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torture (of detained terrorists)

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moral or not?  

60 members have voted

  1. 1. Is torture of terrorists moral?

    • yes, moral
      12
    • no, immoral
      12
    • only moral on known terrorists
      18
    • don't know
      3


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My personal view is that only confirmed terrorists morally qualify for torture, because they are a known threat to civilization and should be dealt with as such.

Allowing it for suspected terrorists would be somewhat of a slippery slope for me.

It's moral to question the suspects, but not torture. At least not until you can establish a clear motive and have an iron-clad case against the would-be terrorist.

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My personal view is that only confirmed terrorists morally qualify for torture, because they are a known threat to civilization and should be dealt with as such.

I think it depends on each individual's crimes to determine if they qualify for torture. A person who has intended or committed acts that significantly endangers individual rights(namely freedom) in a country loses all their rights because of the extent of their crimes. Given this, and since a proper gov't should act in self-defense, trying to obtain knowledge from these criminals in order to prevent future crimes against them is in the best interest of the country.

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Since criminals do not have any rights to have violated, it would be moral. Matters case-by-case. Though, I do confess it would be a horribly inaccurate way to extract information since one would say anything to get the torture to stop.

So nay on it being logical.

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To torture places one in the same moral status as the Royal Saudi regime, or even Saddam Hussein. We Anglos do not torture out of principle. We place people before a court of law and if found guilt of criminal activity they are formally punished. End of story. That's who we are.

Let's not second guess the Justice System. We may need it for ourselves yet.

Janet

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To torture places one in the same moral status as the Royal Saudi regime, or even Saddam Hussein. We Anglos do not torture out of principle.

No, it doesn't. The Saudis, et. al. torture for no reason at all. What is meant by "we Anglos"?

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It wouldn't hurt to try though. Getting just a few pieces of truth may help a lot.

Hmm...that's something I haven't thought about. If torture was ever to be effective in getting accurate information, it would be in the periods before the start (most anticipation) and the beginning of it, wouldn't it?

Edited by Benpercent

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I voted "yes, moral." The question already implies that the person is known to be a terrorist, so there is no need for further qualification. If you want to know what we think of torturing suspected terrorists, why not make a poll entitled "Torturing SUSPECTED terrorists--moral or immoral" ?

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If you torture your enemies then you are granting them the right to torture your soldiers in return. It's as simple as that. Can torture for extracting information be considered self-defence? No. Preemptive violence is not self-defence, it is the initiation of violence. When you torture somebody you are just a thug using violence to appropriate something that isn't yours. Your need for information does not give you the right to torture another man. You have no right to fulfilling your needs at the expense of sacrificing somebody else for it.

This might be an interesting read ("Ayn Rand on torture"):

http://ariwatch.com/AynRandOnTorture.htm

In my opinion the author of the article got it right and Rand did as well. If you talk about "good" and "bad" dictatorships, you've already accepted the immoral premise of a dictatorship. If you talk about "good" and "bad" torture, you've already accepted the immoral premise of torture. Or to quote Rand:

“... thus endorsing the moral premises of thugs who regard torture as a legitimate method of inquiry.”

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If you torture your enemies then you are granting them the right to torture your soldiers in return. It's as simple as that.
No, one is not doing so. One might be doing something that might appear similar to the casual observer, but one is not granting any rights, nor even doing the same thing as the enemy. I'm not saying torture is justified; just that your objection is incorrect. One might as well say that by jailing a thief one give thieves the right to jail honest folk.

Can torture for extracting information be considered self-defence? No. Preemptive violence is not self-defence, it is the initiation of violence.
Preemptive? What does that even mean? The way some libertarians and peaceniks use the term, they mean that one may not act, even if one sees overwhelming evidence that a foe is going to attack...that one must wait until the bombs are falling, until one acts. If this is not what you mean, then do not use the concept of "preemption", use an analysis that speaks to evidence, what can be considered a threat and what is not, how serious a threat should be before acting, and so on.

