Thursday, November 27, 2008

Compassion for Victims, not Terrorists

As I write this, a terrorist attack in India is ongoing. Hundreds have been killed or wounded. The Indian government has captured some of the terrorists. Undoubtedly the terrorists have valuable information that could save lives in the future if the information leads to the capture or killing of some of their co-terrorists.

So the Indian government has two choices. They could show compassion to these alleged terrorists, give them three meals a day, a Koran, cable TV etc... or they could show compassion to future, would be victims of terrorists by extracting information from these thugs via calm persuasion or, if necessary, torture.

I know, this is an ugly choice. But it is the choice.

And my choice would be to show compassion to future terrorist victims by using whatever means necessary to extract info from the terrorists in order to capture their support network that will otherwise plot to kill more innocents.


Colt said...

India will get the information and use it. They will also share with us. I hope Obama the Son of God wakes up.
Note a small yield say 10 KNT set off say in Chicago will effect Racine to the point of overwhelming the City between fallout and refugees fleeing to come here.

Anonymous said...

blah blah blah blah blah....

Denis Navratil said...

Thank you anon for summarizing the liberal position on all issues.

Anonymous said...

BAAHHHaaaaa! that is a good on about anon and liberals Denis. I would
water board the F out of those A holes that did this. At some point maybe liberals will wake up.

smallgovsam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
smallgovsam said...

I disagree with you on this one Denis.

What you are advocating is essentially Benthamite utilitarianism. That the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its contribution to the overall utility to society.

Everybody is probably familiar with its mantra “the end justifies the means.”

This thinking the precursor to collectivism. Shouldn’t we torture a terrorist if saves two people from being tortured? Why is stealing from the rich to give to the poor wrong when the poor will become wealthier? Why are individuals important when compared to the needs of that all-important aggregate, “society?”

Individualism and egalitarianism are the basic tenets of liberty and freedom. Torture spits in the face of every endowed human right.

Denis Navratil said...

I appreciate an opposing point of view Sam but I'm not convinced by your arguments. Does the ends justify the means? My answer: not always certainly, but not never either. In this case the ends do justify the means. And I am not buying that the rare and necessary torture of a terrorist caught in the act is a precursor to collectivism. Letting them get away with it on the other hand is definitely a precursor to collectivism.

Denis Navratil said...

Sam I hope you are up for a vigorous debate here. I have given your ideas some more thought.

My concern for you is a tendency toward overintellectualization. While here we are engaged in merely an intellectual exercise, the Indian government has already had to make a decision. Sometimes life is going to throw at you some stuff that requires immediate action and imperfect choices. At these times, Bentham, Plato and Keirkagaard are going to have to take the back seat and Sam is going to have to make a difficult decision. My suggestion would be to use your brain and your common sense.

Yes there is a danger if your government tortures people willy nilly, but that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about capturing guys with backpacks full of hand grenades in the midst of a murderous rampage through a city. So I frankly don't understand the emphasis on theoretical precursors to collectivism. At that moment I am a collectivist and I want my collective to engage in one of the few tasks I approve of, protecting the lives of citizens.

You are an absolutest on the subject of torture. And I find this curious as you otherwise seem to reject notions of absolute truth. I am refering to God. What is the source of your absolute position on torture? Is there infallible human logic involved here? Please explain Sam.

Oh and by the way, congratulations to you and your Walden academic team on your recent accomplishments.

smallgovsam said...

What I’m trying to express is that terrorists, much to the surprise of conservatives, are people too. To torture them would be morally wrong.

But this is just a merely ideological point of view. There are plenty of pragmatic reasons why one should not torture. It may seem easy to think that torture extracts valuable information but the truth is that it doesn’t. People tend to say what their capturers want to hear in order to stop the pain. Remember the Salem Witch Trials or the Spanish Inquisition? Hundreds of thousands of “infidels” and “heretics” were tortured and implicated in crimes against the Church that they never committed.

