so well either. The Geneva Convention was to be a forward step for humanity. Now we have rulers all over the world, including one from the west, who want to de-evolve. And for what? for a technique that has proven time and again it doesn’t work to protect us from a minute percentage of society that could easily be filtered other ways.

    Sometime I do wonder how we have made it this far with out exterminating ourselves? If you are looking for proof of some divine force controlling the world, that would be some hard evidence to shake.

  9. 9 Chernor Jalloh
    December 12, 2007 at 16:45

    Torture can never work.And it is not working.You will always get the wrong informaton because the person that is enduring those hardship will not tell the truth.He or she will rather tell a lie to alieviate the pains that is inflected on him or her.It is of a grave mistake to think that, when you punish a suspected criminals you are hundred per cent confident of the information you receive from them. Promise the culprits,encourage them to tell you the truth.You should not be hard on them,I think you can gain very much.Since the US justified torture,there is much resentments among many people recently.In a country that campaigns against bad HumanRights records are to distance themseves from such acts that will damage their good relationships with others in the near future.We are not living under dictators-not at all.We can beable only if we respect the rights of others not to torturing them like animals.As we can see the we way in which Bulls fightings in Spain.The animals are are savagedly killed in the name of customs and and traditions.Dogs fighting and chickens as well are all crimes that cannot be tolerated in a democratic country.

  10. 10 Mark
    December 12, 2007 at 16:47

    Safia you said;

    “Perhaps it should also be a condition that all those who are tasked with the application of any torture, should first undergo it themselves – to satisfy themselves that it is, in fact, justifiable !!!”

    Why, are they also suspected of planning or being part of a conspiracy to commit mass murder? Do they possess secrets which if revealed could save many innocent lives? That makes no sense.

    You also said;

    “By subscribing to the application of torture, we merely condone violence against others – becoming no better than those who are perpetrators of violence and aggression that we say we despise !!!”

    By that absurd logic, imprisoning kidnappers condones kidnapping. Are you saying that governments who incarcerate criminals are no better than criminals themselves? What if a terrorist had knowledge about where your kidnapped children were being held and that they would be killed if they were not rescued? How far would YOU go to get the information out of the terrorist?


    You said;
    “why, pretty soon you have a bit of horror real people are discussing as if it were “discussable.””

    How does discussing torture compare to the horror of a bomb going off in a crowded shopping mall or restaurant or an airplane crashing into a building killing thousands?

    You also said;
    “Obtain a stray dog form the local pound, treat it to some “water-boarding / enhanced interrogation fun..”

    Why, is the dog suspected of being part of a terrorist conspiracy to commit mass murder? Do you think this is done for the fun of it? It is you who have the sick mind. Don’t you get it? There are people out there who want you dead and will stop and nothing to kill you. While you spout your platitudes, they are preparing your assassination. Maybe that doesn’t bother you but I want everthing done to protect my life from them, torture included. Does this discussion horrify you? Good, now go visit some place al Qaeda has murdered dozens of people with a suicide bomb. Maybe seeing arms, legs, heads blood, and other broken bodies will put it into some rational perspective for you.

  11. 11 Gaurav
    December 12, 2007 at 17:10

    I don’t believe torture is ever justified, ever. But I think there’s another angle to this story.

    Over the last few years, as news of “secret prisons” and “extraordinary rendition” has leaked out, the position of the US government has slowly changed from “no torture, never” to “well, we’ll waterboard – but that’s not torture! There’s no electricity involved, no removal of fingernails, no cutting of soft tissue. This isn’t 1984, with its famous Room 101; no, this is, this is … just waterboarding!”

    My biggest worry would be that supporting waterboarding might lead down the slippery slope towards worse torture techniques, both against the horribly wronged prisoners at Guantanamo as well as – perhaps? – ordinary criminals suspected of terrorism-related crimes being “tortured” to extract the “truth” of their case. Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the American commander in charge of detentions and interrogations, stated “a rapport-based interrogation that recognizes respect and dignity, and having very well-trained interrogators, is the basis by which you develop intelligence rapidly and increase the validity of that intelligence.” (“General Says Less Coercion of Captives Yields Better Data” NY Times September 7, 2004)

    I’m against torture in general because once you stoop to scare, harass and intimidate your opponent, you’ve already lost the upper moral ground. The world has long since decided that the soldiers of warring nations (thanks to the Geneva Conventions) must be protected from torture; why can’t the rest of us share the same privilege?

    Gaurav in Singapore

  12. 12 VictorK
    December 12, 2007 at 17:10

    Is torture ever OK? Yes.

    In the circumstances of a defensive war against religious maniacs who have no compunction about slaughtering thousands of innocents it would be an act of criminal stupidity for Western governments not to use torture either to save lives or to achieve military objectives.

    Consider this scenario, which is likely to play out at some time in the near future: a muslim cell has planted a dirty nuclear bomb in a Western city. Memebers of the cell have been captured. They won’t reveal where the bomb is planted or when it is primed to detonate. Now, who but a lunatic liberal would object to the information needed to save hundreds of thousands of lives being tortured out of such people?