This might be an interesting read...
Very sloppy writing. Sounds like a libertarian, grasping at single words from a reputed authority figure, without understanding the context. Rand says that we should not punish our troops if they say something disgraceful under torture, and he concludes that we should not torture jihadists! It's as though, instead of thinking conceptually, this author is a mechanical computer, matching words and emotions and drawing some random conclusion that has the same words and emotion.

If you talk about "good" and "bad" dictatorships, you've already accepted the immoral premise of a dictatorship. If you talk about "good" and "bad" torture, you've already accepted the immoral premise of torture.
You are begging the question here by assuming that torture is bad, as is dictatorship. Of course, if you could actually demonstrate that torture is bad in the context described by the original poster, then you would be right; but you haven't proven that. An equivalent way of arguing would be if I were to say: 1 teaspoon of arsenic is bad whether it is in lemon juice or in milk, ; therefore, torture is bad whether one country does it for one motive and in one context, or if another country does it from a different motive in a different context.

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Your need for information does not give you the right to torture another man.
Would you also conclude that the government does not have the right to compel testimony in court, and that they don't have the right to arrest and detail a person accused of a crime? I'm trying to find out if you are adhering to a principle, or just reacting emotionally.

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No, one is not doing so. One might be doing something that might appear similar to the casual observer, but one is not granting any rights, nor even doing the same thing as the enemy. I'm not saying torture is justified; just that your objection is incorrect. One might as well say that by jailing a thief one give thieves the right to jail honest folk.

No, that's a logical warp. The equivalent would be that if you claim the right to jail people you grant the others the right to jail you. It's really not rocket science - the principle is very simple. You can't set a special set of rules for just yourself and magically expect others to respect them.

Preemptive? What does that even mean? The way some libertarians and peaceniks use the term, they mean that one may not act, even if one sees overwhelming evidence that a foe is going to attack...that one must wait until the bombs are falling, until one acts. If this is not what you mean, then do not use the concept of "preemption", use an analysis that speaks to evidence, what can be considered a threat and what is not, how serious a threat should be before acting, and so on.

In the case of torture of terrorists or soldiers you are trying to preemptively extract information in general that will help you in your fight. For instance US soldiers captured in Iraq might have information about future planned raids or bombings. Is it self-defense to torture them for information that might save lives? Even if you knew that it could, what gives you the right to sacrifice one man for the sake of others? Given the replies here, I'm starting to think I'm in a socialist forum...

Very sloppy writing. Sounds like a libertarian, grasping at single words from a reputed authority figure, without understanding the context. Rand says that we should not punish our troops if they say something disgraceful under torture, and he concludes that we should not torture jihadists! It's as though, instead of thinking conceptually, this author is a mechanical computer, matching words and emotions and drawing some random conclusion that has the same words and emotion.

From the site it seems that the author is an objectivist that resents the ARI and comments on their statements. Rand says much more that troops should not be punished for saying something disgraceful under torture. Rand says:

You will never be able to reach an agreement with your fellow Collectivists on what is a “good” cause for brutality and what is a “bad” one. Your particular pet definition may not be theirs. You might claim that it is good to slaughter men only for the sake of the poor; somebody else might claim that it is good to slaughter men only for the sake of the rich; you might claim that it is immoral to slaughter anyone except members of a certain class; somebody else might claim that it is immoral to slaughter anyone except members of a certain race. All you will agree on is the slaughter. And that is all you will achieve.”

This is the key, and your next question is valid albeit the answer should be self-evident. Incidentally, it's not a coincidence that in AS Rand put the torture of Galt as the ultimate depravity of the looter government.

You are begging the question here by assuming that torture is bad, as is dictatorship. Of course, if you could actually demonstrate that torture is bad in the context described by the original poster, then you would be right; but you haven't proven that. An equivalent way of arguing would be if I were to say: 1 teaspoon of arsenic is bad whether it is in lemon juice or in milk, ; therefore, torture is bad whether one country does it for one motive and in one context, or if another country does it from a different motive in a different context.