Torture in this day in age is no different. It obtains false or misleading information and thus causes a misallocation of time, funds, and effort.

Beware of common sense, gut feelings, and instincts, Denis. Those things are just a guise for emotional thinking. It may seem like a good idea to torture and thus save lives. But the veracity of situations usually stand in contrast to worldviews.

And absolutes don’t have to come from a “Higher Power.” They are simply the natural result of mankind’s intelligence, aptitude, and reason. The rights of humanity are self-evident. They need no further proof, evidence, or verification to be true.

Thanks for the congratulations. The team worked very hard.

Denis Navratil said...

Sam have you ever considered that the notion that torture can't produce true statements might be wrong? I am hearing this alot lately and I think this is perhaps lefty propaganda. How do you know this to be true? I believe that there are some people who will never provide info while there is evidence that KSM succumbed after a bit of waterboarding. However, if you are correct and the use of torture never produces valuable information, don't you think people who's job it is to gather information would discontinue the use of torture for purely pragmatic reasons?

I wouldn't equate common sense thinking with emotionalism and I don't know why anyone would.

Now I may be wrong about the morality of the use of torture under extreme circumstances, but if I am wrong it would my failing to adhere to or understand moral truths that you claim to be self evident. Well the moral truth you are claiming to be self evident and without need of further proof evidence etc... is not evident at all to me. How is it that you are able to comprehend this humanly derived moral truth? I am suspicious of humanly derived moral truths (global warming theory for example) because as humans we have demonstrated throughout history an inability to arrive at these truth's much less to adhere to them. Which humanly derived moral truth should I accept, yours or mine? If those are my choices, though I respect your intelligence and sincerity, I will not we worshipping at the alter of Sam, or for that matter, the alter of me. I will reason as best as I am able and hope that my actions conform to the non-humanly derived absolute truth.

colt said...

torture never produces valuable information is very true you can get anyone to say anything even that Mayor Becker is doing a good job or even vote for Obama, proven fact.
But what is torture? Pulling finger nails is wrong the rack is wrong, but what about loud rock music watching Baywatch having good looking women in bikini's walk in a room? Start killing family members. Is that torture?
We need to get good info not make someone talk if they know something or not

Something we need to talk about is are we prepared if God forbid something should happen around here. Not perhaps walk around with M-16's but how about first aid training? A plan for home and work if something should go down?

A true shame is that Racine County has many folks trained in CERT but the county is too worried about being sued to use them should they ever be needed. A case IMHO of something is done that looks good on paper but is never intended to be used. Fear being sued should not stop Racine County that sits between two targets from not doing more. If I am wrong I do hope I am corrected

smallgovsam said...

Am I entertaining the notion that government bureaucrats are making errors in judgment? Absolutely. As Hayek taught us, central planning will always be inefficient, whether the orders are from civilians or soldiers.

Furthermore, just because torture isn’t yielding valuable information doesn’t mean the policy will change. People in positions of power usually don’t give up their privileges over others to easily. Google the Stanford prison experiment.

Although the CIA has endorsed the use of “coercive tactics” the FBI, however, has not. Which branch is more successful I have no idea and probably never will. But my practical view on the situation is that torture will only lead to a misallocation of resources as people lie to stop the pain/mental torture.

As for rights being self-evident and therefore too anthropocentric, moral absolutes are derived from sociobiological reasons as well as constructs from the Enlightenment like liberty and freedom, which have pragmatism as there ultimate goal. They essentially allows individuals to reach their fullest potential, thus causing a positive externality for society.

Why is murder wrong? For one, civilization would collapse if murder was acceptable. (Except when institutionalized as in the case of duels or war. But I digress.)

Denis Navratil said...

Sam I am going to try to summarize our differences on this subject.

You are taking two approaches. One is that torture never works. The other is that it is always wrong. You have reached these conclusions based on study of philosophers, ethicists etc... and you believe we can discover moral absolutes with our reasoning abilities.

