Torture, Effectiveness, & Consequentialism

I have been meaning to post on the torture memos since last week, but have not had time. For now, I’ll point you to a post of Blackadder’s, which highlights the unconvincing arguments currently being floated to justify the Bush Administration’s use of torture:

The latest meme running through these sites is that while it may be honorable to be opposed to torture on principle, we ought to be reasonable and just admit that torture works. Here, for example, is Jonah Goldberg:

I have no objection to the moral argument against torture — if you honestly believe something amounts to torture. But the “it doesn’t work” line remains a cop out, no matter how confidently you bluster otherwise.

And here’s Michelle Malkin, making the same point:

We need to have an honest debate on interrogation techniques and securing America against attack from radical, committed terrorists. Conservatives should stop pretending that waterboarding isn’t a form of torture that the US has opposed for decades when used abroad, especially against our own citizens. But everyone else should stop pretending that it doesn’t work, and that we would have been safer without its use.

Yet while there is no shortage of confident assertions made over the last few days that ‘torture works’ and that it’s silly to pretend otherwise, the evidence adduced to support this claim tends to be rather thin. Malkin, for example, points to a New York Times story concerning a memo written by Admiral Dennis Blair, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence. According to Malkin, the memo establishes “the truth that waterboarding produced information that saved hundreds of American lives, perhaps thousands.” Blair’s actual description of what waterboarding gained, however, is a tad less grandiose:

High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country.

Nothing in there about thwarted plots or saved lives. And while getting a “deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization” is no doubt important, one wonders whether it might have been possible to gain such a “deeper understanding” without waterboarding suspects hundreds of times.

Ironically, Adm. Blair’s own assessment of the use of torture is exactly the sort of position Malkin condemns as unserious:

The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.

…..

One wonders: if the case that torture saved lives is so rock solid, why do its advocates keep having to distort the facts in order to make their case?

Read the whole thing here.

From a Catholic perspective, of course, the efficacy of torture is irrelevant. It is an offense against human dignity whether it works or not. However, the effectiveness of torture does matter in the U.S. because consequentialism and pragmatism are widely accepted approaches to morality. For this reason, it is important  for Catholics to make the case against torture on moral and pragmatic/consequentialist grounds.

Update: Michael I. has some additional thought-provoking comments here.

113 Responses to Torture, Effectiveness, & Consequentialism

  • Dale Price says:

    It’s a great post, and thanks for highlighting here.

    Sadly, while one does have to occasionally wade into “but does it work?” waters, I think the better argument is that there are some doors you simply cannot open.

    I think the most disturbing line of implicit argumentation I came across was the discussion that the waterboarded terrorists thought we were weak until they got the watering can.

    I think I can live with their contempt, actually. Lest we forget, KSM was the one running for his life and looking like a cut-rate pr0n actor gone to seed when he was captured.

    I’ll go back to a point I made before: if Al Qaeda waterboarded captured Americans (say, 150+ times), would we describe their actions as “enhanced interrogation techniques”?

  • Michael C. says:

    Should not there be an analysis of the severity and imminence of the harm that could be prevented by torture? For example, the classic Dirty Harry movie scene where the criminal has trapped a victim in a vault that will run out of air shortly. There is no reasonable chance of finding the victim in time to save her. Dirty Harry tortures the criminal to force him to tell the location and the girl is saved. Would the church forbid torture in that situation? Or in the “24″ situation with a ticking nuclear bomb? Is it not the same inquiry that one has to make when defending a life? Certainly, if Dirty Harry would be justified in blowing a criminal away if it was the only practical way to prevent the criminal from actively murdering a victim, would he not be justified in doing less violence (torture is less than killing, no?) a criminal who was passively killing his victim?

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Oh, I’d say that torture is quite effective as demonstrated by the fact that it has been part of human conflict as far back as historical records reach. John McCain was a rather brave Navy Pilot, but as he admitted torture broke him.

    http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/11/29/100012.shtml

    If the target of the torture has the information, I’d say that almost anyone will talk as a result of torture. I am opposed to physical torture including waterboarding, but I have not the slightest doubt it is very, very effective.

  • John Henry says:

    Donald,

    I think the discussion of torture’s effectiveness is broader than just ‘Can we hypothetically get x to say what he knows?’ In this particular situation the question is ‘did the use of torture make the U.S. significantly safer?’ And the evidence here does not seem to support the contention that it did. Another way of approaching effectiveness is to consider whether the reputational harms associated with the use of torture are outweighed by the benefits of any information received from torture. Again, these are consequentialist arguments, but I think they can be used to supplement (but not replace) moral arguments.

  • Knuckle Dragger says:

    I think a question that fathers need to ask themselves is “would you waterboard someone to save your child”? Most fathers, I think, would say yes – though I’m sure they wouldn’t be proud of it. So, if it is OK in that circumstance, why isn’t it OK for the president to authorize it to save people he is supposed to protect?

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    John Henry in order to gauge the effectiveness of torture in a particular instance we would have to possess the information elicited and the actions taken based on this information, something neither you nor I nor the New York Times have. My point is that physical torture will obviously force almost anyone submitted to it to reveal whatever they know. It will also do it faster than alternative techniques. The worth of the information gleaned will obviously depend upon what the target of the torture knows.

    The interesting part of the Blair story is that the following portions were deleted from the version of his memo released to the media:

    “Admiral Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    “I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past,” he wrote, “but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”

    To futher and perhaps resolve this debate all the Obama administration has to do is to allow access as to information gleaned as a result of waterboarding for example and the use made by the US of the intelligence. I realize this may not be possible if the intelligence is sensitive, but it should at least be considered in a few cases so we can all have a better factual basis to determine effectiveness or ineffectiveness. Until we do we have no real way of knowing what was accomplished by waterboarding.

  • Jay Anderson says:

    I am unequivocally opposed to torture – including waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques. I have no doubt that torture can be “effective” in getting the subject to tell what he knows, but I am nevertheless of the mind that we should not engage in grave intrinsic evils even if some good may result. In other words, no torture under any circumstances.

    That said, I find abhorrent the notion that we should “spin” the issue of torture’s efficacy in order to dupe a consequentialist American populace into thinking torture isn’t really all that effective. If torture has been effective in producing life-saving intelligence, rather than lying about that fact, our argument should be that it is, nevertheless, a price too high to pay.

    It’s just like ESCR: even if its proponents could prove that it was a panacea for all manner of health-related problems (and they can’t because it isn’t), our response wouldn’t be to “spin” the science; it would be to say that such research is an intrinsic evil that violates human dignity EVEN IF some good may result as a result thereof.

  • John Henry says:

    I find abhorrent the notion that we should “spin” the issue of torture’s efficacy in order to dupe a consequentialist American populace into thinking torture isn’t really all that effective. If torture has been effective in producing life-saving intelligence, rather than lying about that fact, our argument should be that it is, nevertheless, a price too high to pay.

    I think the idea of ‘duping’ is asinine; if there is strong evidence the programs were effective, then naturally there is no sense in arguing against the evidence. I don’t think we have such evidence, however. In such cases, there is nothing wrong with pointing out a given policy (like ESCR funding) is both immoral and ineffective.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    “Should not there be an analysis of the severity and imminence of the harm that could be prevented by torture?”

    Sure, analyze away. But it won’t make a difference. Not if we’re Catholic.

    First of all, if something is intrinsically evil, there’s no ‘analysis’ that will justify it. There are plenty of people who make elaborate arguments to justify the personal and social utility of abortion and contraception. If the Church isn’t willing to consider those, then why would she consider torture?

    “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” 2297 of the Catechism. Also see 404 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine.

    So here it doesn’t specifically say, ‘torture used to get life-saving information’. So is there a gray area?

    I don’t think so. There is a hierarchy of values and priorities. If we believe what we say we believe, then we believe in eternal life and a heavenly judgment. It doesn’t make sense to do something so terrible to a human being to save the lives of others if life goes on forever. I’m not saying we must be pacifists, but there is a difference between self-defense and torture. There are simply some cases where we must be ready to accept bad things for the sake of not violating a moral law that will have even worse consequences here-after.

    I don’t think people really think about it, though. The old ‘practical man in a practical world’ logic relegates such concerns to monks and women and scholars. “Yes yes, I believe in God and all that, but we have a problem here.”

    I can’t accept that. The only relevant question is if torture aligns with the will of God, the goodness of God. If the answer is no then for us to do it anyway is to insult and offend God. What man finds important, Jesus says, God finds abominable.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I’d also add that the psycho-sexual torture of Muslim men is absolutely disgusting. I can’t see a loving God condoning demonic behavior.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    I imagine that God might have a problem or two with our enemies who behead American captives and make snuff films about it. Compared to the enemy we have been fighting our behavior has been light years better. Just condemnation of abuses is one thing; we must also remember that the jihadists observe no rules of war at all.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Should our concern be what God does to people who are manifestly evil, or to us, who believe we have an obligation to be good? If they are evil because of what they do, then how are we not evil in doing the same? Or do we believe that the ends justify the means? Torture for the Republic = acceptable, torture for the Caliphate = bad?

    “Our enemies” are Muslims. How God will judge them, I can’t say. But I think I know what Catholic theology says about how He will judge us.

    And lets not forget the history of imperial domination and manipulation that caused a widespread resurgence of militant Islam after decades of secular political movements both liberal/constitutional and secular socialist. Not saying that I endorse the latter, but it was nothing like radical Islam.

  • paul zummo says:

    While it’s understandable to want to add some practical arguments to our condemnation of torture, ultimately I think they should be put aside when we’re trying to make a moral argument about its inherent evil. First of all, if something is wrong, we should be content to just end it right there. For example, I’ve really liked delving into debates about the deterrent effect of the death penalty. I’m against it on principle – why should I get into what is a side debate that to me is really inconsequential?

    Also, if we give up the high ground of the moral argument, we could ultimately lose the practical argument. I’m not sure about whether torture really works, but, for example, what if ESCR does actually start fulfilling its promise? What then? It certainly is helpful to our cause that it does not work, but what if it did work? What if torture does work? What if the death penalty does have a deterrent effect? Then we retreat back to the moral argument? Well, that makes us look a little duplicitous.

  • Policraticus says:

    Most fathers, I think, would say yes – though I’m sure they wouldn’t be proud of it. So, if it is OK in that circumstance, why isn’t it OK for the president to authorize it to save people he is supposed to protect?

    For a couple of reasons…

    First, torture is an intrinsic evil, so if one accepts that water-boarding against the will for coercive purposes is torture, then water-boarding is intrinsically evil. If water-boarding is torture, then whether or not most fathers would do it does not change the moral status of torture. Would it affect the moral status of abortion if you took a poll and discovered that most fathers would encourage their wives to abort a baby that will have severe disabilities and a short, painful life?

    Second, you cite an example that simply doesn’t work for two reasons:

    1) It is highly improbable that a father would have to link water-boarding to saving his child, which means a general position on water-boarding as policy would only have to make slight exceptions for the sort of periphery case you cite. Torture as a governmental policy, on the other hand, would not be periphery but normative and formal. In other words, an unlikely (though possible) periphery case can be accommodated by general principles, that is, approval of water-boarding to save a child’s life in a rare circumstance does not mean that normative, governmental policy would likewise have to be approved.

