Would it be relevant if, having committed a murder, an individual took issue with the definition of murder? Your moral relativism here is extremely dangerous - imagine if everybody was allowed to define what was legal solely on their own terms! Clarification is a more valid question, and in that area you might be able to find some room to justify waterboarding - although that justification is unlikely to stick, as we are finding out.1. That's interesting. How do you go from my taking issue or asking for clarification with a legal definition of "torture" to your belief that I'm a moral relativist here? Among other things, it'd depend to what degree I'm taking issue with or seeking clarification in regard to certain words and phrases and so on.
2. Just because a definition is legal doesn't necessarily mean it's moral or ethical. In my original post, my claim was that some Americans sometimes object to the use of "torture" because they believe it means they've ceded the moral high ground. In other words, I framed my post primarily in moral or ethical terms, not legal ones.
Let me give you a parallel - tongue in cheek, obviously. Perhaps it's true the United States can win the war against drugs without nuking Afghanistan into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. But just because we can, does that then mean we should?1. The question "Just because we can, does that mean we should?" was dependent on the statement which preceded it, i.e., that it might be possible for the United States to win the war on terrorism without using "torture." It was in this context in which I asked the question. It wasn't meant to be a blanket statement which somehow allows for whatever might pop into someone's head.
2. That said, I'll still respond to your parallel.
a. There's plenty of drug production and smuggling in certain regions of the world. As far as I know, there's not any major drug production or smuggling through Afghanistan. So I don't see why nuking Afghanistan would help win the war against drugs.
b. Or did you mean the war against terrorism instead? If that's the case, I don't think it's possible to win the war against terrorism even if we nuked the whole of Afghanistan. For one thing, I'd think it's doubtful that most terrorists are solely or even primarily still hidden within the borders of Afghanistan. Many have fled over to Pakistan, or go back and forth between the two nations, using political borders to their advantage.
c. Another problem with your parallel is that it equates the use of "torture" with the use of nuclear weapons. That's quite a parallel.
d. Plus, we need to distinguish between things like innocent and guilty as well as non-hostiles and hostiles. Nuking Afghanistan, for instance, could possibly wipe out innocent civilians (you said Afghanistan would be turned into "a post-apocalyptic wasteland" which I take to include wiping out towns and cities) whereas "torture," as I've been referring to it, would target captured war combatants.
Actually I think we do need real-life examples, for two main reasons. First, one could completely reject your notion that your hypotheticals are "realistic" if you do not provide any examples that would validate them as realistic.Realistic is not necessarily the same as real. You asked for "real-life examples." I responded with "realistic hypotheticals," and then asked whether there's anything wrong with producing a "realistic hypothetical" in lieu of having a "real-life option." So at best you're only rejecting my distinction between "real-life examples" and "realistic hypotheticals."
Second, we are talking about practices which will be applied in real life, not merely theoretically, and that means that we have to discuss not what is possible, but what is likely - many things are possible, but not all of them are likely. For example, I could conjure a realistic situation in which the only way to save the population of the USA is to sacrifice a living baby (although that sounds more like a plot twist in 24...), but that doesn't mean that we should pass legislation to allow baby sacrifice in case one day that scenario comes to pass.Okay, let's say there aren't any "real-life examples" that "torture" is able to save lives. Let's say the US has in fact never used "torture" in its history (thus voiding my question or point re: historical precedence). Yet this doesn't then mean that "torture" is necessarily ineffective let alone that it's necessarily immoral or unethical, which is the main question I've raised. The lack of any "real-life examples" that "torture" effectively saved n lives doesn't necessarily mean it won't work if we implement it, or, more importantly for my post, that it's immoral or unethical.