I believe that many people will do whatever is necessary to stop the torture. This could include telling the truth and providing helpful information. I just can't wrap my brain around the idea that torture will always produce lies. I am still awaiting the proof of that one. And regarding the morality of torture I have for the most part relied on common sense which tells me that, under extraordinary circumstances, it is moral to inflict pain on an obviously guilty terrorist in order to stop future terrorist acts on innocents. I also reach this absolute based on my thoughts and experiences but the difference between us, other than our conclusions, is that for you moral absolutes can be arrives at entirely through human reason while I believe that while we ought to try to arrive at moral truths, the moral absolute, or truth, is not created by humans. To put it more simply, I am forced to humbly submit that I may not have fully grasped an external truth while you can hold the view, because truth is derived from human thought, that you are correct. The problem with humanly created truth as I see it is the abundance of examples where we humans are wrong.

Preachrboy said...

Hey Denis, since you asked me to weigh in....

I can't think of a time this topic has specifically been addressed by our church body. I can't think of a passage in Scripture that clearly states, "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not" on torture.

I will leave the debates about effectiveness aside for now (though I think they are worth having).

As to the morality of torture, I would turn to the 5th commandment regarding murder, and its general application to the gift of human life.

The only physical violence toward another human being IS explicitly condoned in Scripture is when it is enacted by a lawful government. Romans 13 tells us the government bears the "power of the sword" to "punish wrongdoers".

I would also think that there is a temptation to act in cruelty rather than with a clear purpose in whatever shade of torture being used, and I don't know how a moral human being would safeguard against it.

But having said all this, I guess where I would come down is that torture should be avoided whenever possible, and if used, has many moral pitfalls, but I can't say that scripturally speaking it would be out of the question for a rightful government to enact it on a wrongdoer.

(innocent people - a different story, of course)

Caledonication said...

There is a book on the subject of torture, written by a famous Nazi expert on the subject. I'll have to look up his name which escapes me at the moment. He found through his work, that torture is a poor way of extracting information and more often results in misleading or no useful information.

Ancient Asian techniques for extracting information concentrated on using a few basic methods for getting the information that they wanted. The methods often used sex, food and other comforts, sometimes money. These proved to be much more successful than torture.

Personally, I think torture is best reserved for revenge, vengeance or as a punishment of the most heinous of actions, unless of course the perpetrator actually likes a specific type of torture. In that case, the type of torture should be replaced by a different type. For example, physical torture should be replaced with some other type, psychological perhaps.

Regarding the gov'mint bearing the "power of the sword". Well, that just ain't happening anymore. Not within our borders anyway.

smallgovsam said...

Preacherboy, of course the Bible condones torture. It is called stoning. People were buried up to their neck, the town would gather and hurl stones at their head. Check out all these passages that directly instruct stoning:

Ever said "O My God?"

“And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him.” Leviticus 24:16

Do you know your partner’s sexual history?

“If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city.“Deuteronomy 22:23-24

Have a friend whose not a Christian?

If there be found among you ... that ... hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them ... Then shalt thou ... tone them with stones, till they die. Deuteronomy 17:2-5

Ever disobeyed your mother and father?

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother ... Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city ... And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die. Deuteronomy 21:18-21

Ever did some yard work on Sunday?

They found a man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day. ... And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones.... And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses. Numbers 15:32-56

What about those brave patriots to fought against the tyranny of King George III?

Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die. 1 Kings 21:10

If you answered yes to any of these questions and haven’t stoned anybody to death yet, well, you yourself need to be stoned. The Bible also directs those too squeamish do the stoning to be sentenced to death -- by stoning.

Preachrboy said...


Your attacks on scripture are the kind of boring atheist propoganda we've all heard before.

1. Scripture doesn't describe exactly how stoning is to be done.

2. Yes stoning is a form of execution in the Bible, and capital punishment is condoned in both the Old and New Testament. But execution does not equal torture.