To quote an objectivist favorite expression: "A is A". Torture is torture regardless of context. If you think that life is the principal moral value then is should be self-evident for you that violence is immoral. In the case of a moral choice you have to evaluate the morality of the actions available to you against your moral values. If somebody attacks you and you kill him in self-defense you have made a correct choice as your life is your highest value. You are only acting morally if you give a higher priority to a higher moral value. It doesn't change the reality of the action - it is what it is and context free. Can you torture in self-defense? No, torture is a deliberate planned action done for sadism or for extracting information. For the latter one it is notoriously unreliable even if we assume that you have strong evidence (which you don't or you wouldn't have to resort to something as crude as torture).

Torture is the most despicable form of violence - it is violence for the sake of inflicting pain. It is the distilled art of inducing suffering. It is the final method of the thugs. Look through history and see what kinds of regimes have used torture. It has always been the regimes of the mindless brutes that only understand force as a method.

DavidOdden:

Would you also conclude that the government does not have the right to compel testimony in court, and that they don't have the right to arrest and detail a person accused of a crime? I'm trying to find out if you are adhering to a principle, or just reacting emotionally.

The question of government vs. citizen is tricky as you might make a case for a social contract existing where the citizens grants the government certain powers - including the monopoly on the use of force against the citizens. I'm not of that persuasion so my answer is that they by default don't have a right to it. If you accept a minimal form of a social contract (which I would do) then the answers would be no on the first one and yes on the second one. Government/citizen relations are a bit more complex topic, but I don't think it is really relevant here. The terrorists or captured soldiers generally get tortured by a third party and not by their own government/organization. So there is nothing that could be seen as a social contract in play.

Edited by denoir

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The question of government vs. citizen is tricky as you might make a case for a social contract existing where the citizens grants the government certain powers - including the monopoly on the use of force against the citizens. I'm not of that persuasion so my answer is that they by default don't have a right to it.
If governments may not rightly enforce the law according to your position, then their existence serves no rightful purpose. Are you proposing that all governments be swept away?
If you accept a minimal form of a social contract (which I would do) then the answers would be no on the first one and yes on the second one.
Is this your final answer? You're being confusing. Let's assume that you do actually claim that it is not right for governments to compel testimony but it is right for a government to arrest and try innocent people. You say that this has some relationship to "social contract", whatever that is, but I don't see how. I haven't seen the social contract so I can't check up on the details, but for the life of me I can't see how you can say "yes" to one and not to the other. Again, I'm trying to discover whether you're operating on principle -- a consistent "yes" or "no" to those two questions would have helped me more. How do you justify your inconsistency?
Government/citizen relations are a bit more complex topic, but I don't think it is really relevant here.
But it really is. You're claiming that the government cannot use force in some instance in order to protect the rights of people; so I'm trying to figure out when it is that you think government should just abandon its function because force is involved. You seem to think that this has to do with a "social contract". How do you know that the terrorist hasn't signed the social contract by either touching the soil of the country enforcing the contract or attacking the citizens of that country?

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Is torture a moral way to get information out of a terrorist?

Is it moral for use only on known terrorists, or is it moral also on suspected terrorists as well?

One might draw a line at pulling the fingernails out, electric shock or stubbing out lit cigars on naked flesh. But I see no insuperable objection to use of "truth drugs" or sleep deprivation if the situation warrants.

If one needs information then one should get it. The only caveat I would propose is that there had better be a good prima facia case for resorting to such means. Gratuitous torture is not only ugly, it is non-productive.

Bob Kolker

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Is torture a moral way to get information out of a terrorist?

Is it moral for use only on known terrorists, or is it moral also on suspected terrorists as well?

There is torture and there is torture. The most productive type of torture is that which breaks down the subject's integrity, loyalty and resistance-on-principle. This can be accomplished by trickery, flattery, sleep deprivation or so-called truth drugs.

Then there is torture by inflicting pain. What this is likely to produce is a subject who will say what he believes his tormentor wants to hear. It will very rarely be the truth. If the purpose of the torture is to get truthful information then this approach is almost totally counterproductive.