    2) You seem to be arguing by analogy between father-son, president-country. However, this is clearly a false analogy, which is a logical fallacy. For an analogy to work as an argument, the formal structure of both terms must be equivalent, that is, the material of the terms can differ but the form must be identical. The form of the father-son relationship is natural, absolute, and familial. The form of the president-country relationship is political, contingent, and governmental. Because the forms of the terms are obviously different, then you may draw an analogy for heuristic purposes but you cannot draw an analogy as an argument. So your argument (it’s not wrong in A, and A is like B, therefore it’s not wrong in B) contains a logical fallacy. For more on this, any logic textbook will have a section on logical fallacies and how to avoid them.

  • John Henry says:

    Paul/Jay,

    I think it’s important to distinguish between two different types of argument here:

    1)Feigning a concern about a policy based on reason y, when we really care about(but aren’t mentioning) reason x.

    2) Stating reason x upfront (e.g. I think torture/ capital punishment/ESCR are wrong morally), and additionally, I think the claims advocates make about their effectiveness are overblown.

    I am advocating strategy 2, not 1. With regard to torture, even most people who support torture concede it’s distasteful; they just think the results justify it. Assuming they have some hesitancy about it to begin with, pointing out that the successes claimed in its name are overblown can be an effective argument, as long as you acknowledge upfront that you find it morally objectionable.

    Now, it’s always possible that the benefits from torture are so clear and so obvious that strategy number 2 is facially absurd and discredits anyone who makes the claim (the ‘spin’ or ‘dupe’ approach as Jay referred to it). But I do not think we are there with respect to torture, as BA’s post suggests.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Well John Henry, Cheney has called for the release of CIA memos showing the results of the interrogations. I hope the Obama administration will do that, but I am not holding my breath, just as I would not hold my breath that the anti-torture policy of this administration will last 12 hours beyond the next big jihadist attack on this country.
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/04/20/cheney-calls-release-memos-showing-results-interrogation-efforts-1862515294/

  • Knuckle Dragger says:

    Policraticus,

    Thanks for your comments. How about this one:

    Most fathers would be willing to shoot someone who was about kill their child. Most of us would also expect a police officer to do the same thing. I think this would be standard operating procedure for the police officer. Killing is more evil, or at least as evil, as torture. So why wouldn’t torture also be an acceptable option to save the child?

  • John Henry says:

    I saw that Cheney called for the release of the memos, but I have little confidence in his judgment on this issue (to put it mildly). I share your doubt that Obama will release the files, but I thought this op-ed from a CIA interrogator was very interesting:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/23/opinion/23soufan.html

    There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.

  • Eric Brown says:

    “Tell that to the guy being tortured. He might be begging for death!”

    PRECISELY!

    Torture is intrinsically evil. Capital punishment, according to the Church, is not. That seems as if it should be backward, but it isn’t.

    It’s simple to kill someone; it is an entirely different thing, an even worse thing, to make someone wish they were dead.

    Imagine how sadistic, how against your nature you are forced to behave, and the length of time you have to hold up the banner of justification for your actions — convincing yourself that what you’re doing is morally licit versus how long you have to pretend you don’t know killing is wrong to commit the act of killing.

    This might be going in an entirely different direction, but this reminds me of what Benedict XVI said a long while ago: we should really ask ourselves, seriously, “given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war.’”

    The Holy Father doesn’t explicitly answer the question. I don’t think he has to, nor is his personal position entirely relevant. The question — profound as it is — speaks for itself.

    Sure, the cause one is fighting for may be just and noble. But we really downplay the effects of war, what it means for our humanity particularly those directly involved. There’s an old saying, “in times of war, the laws are silent.”

    And look at what we begin to justify — torture being the obvious.

    I’ve actually found it absolutely horrible that torture is downplayed as a non-negotiable issue, just as evil in its horror as abortion and euthanasia, perhaps, not in scope and gravity, but surely in the fact that it contravenes in itself the basic dignity due to a person by their humanity. And it rather disturbs me, particularly when Catholics, buy into the word gymnastics of “interrogation” et al, as if it is no different than when mainstream liberals try to call abortion something other than what it really is.

    Thank you, everyone.

  • Bob Cheeks says:

    I’m a flawed Christian.
    I must confess I would never stand back and allow a mujahadeen to attempt to kill my family, friends, or neighbors. I would either kill him, if that were necessary, or torture him to gain information that would relieve any threat of death or injury to family, friend, or neighbors.
    Reality demands it, and I will humbly stand in God’s judgement for my actions.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    John Henry the article you linked to was written by Ali Soufan. He was FBI not CIA. The article struck me as more of the unending turf wars between FBI and CIA that has hampered the fight against the terrorists. If all the information is released we will see.

    One of the odd things about the article is that Soufan has worked for Giuliani Security since leaving the FBI.
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/73371

    When Giuliani ran for President he was the most vociferous of all the Republican candidates in supporting “aggressive interogation techniques”. Soufan contributed 2300 bucks to his campaign. Odd for a person who wrote the article yesterday. Wheels within wheels, as usual, when dealing with someone from the FBI or the CIA.

  • Jay Anderson says:

    Here’s the deal: I share Don’s skepticism that the Obama Administration won’t resort to the same tactics should the “need” arise (clearly, the Administration sees some benefit to “enhanced interrogation” as evidenced by his retaining the extraordinary rendition polices of his predecessors in office). And for what other reason would they do so other than that they see torture as at least somewhat “effective” under certain circumstances?

    I’m afraid the “One Ring” (to borrow an analogy from Shea) is just too tempting a tool for those in power to forego using. And the argument against using the One Ring was never that it didn’t work. Of course it worked, which is why those in power were to tempted to use it. The argument against the One Ring was always that using it turned you into something you didn’t want to become, eventually giving Evil mastery over you.

    I don’t think we should even be countenancing “effectiveness” arguments. Because the risk of turning out to have been wrong on that issue (what if someday we learn that another catastrophic terror attack was stopped on the basis of information obtained via torture?) is that our moral and ethical arguments are thereby undermined.

  • Knuckle Dragger says:

    Bob,

    Thanks for your honesty. I’m in your camp, and I suspect most fathers/family would do the same. Hopefully God would forgive us.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    A few other points:

    Even if torture “works” in the sense that it extracts important strategic information, we should not assume that it is the ONLY thing that works for that purpose. There are alternatives (just as there are alternatives to abortion, contraception, the death penalty, etc.)

    Also, remember the saying that “hard cases make bad law.” The example of the father who resorts to torture to save his child’s life reminds me of the oft-cited example of abortion to save the life of the mother. It’s one thing if an individual resorts to illegal or immoral measures in a situation of extreme duress; they can be forgiven or their punishment can be mitigated or removed. That does NOT, however, mean these measures should be endorsed or approved by law or as a matter of policy. That’s how legalized abortion got started — by first legalizing it only for “hard” cases like rape, incest, life of the mother, etc. We all know how that ended up. Allowing torture only for “extreme” cases could very well end up the same way.

  • Bob Cheeks says:

    K.D.,
    Yeah, I figure it’s just common sense. Re: the gummint
    “protecting” my family I’m a bit ambiguous, for example, say we elected a pro-Muslim, left-wing socialist who had a chip on his shoulder for the white bourgeoisie who he believed has been oppressing his people for the past four hundred years? I sure don’t want him deciding who’s going to be “interrogated!”

  • Tell that to the guy being tortured. He might be begging for death!

    Is anyone seriously suggesting that the interrogation techniques used by the Bush administration had anyone “begging for death”? I know this post isn’t just limited to those techniques, but they’re certainly what sparked interesting in the topic. It’s also worth noting that some of those techniques reasonably fall under the category torture, e.g., waterboarding, while others arguably do not, e.g., sleep deprivation, prolonged questioning, etc.

  • Policraticus says:

    Most fathers would be willing to shoot someone who was about kill their child. Most of us would also expect a police officer to do the same thing. I think this would be standard operating procedure for the police officer. Killing is more evil, or at least as evil, as torture. So why wouldn’t torture also be an acceptable option to save the child?

    Same problem if you are arguing by analogy. Your two analogies can be used for heuristic purposes (e.g., the president is “like” a father; a police officer acts “like” a father). But you seem to want to make an argument by analogy using terms that do not have the same form. The matter of each term is the same (i.e., water-boarding and killing a threat), but the formal structure of each term is different (i.e., nature of relationship and duty). That’s what makes your two examples false analogy. Like I said, you can draw an analogy with anything for heuristic purposes. But be careful when you draw analogies for arguments. You are confused by the fact that the matter in your examples is the same (i.e., the action), but you are missing that the form–which is the key for argument–is different. Hence, you have drawn two false analogies according to logic.

  • John Henry says:

    I share Poli’s sense that the analogy between father-child and state-citizens doesn’t work both because the father-child relationship is different than the state-citizen relationship, and because the relationship between a father and someone threatening their child is different than the State’s relationship to someone in custody.

    Most analogies used in political debate are heuristic, so I wouldn’t dismiss it solely on that basis, but I think the differences in this particular case are so significant that there is little, if any, heuristic value. Moreover, it seems to me that you’ve implicitly conceded (‘they wouldn’t be proud of it’) that the action may be immoral. If you concede torture is immoral but nevertheless support it, then the issue is not torture, per se, but with a Catholic vs. a utilitarian/consequentialist approach to ethics.

  • Tom says:

    My two cents, it’s silly to claim anymore that enhanced interrogation has not produced actionable intelligence– it clearly has, and the only way to deny it is to impugn the honesty of the several individuals documenting this efficacy.

    Much ink has been spilled hand-wringing over the use of enhanced interrogation methods. And while there may be abuses, as in any human endeavor, the proportionate use of physical or mental stressors to discover life-saving intelligence is entirely consistent with Catholic moral principles, in my humble opinion. Just as in self defense, where the force used to repel the attack has to be proportionate with the threat, or in just war theory, where the means of executing the war must be proportionate (which is why we have issues with Sherman and Hiroshima), or in criminal punishment, where punishment must be proportional to the offense.

    Catholic moral theology has long understood and applied the notion of proportionality. If, and only if, the action proposed is intrinsically evil, is the action per se morally impermissible.

    The Church certainly never has in the past condemned forcible interrogation as intrinsically immoral. To the contrary. And even now, with Veritatis Splendor #80, there is great ambiguity about 1) what it is that is actually being termed intrinsically evil under the word “torture”; and 2) whether, given that many other actions appear to be termed intrinsically evil practices which are in no sense at all intrinsically evil (e.g., deportation), the document can be said to be trying to lay out definitively binding specific moral precepts as opposed to presenting examples the concrete moral implications of which the document doesn’t seek to address.

    Without VS#80, which is the sole magisterial basis for the position of those who argue that “torture” is intrinsically evil, we take up the traditional task of moral theology, assessing the specific uses of these methods, and coming to terms with whether the methods and their implementation are proportionate to the end sought, namely, actionable intelligence that may save innocent life.

