I was unaware that this was LJ Blog Against Torture Day until catalana
posted on the subject. So let me produce the concrete example to go with the philosophical one:
I don't much like
torture. In general, it's on my list of bad things, but I must admit that there are borderline cases where I consider it justified, such as the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. It was apparently quick, effective, and produced actionable intelligence against Al Qaeda shortly after 9/11 while not permanently harming him.
Was it torture? I suppose that depends on your definition. It was certainly very
unpleasant for him and there are many people who would say it was definitely
But I think that they did the right thing on that day under those circumstances.
I have been thoroughly unimpressed with some of the posturing that has occurred on the subject of torture in the U.S. Congress, including legislators who have said that they want to pass a comprehensive law against torture that they expect
the President to violate should he ever find himself confronting the infamous "ticking bomb" scenario. Excuse me, but what a crock! If you think it should be illegal, if you want to make sure that your
hands are clean, then vote it out that way.
And if you think that the President should have the authority to "torture" when he thinks it absolutely necessary, then write that into
the law and take your share of the blame for giving him permission to do so, even if you require him to submit a report back to the Intelligence Committees of both Houses when he does so.
Accountability is one thing. Saying "We expect you to break the law" is bullshit.
Leaving the concrete example and going off into science fiction for a moment, I wonder what people would think if we actually had
a mindripper -- a device that would allow you to know with absolute certainty that bit of information that you need to get from your prisoner, including whether he had the information or not. And the harder he tried to prevent the mindripper from getting the information, the more it would hurt, but if the information wasn't there, it wouldn't hurt at all. In any case, there'd be no permanent damage done.
I wonder if that's torture.