    We are at war with muslim terrorists. They are serious about killing us. We need to be equally serious about killing them, as well as doing anything short of killing that will defend Western peoples and the Western way of life. We in the West do not like to torture or wish to institutionalise it (unlike the sadists in charge of many non-Western countries). But when dealing with people who follow no moral rules we cannot afford to handicap ourselves by treating them as anything other than, in Menachem Begin’s phrase, ‘two-legged beasts.’ It is the muslim terrorists who have made it necessary to use torture as a last resort. If they don’t like it let them repudiate terrorism. Otherwise they shouldn’t be surprised when we in the West repudiate all consideration for them as human beings.

    Terrorism is not covered by the rules of war. Terrorists have one right only: the right to be exterminated. It is immoral and an act of treachery to empathise with their suffering. Debates like this are worse than useless: they are demoralising. Though torture is commonplace in the non-Western world the terms of this debate concern the much rarer incidence of torture in the US and other Western countries under attack from Islamic terror. There has never been a WHYS debate about the Jihadi torture of civilian captives who are held in unbearable suspense for weeks and then have their heads sawed off with rusty blades. The BBC, like other Western broadcasters, is even guilty of suppressing the truth about such torture by refusing to broadcast the filmic records of its occurrence. Not so with the USA. The film of US torture was very sensibly destroyed, since otherwise the likes of the BBC and CNN would have broadcast that material with delight. And the effect of such a broadcast would have been the same as the likely consequences of this kind of debate: the calculated moral and psychological disarmament of Western peoples so as to render them incapable of fighting back against the terrorist threat.

    The same lack of will that led to failure in Vietnam and that is leading to failure in Iraq (why, for example, is al Sadr still alive?) can yet lead to failure, appeasement and Spanish-style surrender before muslim terror. There really is nothing to debate here. Nothing can or should be ruled out in the war to defend the West from the aggression of Jihadist terrorism. Debates that will demonise the US and present its methods as criminal are, as far as I’m concerned, no better than enemy propaganda. There is only one goal that matters: defeating the enemy.

  13. 13 steve
    December 12, 2007 at 17:51

    Xie Ming now calls jews “zorastrians”. ugh.. but the same old “they control the media, they run the banks, they got PH.Ds while I dropped out of high school and blew up rodents with M-40s, why am I not a CEO?”

  14. 14 AZ
    December 12, 2007 at 17:55

    Torture is not justified.

    As mentioned by some, the victims of torture will admit to things they have not done just to escape torture.

    Here is an interesting article :


    Also :

    ” Ticking bombs: testimonies of torture victims in Israel”

    Click to access 140.pdf


  15. 15 John D. Anthony
    December 12, 2007 at 17:57

    re: VictorK

    Much the same argument was used by Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, Pinochet, ad nauseum.
    If it’s okay for us, it was okay for them.
    I rest my case.

    John in Salem

  16. 16 Lauren
    December 12, 2007 at 18:06

    Waterboarding is torture. You cannot simulate drowning. It’s just drowning at a very controlled rate. The US has signed the Geneva Convention Doctrine and has broken it. The US has declared war on “terror”, therefore anyone captured as an “enemy combatant” has the same rights called for under the Geneva Convention as uniformed soldiers do. Holding people without charge or trial is disgusting and makes me ashamed to live in such a country. George Bush is a war criminal.

    Lauren, Los Angeles, California.

  17. 17 Ron
    December 12, 2007 at 18:14

    WE are supposed to be the civilized ones. WE are the ones that have always claimed the moral high ground. There is no justification whatsoever for us to torture anyone and still claim WE are the “good guys”. Wake up America.

  18. 18 Jeff from Iowa, USA
    December 12, 2007 at 18:16

    I dislike the comment from John Kiriakou. “We are above that [torture]” It makes it sound like the reasons that the US has been implementing torture is for the pure fact of revenge. We are talking about people who are taking lives here. We are using torture to gain information so that the terrorist groups can not kill more people. But when you hear a comment like John’s it makes it sound like we are going around torturing foreigners just to be mean. We are doing it to save lives here. If a person is going to take someone’s life, then they give up their own rights.

  19. 19 Jason
    December 12, 2007 at 18:19

    Does torture have place when/if there is a nuke inside the U.S.?
    What if this person may have information to save millions of lives?
    If somone wants to harm this many people they in my opinion give up thier
    human rights.

  20. 20 Mark H
    December 12, 2007 at 18:20

    To fight for and claim that we are fighting for the good and the right, we must always take the morally correct stance. Torturing another human is not moral. We also need to remember that our own troops can be captured and treated in similar fashion.

  21. 21 Thomas
    December 12, 2007 at 18:21

    Torture is never OK. The end NEVER justifies the means.

  22. December 12, 2007 at 18:22

    I don’t think any face or degree of torture is a good thing. It’s inhuman and must treated as such. But no matter what the people may say, agencies like the CIA would stop at nothing to derive information from suspects.

  23. December 12, 2007 at 18:23

    I quite agree with the statements of the speaker John, on the air.

    I can understand, and even rationalize/condone the social and national aspects of utilizing torture. However, as a moral perspective, it is never acceptable. When you use torture, and morally gray methods against your enemies, you become that which you claim to be against. I would rather die in honor, than live with the shame of utilizing inhumane “means” to achieve a good “ends”. The Journey and the Destination are NOT mutually exclusive – they are interdependent.