Bob Kolker

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Again, I'm trying to discover whether you're operating on principle -- a consistent "yes" or "no" to those two questions would have helped me more. How do you justify your inconsistency?

Ok, perhaps I didn't express my self clearly. Let me try again. As I said, the default answer is no in both cases. A government does not have the right to impose anything on the individual unless prior consent has been given. That is the base line. Now as it happens individuals have an interest in living in an organized society and can through a voluntary agreement delegate some functions to a common organization. For instance one may choose to have a common set of rules of interaction (judicial system) and organizations that you outsource your self-defence to (police and military). By delegating those functions to a common organization you also accept being subject to the laws of that organization. You should have the choice of not entering that arrangement, but then you will not get the services that are provided. That would be the essence of a social contract. In practice it doesn't work that way today and the social contract is forced upon you and subject to change at any time by others.

In the second part I answered the questions from a personal perspective - what kind of social contract I would accept. I would not accept a legal system that tries to force me to testify - mostly because of the absurdity of the concept of trying to force something that requires voluntary cooperation. If I feel that it is not in my interest to testify then the only way to comply is to knowingly work against my own interests. If it is in my interest to testify then I'll do so by my own choice. In the second case - arresting suspected criminals, I would agree to it within some very strictly defined boundaries. The price for that would be that if I was suspected of a crime I would have to accept potentially being arrested before a trial as well as being punished if found guilty.

Is such a system possible in practice where you individually choose which services to buy from a government? I don't know - you'd have to have to have a free competition so that you would actually have a choice. In that case the government monopoly would be eliminated and they would operate like regular corporations. I see a lot of problems with such a system but I can't really see an alternative if you accept the fundamental freedoms of man and that it is immoral to initiate the use of violence. All current and historical forms of government are based on the monopoly of violence and the threat of use of force - and actual use of force, something that I can't see as anything but immoral.

How do you know that the terrorist hasn't signed the social contract by either touching the soil of the country enforcing the contract or attacking the citizens of that country?

Because they obviously don't accept the contract or they wouldn't be trying to blow the country up. You can lock them up if you have sufficient evidence that releasing them will mean them attacking you again - the same way an individual is entitled to physically restrain an attacker that tries to hurt him. In the same way that an individual is not entitled to torture a subdued attacker for information a government is not entitled to torture a captured enemy.

Edited by denoir

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As I said, the default answer is no in both cases. A government does not have the right to impose anything on the individual unless prior consent has been given.
Okay. Well, that was stunningly clear. You're saying a government does not have the right to prosecute criminals, unless the criminals agree to be prosecuted. I think that goes a really long way towards explaining you error w.r.t. interrogating terrorists.
You should have the choice of not entering that arrangement, but then you will not get the services that are provided.
So for instance you should have the choice of murdering people and stealing from them, as long as you understand that you can't then call on the police to protect your rights.
In the second part I answered the questions from a personal perspective - what kind of social contract I would accept.
Then I could accept a social contract where my government can arrest and try you for crimes, against your will, and can compel you to testify in court. My social contract also allows the government to compel terrorists to divulge material information on their activities and those of their co-conspirators. That being the case, we needn't be concerned about what your social contract says, or what their social contract says.
You can lock them up if you have sufficient evidence that releasing them will mean them attacking you again - the same way an individual is entitled to physically restrain an attacker that tries to hurt him.
But what is they don't have a social contract that requires them to obey the law or respect rights at all? What if they haven't accepted any social contract that allows our government to arrest and lock them up? And what if they refuse to give permission to arrest them? Doesn't that mean that we just have to let them go their merry way, killing innocents?

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Okay. Well, that was stunningly clear. You're saying a government does not have the right to prosecute criminals, unless the criminals agree to be prosecuted. I think that goes a really long way towards explaining you error w.r.t. interrogating terrorists.So for instance you should have the choice of murdering people and stealing from them, as long as you understand that you can't then call on the police to protect your rights.