    I fear that since this is a much more delicate task that calls for patience and prudence, it will be eclipsed by the need for some to have a simple rule that removes all such effort and doubt.

    The Quakers and Waldenses also sought such a clear rule, which is why they condemn any war or use of force whatsoever.

    But as Catholics, we are called to engage our reason enlightened by our moral principles.

  • Knuckle Dragger says:

    Poli and John,

    I’m learning something about logic from both of you. However, it seems to me that the primary purpose of the state is to protect its citizens. That’s why abortion should be illegal. The government should protect innocent life. I want my government to do what it takes to protect my innocent child. If that involves waterboarding or killing the criminal, so be it. I expect the government to use less lethal means if possible, but in this fallen world sometimes it’s necessary to do more to protect the innocent. I’m not willing to sacrifice the life of my innocent child in order to protect the dignity of some criminal.

  • j. christian says:

    One thing about the “ticking time bomb” scenario: I do think it’s a different breed than the typical reality of torture. If someone has a literal finger on a trigger to kill, and it is morally licit to use force to stop that person from killing, then it’s possible to conjure a scenario in which a person has a figurative finger on a “trigger” — i.e., you know with certainty that this person is imminently going to give a signal to detonate a bomb and kill many, and you know with certainty that using physical force (torture?) would stop him from doing so… then it’s quite analogous to a situation in which force is applied to stop an aggressor — again, a licit action according to the Church.

    Big “however”: The ticking time bomb scenario is mostly a fiction from the likes of “24.” I don’t think it represents the reality at hand. Torture used to glean information is clearly not analogous to stopping an aggressor with force: the act is too far removed from the consequence, and there’s too much uncertainty involved. The only way I could conceive of something akin to “torture” being acceptable would be in the (mostly implausible and fictitious) ticking time bomb scenario.

    I think that’s what many have in mind when we apply the analogy of the “protective police officer.” It doesn’t really fit, though.

  • j. christian says:

    Knuckle Dragger,

    Take a look at my most recent post. I think that’s what you have in mind when you’re thinking of torture saving lives. I’d argue that you’re correct in the instance of an aggressor who is imminently going to take innocent life, that a proportionate response with force can be justified. However, I don’t think that’s how torture is typically applied. Using force to stop an aggressor directly is permissible, but using “force” (such as enhanced interrogation) to get information on your enemies is not.

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    It seems to me that confusion arises when “suppose” cases are used. Suppose you are with your wife and mother in a plane that is about to crash, and with only one parachute. To whom should you give the parachute? Your mother, of course. You can always get another wife.
    The instance underlines the absurdity of “suppose” cases. The Church does not go in for “suppose” cases.
    The question of torture was debated ad nauseam in the Inquisition.
    In a polity such as the U.S. which encourages abortions [the painful killing of innocents] discussions about torture seem disingenuous.
    An overlooked and overarching consideration is the simple fact that the Church does not consider death to be an “intrinsic” evil.

  • Knuckle Dragger says:

    j. christian,

    I guess I’m thinking of the “ticking time bomb” scenario. If the government has some credible intelligence that a terrorist attack is about to happen in my town, but they don’t know exactly where or when, I would not be opposed to waterboarding someone who is very likely to know these facts. This would be a rare circumstance, but definitely possible.

    It shouldn’t be used to get general information on your enemies.

  • e. says:

    Knuckle Dragger:

    Would you, then, finally protest the outright crucifixion of those individuals who just might’ve actually saved our families from yet another terrorist attack on U.S. soil?

    For folks to actually provide such protection to even these terrorists who would have me and my loved ones suffer another major loss of even more innocent lives in addition to those several precious we’ve already lost on that fateful 9/11 day is downright wicked.

    It isn’t enough that we’ve already suffered such tremendous tragedy but that even certain Americans themselves would actually provide safe harbor for the terrorists and, by so doing, serve to advance their murderously sinister agenda in successfully orchestrating even more ominous disasters on innocent American people!

    President Obama on Monday paid his first formal visit to CIA headquarters, in order, as he put it, to “underscore the importance” of the agency and let its staff “know that you’ve got my full support.” Assuming he means it, the President should immediately declassify all memos concerning what intelligence was gleaned, and what plots foiled, by the interrogations of high-level al Qaeda detainees in the wake of September 11.

    This suggestion was first made by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who said he found it “a little bit disturbing” that the Obama Administration had decided to release four Justice Department memos detailing the CIA’s interrogation practices while not giving the full picture of what the interrogations yielded in actionable intelligence. Yes, it really is disturbing, especially given the bogus media narrative that has now developed around those memos.

    SOURCE: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124035706108641065.html

  • Policraticus says:

    However, it seems to me that the primary purpose of the state is to protect its citizens.

    Yes.

    The government should protect innocent life.

    Yes, through just and moral means.

    I want my government to do what it takes to protect my innocent child. If that involves waterboarding or killing the criminal, so be it.

    That’s your subjective sentiment (“I want…”). It does not change the moral status of torture (“Torture is…”).

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    Again I raise the question: if it’s OK to torture someone in order to save your child’s life, would it be OK to perform an abortion on your wife or your daughter in order to save HER life?

    I do realize that in the latter scenario there are instances in which the principle of double effect would apply — e.g. removal of a cancerous uterus or repair of a fallopian tube ruptured by an ectopic pregnancy. In that case, the death of the child (assuming he or she is not yet viable) is an undesired “side effect” of a procedure whose primary aim is to save the mother. So it’s not a case of killing the child to save the mother, but saving the mother instead of simply allowing BOTH mother and child to die.

    However, these scenarios are extremely rare in modern medicine and most doctors never run into them. What did happen, however, was that the notion of abortion to save the life of the mother became one of the means by which abortion rights activists got the public to agree to the liberalization of abortion laws in the 60s and 70s.

    Could the double effect principle also apply in the case of torturing or killing someone in order to save a loved one in imminent danger of death? In other words, you really want only to save your loved one and you would do it by more peaceful means if it were possible; it just so happens that in this particular case, there is no alternative and the perpetrator “happens” to end up dead or severely injured. The alternative would be for your innocent loved one to die and the perpetrator to get away with the crime; if you resort to torture or deadly force, at least the innocent person is saved.

    So I will argue as I did earlier, that applying torture in individual instances as a last resort is an entirely different matter from endorsing it as a matter of policy or law. In the same way, back when abortion was illegal, individual doctors may have performed banned medical procedures in individual desperate cases and gotten away with it; but that didn’t mean abortion was endorsed or allowed by law as it is today.

  • Knuckle Dragger says:

    Elaine,

    I think we agree. I’m absolutely with the Church on the abortion issue and the principle of double effect. And I also agree that torture is a last resort that should only be applied in the ticking time bomb scenario. I think that is in line with Church teaching, but I may be wrong. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

    Thanks,
    KD

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    Thanks KD. I should point out, as a way of heading off a potential objection, that there is of course a huge moral difference between using force against a GUILTY party (terrorist, convicted murderer) to save potentially many innocent lives, and using deadly force against an INNOCENT party (unborn child) to save one other innocent life (mother). A terrorist is not deserving of the same absolute protection as an unborn child, and to kill or inflict pain on a terrorist would not be as evil as doing it to an unborn baby.

    That doesn’t change my main point, though, that neither legally sanctioned torture nor legalized abortion should be official government policy.

  • e. says:

    “[N]either legally sanctioned torture nor legalized abortion should be official government policy.”

    People indulge in such seemingly grand & noble rhetoric now with so amazing a confidence in the fabric of their moral self-righteousness in this regard; yet, should (and God forbid this actually happens) another (or even worse) devestating terrorist attack occur on American soil and the toll of innocent American lives is even (and overwhelmingly) larger than of that horrible day then — when your family members, your own loved ones, your very children are amongst the dead, can you really be so self-righteously sure that the vast number of dead whose very lives you might have saved by engaging such measures of information extraction — but did not — was actually the right thing to do?

  • Eric Brown says:

    Pope Benedict XVI is on the record stating that “the prohibition against torture cannot be contravened under any circumstance.” The Holy Father is not exercising papal infallibility because the truth of the matter is presumed. In natural law moral theory, as we all know, something that cannot be done under any circumstances whatsoever is an action that in and of itself is morally evil, i.e. no intention or situation, no matter how difficult, makes such a course of action morally permissible. Therefore, if torture is an activity that cannot be done whatsoever, that the “no” to torture is so absolute that it “cannot be contravened under any circumstance,” then it seems that torture is regarded — in this philosophical statement — as an intrinsic evil.

    Therefore, if the methods of “interrogation” are in fact torture, then, it rightly follows that even the desire to protect one’s family and one’s nation — noble and good intentions — cannot justify such an activity.

    The only argument, it seems, that can be made in such a regard is that “interrogation methods” do not constitute torture.

    The question, then, of “what can we do to terrorists in custody?” — as sincere as it may be — strikes me in the same way as the teenage question, “how far is too far?” In other words, you want to see the bar and get as close to it without crossing it, which, I think is a dangerous game.

    Rather, we should ask “what rights do these men have, based on their human dignity, that cannot be contravened regardless of how angry we are or desirable we are to quickly attain justice?”

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    Ok then, e., what if embryonic stem cell research DID prove capable of saving thousands of lives, would you then be saying we were too “self-righteously sure” about it and indulging in “seemingly grand and noble rhetoric”? What if (granted, this is still a big if and may prove not to be true) ESCR turned out to be the key to curing some fatal disease you or your loved ones had? Would you then say the Church was wrong and should never have condemned it?

    I think torture of some kind will ALWAYS take place in extreme situations, even if it is illegal or not sanctioned by the government — just as abortions still went on even when abortion was illegal. I’m sure that some of those super secret CIA operatives and others aren’t above applying a little extra force when they feel the need to, and always have been, and if there was sufficient justification for what they were doing, they were able to get away with it. However, the government didn’t officially APPROVE it. That would only have encouraged and expanded the practice.

  • Blackadder says:

    Donald,

    The upshot of the blog post you linked to seems to be that there are potential conflicts between the different accounts of Zubaydah’s interrogation, which given the nature of the case is understandable. Most interesting to me, though, was the following bit:

    Zubaydah gave up perhaps his single most valuable piece of information early, naming Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom he knew as Mukhtar, as the main organizer of the 9/11 plot.

    So depending on who you believe, we may or may not have tortured a guy, and the best we can show for it is that we found out that KSM (who we already knew was a bad guy) was involved in a plot that had already happened. And of course, if this information was extracted through coercion, that means that KSM can probably never be prosecuted for his role in the 9/11 attacks. If this is what fans of “enhanced interrogation” consider a success, we can probably do without it.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Torture in the catechism:

    Respect for bodily integrity

    2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.91

    This does not describe the use of enhanced interrogation techniques to prevent terrorist attacks that the subject, known to be guilty, has information about. I suspect that when the Holy Father speaks of torture in such certain statements he is referring to the context of the authoritative documents.

    Furthermore, in order to have a reasonable discussion about torture, we must acknowledge that it is not at all proven that ANY of these techniques authorized by the government qualify as torture.

