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Avitaweek 2009: Waterboarding isn’t a type of surfing?

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Last night, on an episode of “Clearly, You’re Retarded“, we discussed torture. (You can download the episode and listen to it or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes).

I believe that there are situations where torture should be allowed. These situations are limited and require very specific circumstances. One example where I consider torture to be acceptable would be the following:

1. You have captured someone who you reasonably believe to be a terrorist. This reasonable belief comes from evidence beyond a reasonable doubt;
2. You also have a reasonable belief that this person is aware of the activities of other terrorists. Once again, this “reasonable belief” is not subjective, but rather the legal litmus test of the “reasonable man”; and
3. You have a reasonable belief that subjecting your prisoner to torture in order to get information is highly likely to save lives and is your only method for gathering said information.

In a situation like that, I say torture away. Put bamboo under his fingernails, waterboard him, shock him, shame him, – basically use all implements of physical and psychological torture until you have discovered the information that you need to know.

In a strictly limited situation like this, I think that it’s for the greater good. Torture one to save a thousand.

Do you agree? And if not, why?

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41 Replies to “Avitaweek 2009: Waterboarding isn’t a type of surfing?”

  1. Grant

    I think torture should be used for fun and games, but most people being tortured will tell you whatever they think you want to hear / will make you stop, so it’s unreliable as a means of gathering information. On the other hand, it’s great for motivating people like Britney Spears to stop making music videos / babies.

  2. T-Bird

    If some kind of immanency requirement would be added to your list, I’d agree completely with it (ie: there is a danger of imminent harm that requires you to extract information immediately).
    The rationale, I guess, is that if the harm isn’t about to occur then there may be alternative methods of stopping the attack. This is a “utilitarian” view of things whereas I think yours may have a degree more of “retribution” to it.
    Yes I’m a law student.

  3. Suebob

    I disagree. Why? Because I am an American, from the land of the free, and the home of the brave, and here, we don’t torture people. Period. (That Bush thing was an anomaly). We have a little thing called the Constitution. Perhaps you have forgotten the 8th Amendment?

  4. SingleParentDad

    I think the -not so- secret service SHOULD be better qualified to answer that question. It is very much a scenario basis, and where fair game targets apply, as in spies caught in the hands of the spied.

    It also has a negative effect in reverse motivation for potential victims, their associates and supporters.

    Interesting that torture is generally related to terrorist activity. I remember some cases here, right here in the middle bit of the UK, of confessions that were obtained from violet criminals using different forms of torture. In a lot of cases their confessions or ‘pointers’ actually unearthed facts and evidence that made the cases against them more water-tight, but still there was uproar, and all these cases, and those incarcerated, were dismissed.

  5. chamblee54

    Torture is like the other moral issues that people love to debate, i.e. war, capital punishment, and abortion. IMO, they should all be allowed, but used very very sparingly. The circumstances where such strong measures should be used are almost never in effect. I don’t believe in the ticking time bomb, or the easter bunny. And if the ticking time bomb was about to go off, would we have the time to go on the wild goose chase the “terrorist” would send us on? People will say anything to make the pain stop. Also, once this person is captured, the plans are going to change.
    Yes, keep the torture stick in the tool box, but be very careful about taking it out.

  6. NYCWD

    I think your being to strict in limiting it to terrorist activities.

    I think in cases of missing children, such as Caylee Anthony, torture should be allowed as well. I actually had a post on it… somewhere…

  7. Clown

    In America, we wave the red, white, and blue high in the air and bang the feathered asses of bald eagles because we are proud to be free. If somebody looks at our freedom with an evil eye, we kidnap their sons and fake shoot one of them in front of the suspect. After we find out what we want to know, we cut to a well timed commercial. Why? Because this is America. God bless CTU.

  8. Miss Britt

    I told you Dawg would agree with you! LOL

    I think that it’s irresponsible to discuss something like torture, which is affecting our country and real human beings now, in some mythical, hypothetical situation that one cannot expect to ever “reasonably” exist.

    And I think that if you “reasonably” expect the scenario you’ve described to occur, you’re being naive.

  9. dr. wigglebutt

    i disagree. because one country’s terrorist is another country’s hero. and while i do think your litmus test is a good way to roll for the u.s., i don’t believe we would allow the same litmus test to be applied to our over undercover operatives in the event of capture and torture.

    additionally, there’s the problem of the reliability of information obtained under duress. if we won’t allow confessions attained under the hard tactics of police officers, how can we allow confessions or information obtained under the extreme duress of torture? and if logic dictates that the information may not be trustworthy, then why hurt another human being for such a spurious cause?