Oh dear. No. Your rights are not there because a government grants them to you (well unless you are a willing socialist, but then again it is you who grant them the right). You have the right to life - i.e not to be killed. So of course you do not have the right to murer people and steal their property, government or no government. That's the whole point. Look, I'll state it once more - this is really not rocket science - it's quite a simple principle. You do not have the right to initiate violence. You have no right to violate the rights of another individual. This applies to the government as well. A police force is immoral if it is financed by loot from unwilling victims. It is plain evil if it initiates violence against people that have not agreed to its laws and principles. Without your agreement the policeman is just another thug with a gun.

Now, since you seem to imply that a government is mandated regardless of the consent of the citizens, I'd like to hear how you justify it morally.

Then I could accept a social contract where my government can arrest and try you for crimes, against your will, and can compel you to testify in court. My social contract also allows the government to compel terrorists to divulge material information on their activities and those of their co-conspirators. That being the case, we needn't be concerned about what your social contract says, or what their social contract says.But what is they don't have a social contract that requires them to obey the law or respect rights at all?

A social contract works the same way as a business contract - you can't accept it for somebody else. Individual rights are not a question of some law granting them to you. If the government passes a law saying that it is ok to murder you, would you say that removes your right to live?

What if they haven't accepted any social contract that allows our government to arrest and lock them up? And what if they refuse to give permission to arrest them? Doesn't that mean that we just have to let them go their merry way, killing innocents?

If they have not accepted a social contract then they do not have a right to the services offered by society. They do not have the right to any form of protection, legal or otherwise. If somebody tries to kill them or rob them the police and the courts will not try to stop it or to punish it. It doesn't mean that you have the right to kill them or to rob them, only that the society will not provide any services to them. All other rules - including self-defense - apply.

Now, to ask you a few questions:

1) Do you think it is morally justified to force an agreement or economic transfer at the point of a gun?

2) Do laws override the rights of the individual?

3) If you answered no to the questions above, I would like to know how you would organize a government (no matter how small) without it being based on a morally corrupt premise.

I'll give you a few hints to the problems: Who will decide and on what basis the laws that the police (and military) will enforce? Who will pay for it?

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You do not have the right to initiate violence. You have no right to violate the rights of another individual. This applies to the government as well.
Well, in the case of dealing with terrorists, the government actually isn't the initiator of force, the terrorist is. If you're claiming that government has to right to use force to protect rights, then you are advocating anarchism and possibly even worse, pacifism. If you do recognise that government has the right to use force to protect rights, then I don't see what objection is to compelling a terrorist to cough up the relevant facts, using force if necessary, in order to protect citizens against the initiation of force. I'm trying to understand why you don't get it that you either have no coherent argument, or you're simply advocating anarcho-pacifism.
A social contract works the same way as a business contract - you can't accept it for somebody else.
That's plainly false. A "social contract" is no contract at all, and government is not a social contract. A contract is voluntary, must have a definite and known form, and is subordinate to the rule of law (must not require the violation of law, and is interpreted and adjudicated by/under the laws of a jurisdiction). A government is not optional, thus is not a contract; it is also not subordinate to the law (it is the law).

It is clearly within the purview of government to regulate the use of force in protecting rights. This means, among other things, that a person may be forced to stand trial and answer accusations that he has violated rights; a person may be forced to provide information material to determining guilt or innocence in a trial; a person may be forced to reveal his information about ongoing crimes in order to stop the crimes. A straightforward instance of the proper function of government is that it may use force to compel a terrorist to give up his fellow terrorists. It's simple self-defense.

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I voted "moral" on this issue not only because I feel that whatever actions are appropriate in light of the circumstances surrounding matters of "terrorism", but also in expression of my confusion over the uproar that this issue has and is still receiving in the mainstream media and elsewhere, afterall, just where do the people of this country think that we got our interrogation tactics from but those opponents who've captured and tortured our military during times of war...it's not like we devised these techniques ourselves, rather they are practices that we had to learn/were taught by our captors.