  24. 24 Robert Duff
    December 12, 2007 at 18:27

    Of course torture is okay. What are we supposed to do ask nicely. Please with sugar on top. These are the methods that work. Is it right? I think so. There is no moral issue. If you are squimish about it then you shouldn’t do it. Have someone else torture the suspects who can. Water boarding is nothing and we should consider every method available to us.

  25. 25 Bill McKinnie
    December 12, 2007 at 18:28

    Torture – Never, ever, under any circumstances. To fall the level of the worst of humanity only removes any claim of the moral high ground, and only makes it more acceptable for it to be used by others – dictators, terrorists, all those bad guys that we are supposed to fear.

  26. 26 Gwyllm
    December 12, 2007 at 18:30

    My stepfather was tortured for 4 years in Japanese Internment Camp. Every time I hear someone say that it is ever justified, I find myself about to vomit.

    My Stepfatether suffered for the rest of his life. He suffered on his death bed with the guilt of surviving when others died.

    I suggest those who advocate waterboarding, torture of any kind, voluntarily experience it.

    You cannot win a conflict by losing sight of your opponents humanity.

  27. 27 John in Portland, OR
    December 12, 2007 at 18:31

    I find it interesting that many of the listeners who support torture “in extreme circumstances” come from the United States, which has no public history of domestic torture. Few native-born American citizens have a friend or a relative who has undergone this kind of treatment. Would it not be better to listen carefully to those from other nations who have experienced torture within their lives and their families? If a man with first-hand experience says that torture is absolutely never acceptable, shouldn’t we defer to his experience?

  28. December 12, 2007 at 18:35

    I think anyone who thinks waterboarding is not torture OR is on the fence about it, should be waterboarded. We can get their renewed opinion after the experience.

  29. 29 Ryan
    December 12, 2007 at 18:36

    I think the last person is watching a little too much “24.”

    To all those who’s justification for using torture, including waterboarding, is that the evil terrorists would not hesitate to torture or kill us, you completely miss the point. This is not about who the terrorists are…it’s about who we are. And if we torture, we are no different from the terrorists we profess to be trying to protect ourselves and the world from.

  30. 30 Jim Hartnett
    December 12, 2007 at 18:38

    Waterboarding is torture. No, it is not exceptable.
    The people who carried out this act knew they were breaking the law and need to be brought to justice or next time there is a suspension of the rule of law, these evil people will resurface knowing they are imune from punishment for any act they do in the name of the so called common good.

  31. December 12, 2007 at 18:38

    Torture degrades everyone involved. It is not a solution for our present ills and will leave a stain on our country forever. Human rights are a gift we give ourselves. And don’t fool yourself. Most of the people saying that torture is okay are motivated by vengeance and cloak themselves in the noble cloak of patriotism.
    And I believe we are only hearing 1% of what is actually being carried out by our government.
    Question – how many detainees have died in custody? We’ll never know how many might have died from “enhanced” interrogation techniques. Our actions are the biggest recruiting tool that Al Qaeda and the like could wish for.
    And one last question. Just what would the Bush administration have to DO to be removed from office and put on trial? Have sex with a girl scout? This issue alone is 100 x worse than Watergate. I’m ashamed of my country.

  32. 32 Aime' Fournier
    December 12, 2007 at 18:42

    We have lost some humanity even in stooping to debate this. The torturers may believe they’re protecting innocents, but those at the top of command know torture only helps terrorists. These rulers know that our torturing makes it more likely our captured troops will be tortured. These rulers want that to happen, they want more terror everywhere, because terror helps keep extremists like them in power.

  33. 33 Tracy
    December 12, 2007 at 18:44

    I was waiting for a sane person to come in on this and this dude hits the nail on the head.

  34. 34 gary
    December 12, 2007 at 18:47

    No. Torture is always a immoral. No grey areas exist. Just as giving alms is necessary to do because it benefits the giver, so torture must be avoided because it damages the torturer, whether he “discovers” some information, or not. For those who chat about saving innocent lives, you must well know, torture is always a remedial technique. Indicative of the fact that people charged to “protect and defend” were frankly not doing their job.

  35. 35 Gail Broughton
    December 12, 2007 at 18:50

    The ones being tortured are not the only ones injured. The torturer, his or her family, and anyone they come in contact with are affected. A normal life afterwards is just not possible. the amouont of therapy needed to overcome the effects is incalculable.

  36. 36 George
    December 12, 2007 at 18:51

    Ask those listening if they’d be comfortable with a family member (who is actually innocent) undergoing waterboarding in the US; the CIA, of course, justifing there actions with a response like – they were convinced that your family member was a threat and had to act accordingly. How would a supporter of waterboarding feel then – especially if that person died in the process?

  37. 37 Walt
    December 12, 2007 at 18:52

    An individual, a society, a nation, that engages in torture for whatever avowed reason has surrendered any presumed moral or ethical ‘high ground’, and on such engagement, lost the idealogical battle. From my American perspective, this is to forsake the letter of our Constitutional law and the heart of our claim of “exceptionalism.”

    Given America’s self-professed demographics of belief, one must assume the majority of those championing the use of torture in the “war on terror” call themselves Christians. Permit me to ask you, ‘what would Christ do’?