  10. Willie G

    I think it speaks volumes to the state of humanity that “torture…for the greater good” can be used as the basis of an argument to justify the protection of innocent victims. This argument puts us in the precarious position of situational ethics where we live by the notion the ends will always justify the means, and if I get what I want at the expense of another then ethical standards can be fluid and thus adjustable. I believe the rule of law applies to everyone, even those responsible for protecting us from tyranny. We used to justify burning suspected witches at the stake. We used to justify slavery. We evolved. We moved forward. It’s time we put torture behind us as a nation and lead towards true peace.

  11. Princess of the Universe

    Ugh, my computer got all wonky and I only caught about 2 minutes of the show last night!

    Unfortunately, I’m not with you on this. I don’t think torture is acceptable under any circumstances. That’s the kind of behaviour that separates us from animals – the ability to realize that no matter what you’re trying to accomplish, there are just some things that are not justifiable.

    Now that being said, I’m certain that if someone I loved was in danger and I found someone who knew something about it, I would drop my moralistic stance pretty quickly…

    But until that happens: torture = unacceptable.

  12. Tiffany

    I say torture away. For a short time. If they can beat the good info out of them fairly soon after their capture, awesome. If they can’t get the information relatively quickly, then charge them with something and send them away to rot. Seriously… do people really thing that a terrorist who has been in custody, for lets say a year, has any good, up-to-date information to offer? :boobs4:

  13. Sybil Law

    I think torture’s been around for a long, long time, and there’s an awful lot of things that have happened both TO us and things we’ve done to others, that no one knows about. Frankly, I am okay with that. I don’t think, of course, that torture should be used willy-willy, but if there’s something to be gained that will protect thousands of lives, go for it. I think it’s incredibly naive as well as conceited to think we’re “better” than other people (countries), or that we have to prove how “civilized” we are to them. Don’t get me wrong – I am proud to be an American, I am happy I was born here, but if I’d been born in Botswana or wherever, who knows if I’d be just as happy there? The fact is, people from everywhere are going to do bad things to us simply because we are Americans. Faiqa was right that certain people don’t care if they die; that, in fact, they’ll then be martyred. But not everyone has that attitude, and the fact is even the big, brave suicide mission people can and will squeal if given the right motivation.
    Damn this is long!
    But basically, I agree, only it should be done when you pretty much know it can save potentially more lives.
    But if someone wanted to torture Tom Cruise, I’d be okay with that, too. Maybe make him take some Ritalin…

  14. Father Muskrat

    I don’t like for our government to be allowed to make the decision to perform such acts. I don’t trust it.

    We can mind fuck someone to extract info without physically torturing him. Also, studies show most of the intel we get from torture is given out of desperation to make the pain stop and isn’t reliable. Finally, I don’t want us to stoop to the level other countries (or terrorsist cells) go to.

  15. kitty

    It’s wrong to de-value even one life. I’d much rather take my chances with what info we find legally and morally and risk an attack than open that can of worms. There is no justification for brutality. It debases us all. And where does it stop? Once you start something it’s so much easier the next time and then the next until suddenly it’s just our way of life. Nope. You have to draw a line somewhere.

  16. Redneck Mommy


    Why can’t we all just get along and shoot fairy dust out of our assholes?

    Life would be so much easier.

    Intellectually, I approve of torture and the necessary results when applied in a military application.

    Morally and emotionally, I can’t begin to wrap my head around the idea of it.

    I’m a wuss and I prefer to remain that way.

  17. Ren

    Seems like the quintessential slippery slope. I do not subscribe to the premise that the ends justify the means. Even if I felt that I would personally go to any length to protect my family, that does not mean I would want such behavior by the government to ever be legitimized. For that matter, even if I personally crossed that line I would do so fully expecting to face the consequences.

  18. Turnbaby

    Could you do it?

    I guess that is my question to you—would you approve of it if you were the one who had to actually commit the physical act?

    I’m reminded of the scene in Slumdog Millionaire where the police captain orders that Jamal be zapped with electricity. He orders it then looks away and waits to be told that he has stopped twitching.