    Clearly effectiveness is an argument when it comes to prudence on any particular technique. Any of these techniques if done for any other reason than their effectiveness (ie. to satisfy hatred) would by definition be immoral, however, if the act is not intrinsically evil (ie. stress positions), the intention is good (ie. saving lives), and more good than harm comes, does that not satisfy Catholic moral requirements?

    I think we have to be very careful defining “torture” to be intrinsically evil less we convict the Church of authorizing an intrinsic evil to be committed in her name. A troubling possibility.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Donald,

    we all know that the release of the torture memos was a purely cynical political maneuver to grease the ways for a kangaroo court which will draw the attention of the country away from the true evil which Obama is perpetrating on the American people. Releasing the information on effectiveness would diminish that effect, and so it will be delayed as long as possible and released eventually, probably on a Friday afternoon to avoid wide and rapid dissemination.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    E,

    You are an anti-social troll who can’t make a simple point without insulting everyone who disagrees with you.

    I’m putting you on notice right now. If you can’t make an argument without being nasty about it, I will summarily delete your posts. You are a toxic presence on this blog, you lower the level of civility and intelligence in every discussion in which you take place, and more than anyone I have ever seen post here, you exude equally disturbing amounts of self-righteousness and smug contempt for everyone you engage with.

    I’m going to be busy today, but I’m going to make it a point to keep my eye on you. This isn’t is about your views. It’s about your attitude.

    And for the record, even if torture would save my family, even if it would save my life, I wouldn’t do it. I believe in eternal life, and whether or not I tortured people is going to have more of a negative impact on that.

  • Blackadder says:

    The obvious way to clear all this up Blackadder is for the Obama administration to accept Cheney’s challenge and release the relevant documents

    I’m not sure that selectively releasing information gives us an accurate picture of the overall costs and benefits involved here. And since releasing all information on the topic would presumably be a bad idea, I’m not sure I see the point.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    I respectfully disagree BA. If the purpose is to determine what interrogation techniques elicited information and whether that information is useful, I must conclude that more information is a good thing. Otherwise we are all merely trying to draw conclusions on a subject with an inadequate factual basis. My guess is that since the Obama administration has mooted prosecutions of those involved, quite a bit of information is going to be forthcoming in any case, either as a result of the discovery process in criminal cases, or, more likely, leaks from those who feel threatened by potential prosecutions. Much of this information might also shed light on the involvement of Congressional Democrats in supporting then what they condemn now. This should all be very informative in the weeks and months to come.

  • Eric Brown says:

    Clearly effectiveness is an argument when it comes to prudence on any particular technique. Any of these techniques if done for any other reason than their effectiveness (ie. to satisfy hatred) would by definition be immoral, however, if the act is not intrinsically evil (ie. stress positions), the intention is good (ie. saving lives), and more good than harm comes, does that not satisfy Catholic moral requirements?

    One, effectiveness is an argument only if the act itself is not morally evil. I might decide to run off and “marry” another man and cite personal happiness as my reason, but the act itself contradicts my entire intention, in that it is intrinsically evil. If effectiveness — the means to the end — is the primal reasoning, this is not the natural law moral thinking of the Church, but fundamentally consequentialist ethics.

    However, if the interrogation methods we use — and I obviously disagree with this, but if it were true — did not constitute torture, then, the chosen course of interrogation as it currently stands is not in and of itself evil. Therefore, if one’s intentions are not evil and the evil does not outweigh the good, this would be the principle of the double effect and all the Church’s moral requirements arguably are satisfied.

    I’m simply suggesting that this is the best intellectual route rather than saying “torture is not intrinsically evil,” because it just strikes me as a course of action that will win you more advocates, or at least, more agreement and less heated debate. Now, I disagree with the moral calculus, but I would say the latter position strikes me as more respectable than the former.

    I think we have to be very careful defining “torture” to be intrinsically evil less we convict the Church of authorizing an intrinsic evil to be committed in her name. A troubling possibility.

    I think Benedict XVI was clear that torture is intrinsically evil. It is hard to imagine why torture cannot be contravened “under any circumstances” — a ‘no’ to all situations and intentions that may be used to justify it, if the activity itself is not intrinsically evil. He certainly is not an advocate of capital punishment; in fact, it is illegal in the Vatican. However, the Holy Father does not say that the ‘no’ to capital punishment ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances.’ He doesn’t take on absolute language in regard to it, neither did Pope John Paul II. However, both, use absolute language in regard to the prohibition against torture which seems to be indicative of the nature of the act itself — whatever, torture is.

    Moreover, the Church has never authorized in explicit universal teaching that torture is acceptable. Arguably, individual clergy and even a Pope or two, may have falsely claimed otherwise for political reasons. Such a claim (on their part) wouldn’t even fit into the requirement for such a claim to be a part of the ordinary Magisterium.

    So, I think that former scandals within the Church don’t say something definitively about the nature of torture. In some sense, the fact that this is knowable (the intrinsic evil) of the matter by natural law means.

    I think the most credible ground, if I believed it, would be that the “interrogation methods” do not violate the basic rights of the terrorists — irregardless of their effectiveness, as to avoid utilitarian ethics — and that in itself does not constitute torture, therefore, while it is not preferable, but it is morally neutral as opposed to be an objective moral evil.

  • Michael C. says:

    To Joe Hargrave:

    Thank you for responding to my comment.

    I was being colloquial and not precise. I see a difference between intentionally inflicting pain and/or distress (physical, emotional, other) and “torture” that is analogous to the difference between killing and “murder.” In each case, the former may be morally licit while the latter never is.

    Your quote from the catechism bears this out:

    “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” 2297 of the Catechism.

    Employing “physical or moral violence” for any of the purposes listed above would be illicit torture. Absent from that list is anything like “to obtain information necessary to prevent an imminent and lethal event.”

    When evil situations are thrust upon us, we may have the obligation to make some kind of analysis to determine the difference between inflicting pain and torture and killing and murder. If someone attacks me I certainly have the option to refrain from killing them, even if that would result in my own death. If someone is attacking one of my family members, however, and the only way to prevent the death of one of them was to kill the attacker, there may be situations in which I am morally obligated to kill the attacker. As a father, I have the moral duty to protect my family from violence – moral, physical, spiritual, emotional. At the time of my judgment, I will be held accountable as to how well I fulfilled that reponsibility. It could very well be a sin to have refrained from killing — even perhaps a mortal sin, for example if I refrained from killing the attacker because I was angry with that family member and wanted him to die. The same analysis would apply to any other violence, including inflicting some kind of pain.

    Any person with the responsibility for others has a similar obligation — if not exactly analogous. Suppose, for example, during the cold war Russia had launched a full (convential) war against the United States with the express purpose of conquering us and turning us into a communist regime. Would it have been morally licit for the President to order our armed forces to stand down and surrender because defending the country would require killing Soviet soldiers? No. Would it have been morally licit for the President instead to launch a full-blown nuclear attack against Russian civilians? No.

    Some analysis must be made.

    There may be situations in which inflicting certain kinds of pain and distress is a greater evil than killing — but that analysis is probably not directly dependent on the subjective opinion of the victim in the moment of agony. From what I have heard and read, I don’t think waterboarding is one of those situations.

    Finally, to get back to the subject at hand, I have not yet had the opportunity to fully analyze the CIA’s use of waterboarding. What I have heard so far leads me to tentatively conclude that is was not morally licit.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Eric Brown,

    One, effectiveness is an argument only if the act itself is not morally evil. I might decide to run off and “marry” another man and cite personal happiness as my reason, but the act itself contradicts my entire intention, in that it is intrinsically evil. If effectiveness — the means to the end — is the primal reasoning, this is not the natural law moral thinking of the Church, but fundamentally consequentialist ethics.

    That’s what I meant to say, somewhat ineloquently, you are quite right and more clear.

    I’m simply suggesting that this is the best intellectual route rather than saying “torture is not intrinsically evil,” because it just strikes me as a course of action that will win you more advocates, or at least, more agreement and less heated debate. Now, I disagree with the moral calculus, but I would say the latter position strikes me as more respectable than the former.

    I agree that I would not accept the use of torture in these cases even if it’s not intrinsically evil, but I have a problem when people insist that it is, it is not in my opinion, and clearly the Church has not in an authoritative way declared it so.

    I think we have to be very careful defining “torture” to be intrinsically evil less we convict the Church of authorizing an intrinsic evil to be committed in her name. A troubling possibility.

    I think Benedict XVI was clear that torture is intrinsically evil. It is hard to imagine why torture cannot be contravened “under any circumstances” — a ‘no’ to all situations and intentions that may be used to justify it, if the activity itself is not intrinsically evil.

    Can you post the citation in context? Even if the Pope believes it to be so, it doesn’t necessarily bind conscience.

    both, use absolute language in regard to the prohibition against torture which seems to be indicative of the nature of the act itself — whatever, torture is.

    The citations I recall were not universal, but referred (as the catechism does) to specific instances, not a general instance.

    Moreover, the Church has never authorized in explicit universal teaching that torture is acceptable. Arguably, individual clergy and even a Pope or two, may have falsely claimed otherwise for political reasons. Such a claim (on their part) wouldn’t even fit into the requirement for such a claim to be a part of the ordinary Magisterium.

    Oh, for political reasons? Have you read Fr. Harrison’s excellent essay on the topic? He provides some excellent sources which suggest otherwise. What I’m saying is that I find it hard to believe that for centuries the Church found it moral to practice something which it later declares INTRINSICALLY evil, I’m unaware of any other examples.

    http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt119.html

  • Bob Cheeks says:

    I don’t know but I think e. was making some rather interesting points. A troll? I don’t think so, what is this the Inquisition? What e can’t speak his/her mind? Hey dude, it’s your sandbox.

  • Eric Brown says:

    Matt,

    This is the context of Benedict’s quote.

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2007/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20070906_pastorale-carceraria_en.html

    Here’s my issue with your thinking. I hope that it’s structured so you understand where I’m coming from and can offer your criticisms or comments back, as to why it might be an incorrect view.

    Now, the Church in all the ages of her existence has not always had an explicit universal teaching stating that racism is inherently evil. Though, today, the matter is quite clear. There is always a truth; it is simply not always explicitly stated, perhaps because it is not yet a problem for the faithful. I’d suspect that Marian doctrine did not need to be reiterated as infallible because it was presumed. Yet, post-Reformation due to Protestant theological thinking, the Church might have found herself with the obligation to clarify.

    In regard to racism, this is a prime example. It is deemed inherently evil, despite the fact that several Bishops and priests (through history) have indicated otherwise. There were even Popes who were, say, clearly anti-Semitic and supported attitudes and actions that were contrary to the basic humanity of Jewish people. Basically, I’m saying that something that is a widespread practice, or a teaching of even countless Bishops and priests — a common belief amongst Catholics — does not make it a teaching of the Church. Arianism is the prime example. Over half of the Catholic bishops were declaring that Christ was not equal to the Father.