Besides this point, I also fail to take note with employing whatever tactic/method/technique/device necessary to extract information from individuals who teach their women - http://www.shalomjerusalem.com/mohammedism...ammedism15.html - and children that it is wonderful to achieve "Shahada" (martyrdom) and to die for Allah, be it in thier own country or in other countries as well. Or who just use them as decoy bombers - http://www.iraqupdates.com/p_articles.php/article/15754 - whether they're handicapped - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6889106/ - or not - http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle...ion=focusoniraq .

And let us not overlook the fact that these are a people who would use toxic chemicals on their own - http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/rls/18714.htm - or hijack planes full of innocent passengers just to crash them into buildings full of other innocent people - http://www.space.com/news/attack_folo_010911.html - and that was after a previous failed attempt in '93 to topple the towers, and then some - http://www.fas.org/irp/world/iraq/956-tni.htm . These people are simply not sane.

I could go on about this all day, but the simple fact of the matter is that, in order to defeat your enemy, you must sometimes resort to employing his own tactics against him because that is the only thing that he will understand...why? Because that is all that he was raised, taught and educated to understand and the sooner that the people of the U.S, albeit the World, realize this fact and stop all of this damnable belly aching over a sense of misinformed morallity/compassion for our fellow man, the sooner that we'll be able to do away with terrorism and the deaths of millions of people in the pursuit of fanatical idealism based on the corrupted religion of some tyrannical regime entertaining delusions of godhood.

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If you're claiming that government has to right to use force to protect rights, then you are advocating anarchism and possibly even worse, pacifism. If you do recognise that government has the right to use force to protect rights, then I don't see what objection is to compelling a terrorist to cough up the relevant facts, using force if necessary, in order to protect citizens against the initiation of force. I'm trying to understand why you don't get it that you either have no coherent argument, or you're simply advocating anarcho-pacifism.

In the broadest sense, I'm saying that anarcho-capitalism is the only moral base line assumptions that you can make when it comes to government. It is very unlikely to be the end result as a government is likely to be created on a voluntary basis. However if you still don't understand the principles, I suggest you read my posts again - I don't feel like wasting time repeating myself.

Well, in the case of dealing with terrorists, the government actually isn't the initiator of force, the terrorist is.

Really? On what grounds do you claim that? In the majority of historical and current cases of rebels/terrorists/etc they are generally not the initiators of violence but respond to some prior injustice that they think they have been subjected to. They will emphatically deny that they are the aggressors. Of course they go way beyond self-defense which is unjustifiable in all cases.

That's plainly false. A "social contract" is no contract at all, and government is not a social contract. A contract is voluntary, must have a definite and known form, and is subordinate to the rule of law (must not require the violation of law, and is interpreted and adjudicated by/under the laws of a jurisdiction). A government is not optional, thus is not a contract; it is also not subordinate to the law (it is the law).

You seem to have difficulties in differentiating the "should be" and "is" from the text. The fact that the current 'social contracts' are forced and changed by the rule of the mob doesn't change what it should be. And that is a voluntary agreement between an individual and the government.

A government is a very practical thing to have and I do think they are a good idea. I am however not willing to be forced to accept one at any terms and with a gun pointed to my head.

It is clearly within the purview of government to regulate the use of force in protecting rights. This means, among other things, that a person may be forced to stand trial and answer accusations that he has violated rights; a person may be forced to provide information material to determining guilt or innocence in a trial; a person may be forced to reveal his information about ongoing crimes in order to stop the crimes. A straightforward instance of the proper function of government is that it may use force to compel a terrorist to give up his fellow terrorists. It's simple self-defense.

Really? Says who? Who gives the government the moral sanction of violating an individuals right? Who decides what the government is entitled to do? If it has the right to torture a terrorist, why not the right to torture a common criminal to give up his fellow criminals? Hell, why stick to criminals? Why not just kill all elements that we agree on are anti-social? It's the government and according to you has the right to do it?

And please, I'd really like to know what answers you give to the questions I asked:

1) Do you think it is morally justified to force an agreement or economic transfer at the point of a gun?

2) Do laws override the rights of the individual?

3) If you answered no to the questions above, I would like to know how you would organize a government (no matter how small) without it being based on a morally corrupt premise.

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