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CIA Torture Report

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Thank you whYNOT,

 

Ben Franklin said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

 

Along a similar line he noted, "A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges."

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softwareNerd, dream_weaver,

 

I understand that context is everything when evaluating the moral content of a particular instance of killing or lying.  As far as moral commandments go, free-will allows that exceptions sometimes prove the rule.  So in terms of how the CIA's detention program, which included some instances of torture and attempts to mislead the authority sanctioning their activities, moral content may be evaluated according to the efficacy of torture and deception to save lives (a greater good).  The CIA could argue that killing and lying are necessary exceptions to moral and legal rules in order to protect a moral and legal society from immoral and illegal ones.

 

However evaluations of efficacy then depend on torture and deceiving oversight saving more lives than not torturing and not deceiving.  Since oversight is now out of the loop regarding what actually happened, we are entirely reliant on the credibility of torturers and deceivers to assure us that their authority is sufficient in matters relating to the defense of our moral and legal society.  Add to that the fact that some members of the CIA don't agree with these methods and were marginalized, that cases promoting the necessity of torture/deception have been disputed by equally credible authorities, some who have actually been tortured, and the validation for claims of efficacy become dubious.

 

And so does our moral credibility, when the efficacy of immoral and illegal actions by others can apparently only be responded to kind.

I don't have an issue with aspects of lying to enemies of freedom/individual rights. How else could infiltration be accomplished that can lead to discovery that could thwart activity that could bring harm to our loved ones and others that hold the these principles dear. It doesn't seem plausible to me that torture is effective, and it should not be sanctioned. It is one thing to use deception to infiltrate a potential threatening organization, but are there legitimate grounds for using deception with those for whom it is being done for?

 

Beyond that, if killing the thugs or those that made possible the thugs that had stolen those planes, destroying them along with the other properties that were not theirs to dispose of, and murdering many of our fellow citizens in the commission of this heinous act, prior to it occurring, I say yea, let it be so, and let's concentrate on focusing on how it can be accomplished with reasonable certainty.

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One thing that's often lost in the terrorism debate--and torture for instance--is the context. In particular, whereas terrorism is a bad thing, and something we should try to fight, it's not a threat to our whole existence and for that matter it's not even that much of a threat at all as compared to virtually any of the run-of-the-mill domestic crimes.

 

In other words, if torture for suspected terrorists is justified, then torture for murder suspects would be a hundreds times more justified.

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... but are there legitimate grounds for using deception with those for whom it is being done for?

...

--

From, A Few Good Men (1992):

 

"You wan't answers?" ~ Col. Jessep

"I think I'm entitled to." ~ Kaffee

"You wan't answers?!" ~ Col. Jessep

"I want the truth!" ~ Kaffee

"You can't handle the truth!" ~ Col. Jessep

--

 

In response to your question, I say no, there's no legitimate grounds for using deception with those for whom it is being done for.  The only reason for deceiving the sanctioning authority is to presume, as did Col. Jessep, that a moral and legal society can't handle the truth.

 

If that's the case, then we've already lost the moral high ground and deserve whatever follows.

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I've enjoyed that movie several times.

 

As to the carte blanche no, I can't think of a situation where being forthright with the sanctioning authority would put us in jeopardy. In the absence of something or anything along that line, I concur.

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One thing that's often lost in the terrorism debate--and torture for instance--is the context. In particular, whereas terrorism is a bad thing, and something we should try to fight, it's not a threat to our whole existence and for that matter it's not even that much of a threat at all as compared to virtually any of the run-of-the-mill domestic crimes.

 

In other words, if torture for suspected terrorists is justified, then torture for murder suspects would be a hundreds times more justified.

