Friday, November 16, 2007

McCain on Torture

Steve Hays has implied that my discussions of torture are out of touch with the reality of war, and in particular interrogation techniques. I wonder if he will make the same charge against this guy, who's must be a bleeding heart liberal, a dove on all matters related to war, and who must have dreamed his "experience" as a POW in Vietnam.

Why does it follow that the fact that some of our military sign up for waterboard training make waterboarding not torture? Why? Why not just say that these guys sign up to learn how to deal with torture by dealing with some of it during training. The fact that they beg for it to stop very quickly once it happens is better evidence that it is torture.

In a traditional understanding of everlasting hellfire a person has a resurrection body which is never consumed by the flames of hell, but the flames inflict pain on that person without any actual organ damage. So, I guess, no one gets tortured in hell. I'm sure that'll be a relief to everyone who goes there.

We have to look at what we ordinarily mean when we use words. Inflicting suffering of any kind on a person so that they will do anything to make it stop is the very essence of torture. The rest is quibbling. My Clinton parallel works like this, in case you couldn't see the logic. Bill Clinton denied that he had had "sexual relations" with Monica Lewinsky by using a technical, legal definition of sexual relations which could be used to exclude oral sex performed on him. But it was still very deceitful because most of his listeners weren't thinking in terms of the technical definition, they were thinking in more common-sense terms.

This is the international legal definition of torture, provided by a commentator on Triablogue:

"any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."

This makes it clear that by the legal definition, it doesn't matter if the suffering is physical or psychological.






6 comments:

SlagleRock said...

"Why does it follow that the fact that some of our military sign up for waterboard training make waterboarding not torture? Why? Why not just say that these guys sign up to learn how to deal with torture by dealing with some of it during training."

If this was the case, they would also be willing to volunteer to undergo experiences which are universally acknowledged to be torture. But they aren't, or at least I haven't heard any such claim.

Let me use a parallel that I think everyone would acknowledge is not torture: imprisonment. Being confined undoubtedly inflicts significant psychological discomfort, sometimes to the point where someone is willing to do anything just to get out. So if we insist that such a person finishes his time, are we torturing him? I don't think so, but it seems to me that by your definition (where there is no distinction between physical and psychological pain) it would qualify as torture. We are, after all, "inflicting suffering...on a person so that they will do anything to make it stop."

Again, I'm not defending waterboarding, or suggesting that it does not qualify as torture. I don't know.

steve said...

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/11/mccain-on-torture.html

steve said...

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/11/liberal-dilemma.html

Anonymous said...

These debates with Steve are fascinating. He seems incapable of understanding the ideas and arguments of the person he's talking to, or of constructing a decent argument of his own, and yet he's so confident about his own argumentative abilities that he even broadcasts them to others in posts on his own blog. It's kind of like watching Jerry Springer or something -- a surreal spectacle that makes it hard to change the channel.

Mike Darus said...

It seems that the definition of "severe" is important. I can imagine that waterboarding is levels of severity based on the length of time one is deprived of oxygen and the extent to which water might be forced into the lungs. I would guess severity from least to greatest might be:

training exercise
initial interrogation
repeat interrogation
for prevention of mass fatalities
methods used by others
method intended to cause death

There may be some waterboarding techniques that are not severe enough to be called torture.

just guessing

steve said...

Anonymous said...
These debates with Steve are fascinating. He seems incapable of understanding the ideas and arguments of the person he's talking to, or of constructing a decent argument of his own, and yet he's so confident about his own argumentative abilities that he even broadcasts them to others in posts on his own blog. It's kind of like watching Jerry Springer or something -- a surreal spectacle that makes it hard to change the channel.

***********************

The fact that you watch Jerry Springer says a lot about your viewing habits. I only know him by reputation.

It may also explain why you didn't offer a single argument to support in a single one of your allegations. Watching Jerry Springer doesn't foster a capacity for moral and rational discrimination. I'd advise you to change your viewing habits.