    For myself, torture can never be excused on moral/ethical grounds, irrespective of religious belief or presumed tactical advantage.

  38. 38 LN
    December 12, 2007 at 18:52

    The pompousness with which people who condone torture speak is astounding. The man from DC will NOT have debate, he will stand on his soap box and preach, but he will not have a debate? He may have better facts as to the legislation in regards to the definition of torture, but if he believes that only two people have actually been “tortured” than he has the wool pulled over his eyes as many do. Any type of suffering inflicted upon another is torturous in nature. By torturing one or a few people, it is creating more and more terrorists who are furthered in their belief that their cause is just.

  39. 39 Andre
    December 12, 2007 at 18:54

    I am generally opposed to the use of torture on the grounds that it is immoral, ineffective and predisposes other nations and peoples to oppose the United States. Can anyone prove to me that torture can save many innocent lives? If so, when and in what situation? We know that torture turns neutrals into potential adversaries and degrade the nation or institution that practices torture.

    While I am quite happy to suspend habeus corpus for suspscted members of Al Qaeda and other affialiated global terrorist groups, I would not sanction torture.

  40. 40 Doug Kruse
    December 12, 2007 at 18:57

    Torture is never okay.
    I am embarrassed that the United States administration has argued in favor of and engaged in an activity that has until now been recognized as torture. The administration is splitting hairs to distinguish its actions from torture. Why not call a spade a spade?

    I don’t want to torture people bcause its self defeating. We save our lives, maybe, but we give up our integrity.

  41. 41 Jonna Lynn
    December 12, 2007 at 19:22

    We’ve heard from every reliable expert that the information gathered from torture is unreliable, yet we continue to allow our peers to use the argument that our government agents should use “every means necessary” to obtain information. How can we possibly engage in an intelligent discourse on this subject when we refuse to understand that the real motivation behind this sort of torture is to exact revenge, using individuals as scapegoats for the perverted policies and tactics of their leadership? Our government’s unwillingness to dismiss the legitimacy of torture serves as a false paradigm of American values, further alienating the same groups who wish to harm us.

  42. 42 Rich
    December 12, 2007 at 19:54

    There is a torture device that is being employed daily in the United States by all levels of law enforcement. This barbaric device uses a volatile mixture of explosives to launch a small projectile at the intended target. This projectile will rip through flesh and bone causing instant trauma. The pain caused by this device is excruciating and often leads to massive blood loss and sometimes death.

    This device is obviously cruel and barbaric. This device of torture should be immediately outlawed! We are better than this. All police should have their fire arms removed and replaced with conflict resolution manuals and a plush, fluffy pillow with which to pummel criminals. Yes, thousands will die daily and crime will increase…but at least we will have the moral upper hand as our society collapses.

    A conversation like this needs to take place. It in itself is proof that what we are defending with practices like waterboarding is worth the practice of waterboarding. How many forums were convened by Uday Hussein where people could wring their hands over the morality of his torture chambers? The freedom that we have to discuss, condemn, and protest these extraordinary means with which we protect this freedom, in turn, justify these extraordinary means.

  43. 43 Don Stahl
    December 12, 2007 at 20:17

    In reply to Victor and others who say that torture is justified if the enemy is “bad enough”: History proves that line of reasoning leads to horrors. In the 1970s Augusto Pinochet used exactly that reasoning to justify the kidnapping, torture, and murder of thousands of what he termed “terrorists”. Most of us now recognize that the Pinochet regime was illegitimate, brutal, and guilty of crimes against humanity.

    That is the result of the Bush-Pinochet “justification” for torture.

    For a society to descend to the lowest level of animal brutality simply because it has one enemy who is brutal and unscrupulous is a betrayal of civilization.

    Now let’s be quite honest: there is no way Muslim jihadists can overthrow — OR EVEN SERIOUSLY MENACE — Western civilization. They have no coherent army capable of threatening Sri Lanka, let alone NATO or the USA. They cannot invade, they cannot occupy, they cannot do anything but kill a few people here and there. They kill several orders of magnitude fewer Americans than influenza. They are a thousand times less deadly than road accidents.

    Only fools and cowards fear that Muslim jihadists will topple America. There is no conceivable way terrorists could accomplish such a task.

    Given that, only fools and cowards would willingly embrace the kind of brutality used by criminals from Stalin to Pol Pot. America should always denounce torturers. In 1947 we prosecuted Japanese officers for waterboarding prisoners. We court-martialed American soldiers who waterboarded Filipino captives in the 1890s. There is ample legal precedent: Americans who tortured should be prosecuted. And American leaders who authorized torture should be prosecuted.

  44. 44 L. Walker
    December 12, 2007 at 21:48

    “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.”

    “The man who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself.”
    – Friedrich Nietzsche

    Those who would have us torture and be tortured by us, only benefit from the act. One may die or suffer, but it raises a call to thousands of others who would replace him. And when fighting a minority fanatic culture that worships martyrs… should you add to your enemies strength and weaken your own for the negligible chance to save a few lives…?

    this seems mildly counterproductive, ne?