1. Why not? Take the First Amendment guaranteeing freedoms such as freedom of speech and assembly. Or take the Eighth Amendment, for example, which is against "cruel and unusual punishment." Or take the reason(s) we have habeus corpus. Allowing for the "torture" of an unlawful combatant might be an indirect attack or erosion of American freedoms and liberties as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. That's along the lines of what some lawyers who oppose torture have themselves argued, at least as far as I understand.For starters, let's say as expressed in the Bill of Rights.It doesn't seem very likely that this is what your opponents refer to when they say that torture is un-American, does it? What do you think *they* mean when they say American values?
2. But, again, this is less a legal issue for me than an ethical or moral one. As I mentioned in my original post, I brought up the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for the (popularly perceived) ideals upon which they were founded.
1. Originally, I asked a question: "Historically, haven't Americans successfully used 'torture' on enemies to, say, extract necessary military information which would save thousands of lives?" What's more, I followed up with another question which you yourself quote directly above.I would've thought that at some point during one of our wars we've successfully used "torture" to save many lives?This would appear to be a concession that you are not in fact aware of any situations in which torture has been successfully used to save many lives. Given that you lack any evidence, why do you hold this belief?
2. In fact, for the most part, I've expressed myself throughout my entire post in the interrogative. Although I do have opinions (which I've expressed), I've primarily been asking questions, not making assertions.
1. What do you mean by "necessary"? Do you attach moral or ethical value to "necessary"?Also, even if they do constitute torture, can't torture sometimes be acceptable under certain conditions?No. It might be necessary, but that's not the same thing as being acceptable.
2. As for me, what I'm essentially asking here is, even if a form of "torture" like sleep deprivation or waterboarding is almost always unethical or immoral, is it necessarily unethical or immoral in every, single case? Are there cases where "torture" is morally or ethically justifiable?
3. What's more, as Steve pointed out, doesn't a captured unlawful or war combatant (like a terrorist) with actionable information that could potentially aid us in the war on terrorism and/or possibly save lives not have the duty to divulge such information? (BTW, Steve made other good points in his response to you. And I'd agree with all of his points. You might consider reading his response if you haven't already.)
Then, with all due respect, it's not much of an argument. By the same token, someone could "argue": "All things being equal, I prefer to live in a society that doesn't allow scores of thieves, rapists, pedophiles, murderers, and other criminals off the hook and free to roam our neighborhoods and communities even if it means our justice system isn't always morally perfect despite it striving to be. I deem such a society 'better.' I find this incredibly obvious, and I wonder why you find it a difficult question to answer."Yes, so you say, but where's the argument that it's "better" for the society that lets them go free"?That is my argument. I prefer to live in a society that is not prepared to grind up the innocent in order to get to the guilty; therefore - all other factors being equal - I deem that society "better". I find this incredibly obvious, and I wonder why you find it a difficult question to answer.
Sure. Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al-Qaeda are militarily stronger than some national govts (e.g. Kiribati).I think some terrorist organizations are more militarily powerful and perhaps even financially solvent than some govts.Really? Can you name them for us, please?
1. As I've previously stated, I wouldn't necessarily consider certain "interrogation techniques" "torture."However, I think it's indicative of the fact that some cultures and societies have flawed ethics or morals. In this sense it's relevant to whether we're better than our enemies.It's relevant only if you accept the very argument that you're trying to attack. You're seem to be arguing that because our enemies have flawed ethics that allow them to engage in things we consider morally unacceptable (like torture), we are allowed to use torture on them - because we're more moral?
2. Remember, I was asking whether the use of "torture" makes us morally or ethically "no better than our enemies."
3. But to respond to your question, no, that's not what I'm arguing. Rather, here's what I'm arguing. The fact that we even have a national debate over the morality or ethics of torture arguably means that we have some sort of a conscience over what's objectively right or wrong. As far as I know, however, terrorists do not seem to wrestle over the morality or ethics of things far worse than torture ("interrogation techniques"), such as suicide bombing. In fact, some terrorists even think of suicide bombing as a virtuous action. Hence, on this score, such terrorists and the organizations or groups which would agree with and support them seem to me to be morally deficient and even dead. If I'm correct, I'd think we are morally or ethically "better than our enemies" in this respect.