I brought this thought up in a comment on Mark’s post on torture; it’s fine to be against torture, but what do you consider torture?  John McCain, having endured the Hanoi Hilton, might have one definition.  Abu Zubaydah’s definition is to be in a cell with a stinging insect.  What about tickle torture?

Danny Carlton presents some food for thought on this subject.  I’m open to your comments on this because this really made me stop and think.

Waterboarding does no permanent, physical damage. It makes one think they are drowning, which I would imagine is an incredibly unpleasant feeling. Another unpleasant feeling–the fear that your children will be taken away from you, and you’ll never see them again. This is done daily across the US by overzealous social workers attempting to force "confessions" from parents suspected of abuse or neglect. Given the choice I think I’d prefer waterboarding.

The logic behind the Fifth Amendment is that when faced with fear, a person may very well lie about their guilt or innocence choosing imprisonment over torture or death. The result is not the truth or justice. But when the goal isn’t a guilty verdict but information needed to save lives the equation changes.

The question then becomes, is it fair or just to put a person through a mentally unpleasant event in order to extract information which can save lives? Ironically those who scream loudest against waterboarding would be those most adamantly in favor of allowing social workers unfettered power in using just as merciless and cruel techniques against parents suspected of abuse or neglect, most often based solely on an anonymous tip.

Whether we as a "civilized society" can tolerate torture has been answered by how we allow social workers and police to use mental torture on those suspected of a crime. Since waterboarding results in no actual physical harm to the person the difference then is whether we will tolerate what we allow on US citizens barely suspected of a crime to be used on known terrorists who have information that could save lives. 

Why is this even a debate?

Is torture wrong?  Seems pretty clear cut that Americans believe it is, which is good to hear.  But those on the Left berating the Bush administration then go beyond the poll results and say that Americans are against waterboarding specifically.  No, they said they were against torture, and again, it all depends on what you mean by that. 

Are you against putting a caterpillar into Zubaydah’s cell and telling him it’s a wasp?  Or are you against hanging someone by meat hooks for 3 days?  Is there a difference in those techniques?  I think there is.  Are they both torture?  Depends on your definition, I suppose.

What’s your definition, and what is it based on?

Filed under: DougEthics & MoralityPolls

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