    I am aware of the teachings and suggestions of many saints — Fathers of the Church, Doctors, or otherwise. However, these men do not necessarily bear infallible authority on such matters. St. Athanasius, for example, denied the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament as inspired. I don’t think we should agree with him. Tertullian by the end of his life was explicitly a heretic, despite the fact much of his early thought is clearly orthodox. Other Fathers of the Church believed that the Gospel of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Shephard of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas, etc. were inspired writings of Scripture. This is obviously not the case. St. Thomas Aquinas denied the Immaculate Conception that Pope Pius XII declared to be a matter of dogma. We are not to agree with St. Thomas Aquinas on this matter.

    This is certainly not to say that the body of teaching received by these extraordinary intellectuals of the Church are incorrect. Far from it. But, rather it is to say, not on every count is their teaching or words to be considered infallible, or the explicit teaching of the whole Church unless it is an absolutely conformity with Scripture and Tradition and expressly affirmed by the Magisterium.

    The same source you sent me to cites the Catechism in saying, “#2298. In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Distressing as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices are [esse] neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices lead [ducunt] to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.”

    Therefore, I don’t think “the Church” found it [torture] moral, but rather teachers of the Church, for whatever reason, saw no contradiction between the activity and the moral law. The fact that they did not personally object, or adopted the practices themselves from secular laws makes no statement about the objective truth of the matter, the truth, that is, or rather, must be the teaching of the Catholic Church who receives her teachings from Christ Jesus, the Logos, the truth of the Father.

    There were about 4 or 5 bulls issued by Popes throughout medieval history until the 19th century condemning the practice of slavery as contrary to the common good and against the dignity of persons. And persisting still, there were Bishops and priests teaching Catholics the contrary. Even in our own country, post-slavery, for decades, African Americans couldn’t be members of the Knights of Columbus in certain places and racism existed even amongst Catholics. The fact that this was the mindset of many Catholics, even Pastors of the faith, doesn’t justify it nor say it was the teaching of the Church.

    To clarify this, consider the Magisterium itself and how it works.

    The Magisterium:
    1. Pope (ex cathedra) is extraordinary and universal, therefore, is infallible and requires full assent of faith.

    2. Bishops, in union with Pope, defining doctrine at General Council is extraordinary and universal, therefore, is infallible and requires full assent of faith.

    3. Bishops (individually) proposing teaching definitively, dispersed, but in unison, in union with Pope is an act of the ordinary Magisterium, however, the universality of the teaching renders the it infallible and thus, it requires a full assent of faith. The greatest example of this level of the Magisterium is the issue of women’s ordination. It has not been condemned in either two manners listed above; however, it is an explicit infallible teaching. Prior to the Pope Pius XII, an example of this, would have been the Immaculate Conception. So, while a Pope making a statement, as a Bishop, as the Bishop of Rome, is not necessarily infallible because the Pope said it, if it a truth that is rooted in the message of Scripture and Tradition of the Church, and in regard to moral matters, a truth of the moral natural law (known by unaided reason) then it is, in fact, infallible in that situation. This is what I believe is the case in regard to torture. It does not require Benedict XVI saying “I am speaking infallibly.” It requires it being true.

    Now, arguably, Aquinas and surely others throughout history contradict the infallible doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Yet, the Immaculate Conception is considered known through Tradition. However, history demonstrates this idea is not unique to Aquinas alone. How does Tradition confirm this? It is because Tradition refers to the constant transmission of the fullness of Truth from one generation from another, not so much, the theological development and thought from one generation to another, that is, the beliefs of Catholic theologians and their teachings throughout history — though, that is many times an indicator, I don’t think the two should be confused

    And lastly, the ordinary Magisterium:

    1. A teaching of the Pope, solely from himself, is ordinary and non-infallible, requiring only religious submission of intellect and will.

    2. A teaching of individual Bishops, solely from themselves, is ordinary and non-infallible, requiring only religious submission of intellect and will.

    Therefore, even cases of Bishops saying, say, torture is licit (non-infallible statements) can be contradicted later in history by an act of the universal Magisterium, which is I think the present position of the Church. In the same way, Bishops telling the faithful (non-infallible statement) that they can purchase indulgences to be released from Puragoty can be contradicted later, as it has been, by the universal Magisterium.

    So, that is where you and I disagree Matt. My understanding of the Church is this: that the beliefs and acts of Catholics, even saints, pastors, bishops, or Popes constitute the teaching of the Church necessarily, particularly when it is not distinctly an expression of the universal Magisterium. Therefore, I think “the Church,” the whole Church, can in retrospect contradict, and in some sense, must contradict those incorrect statements as to educate the faithful and protect her own integrity.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    The Holy Father is citing directly the compendium section #404 which addresses specifically the use of torture to secure a conviction. THat is already established as evil by the Catechism, I don’t think we can assume he is expanding on it, nor would it be significantly binding given the narrow venue of his speech. Let’s stick to the catechism, as long as it cites specific instances where torture is intrinsically evil, it is reasonable to believet there may be others where it is not.

    racism is evil, but the matter is quite clear

    not the same thing at all. There is no Church documents instructing that racism should be practiced by the Church.

    arianism

    Are you claiming that the Church doctors and popes who instructed that torture is acceptable are heretics?

    these men do not necessarily bear infallible authority on such matters

    I’m not suggesting I do. I am suggesting that these men did not teach contrary to the Church.

    You are free in good conscience to believe that torture is intrinsically evil, the Church has not definitively said so, as I am free to disagree.

  • Eric Brown says:

    Matt,

    I updated my post.

    In my understanding of moral theology, there aren’t circumstances where actions are intrinsically evil in regard to the circumstances.

    Abortion is intrinsically evil because the act itself is murder. It has nothing to do with circumstances or intentions. The same is true of euthanasia. The same is true of genocide.

    I can’t see how torture is only — in and of itself — evil only when it’s used to extract information violently. In that situation, if torture is not intrinsically evil, then it follows that the intention makes it evil, not the act. Therefore, torture wouldn’t be intrinsically evil. But if it intrinsically evil, then it would be incorrect regardless of everything else.

  • Eric Brown says:

    “There is no Church documents instructing that racism should be practiced by the Church.”

    Yet, there were no documents beforehand, stating that it shouldn’t. However, we do have the ability to discern good from evil and what IS in accord with out faith and what is not.

    “Are you claiming that the Church doctors and popes who instructed that torture is acceptable are heretics?”

    Not explicitly heretics, I’m saying they are wrong. Thomas Aquinas denied an infallible teaching in his writing that is allegedly a clear aspect of Tradition. I don’t agree with him at all. It is just demonstrable to the fact that Doctors of the Church and Popes and even Bishops are not instantly infallible on their documents. You, yourself, claim the same thing in regard to statements of the Pope just now. Benedict XVI is not necessarily speaking infallibly; and in the same way, the USCCB is not necessarily infallible. Same case here.

    “I am suggesting that these men did not teach contrary to the Church.” St. Athanasius denying a whole set of books does not seem to be teaching in ACCORD with the Church. Now, St. Athanasius, who is one of my favorite saints, is not knowing and intentionally setting out to contradict what is in fact the Truth.

    “You are free in good conscience to believe that torture is intrinsically evil, the Church has not definitively said so, as I am free to disagree.”

    That’s our disagreement. I think the matter IS clear. Therefore, I don’t think Catholics can disagree about it.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Eric Brown,

    In my understanding of moral theology, there aren’t circumstances where actions are intrinsically evil in regard to the circumstances.

    On a technical basis you are quite right, but in some cases the “what it is” is based on it’s circumstances. Take shooting a person who is trying to kill you, it’s not murder, it’s self defense. The circumstances define the morality of the act (technically the act is the pulling of the trigger). The same would be of torture, take the act, perhaps striking someone in the back with a whip. It’s torture, but is it immoral in any and all circumstances? I think intentions can’t make the act moral, but situations can. Perhaps the discussion were simpler if there was a different term for the different circumstances of torture.

    I can’t see how torture is only — in and of itself — evil only when it’s used to extract information violently. In that situation, if torture is not intrinsically evil, then it follows that the intention makes it evil, not the act. Therefore, torture wouldn’t be intrinsically evil.

    I think the reference means extracting information to secure a conviction, it refers specifically to that scenario, if it was intended to apply to corporal punishment, or the “gitmo scenario”, it would not have been qualified.

    But if it intrinsically evil, then it would be incorrect regardless of everything else.

    On this we are OBLIGED to assent.

  • Eric Brown says:

    “The same would be of torture, take the act, perhaps striking someone in the back with a whip. It’s torture, but is it immoral in any and all circumstances? I think intentions can’t make the act moral, but situations can. Perhaps the discussion were simpler if there was a different term for the different circumstances of torture.”

    I wouldn’t call that act, “torture.” Someone hitting me is not per se torture. If someone is performing an act, torture, which is a distinct “physical or moral violence” with no immediate desire to kill me, but to harm me and cause psychological distress in such a way that is against my human dignity, then, that activity is intrinsically evil, thus, unjustifiable.

    “I think the reference means extracting information to secure a conviction, it refers specifically to that scenario, if it was intended to apply to corporal punishment, or the “gitmo scenario”, it would not have been qualified.”

    No. The statement about torture is fourfold: (a) extract confessions, (b) punish the guilty, (c) frighten opponents — says nothing about whether said person is guilty or not (d) satisfy hatred.

    And I’m not sure if the list itself is bound to itself, in that, in only in THESE circumstances is torture wrong. But, taking it at face value, I’m disagree with a reading binding the prohibition against torture to the situation because I think it’s a misunderstanding of the nature of torture. So, again, we’re in disagreement.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Eric,

    “You are free in good conscience to believe that torture is intrinsically evil, the Church has not definitively said so, as I am free to disagree.”

    That’s our disagreement. I think the matter IS clear. Therefore, I don’t think Catholics can disagree about it.

    When you say it’s “clear”, you mean it’s clear to you, or you’re asserting that the Church has definitively declared it to be the case?

    You are in serious error in moral theology as to the level of authority of various instruments. A speech to a small group by the Holy Father is not a basis for definitive teaching which require the ASSENT of FAITH which you are demanding. Remember, popes have said at the higher levels of gravity that torture is acceptable and it is even commendable to torture sinners in order to save their souls.

    When the Church wishes to impose on the faithful a new definitive teaching she does so always universally and always with clear enunciation of the matter, without careful qualifications. There is no reasonable basis for your assertion (at least not at this time).

  • Eric Brown says:

    “When you say it’s “clear”, you mean it’s clear to you, or you’re asserting that the Church has definitively declared it to be the case?”

    I’m saying that it is quite clear just in natural law reasoning.

    Let alone, the Pope’s statement is not the sole statement about torture that exists. In various documents, Gaudiam Et Spes, for example — not an infallible document in itself, but it does contain infallible truths.

    This understanding has been expressed by Bishops with no statements of any sort in contradiction. The contemporary Magisterium is speaking in harmony, thus, though Ordinary, if universal, is infallible.

    I already addressed the Magisterium and my thoughts on previous Popes and Bishops already, to which, you have yet to respond. The idea itself that it is good to torture sinners to save their souls is quite an idea. If the medieval scholastics were correct, I should have been once killed to protect other sinners and myself. That is, people can and should be killed for intellectual disagreements. Yet, later, freely, with non-violence, I freely chose to become Catholic. Such thinking is profoundly utilitarian in my view.