A murderer can be stopped by conventional law enforcement. How do you stop terrorists who are supported by Islamic governments like Saudi Arabia and Iran if not through total war not only against the terrorists but against the countries that back them? The principle of total war is: do whatever is necessary to disarm the enemy as quickly as possible with as few casualties as possible on our side. If that means we have to torture suspected terrorists, then that's what we must do. If on the other hand torturing them doesn't really help us, then we don't need to do it. But it isn't a matter of the suspects' "rights". Philosophically, you don't have rights if you're caught in warfare (no matter what the Geneva Conventions or any other treaty we foolishly signed says).

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That's well said, DA. You touch on the salient point that these measures are taken on 'our' behalf by a government agency, therefore all 'we' citizens are complicit in their actions' dubious or pragmatic morality.

The slippery slope argument must have occurred to many; after all, where would torture stop? A terrorist today, an ordinary criminal tomorrow.

What comes to mind often is the simple brilliance of "A society that would give up a little freedom for a little security will deserve neither and lose both". (From memory - Thomas Jefferson I believe?).

It's the Progressive Left which usually desires a risk-free existence.

I'm finding it uncomfortable to be on their side, here!

We didn't start this war. All deaths, maimings, tortures, etc., that we commit are on the heads of those terrorists who INITIATED force. I'm shocked to see so much benefit of the doubt given to the enemy on an OBJECTIVIST board. Has this become a wishy-washy Kelleyite Objectivism-in-name-only forum?

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A murderer can be stopped by conventional law enforcement. How do you stop terrorists who are supported by Islamic governments like Saudi Arabia and Iran if not through total war not only against the terrorists but against the countries that back them? The principle of total war is: do whatever is necessary to disarm the enemy as quickly as possible with as few casualties as possible on our side. If that means we have to torture suspected terrorists, then that's what we must do. If on the other hand torturing them doesn't really help us, then we don't need to do it. But it isn't a matter of the suspects' "rights". Philosophically, you don't have rights if you're caught in warfare (no matter what the Geneva Conventions or any other treaty we foolishly signed says).

 

Last year there were 16,238 US citizen deaths from murder. How is that "being stopped by conventional law enforcement"? (Terrorist deaths were probably under 10 btw).

 

War against nations that protect criminals might be justified, but that has nothing to do with torture of suspects.

 

Also, the word "suspects" means somebody who is accused of a crime, not proven and/or convicted.

 

There's also the legal matter of making the punishment fit the crime. Should we have tortured and executed every single citizen of Germany after WWII? Men, women and children? Of course not. Some were more culpable than others and many weren't very culpable at all, and many were themselves victims of the regime.

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We didn't start this war. All deaths, maimings, tortures, etc., that we commit are on the heads of those terrorists who INITIATED force. I'm shocked to see so much benefit of the doubt given to the enemy on an OBJECTIVIST board. Has this become a wishy-washy Kelleyite Objectivism-in-name-only forum?

Mmm - before leaping to what you consider properly Objectivist, perhaps focus more on applying O'ist morality and principles to this situation.

As always, Objectivism rejects both the neo-con (Nuke 'em all!) position (intrinsicist/collectivist, in my view) - AND the 'progressive-liberal' position (subjectivist/altruist, I think).

Objectivism's code of ethics is not dictated by or derived from politics, iow. Rather, rational self interest alone dictates and informs the nature and actions of government. As you know.

(Also, as Objectivist you'd not be swayed by either emotional response: "Who cares, the bastards deserve the punishment" - or - "We should always have compassion for anyone, y'know").

"A private individual may do anything except that which is legally *forbidden*; a government official may do nothing except that which is legally *permitted*."

[AR: The Nature of Government]

We are debating here exactly what we would permit our government to do on our behalf.

Edited by softwareNerd

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We didn't start this war. All deaths, maimings, tortures, etc., that we commit are on the heads of those terrorists who INITIATED force. I'm shocked to see so much benefit of the doubt given to the enemy on an OBJECTIVIST board. Has this become a wishy-washy Kelleyite Objectivism-in-name-only forum?