  45. 45 Will Rhodes
    December 12, 2007 at 22:37

    Espousing the use of torture as an OK thing, Victor, does that action in itself not make you as bad as those who use these acts? We are, so I have read for so many years of my adult life, civilised to a degree that we offer human rights upon a high pedestal – which, to me, is a great thing.

    I, like you, do not like or will ever sympathise with terrorists or those who use terrorism for political gain, that is moral cowardice. Yet, with people who have the same opinion as yourself, I find this more distressing. The world we have today is built not simply on a western model – we all know this. But one thing that come to mind is exactly where do we draw the line? Torture has never been the best way of gaining information – it is on the other hand seen as been seen as a great way of vengeance, which, from reading what you have to say, is what you want.

    The US has many intelligence agency’s – I am sure the US tax payer looking at how their tax dollars are used would think that their cash be paid for much more technologically sound ways of gaining that information that trying to drown a person to gain, what could be, good intelligence but rather it will be negative. If you have an ‘enemy combatant’ who know nothing other than his/her target and torture them, you will find that they will say anything to stop the hurt – it won’t lead you to the final end-game.

    Torture is and never will be OK. And that means on both sides of the spectrum.

  46. 46 Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako
    December 13, 2007 at 04:06

    It does not lie with American officials to tell us whether interrogation methods they use, like water boarding, amount to torture. Bob Marley said “who feels it knows it”. Those who suffer from those interrogation methods are the ones best placed to say whether they felt tortured and whether it was okay to be subjected to those measures.

  47. 47 Dictatore Generale Max Maximilian Maximus I
    December 13, 2007 at 12:23


    December 12, 2007 at 3:50 pm
    There are two mentalities involved here (see above), and they are fighting for control of our World.

    For shorthand: they involve the Zoroastrian-derived and the Eastern.

    At the moment, the Zoroastrians control the commercial media, so the contest is unequal.


    Dear Xie_Ming,

    You seem to state some facts which are clearly wrong. Since when have the Zoroastrians been controlling the media? There are less than a million or maybe less than half-a-million Zoroastrians in the world! Most are now in the USA & the second largest concentration is in India (The highest concentration was in India but many emigrated to the USA). They are called Parsees in India. They have been a great asset to the country. Here are some real & verifiable facts:

    -The first & only Field Marshal of India is a Parsee. His name-Sam F. H. J. Maneckshaw
    -The top constitutional lawyer in India is a Parsee.
    -The TATA group was founded by the Parsees.
    -The Parsees have occupied many other ‘high’ positions in India in all sectors of life.
    -They are very nice, very polite, hardworking, & humane people.
    -They modified certain cultural norms to get refuge in India (this was asked for by the king who let them in at that time). They complied. They are NOT evil people. They are excellent people.

    Who are the Parsees or Zoroastrians? They are the original inhabitants of Persia, now called Iran. They were massacred by the Muslims and about 1,200 years ago fled to India & found refuge in the west of India. Their invaluable religious books, literature & cultural artefacts were burnt & destroyed by the Muslims. From then on Persia became Iran.

    I think if you replace the word Zoroastrian by Jewish in your comment then you may be right about the media. The descending order of major religious belief systems in terms of age is: Hindu, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, and Baha’i. I have not included Shintoism, Confucius & Jainism.

    Once again, when you say ‘Zoroastrian-derived’ you are incorrect. How can Judaism be ‘Zoroastrian-derived’ when it is older than Zoroastrianism?

    Whether you like or do not like the Jews is your prerogative. But you should NOT denigrate Zoroastrians in the process.

  48. December 13, 2007 at 12:44

    Hey Ros, I listened to the show today and the more I thought about it the worse it became. Why was a figure from the previous Bush administration allowed to dictate the terms of the conversation? This is a guy who said that we didn’t do these kinds of things. Today he was on the show saying that in the cases he saw he didn’t see anything wrong with it. Well which is it? Haven’t these guys got enough avenues and enough control of the media spin that they should not be able to use WHYS to put out their line? What was that? He doesn’t want to have to interact with us ordinary people? That was extremely disappointing. It’s not like he offered any insight into the topic we couldn’t get by reading any neocon book you can pick up at the local bookstore. Will others get their “5” minutes? Same old nonsense when you listen to it and this from a bunch of guys that haven’t told the truth about anything yet!

  49. 49 Xie_Ming
    December 13, 2007 at 17:32

    Cultural influences are often area-based and extend to prehistory. In the Mid-East, there was reciprocal influence from many cultures. (The idea of a contractual relation with a favored people may have come from the Hitties/Hurrians). The Iranian influence in Babylon was attributed to the prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathrustra). When the Hebrews returned from the Babylonian Captivity, they brought ideas of scripture, and of a jealous, intolerant and vengeful deity.

    The intolerance and idea of exclusive scriptural truth, vengeance and murderous tribalism then became prevalent in the Zoroastrian-derived religions: Judaism, Islam and most Christianity.

    (The situation among the Parsee community of Bombay can be best discussed by Indians. It is notable that Hindu fascism, Maoism and communitarian hostilities are on the increase).

    The belief of warfare among competing tribes, of vengeance, of the threat and evil presented by the “other” is implicit in the postings calling for torture. Torture will elicit whatever the interrogator wishes to hear, although it may be false. Effective interrogation, however, is persuasive rather than punitive and is long-lasting.