  19. B.E. Earl

    The biggest problem with torture is that for everyone who agrees that there should be torture for certain crimes, those crimes could be different for each person.

    If I were a father I might agree that torture could be used on someone I was “reasonably sure” was guilty of kidnapping my daughter. Hell, I’m not a father and I think torture is a viable option there.

    But I wouldn’t be thinking with a clear head. I would want my daughter back (or your daughter back or her daughter back) at any cost. No matter what the Constitution says.

    Same thing with the government and terrorism.

    So I gotta look at it with a clear head and say that torture is wrong no matter what the possible outcome might be. It’s a decision that needs to made coldly…away from the fire of the unspeakable acts of the criminals. It’s the only way.

    And I’m glad that I’m not in a position to make these decisions.

  20. Avitable

    Grant, I disagree. I think that someone who is being tortured will first tell the truth, and then tell the person whatever they want to hear afterwards.

    BE Earl, oh c’mon. Heroes isn’t THAT bad.

    Bluepaintred, I’m willing to take that risk.

    T-Bird, you’re right. I should have included a requirement for imminent harm – that was the intention of saying that the torture is the only way of gathering the information necessary to save the lives.

    Sarah, come out of there – it’s fun in here!

    Karl, I think that’s only the situation if the person has nothing valuable to say.

    Suebob, this isn’t cruel or unusual punishment. The 8th amendment does not apply if you look at it strictly. And I’m an American who would torture someone to save thousands of other Americans.

    Vic, of course that’s my real address. Feel free to send away.

    Hello, heh – you’re so cute.

    SPD, I know that convictions for the people would be hard, but if it saved lives, it would be worth it.

    Kapgar, that too!

    Chamblee, that’s exactly my point.

    Robin, psychological torture is definitely an effective way to go.

    NYCWD, that was just a hypothetical. If it saves lives and meets those criteria, I think it’s justified.

    Britt, the law is all about setting up hypothetical situations. And it’s naive to think that you can save the world without sacrificing a few ideals.

    Wigglebutt, there are two points where I disagree. First of all, our operatives are already tortured if caught by some of these countries. We can’t use that to prevent our actions. Secondly, the reliability of information is only suspect in situations where the suspect is there under circumstantial evidence. I’m talking about evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, we wouldn’t be torturing for a faulty confession that would result in a conviction – we’re torturing to find out information that we need quickly.

    Willie, if there was knowledge of a terrorist plot that was going to kill thousands of Americans, and our government didn’t do everything in its power to find out what that plot was and stop it, we’d be horrified. If it saves lives, the ends justify the means.

    Princess of the Universe, animals don’t torture each other. This is a purely human action.

    Finn, but why?

    Tiffany, it’s all about expedience.

    Kiefer and Emo, “reasonable” is a legal standard.

    Sybil, Tom Cruise is okay in my book.

    Traci, your mom talks until your husband divorces you?

    Muskrat, mindfucking would be considered torture as well.

    Paloma, that’s how I feel.

    Faiqa, that doesn’t count!

    Kitty, we’re not going to kill them, just rip their fingernails off!

    Crystal, and that’s why it’s such a difficult argument for people.

    Redneck Mommy, you? A wuss? I thought you were a badass!

    Ren, it’s only a slippery slope if you don’t have strict rules and procedures in place.

    Elizabeth, can you back that up with logic?

    Drew G, check your email.

    Turnbaby, I could absolutely do it, without reservation or hesitation.

    BE Earl, the “reasonable” standard is a cold, objective standard, so it would not be made in the heat of the moment.

  21. Poppy

    I have to only believe in forms of punishment I would want performed on myself. It’s the way I think, feel, believe, and live.

    So: No torture.

    This cannot be changed about me.

    I respect anyone else’s view on this subject, I just can only accept my own view for myself.

  22. Dee

    So what’s to stop anyone from torturing someone under the statement that they reasonably believed the person was going to cause harm to others? One man’s proof is another man’s doubt. Who makes the decision? Which one of us is godlike enough to “know” that torture is the way to go?

    I’m against it although I am not naive enough to believe that I would not use it in the heat of the moment if I believed it would save any of my loved ones.

  23. Princess of the Universe

    Animals don’t have consciences or souls or any kind of ethical/moral framework. They want what they want and they do what they have to do to get it.
    We as humans have the obligation to assess our behaviour and think about whether or not the ends justify the means.

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