 

Terrorists who "INITIATED" force claim they are responding to our actions, therefore all deaths, maimings, tortures, etc., are on our heads.  I can only hope our heads are more rational regarding the efficacy of immoral, illegal techniques than to simply promote them without understanding how our use of torture validates our enemy's use of torture and shapes the battle according to their terms and justifications.

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And I'll add that the world is not that simple. "Nuke them all" is as idiotic as doing nothing at all. The bizarre-looking mix of strategies we've employed over the last few decades certainly hasn't always been the right mix, but a mix of some kind is the right strategy. That mix can include bribes in every form, public relations, shady alliances, economic pressure, and a host of other things--whatever minimizes our costs and maximizes our safety (within moral bounds of course). The ongoing debacle in Iraq showed just how impossible a full-frontal-assault can be.

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And I'll add that the world is not that simple. "Nuke them all" is as idiotic as doing nothing at all. The bizarre-looking mix of strategies we've employed over the last few decades certainly hasn't always been the right mix, but a mix of some kind is the right strategy. That mix can include bribes in every form, public relations, shady alliances, economic pressure, and a host of other things--whatever minimizes our costs and maximizes our safety (within moral bounds of course). The ongoing debacle in Iraq showed just how impossible a full-frontal-assault can be.

You're wildly mistaken if you think Iraq is an example of a full frontal assault. Compare how we fought that war to how we fought WWII. I can't believe I have to explain to an Objectivist the notion of completely decimating and demoralizing the enemy in order to win the war.

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Terrorists who "INITIATED" force claim they are responding to our actions, therefore all deaths, maimings, tortures, etc., are on our heads.  I can only hope our heads are more rational regarding the efficacy of immoral, illegal techniques than to simply promote them without understanding how our use of torture validates our enemy's use of torture and shapes the battle according to their terms and justifications.

You put "initiated" in quotes as if it's not true, as if 9/11 were our fault, and further you give sanction to the delusional thoughts of Islamic jihadists, as if to say, "Who's to say if we're the victims? Maybe THEY'RE the real victims". This is pure moral relativism, do you hear yourself?

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Mmm - before leaping to what you consider properly Objectivist, perhaps focus more on applying O'ist morality and principles to this situation.

As always, Objectivism rejects both the neo-con (Nuke 'em all!) position (intrinsicist/collectivist, in my view) - AND the 'progressive-liberal' position (subjectivist/altruist, I think).

Objectivism's code of ethics is not dictated by or derived from politics, iow. Rather, rational self interest alone dictates and informs the nature and actions of government. As you know.

(Also, as Objectivist you'd not be swayed by either emotional response: "Who cares, the bastards deserve the punishment" - or - "We should always have compassion for anyone, y'know").

"A private individual may do anything except that which is legally *forbidden*; a government official may do nothing except that which is legally *permitted*."

[AR: The Nature of Government]

We are debating here exactly what we would permit our government to do on our behalf.

Again, more ignorance. The "neo con" line of thought is not "nuke em all" (and besides I never said that, so stuff your straw man), but rather sacrifice of Americans to build nations and bring "democracy" to our enemies.

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You're wildly mistaken if you think Iraq is an example of a full frontal assault. Compare how we fought that war to how we fought WWII. I can't believe I have to explain to an Objectivist the notion of completely decimating and demoralizing the enemy in order to win the war.

 

Um, dude, what does "Objectivist" have to do with anything in this conversation?

 

Anyhow, going even further than we did in Iraq to WWII proportions to fight terrorism is even more idiotic than Iraq was...

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Um, dude, what does "Objectivist" have to do with anything in this conversation?

Objectivists like Leonard Peikoff, Yaron Brook and Elan Journo have explained eloquently for nearly a decade and a half how we must use total war to achieve victory. I'm not saying that because they say it it must be true, but their explanations fit well with Objectivism's views on self defense and self interest (see OPAR on self-defense, I can't bring up the exact chapter, but LP writes about how an aggressor acts on the level of an animal and the victim must treat him as such if he wants to live).