    “When the Church wishes to impose on the faithful a new definitive teaching…”

    That’s a theological error. The Church never imposes a new anything. She declares what is and what always has been. Thus, I don’t think the Church is declaring something new, but is correcting and has been correcting, incorrect views from past — some of which were borne of her own clergyman.

    But, really, and this is just my thoughts here. This is no basis for intellectual argument, it is a mere observation. In the same way with other moral evils, the rhetoric of the other side is masked with curious diction that only makes their case all the more dubious to me personally. Abortion, for example, is masked by talk of “choice” and “women’s rights,” or “pregnancy termination” and other such word gymnastics that masks the reality of what abortion really is. The same is true of euthanasia with the euphemisms of “mercy killing” and the “right to die” and suggestions of “compassion” or “death with dignity” is very telling in how it attempts to conceal what in fact is the true nature of euthanasia.

    The case is no difference here. You hear talk of “sleep management” (or so I have heard) instead of “sleep deprivation” or having them sit or stand in “stress positions,” might mean forcing them to assume cruelly punishing postures for long periods. Who knows. It just strikes me terribly — the word choice is very curious.

    Even in itself “interrogation methods” is the label applied rather than “torture.” Maybe it isn’t torture. Maybe it is. But, in itself “interrogation” somehow sounds less cruel. Some would argue that “waterboarding” itself is a euphemism, which really doesn’t call to mind the reality of a simulated drowning, but simply “splashing water on someone’s face.”

    Just an observation, if not a statement.

  • Eric Brown says:

    “Do you think there are situations where executing a man would be moral?”

    Obviously. The Catechism says so, therefore, there must be. The guidelines for such circumstances, in my view, are often glossed over, watered down, or totally ignored. Hence, I usually tend to err on the side of mercy.

    I met a man two years ago who spent 20 years in prison on death row, who was released months before his execution after DNA evidence confirmed he was innocent.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Eric,

    That’s a theological error. The Church never imposes a new anything. She declares what is and what always has been. Thus, I don’t think the Church is declaring something new, but is correcting and has been correct, incorrect views from past — some of which were borne of her own clergyman.

    You can play semantics if you want to. My statement is true and you know it. The Church does not DECLARE a definitive truth in any vague sense with qualifiers and in private speeches.

    Regardless of your own conclusions that this is can be found by natural law, the Church has not DECLARED it and so you can not conclude that it is definitive, and therefore a Catholic in good conscience can dissent from your conclusion.

    If stress positions are intrinsically evil, do you think that all of the military instructors are going to hell for the intrinsic evil they impose on soldiers in training? What about prison guards who use stress positions to punish convicts for infractions?

    Regarding the death penalty, as horrific as it sounds the Church teaches that there are circumstances when it is morally acceptable.

  • Eric Brown says:

    Matt,

    This isn’t progressing very much. You never addressed my point that argued against your belief that previous “teachings” were in fact teachings of the Church. Thus, I don’t think the Roman Catholic Church ever definitively sanctioned torture as licit. If that isn’t settled, we’ll go in circles.

    “If stress positions are intrinsically evil, do you think that all of the military instructors are going to hell for the intrinsic evil they impose on soldiers in training? What about prison guards who use stress positions to punish convicts for infractions?”

    I never defined “stress positions.” I was talking about word choice and how it can effectively diminish one’s understanding of a reality. Waterboarding — evil or not — is not “simply splashing water on someone’s face” when you’re the person it’s happening to. So, in some sense, word choice should be reflected on. That’s all I was arguing.

    I’m well aware of the Church’s teaching on the death penalty. I simply stated that the criteria that must be met for it to be licit, in my view, is usually glossed over, watered down, or ignored entirely. Therefore, I think there are and has been several cases, in which it has been applied quite unjustly. I have never argued that it is always applied unjustly.

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    Fr. Harrison’s article is indeed excellent, with its references to earlier sources.

    I believe it would be worthwhile to make a clear distinction between torture used to extract information [i.e., before knowing whether a crime has been committed] and torture as the infliction of punishment for a crime.

    And also to distinguish between physical torture and mental torture. There is in physical torture something fundamentally repugnant to our nature.

    I have no experience as a torturer but I suspect that torture to extract information is of dubious value. This would remove the consequentialist argument.

    Torture or mutilation as a punishment is another discussion.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I wonder what this discussion will look like if/when the government starts torturing its own citizens.

    Do you realize how and why so many hundreds of people were tortured at Abu Ghraib? It wasn’t to get information. It was to humiliate and dehumanize as many people as possible to flush out ‘potential’ insurgents, to get them to reveal themselves through violent acts of revenge. You don’t do this crap to get ‘information’:

    * Urinating on detainees
    * Jumping on detainee’s leg (a limb already wounded by gunfire) with such force that it could not thereafter heal properly
    * Continuing by pounding detainee’s wounded leg with collapsible metal baton
    * Pouring phosphoric acid on detainees
    * Sodomization of detainees with a baton
    * Tying ropes to the detainees’ legs or penises and dragging them across the floor.

    They forgot to add covering a man in feces and taking a picture of him, something the Australian press discovered in 2006.

    Look at that list! This isn’t just about ‘water boarding’. It is about a more widespread acceptance of torture as an acceptable means to accomplish any number of military objectives, information extraction being only one of them. This had nothing to do with information gathering, two inmates,

    “Hung by their arms from the ceiling and beaten so severely that, according to a report by Army investigators later leaked to the Baltimore Sun, their legs would have needed to be amputated had they lived.”

    When you start playing around with torture, when you start legitimizing it, do you think it’s just going to be used exactly the way you want it to be? Watch the Ghosts of Abu Ghraib: a lot of the time the soldiers were torturing out of anger, out of a desire for revenge, or just to satisfy sadistic impulses.

    A quote from one of the prisoners:

    “They ordered me to thank Jesus that I’m alive.” [...] “I said to him, ‘I believe in Allah.’ So he said, ‘But I believe in torture and I will torture you.’

    If that is true doesn’t it make you ashamed?

    It shocked the Vatican:

    “The torture? A more serious blow to the United States than September 11, 2001 attacks. Except that the blow was not inflicted by terrorists but by Americans against themselves.” — Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, foreign minister of the Vatican.

    No intricate debates and elaborate philosophical maneuvering there – its just plain wrong. You can’t unleash this monster and expect it is only going to be used on a select few bad guys. Anyone who gets brought in has potential ‘information’, and that’s all it takes to begin legally justifying acts of cruelty and sadism that no human being deserves, certainly not the majority of people who are actually tortured, who know nothing and are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Think this through before you start cheering on the torturers.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Respectfully disagree with you Joe. The abuses committed at Abu Ghraib were authorized by no one in the Bush administration and were caused by a complete breakdown in command, most notably by the totally incompetent General Karpiniski who ran the place. The Taguba report is quite clear on this point:

    “14. (U) During the course of this investigation I conducted
    a lengthy interview with BG Karpinski that lasted overfour hours, and is included verbatim in the investigation Annexes. BG Karpinski was extremely emotional during much of her testimony. What I found particularly disturbing in her testimony was her complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of her command to both establish and enforce basic standards and principles among its soldiers. (ANNEX 45 and the
    Personal Observations of the Interview Team)
    15. (U) BG Karpinski alleged that she received no help from the Civil Affairs Command, specifically, no assistance from either BG John Kern or COL Tim Regan. She blames much of the abuse that occurred in Abu Ghraib (BCCF) on MI personnel and stated that MI personnel had given the MPs “ideas” that led to detainee abuse. In addition, she blamed the 372nd Company Platoon Sergeant, SFC Snider, the Company Commander, CPT Reese, and the First Sergeant, MSG Lipinski, for the abuse. She argued that problems in
    Abu Ghraib were the fault of COL Pappas and LTC Jordan because COL Pappas was in charge of FOB Abu Ghraib.
    (ANNEX 45)
    16. (U) BG Karpinski also implied during her testimony that the criminal abuses that occurred at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) might have been caused by the ultimate disposition of the detainee abuse cases that originally occurred at Camp Bucca in May 2003. She stated that “about the same time those incidents were taking place out of Baghdad Central, the decisions were made to give the guilty people at Bucca plea bargains. So, the system communicated to the soldiers, the worst that’s gonna happen is, you’re gonna go home.” I think it important to point out that almost every witness testified that the serious criminal abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) occurred in late October and early November 2003. The photographs and statements clearly support that the abuses occurred during this time period. The Bucca cases were set for trial in January 2004 and were not finally disposed of until 29 December 2003. There is entirely no evidence that the decision of numerous MP personnel to intentionally abuse detainees at Abu Ghrabid (BCCF) was influenced in any respect by the Camp Bucca cases.
    (ANNEXES 25, 26, and 45)”

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/reports/2004/800-mp-bde.htm

    Karpinski has continued to blame everyone else other than accept the fact that she was a crummy CO and allowed some of her troops, through her complete command negligence, to engage in abuse of the prisoners. Of course if the Obama administration believes otherwise, it should release all of the relevant documents.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Eric,
    This isn’t progressing very much. You never addressed my point that argued against your belief that previous “teachings” were in fact teachings of the Church. Thus, I don’t think the Roman Catholic Church ever definitively sanctioned torture as licit. If that isn’t settled, we’ll go in circles.

    In that they were issued by the appropriate magisterial authorities they were teachings, now, they were never declared “definitively” and so they were reformable and did not bind conscience. That’s my point, if the Church is to bind conscience on your view, then she will declare it in the appropriate forum.

    I never defined “stress positions.” I was talking about word choice and how it can effectively diminish one’s understanding of a reality. Waterboarding — evil or not — is not “simply splashing water on someone’s face” when you’re the person it’s happening to. So, in some sense, word choice should be reflected on. That’s all I was arguing.

    “stress position” and “waterboarding” are not euphemisms meant to diminish what they are, I see no need to change the language, they are what they are. Neither place the individual in any real physical danger of injury, as torture would.

    I’m well aware of the Church’s teaching on the death penalty. I simply stated that the criteria that must be met for it to be licit, in my view, is usually glossed over, watered down, or ignored entirely. Therefore, I think there are and has been several cases, in which it has been applied quite unjustly. I have never argued that it is always applied unjustly.

    I’m not familiar with any serious Catholics glossing over the teachings on capital punishment, my point is, that given the Church’s teaching on capital punishment under very specific (and rare in modern times) circumstances that torture not being intrinsically evil is a reasonable proposition. We have to be careful of an overly broad definition of torture, especially with regard to punishment for convicted crimes, if the Church allows the execution, surely less severe physical punishments could be considered licit.

    Gabriel,
    I believe it would be worthwhile to make a clear distinction between torture used to extract information [i.e., before knowing whether a crime has been committed] and torture as the infliction of punishment for a crime.

    And also to distinguish between physical torture and mental torture. There is in physical torture something fundamentally repugnant to our nature.

    I have no experience as a torturer but I suspect that torture to extract information is of dubious value. This would remove the consequentialist argument.

    Torture or mutilation as a punishment is another discussion.