3. The passages you cite are part of the civil law of the ancient nation-state of Israel and don't apply to us anyway. I'm so tired of explaining this to bible-haters who are just out to score points.

smallgovsam said...

“Scripture doesn't describe exactly how stoning is to be done.”

True. But we have a pretty clear depiction of stoning from practices in Muslim countries today. Victims are buried from their waist (man) or neck (female). This practice is common in Iran, Saudi Arabia today. In North Africa, villages would gather in a circle around the victim and hurl stones at him or her till death.

“But execution does not equal torture.”

I agree. But when one is stoned, death does not come quickly or painlessly. Stoning, by its nature, is a terrible form of execution that inflicts a maximum amount of agony. The Islamic Republic of Iran actually has regulations regarding the size of the stones thrown -- not too big as to kill the person but not too small as to not harm them.

Why didn’t God say, “Stoning is OK as a method of execution but make sure you kill them on the first blow because anything else would be torture, OK guys?” Rather than allowing his Chosen People to practice the most obvious stoning method of beating them with stones?

“The passages you cite are part of the civil law of the ancient nation-state of Israel and don't apply to us anyway.”

Do you think stoning people to death is wrong? If so, how can you justify your God’s other moral absolutes when the aforementioned passages are so clearly barbaric? What about stoning 100 years ago? Was that wrong? What about 1,000 ago? When was the cut off point of “wrong”?

How do you know which chapters are applicable to life today? Isn’t the whole Bible true according to the Church, every last bit about kosher and not wearing clothing of mixed blends? And if not, how does one know what passages to follow and which to discard? Wouldn’t one have to use his or him own moral compass thus allowing a fallible human mind to make portentous ethical choices and define his or her own moral absolutes?

And please answer these questions for me. I try to be open-minded but am having a hard time dissecting the Theist’s psyche…

Preachrboy said...


Thanks for toning it done (a little).

I'm not sure I would agree that stoning is necessarily torture. While certainly not the most pleasant way to die, it isn't the least. Nor does execution have to be "painless" or even "quick" to be moral. However, compare it to other forms of execution, like crucifixion or impaling, which WERE designed to be torturous and long.

And I'm not ready to concede that the practice was always done as you describe, or even as a norm over the ages. I think we just don't have that much information.

Perhaps (and this is just speculation on my part) as a form of execution, it was used precisely because it shows in a very clear way that the entire community is united in condemning the crime or sin that brought on the stoning. It's an unmistakable demonstration of a community acting together to condemn the wrongdoer. Ancient (and even modern) Eastern thinking places great weight in the symbolism of action.

Another important distinction to keep in mind when looking at scripture is description vs. prescription. Just because scripture relates that something happened doesn't mean it's saying it SHOULD, or should at all times and in all places. Stoning was the prescribed method of the ancient Israelites, but it is not so for us in modern America, for instance.

This goes back, also, to the distinction in civil, ceremonial, and moral law I alluded to and which you asked about. A very helpful distinction!

A close study of the New Testament makes it clear that the ceremonial law of the Old Covenant is fulfilled in Christ. So Peter is commanded to eat (in his vision) from unclean foods, for instance. Paul talks about circumcision not being necessary anymore.

Ancient Israel was a nation-state, with civil laws that applied only to them. We live, instead, under the civil laws of the U.S. and the state of Wisconsin.

But certain laws, the moral laws, stand for all time. Jesus summarized these as "love God" and "love your neighbor". They are also summarized in the 10 commandments.

A simplistic and shallow handling of Scripture will not do, but sound principles of interpretation which consider the textual context, the totality of scripture, the meaning of the grammar, the historical context and other considerations -

Christians who look to the Word for moral guidance are not Bible-thumping rubes indistinguishable from extremist Muslims. Many atheists suggest this, and I hope you're not doing the same, Sam.