    Civilized nations have Geneva treaties barring torture, the policy of the NeoCon US administration is a regression to less civilized, tribalistic behavior. The denigration of international law and of the United Nations is part of this regression toward primitive, Zoroastrian-derived tribalism.

  50. 50 VictorK
    December 13, 2007 at 17:47

    There is a combination of moral smugness and cowardice that together form the unique signature of the Western liberal.

    Muslims have a presence in almost all Western countries. They adhere to an ideology that commits them to a stance of permanent hostility towards all non-muslims. They are constantly plotting terrorist outrages against their host countries. The bulk of the muslim population may not be terrorists, but they appear to sympathise with the terrorists in their midst, and rarely co-operate with the authorities to apprehend them. The very fact of a large muslim population in a Western country is a guarantee of a terrorist problem. The death toll now is in the scores (Britain), the hundreds (Spain), and the thousands (the US). The chances are that it will one day rise to the hundreds of thousands (just why do muslims like to talk about an ‘Islamic bomb’?). The use of torture might avert such a catastrophe. It certainly won’t make it more likely. But that’s where the moral smugness and cowardice come in.

    The self-righteous critics of torture have no better alternative to offer when it comes to extracting vital information that might save hundreds of thousands of lives. This is about hard-headed practicalities, not academic exercises about who can dream up the most portentous moral abstractions. Do the enemies of torture believe that by placing their moral scruples on a pedestal, by babbling on about ‘human dignity’ and ‘human rights’, that a hardened muslim killer will be moved to reject violence, will convert to the liberals’ secular ‘religion of humanity’, will divulge all he knows about plots and planted bombs, and will skip joyfully into the sunset hand in hand with FBI and CIA agents? Tehy might as well if the best reply they can offer to those who defend torture is – in effect – ‘We shouldn’t do it, because it’s not nice.’

    Sorry, but the left-liberal take on this doesn’t even work as a fairy tale, let alone as a serious alternative to torture. There are hard and sometimes dirty decisions that have to be taken if lives are to be saved. In a fight in which we (the West) are not the aggressors we should not allow our options to be limited by misplaced moralism. Those who lack the nerve to countenance or support the hard decisions needed to preserve the lives of the innocent should step aside and shut up. If it’s OK to kill people in order to defend ourselves then it isn’t wrong to engage in the much less drastic act of torturing them. Several posters have gone out of a way to makee a show of their moral pretensions: all I see is weakness hiding behind a cloak of ethics. The spirit of appeasement and surrender.

    This is not about claiming ‘the high moral ground’ (whatever that may mean). It’s not about winning muslim hearts and minds. It’s not about persuading our enemies to become our friends. It’s about doing whatever is necessary to defend the West and the lives of Westerners against crazed Jihadists.

    And btw, though it’s not fashionable to say it, Pinochet saved his country from a Castro-style revolution and subsequently laid the foundations for an economic renaissance in Chile that has never been matched by any of Latin America’s many failed socialist experiments. Those two facts weigh far more heavily in the scale than the torture of suspected leftists and terrorists (and they really can’t ALL have been innocent passers-by who were just minding their own business before being unjustly arrested by the security forces).

  51. 51 George
    December 13, 2007 at 19:30

    Waterboarding focus is distracting the issue of torture.

    Ritual Abuse Trauma(R.A.T.)-
    covert gassings, entries, progressive ripping out hair, grinding off teeth, injecting face and arms that produces spots/scar and deep wrinkles over night, “dusting” with lung irritants, systemic chemical progressive mutilation of genitalia, and ritual violations while the target is gassed unconscious, day after day month after month is definately torture in addition to mutilation and violation.

    Focus on one kind of torture distracts from the other forms of torture used today.

    There is a good reason nations agreed to forego the use of torture: it is a subhuman act, justified by governments which are criminal and sick.

    No. Torture is not acceptable to humans.

    Anyone who says otherwise for any reason is attempting to justify their own sick perversions that only attempt to cloak sociopath kicks under the pretense of national security.

  52. 52 Don Stahl
    December 13, 2007 at 20:02

    Well, certainly nervous nellies who want to fear something can manufacture reasons to fear “them bad ole Muslims”. But nearly all Muslims condemned the attacks on the WTC, Barcelona, and London. Xenophobes and the chronically fearful may think that all Muslims are evil and are plotting against the West, but it just ain’t so.

    Now, the fact is, Al Qaeda can’t sail its navy into New York harbor and attack. It has no navy. It can’t send in thousands of aircraft to bomb Washington. It has no airforce. It can’t invade the USA in a vast pincer movement from Canada and Mexico. It has no army. Al Qaeda can’t rain nuclear missiles down on the US homeland because they have no nuclear missiles…and their host country would be annihilated if they did manage to get a bomb into the US. (And their host countries know that very well…)

    We can survive anything they can do. We can survive it without even breathing hard.

    So why are some conservatives so frightened?

    Al Qaeda and their franchises are relatively strong in a few countries where Muslim radicalism controls a significant government faction. In those countries it can operate as a credible guerrilla force. But in the USA, in Great Britain, in France, Al Qaeda operatives can only operate as criminals, under cover and under suspicion. To put their “success” in perspective: the attack on the WTC killed fewer American citizens than have been killed by the Ku Klux Klan. That’s a fact.