    Absolutely, the Church is clear that as a means to extract confessions torture is never permissable, however, as a means to extract lifesaving information from a known terrorist, that is another story. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to REAL torture, I don’t believe it would ever be acceptable for our government to authorize it under ANY circumstances, however, when it comes to questionable techniques such as waterboarding, I think that under certain circumstances they may be applied where they are shown to be effective. It’s pretty clear that the use of waterboarding on three known terrorists in the last few years has been very effective.

    Joe Hargrave,

    I wonder what this discussion will look like if/when the government starts torturing its own citizens.

    Do you realize how and why so many hundreds of people were tortured at Abu Ghraib? It wasn’t to get information. It was to humiliate and dehumanize as many people as possible to flush out ‘potential’ insurgents, to get them to reveal themselves through violent acts of revenge. You don’t do this crap to get ‘information’:

    * Urinating on detainees
    * Jumping on detainee’s leg (a limb already wounded by gunfire) with such force that it could not thereafter heal properly
    * Continuing by pounding detainee’s wounded leg with collapsible metal baton
    * Pouring phosphoric acid on detainees
    * Sodomization of detainees with a baton
    * Tying ropes to the detainees’ legs or penises and dragging them across the floor.

    They forgot to add covering a man in feces and taking a picture of him, something the Australian press discovered in 2006.

    I’m not sure who you’re addressing here, but nobody on this thread is defending anything like that which you are “alleging” nor is anybody here “cheering on the torturers”, and I am unaware of any reliable sources which put the number at hundreds. Perhaps you should start a thread about this instead of hijacking this one with an unrelated agenda.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    ps. as bad as these prisoner abuses are, they pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by the “victims” against US soldiers, and their co-coreligionists in other sects including women and children. Pardon me if I don’t have too much time to cry about them, I’ll focus my weeping on the true innocents.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Elaine,

    Again I raise the question: if it’s OK to torture someone in order to save your child’s life, would it be OK to perform an abortion on your wife or your daughter in order to save HER life?

    You’re talking apples to oranges here. The people we are talking about here are known terrorists, not innocent unborn children. Intentional killing the innocent is NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER permissible. This is really an easy one.

    UNBORN INNOCENT TERRORIST

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Matt,

    I am not ‘hijacking’ anything. Did you even read the original post here, or did you once again jump right into the com-box debate? Or did I miss the official rule that says that just because water boarding was mentioned, no other forms of torture can be discussed?

    The debate is obviously over torture in general, which is exactly what happened at Abu Ghraib.

    “I’m not sure who you’re addressing here”

    Everyone, Matt.

    And, these aren’t allegations – people have been convicted, discharged from the military, and fined for them.

    “as bad as these prisoner abuses are, they pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by the “victims” against US soldiers”

    Are you serious? Thousands of people were rounded up by US troops and sent to Abu Ghraib throughout the occupation of Iraq; the vast majority of them did nothing and knew nothing. The point was to intimidate and harass the population, to spread fear and root out potential insurgents.

    Do you really believe that every person tortured by the US military is in turn responsible for torturing a US soldier?

    And even if they were, all you are doing is adhering to the same double-standard logic as the left does with abortion: “they do it, so why can’t we?” It’s not a moral argument, it’s a childish complaint.

    Yes I know, no one wants to hear someone else quote Jesus, but seriously now, I have to ask, what does it mean to follow Christ? Does it mean ‘eye for an eye’? Does it mean, ‘do unto others as they have done unto you?’ Or is there at least a minimum standard of conduct we must maintain even unto death for the sake of our souls and obeying the will of God?

    No, I’m not claiming to be a theological expert but I think I know enough to know that God is not going to be impressed by purely pragmatic arguments, let alone arguments that are in any way grounded in a revenge mentality. Doesn’t anyone think about that? Doesn’t anyone care about that? Instead of combing through cannon law looking for a torture loophole, why aren’t we examining whether or not this even meets a pirma facie standard of Christian morality?

    Don’t cry for them. No one cares if you cry or who you cry for. It’s what policies you are willing to justify and support as a Christian that concern some of us here.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Joe,

    The debate is obviously over torture in general, which is exactly what happened at Abu Ghraib.

    It’s what policies you are willing to justify and support as a Christian that concern some of us here.

    Exactly, and nobody anywhere justified or supported the illegal and unauthorized abuses which occurred at Abu Ghraib… NOBODY. Why even bring it up?

    Do you really believe that every person tortured by the US military is in turn responsible for torturing a US soldier?

    What I believe occurred outside of policies is of no relevance. We are discussing POLICIES, there is no point in discussing malfeasance, because we ALL AGREE that malfeasance would be immoral regardless of how minimal it was.

    “they do it, so why can’t we?”

    Joe, why is it that in every conversation you have you chose to misrepresent the other poster’s position? You know that is not what I said. What I said was, I do not share your deep sympathy for those who blow up women and children because they worship at another mosque. I don’t condone their mistreatment at the hands of US soldiers but I will not lose any sleep over it. Too busy sympathizing with their victims.

    By the way, anybody who still abides by the ridiculous notion that Iraq would be better off without the US invasion should check into prison habits under Saddam… not likely his foes would leave Abu Ghraib at all, if they did, the results of their incarceration would be far worse than the humiliation heaped upon them by those US soldiers.

    Joe, those men and women do a near impossible job under extremely harsh conditions and with one arm tied behind their back precisely because of the political correctness crowd. You might consider a little respect for them all and stop talking as if they are the same as terrorists, and perhaps a little forgiveness for those who do step out of line, you seem to be full of forgiveness for the real terrorists.

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    Joe Hargrave Says:
    Sunday, April 26, 2009 A.D. at 1:44 pm
    “It’s also clear now that the Bush administrations excuses for Abu Ghraib were BS:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/22/abu-ghraib-iraq-torture-senate“.

    One permits oneself to doubt the reliability of writings at the U.K. Gaurdian. It is generally anti-Catholic, and anti-U.S. It would do better to clean its own house.
    Years ago it reproached the president of the U.S. in a dispute with a governor:
    “Why doesn’t the president just recall the governor?”.

  • e. says:

    Joe,

    Your demonic mischaracterization of me is nothing but the result of your own animosity and ill will towards my person.

    Produce, if you will, evidence where I have demonstrated exactly the kind of ill conduct that you would have people believe?

    If people do not happen to see the remarkable snobbery and calumny you’ve often so maliciously aimed at me time and again, then God forbid that folks mistake your conduct as anything but “Christian”.

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    Author: Matt McDonald
    Comment:
    “Absolutely, the Church is clear that as a means to extract confessions torture is never permissable, however, as a means to extract lifesaving information from a known terrorist, that is another story. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to REAL torture, I don’t believe it would ever be acceptable for our government to authorize it under ANY circumstances, however, when it comes to questionable techniques such as waterboarding, I think that under certain circumstances they may be applied where they are shown to be effective. It’s pretty clear that the use of waterboarding on three known terrorists in the last few years has been very effective”.

    In his CHARACTERS OF THE INQUISITION, W.T. Walsh refers to the Interogatorio of [the second] Torquemada and its instructions on the use of torture. It is surrounded by precautions. Interestingly, it permits “waterboarding”. The general tenor of the Interogatorio is that it must not inflict permanent damage.

  • e. says:

    Bob Cheek,

    I don’t know if whether or not your comments were sincerely genuine, but in case it was, I appreciate it.

    Folks who did not personally suffer the horrible tragedy of 9/11, that event unfortunately has become to them but a distant memory.

    To those of us who had actually suffered tremendous loss in the many dead of our loved ones that fateful day, that event remains fresh in our memory.

    Joe Hargrave can callously dismiss the many dead I and so many others have personally suffered as merely casualties whose voices in these matters should be altogether silenced or that those who may potentially such suffer similar tragedies should the terrorists be enabled to commit even further atrocities upon multitudes of innocent Americans as being nothing more than insignificant as compared to the very preservation of their lives; however, I would not be so blinded by my own politics so as to consider matters as these with not even glancing a compassionate eye towards those who have suffered so excrutiating a pain and those who eventually will by such blatantly devestating terrorism merely because, amongst other things, such considerations happen to prove too inconvenient a matter to a certain political agenda.

    (John Henry: Thanks, at the very least, for some semblance of compassion.)

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    On the question of whether it would licit to kill the child to save the life of the mother, [or the mother the life of the child].
    This is one of those suppose questions which has been widely used to justify abortion. As a matter of fact, the occasions when the problem would arise have been so rare as to be near non-existent. In the midst of delivering a child. a doctor would act not to risk the life of either. He would act to save both. He would not act to kill one or the other.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Matt,

    “Joe, why is it that in every conversation you have you chose to misrepresent the other poster’s position?”

    Misrepresent? It’s exactly what you did. You invoked what some Muslims have done to US soldiers.

    “as bad as these prisoner abuses are, they pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by the “victims” against US soldiers”

    What relevance does this have, if not to try and somehow excuse or lessen the seriousness of what our military has done?

    I don’t care to speculate as to why you don’t acknowledge the meaning of your own words.

    As for the rest, all of the torture done at Abu Ghraib was done for the SAME reasons as the water boarding. If you approve of water boarding, then why not eventually approve of some of this other degrading stuff? What if it ‘gets the job done’?

    Tell me how you unleash torture from legal restraint and then control it? You characterize water boarding as ‘questionable’ – meaning you still don’t even know if you are talking about torture or not! Maybe you should figure it out before you defend it’s use.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    E,

    The evidence is on every post I’ve made, where the first things you post in response are hostile accusations and insinuations. Those posts are all here, preserved as part of AC, so anyone interested can see your record for themselves.

  • e. says:

    “What if it ‘gets the job done’?”

    When you end up ultimately holding the cold and mutilated corpses of your child, wife, parent in your arms, crying your eyes out to no end, with endless nights that even make your days seem just as unbearably long and dark, would you really be so bold as to think, “Thank God that even if it did cost me my loved ones, at the very least, I did not advocate the interrogation methods that would’ve actually prevented even their deaths”!

    When you engage in only the abstract and happen to think so academically the very horrors certain people themselves have actually lived out, you are no longer dealing sensibly with humanity, but merely the sterile confines of what is essentially a cold and uncaring intellect.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    And, E

    I am not

    “blinded by my own politics”

    I consider things from a Christian point of view. Remember that religion we all supposedly belong to, that guy who died for our sins and all the stuff he said?

    Why does anyone who actually turns to it get dismissed as an ‘idealist’, or someone displaying ‘proud piety’, or some other dismissal? Is there something in those Gospels you don’t want people to see?

    And if you’ve lost a loved one in the war, I’m truly sorry for your loss. I think it is more important to pray for the dead than it is to avenge them.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    E,

    I’m going to say this, and if you want to hate me for it, go ahead.

    We don’t make moral decisions, or policy decisions, based on personal tragedies. We don’t get to torture people because it will save someone’s life that you love. Right and wrong, and the law, aren’t about you.

    That isn’t ‘cold’ – that’s reality. And as tempting as it may be, we shouldn’t be so involved in issues in which we have such a direct emotional stake. Most of the time that creates a serious dilemma, an ethical dilemma, a conflict of interest between one’s personal motives and the public good.