Edited by NewbieOist

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You put "initiated" in quotes as if it's not true, as if 9/11 were our fault, and further you give sanction to the delusional thoughts of Islamic jihadists, as if to say, "Who's to say if we're the victims? Maybe THEY'RE the real victims". This is pure moral relativism, do you hear yourself?

 

I hear myself asking you if there's any effectual difference between our torturing them (because they started it) and them beheading us (because they claim we started it).  What I'm hearing in response from you is simple patriotic indignation at having methods you support but don't know the efficacy of questioned.  Unless you can provide something better than, "Go team", I'll leave it at that.

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And, I might add, the reason we don't torture common criminals is that a common criminal at least has some grudging respect for the law - when he's caught that is. You see, he doesn't have a global network of friends to fall back on who can use threats of kidnappings and bombings in order to free him. Even in the case of common gangsters we have no need to torture their captives because we know where the gang members live and we can rely on the police in the local area to capture them when they commit crimes. We don't have this luxury with terrorists who hide in countries that are unfriendly to us and/or claim ignorance about their location (Pakistan anyone?).

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I hear myself asking you if there's any effectual difference between our torturing them (because they started it) and them beheading us (because they claim we started it).  What I'm hearing in response from you is simple patriotic indignation at having methods you support but don't know the efficacy of questioned.  Unless you can provide something better than, "Go team", I'll leave it at that.

Because we are moral and they are not, that's the fundamental. If you're acting on the premise that we're immoral and we don't have the right to use whatever means necessary to defend ourselves in war, then we may as well end this discussion now. But by the way, I never said that no one is allowed to question the efficacy of torture. It's the part where you give the enemy the moral benefit of the doubt. "But what if we're WRONG?!" This is indistinguishable from the rhetoric I hear over and over from leftists, but to hear it from so-called Objectivists is appalling.

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And, I might add, the reason we don't torture common criminals is that a common criminal at least has some grudging respect for the law - when he's caught that is. You see, he doesn't have a global network of friends to fall back on who can use threats of kidnappings and bombings in order to free him. Even in the case of common gangsters we have no need to torture their captives because we know where the gang members live and we can rely on the police in the local area to capture them when they commit crimes. We don't have this luxury with terrorists who hide in countries that are unfriendly to us and/or claim ignorance about their location (Pakistan anyone?).

 

So a cold-blooded murderer has some grudging respect for the law. Okay. Got it.

 

And these opinions and judgement calls are not Objectivism. LP and YB are not magical priests with a special connection to God, they are people with opinions and judgement calls just like everybody here.

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Looks like the point goes over your head. You've dreamt up your own strawman: nobody I recall has introduced "what if we are wrong?" or sympathy for terrorists, into this. It suits your righteous outrage to believe so, does it?

 

A rational morality is not what one does to others, it is how one acts for oneself.

 

Your own standards, not those of Islamists - got it?

 

It involves thinking for yourself, too. I doubt if Peikoff and others have advocated for torture, but I think are wrong if they have.

 

"Total war" strategy I can go with - without invasions.

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The ongoing debacle in Iraq showed just how impossible a full-frontal-assault can be.

I don't think we can draw that conclusion from the Iraq war. That war strategy was botched because of a failure to properly identify an enemy and victory conditions. Bad philosophy. It is great evidence that we can't trust Republicans to wage wars (which isn't to say we can trust Democrats). For now I'm willing to wait for someone more capable. It will probably be a while.

Edited by FeatherFall

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The conclusion we can draw from the Iraq War is that democracy cannot be delivered with a foreign bullet.  We wanted Sadam out - he's out.  We wanted Bin Laden out - he's out.  We're two for two, but the list of people we want out keeps growing, and apparently they grow in the very camps we imprision (and torture) them in.

 

Time for a new strategy, not a new person to execute the same old strategy.

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I hope I didn't give you the impression that I wanted new people to execute the same strategy. A new strategy is implied by different goals. You can try to achieve the same goals with different strategies, but you can't use the same strategy to achieve different goals.

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