    In the West Al Qaeda is weak.

    I suppose Al Qaeda could try to replace good American ketchup with evil Middle Eastern hummus on supermarket shelves, thus subverting American culture…but no, they don’t have enough hummus. 😉 Seriously, though, I challenge the fearful to construct a detailed, realistic scenario in which Al Qaeda could destroy the USA.

    Torture is the antithesis of the Western system of justice: it is punishment administered without a crime. The detainee is punished, brutally and mercilessly, before he is legally accused of anything. Before he is tried before a jury. Before he is convicted of any crime.

    That is the antithesis of justice. It is a betrayal of civilized mores. It is the behavior of totalitarian thugs, not a free society.

    Those who justify Pinochet’s murderous and brutal regime as being necessary to birth an economic miracle are deluding themselves. When Pinochet took office, Chile’s unemployment rate was 4.3%. By the time he left office it had mushroomed to 20% — some “economic miracle”. By the mid-eighties Chile was in free-fall, with the GDP down 19%. Some “miracle”. In 1973 20% of Chileans lived in poverty. When Pinochet left office that number had doubled, to 40%. Some “miracle”.

    Chile did eventually recover economically, but Pinochet’s policies of torture and murder had nothing much to do with it. The recovery was due to economic policies. Nationalization of mines and agrarian reform, not torture, fueled Chile’s recovery. The truth is, Pinochet nearly destroyed his nation, and he destroyed thousands of human lives along the way. Like Rios Montt, like Pol Pot, like Stalin, he was a murderer.

    He was a killer, not a hero.

    Torture is never justified: the Western concept of justice can only abhor it. Those who approve of torture will, sooner rather than later, embrace a totalitarian nightmare — the nightmare of the Gestapo and the Schutzstaffel. I don’t want that in the USA…thanks anyway. The foundation of Western civilizaton — justice for all men, equal rights for all men, the rule of law — demand the rejection of torture. There is no place for torturers in America.

  53. 53 Ron
    December 13, 2007 at 22:00

    VictorK, Can you give me one credible example of when a suspect in this country, Jihadists or otherwise, has provided any in formation as a result of being tortured that saved a single life? And being against torture has nothing to do with self-righteousness. It has to do with we, Americans, practicing what we have preached for 2 centuries plus. Were there not trials after World War 2 that supposedly settled these questions? Were we not signators to the decisions that came out of those trials? Why would we change our stance now? Certainly the threats we face now are no greater than those faced by Americans 60 years ago.

  54. 54 Will Rhodes
    December 14, 2007 at 03:21

    If your reply was to me, Victor, I thank you for it.

    Your latter point: “and they really can’t ALL have been innocent passers-by who were just minding their own business before being unjustly arrested by the security forces” – one would presume that they were not all innocent – yet I have to ask from which view point is taken? If it was from a dictators point of view, no – from someone who wished to live their live under whichever elected rule, then so be it. But I would certainly look to those who did suffer under his rule, and a rule with an iron fist it was.

    I have no argument with any who defend their country – I do have an argument with those who install those not chosen freely. Not a soft liberal, just a person who truly does believe in freedom for all people – it isn’t a hard concept for people to contemplate. But that freedom means all – not a select few and forget the rest, it is the strong who defend the weak, not the weak who must fight the strong for that defence.

  55. 55 Xie_Ming
    December 14, 2007 at 09:25

    The US general responsible for such matters has already stated that the successful, productive interrogation comes from persuasion, rather than from torture. Practically, an individual captured will never have much information. Thus, torture must be massively applied to show results.

    Claims of a unique situation are not valid. A century ago, the Anarchists were blowing themselves and others up in different parts of the World. The police handled the situation. Two thousand years ago, Jewish Sicarri were murdering Jews who did not tow the revolutionary party line- they wound up forcing a mass suicide at Masada.

    History tends to repeat itself, although the Zoroastrian claim is that of a teleology leading to a Kingdom of God on Earth. Toward such an end were the great secular religions of Nazism and Marxist-Leninism directed.

    The dualist (binary) idea of good and evil with nothing in between is easily embraced by the obedient, authoritarian mind. Natural scientists may claim that life is a zero-sum game where one and one’s genes survive at the expense and sacrifice of others. Selfish tribalism has long advocated such an approach and the Zoroastrian-derived cultures are imbued with it. This has long characterized the history of the Middle East.

    Our World today is increasingly facing the need to choose between warring tribalism and a civilizing and cooperative organization of World society.

    Torturing the demonized “other” is but a small example of this conflict of worldviews.

  56. 56 Don Stahl
    December 14, 2007 at 15:17

    At risk of being very boring indeed, I’d like to add some thoughts on moral governance and torture. There are crucial politico-philosophical requirements for accepting official, state-sanctioned torture. If in administering brutal physical and psychological punishment the state is to be judge, jury, and executioner, then one must accept that:

    1. the good of the state is always the paramount consideration;
    2. individual rights exist only inasmuch as they coincide with the interests of the state;
    3. and the state alone decides what rights are accorded to individuals.

    If point one were not true, then external considerations like justice, morality, and legality could intervene to prevent the state from using torture. If point two were not true, then individuals could have absolute rights which might prevent their being tortured by the state. And if point three were not true, then individuals could legitimately challenge the state’s decision to torture.

    Of course the points listed are three of the essential characteristics cited by Mussolini in his 1932 essay defining fascism.

    American neoconservatives like Cheney, Feith, Bolton, and Wolfowitz champion some of fascism’s tenets, but they are most assuredly not classical fascists. The founding documents of America, however, are PROFOUNDLY anti-fascist. Americans assert that a legitimate state exists ONLY WITH THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED. The American Declaration of Independence says that individuals have inalienable rights, and “…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”

    Thus, in the American view, the state serves the rights of the individual, and not the reverse. The individual has the right, indeed the duty, to pass judgment on the state; individuals have the right to oppose the state and even abolish it. In the American conception, individual rights are paramount.

    State-sanctioned torture — the bluntest, most brutal assertion that the state can usurp individual rights at will — is therefore profoundly anti-American. It denies our basic ideas concerning governments, justice, and man. Is America so weak, so pathetically frightened, that we are willing to abandon our foundational beliefs and let the state usurp the most basic individual right — the right to exist without pain? I would say no. I would say that America is strong, America will endure, and America must NOT destroy its own foundation.

    I have spoken to American ideals, but all Western nations cite the principle of individual rights as a constitutional verity. France’s “Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du citoyen” is, if anything, more explicit on this point than the American Constitution. Sweden’s Constitution states, “All public power in Sweden proceeds from the people…Public power shall be exercised with respect for the equal worth of all and for the freedom and dignity of the individual.” The Swiss Bill of Rights states (in Article 7 of the Swiss Constitution) that “human dignity shall be respected and protected”; it goes on to prohibit torture, to mandate freedom from arbitrary laws, and demand “personal liberty, particularly to corporal and mental integrity, and to freedom of movement”.

    In the Western world, then, the notion that the interests of the state trump individual rights has met nearly universal rejection. That tenet of fascism has been repudiated. It is curious to me that some westerners would now want to rescind the bedrock covenant of Western society in favor of a state empowered to violate individual rights at will. This does not seem courageous to me, nor brave, nor admirable. It seems remarkably craven.

    Torture — the brutal punishment of an individual without criminal charge, legal trial, or conviction of a crime — runs counter to the principles of Western civilization. Torture is never justified.

  57. 57 Will Rhodes
    December 14, 2007 at 16:42

    Though not a written constitution, the British people have equal, if not more rights than most. This process began with the Magna Carta way back in 1215. It is politicians that are leading us down this dark path and the people have to bring them back – and quickly, Don.

    Great post by the way!

  58. 58 Xie_Ming
    December 15, 2007 at 12:00

    The postings on torture have shown Zoroastrian-derived (Abrahamic) tribalism and generalized demonization of the “other”, advanced with a sociopathic rationale. An eloquent response asserted an alleged valuation of the individual over the state or religious totalism in Western society. Another mentioned the need for leadership.

    The totalist and statist ideology has a long history, antedating its codification in the Abrahamic religions. The competing concept was found in Eastern religion, wherein the divine is believed to lie within the individual and it is for each person to discover it for himself (v.a. Luke 17:21).

    The battle was lost to statism and organized religion with the Council of Nicaea in 325. Since then, the major religions of the West and their sequelae, National Socialism and Marxist-Leninism, have had statist and totalitarian tendencies. The hopeful assertions of the American Constitution should be contrasted with Rousseau and with the German Romantics.

    Thus, the battle of the individual vs. the state goes on. The outcome is uncertain. Stanley Milgram at Yale and Bob Altemeyer in Winnipeg have published much to indicate that eighty percent of mankind are obedient authoritarians who would torture political deviants if told to do so by someone vested with authority. Some seven percent of those will seek to dominate the others.

    Who will lead then becomes decisive. Reportedly, Bush will veto legislation banning torture. Cheney and leading NeoCons have already been mentioned above. The psychopathic (sociopathic) personality is characterized primarily by a lack of conscience and secondarily by impulsivity and having no real feeling for others. Identifiable traits include: superficial charm, absence of nervousness, guiltlessness, pathologic egocentricity, narcissism and dishonesty. Those who think in tribalist terms should be aware that psychopathy is at least 30% genetic.

    In the matter of torture, let us hope that the leaders selected will not have sociopathic traits.

  59. 59 Xie_Ming
    December 17, 2007 at 08:56

    There is another aspect to the torture question, illustrated by one of our posters: sadism. Among 1,000 patients in a forensic hospital, Murphy and Vess identified subtypes of psychopathic patients:

    1) The entitled, superior, self-absorbed and belittling psychopath;

    2) The needy, labile and impulsive borderline psychopath;

    3) The deliberately cruel sadistic psychopath, attuned to the suffering of others;

    4) The remorselessly criminal antisocial psychopath.

    Implicit is the view of psychopathy as a continuum, rather than a state.

    Since most people will torture when authority authorizes it, one should make sure that individuals exhibiting psychopathic traits are not elected. It is known that sadists often seek out police or institutional work. This should be a topic for administrative vigilance.

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