    I know that the person I love more than anyone on this earth would rather die than be saved through torture. She knows the same about me.

    You deserve all the compassion a person can muster if you’ve lost loved ones. I can include them in my prayers, but what I won’t do is agree with you politically or morally on torture.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Joe Hargrave,

    Misrepresent? It’s exactly what you did. You invoked what some Muslims have done to US soldiers.

    Joe, drop the religion card why don’t ya? The word muslim APPEARS NOWHERE IN MY POST, again you are being completely dishonest.

    “as bad as these prisoner abuses are, they pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by the “victims” against US soldiers”

    What relevance does this have, if not to try and somehow excuse or lessen the seriousness of what our military has done?

    Yes, the nature and actions of the victim changes the seriousness of the offense. Sins which are directed at God are the gravest, against the innocent, are more serious than against the guilty. Stop referring to this case as what “our military” has done. THis involves individuals, not the military universally. As a Catholic you ought to be VERY careful about referring to the actions of individuals to paint the broad bush on the entire organization, as many of the secular liberals do. What the US Military has done:

    - freed us from the tyranny of the Nazi’s and Japanese
    - freed the Iraqi’s from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein
    - freed the Afghan’s from the tyranny of the Islamic Taliban
    - prevented further terrorist attacks on US soil from the Islamic Fascists who seek to destroy us.
    - kept YOU and your family safe from Communist expansionism, Islamic Fascists and many other threats from the day you were born, they will continue to do so no matter how many foul things you say about them.

    In light of this, instead of pointing fingers and sneering at INNOCENT soldiers, why not just thank them for their service to you and your family.

    I don’t care to speculate as to why you don’t acknowledge the meaning of your own words.

    I won’t acknowledge the mischaracterization of my words. You really ought to cease.

    As for the rest, all of the torture done at Abu Ghraib was done for the SAME reasons as the water boarding.

    Have you seen the photographs that the those soldiers took humiliating the prisoners???? Clearly it was a case of taking pleasure in their humiliation, none of this took place in the context of a sanctioned interrogation with careful controls and observation. Even if we assume that the intent of the soldiers who did it was to extract information, you surely can recognize the difference in context.

    If you approve of water boarding, then why not eventually approve of some of this other degrading stuff? What if it ‘gets the job done’?

    Some of the stuff I’m fine with, but it’s the context of a controlled and sanctioned interrogation. Can you not see the difference between a lynching and capital punishment? It’s exactly the same comparison.

    Tell me how you unleash torture from legal restraint and then control it? You characterize water boarding as ‘questionable’ – meaning you still don’t even know if you are talking about torture or not! Maybe you should figure it out before you defend it’s use.

    Sorry I was unclear. I do not believe that waterboarding used by the US Government, based on the public information we have is torture, period. I acknowledge that many reasonably dissagree with that position, therefore I refer to it as “questionable”.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Joe,

    thank God and the US Military for never having to live through the scenario that e. presented. Many of the victims of those dear sweet prisoners were not so blessed.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Matt,

    Why are you splitting hairs? Who are we talking about here? Muslims, non-enemy combatants, whomever, its besides the point. You really get worked up on these irrelevant distractions.

    I’m not going to get into a debate about the virtues of the US military. It just wouldn’t do any good.

    “Clearly it was a case of taking pleasure in their humiliation, none of this took place in the context of a sanctioned interrogation with careful controls and observation.”

    The consistent claim of the soldiers has been that it was ordered to ‘soften up’ the detainees for interrogation. New evidence, such as that I linked to earlier, is surfacing to prove they are not lying. They may release the man still in jail on the theory he was only following orders. I say let him stay there, and put more people in with him.

    Don’t you realize that they think they know what will make Muslim men crack? Psycho-sexual humiliation is a form of torture, Matt. It’s done deliberately, to break their will, to reduce them to nothing. If you really think torture is all about physical pain, you don’t know anything about it.

    Finally, I recognize the differences – the point is, do they? What was done at Abu Ghraib was most likely sanctioned by the Defense Department, all the way up to Rumsfeld. I don’t think they’re making the same clear distinctions as you.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Joe,

    sorry, I just find it distasteful to demonstrate such disdain for the organization which allows you to live in relative peace and freedom. If you stop using blanket disdain for the US Military I’ll stop reflecting that disdain on you for living under their protection without gratitude.

    linked to earlier

    you mean the article from the Guardian? I think Donald addressed this.

    Why are you splitting hairs? Who are we talking about here? Muslims, non-enemy combatants, whomever, its besides the point. You really get worked up on these irrelevant distractions.

    I’m not the one inserting elements to the argument which I did not make, and no, we’re not talking about Muslims or “non-enemy combatants”, we’re talking about insurgent operators.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Interesting list of questions:
    Nine Questions the Left Needs to Answer About Torture

    The first three are particularly apt:
    1. Given how much you rightly hate torture, why did you oppose the removal of Saddam Hussein, whose prisons engaged in far more hideous tortures, on thousands of times more people, than America did — all of whom, moreover, were individuals and families who either did nothing or simply opposed tyranny? One assumes, furthermore, that all those Iraqi innocents Saddam had put into shredding machines or whose tongues were cut out and other hideous tortures would have begged to be waterboarded.

    2. Are all forms of painful pressure equally morally objectionable? In other words, are you willing to acknowledge that there are gradations of torture as, for example, there are gradations of burns, with a third-degree burn considerably more injurious and painful than a first-degree burn? Or is all painful treatment to be considered torture? Just as you, correctly, ask proponents of waterboarding where they draw their line, you, too, must explain where you draw your line.

    3. Is any maltreatment of anyone at any time — even a high-level terrorist with knowledge that would likely save innocents’ lives — wrong? If there is no question about the identity of a terror suspect , and he can provide information on al-Qaida — for the sake of clarity, let us imagine that Osama Bin Laden himself were captured — could America do any form of enhanced interrogation involving pain and/or deprivation to him that you would consider moral and therefore support?

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    This first question is ridiculous and demonstrates a complete lack of moral depth. I’m ashamed to think that this what conservatives think is important, since I am certainly more of a conservative than I am a leftist.

    “why did you oppose the removal of Saddam Hussein, whose prisons engaged in far more hideous tortures”

    Many of us simply opposed an obscene violation of international law – pre-emptive warfare, for which the Nazi leadership was tried and convicted at Nuremberg. We rejected the childish logic of “that bad man is breaking the law, so we should break it too”, and insisted that our own country be held to higher standards. Again, it is sad to think that conservatives would become moral infants as soon as an issue tickles their moral funny bone.

    “you, too, must explain where you draw your line”

    I don’t think ‘all painful treatment’ is considered torture. For instance, if a cop slaps or hits a prisoner a few times, I call that police brutality, not torture. I would call it torture when the pain – psychological or physical – is systematically inflicted over a period of time. But I’m always flexible on definitions, if someone provides good cause to alter them.

    “Is any maltreatment of anyone at any time — even a high-level terrorist with knowledge that would likely save innocents’ lives — wrong?”

    If by ‘maltreatment’ you mean torture, yes. It is always wrong. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Ultimately we give these things up to God. If you think you can face God and give him your rationalization for torture and that it will make sense to him, by all means, do it.

    Of course I now await the denunciations of ‘piety’ and ‘righteousness’ for daring to even suggest that God might have a stake in this issue. May as well be at an atheist website sometimes, the way some people’s ‘dander’ gets up at the mention of God when it comes to their pet issues.

  • e. says:

    “Is any maltreatment of anyone at any time — even a high-level terrorist with knowledge that would likely save innocents’ lives — wrong?”

    This is one of the more distressing points of the discussion.

    There are actually those folks opposing even the typical psyhcological interrogation methods that cops themselves employ against ordinary criminals.

    So sad to think that there are actually people out there who would have these terrorists treated even better than these criminals.

    I would suggest to people such as Joe Hargrave to visit the graves of those who have actually died by the hands of these terrorists.

    Perhaps then they can finally understand why it is that we who personally suffered such tragedy would not want to endure yet another.

    People as these would make us out to be the villains instead of the terrorists themselves (e.g., see how Joe was so quick to demonize us as wanting nothing more than vengeance). When, in fact, all we want is not to have to suffer again such painful losses as those of our dearest ones we’ve already lost.

    Nobody should ever have to endure that kind of devestating tragedy either again or even for the first time.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    E,

    All of the torture in the world is never going to result in a situation where nobody has to endure tragedy. Talk about utopian fantasies.

    I will not condone torture to appease anyone’s feelings. I’m not exactly sure how far we are to take Christ’s command to love our enemies, but I’m pretty sure that torturing them is taking too far in the opposite direction.

    Was he just blowing meaningless smoke when he insisted that we hold ourselves to higher standards than non-believers? I want to know, seriously, how you reconcile a belief in Jesus Christ with approval of torture.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    “Is any maltreatment of anyone at any time — even a high-level terrorist with knowledge that would likely save innocents’ lives — wrong?”

    If by ‘maltreatment’ you mean torture, yes. It is always wrong.

    Are you saying that any ‘maltreatment’ is torture?

    I didn’t really expect to get an answer anyway. It seems like Joe’s view is that all treatment that is not “kid gloves” is either torture or “police brutality”. I’m wondering does that extend even to having bars on the windows, sleeping hard cots in 6×9 cell? What are the limits?

  • e. says:

    It seems like Joe’s view is that all treatment that is not “kid gloves” is either torture or “police brutality

    Indeed –

    This is the first time that even the infamous “Good Cop/Bad Cop” routine or any one of the usual interrogration techniques so utilized by our own law enforcement for many years is actually ‘torture’, too.

  • e. says:

    How was the preceding post considered an attack on a person’s character?

    Kindly explain to me then how you would actually have terrorists escape even the kind of interrogation typically featured in a Law & Order episode?

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    E,

    In your mad rush to jump to conclusions about me, you decided that. I never made any such claim.

    The cops on Law and Order routinely do things that violate the human and civil rights of suspects. I’m not arguing that I always find it completely unjustifiable and reprehensible – most of the time I do – but even if I were to understand and even sympathize with the reason, that wouldn’t make it GOOD or RIGHT.

    If you don’t like that even suspects, even convicted criminals, even people captured in war retain civil and/or human rights, then move to North Korea.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    E,

    I’m not going to let you slander me.

    When you can engage the arguments without making suggestions about who I really love and don’t love, they’ll be allowed to stand.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Joe,

    I’m speculating about the answer because you keep dodging it. I asked the question twice and you dodged. If you weren’t going to answer the question why would you even bother to respond to the post?

    One more time, here it is:
    Are you saying that any ‘maltreatment’ is torture or “police brutality”?

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Matt,

    I’m saying that both police brutality and torture are wrong.

    I’m not going to comment on ‘maltreatment’ because that can be stretched out to encompass anything, in cheap attempt at moral trickery. Some people think that even being told they are doing something wrong is ‘maltreatment’.

    I am instead going to look at each policy and do my best to decide whether or not it respects, or flagrantly violates, the inherent dignity of human beings, even guilty ones, even bad ones. Torture does that.

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .