It is never justified to torture terrorists.
The debate is simple as before. The first round is for my opponent to post his argument. To reiterate, the full debate title is "a terrorist with a bomb in an unknown location ready to explode, should be tortured to get the info"
when i say "torture" i am assuming we might try a progressive set of tactics, rough talk first, then a little violent, then things like water boarding, then full out torture, if necessary.
most would argue against this as a matter of 'the ends does not justify the means'. even if we assume that that might be usually true (read, 'proportionalism' v. deontology), we cannot assume it all the time. it would be immoral to let millions die because of your mere thoughts of what's "moral".... it would be selfish, and immoral as a lack of action in doing what is necessary to save the city.
i am open to other arguments about why we shouldn't torture them, but i assumed the "ends means" argument would crop its head up, so I got it right at the bat.
The UN declaration of rights says clearly "do not torture". it is one of the obvious statements on the document. I wish to provide multiple reasons to justify this. I shall base my work of an older essay on the subject, though, written by a teammate and I when I debated this issue years and years ago. Like many, I feel strongly about torture. But sentiment alone amounts to nothing. I feel strongly about racism. Racism is not wrong because it offends my sensibilities. It is wrong because it violates reason and human dignity. Similarly, if we cannot offer a reasoned account of the error of torture especially given the wide public support for it - then our impassioned opposition, indispensable though it may be, will still be, pragmatically speaking, valueless. It matters because one cannot fight effectively for a cause one does not understand. Is it but mere coincidence that torture's remained so popular in such an impoverished public discourse? When the facts are presented, torture becomes a horror that should not be permitted. I hope to justify how it is immoral, through a three pronged attack: first, I will show it is philosophically immoral, then I will show it is politically unjustified, then finally conclude with how it is unjustified.
What torture is
Usually, we expect a definition here, but it is unnecessary. Torture is well known: a 'know it when I see it' approach suffices. However, for this debate's sake, I will provide one: "the forced exchange of information for the relief of unbearable pain knowingly and intentionally inflicted". It's abhorrance is intuitional and a priori. But it is a difficult thing to explain why. To be more effective, I shall try to give some reasons why it is so immoral.
Torture is immoral because, firstly, it does not work. The case which my opponent uses as his crux is famously the ticking time bomb scenario. In the scenario my opponent suggests, he is creating something intrinsically and inherently impossible. In all scenarios, where a terrorist has planted a bomb and the evidence 'points towards him' - a loose claim at best - does not exist. The only evidence my opponent can be talking about without the weapon in question is the idea that he has been talking about how he did it: but if he does, he's either talking in such vague terms or the evidence can be used to detect where the bomb is. But even this is unnecessary: nuclear warheads can be detected through many means. Torture is unnecessary. Secondly, torture does not get the right information. What would the torturee say? He'd make stuff up as soon as he deems it sensible. Hang on for an hour, don't say a thing, then make up locations. A wild goose chase is all that this torture leads to. And in a day? Well, the answer is to change the situation into a month. To be perfectly honest, you could turn NYC inside out within a day, knwowing for certain in the hypothetical. The truth is, there's always a better alternative, and I am yet to see an example where torture should be used.
This brings us to deontology. Do we recoil from torture because it treats a person only as a means to an end? It is a principled view that might account for our rational rejection of torture. Kant's Categorical Imperative is a good explanation: it explains our revultion to the use of others as a means to an end. In his paeans to torture, Dershowitz, a renown ethicists and promoter of Kantian ethics, actually appeals to Bentham and, beyond it, the reigning utilitarianism of our time (Peter Singer), which, from conditional welfare to advertising, routinely compliments Kantian ethics. And yet, is there a doubt that the wrongness of torture finds its source, not in a holy book or in the final link of a chain of observations, but deep in humanity's moral intuition? On this we all agree.
Few would argue that the torture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was worse than shooting him in the head: the pain he suffered through the years was excrutiating. And yet killing the man does not make us wince the way torture does. Why? Could it be the excruciating pain? Baby Mohammed lost both legs during Shock-and-Awe and, over a 10-hour period, bled to death stuck in the debris of his home, a horror entirely foreseen in its outline, if not its particulars, by the architects of the war. The baby's pain vastly exceeded that of his namesake. The horror of this image suggests that we inherently know torture is wrong. Thus, torture is immoral.
Maybe there's something else, though, to justify the torture? It could be the mix of fear, humiliation, abandonment, and blatant sadism that the practice connotes. Indeed, "The torturer never says, "I go home at 5." Torture stirs in all of us the age-old anxiety of a cruel deity that keeps us forever conscious to suffer an endless agony. Pain, like relativity, distorts time. (A root-canal patient can tell you all about eternity.)" After a certain point, the victim's fear is no longer that he will die but that he won't. Torture is a window into hell, with the role of the satanic puppetmaster played by human sadist. I believe one cannot grasp the role of torture in the imagination without integrating its metaphysical resonance. Torture rehearses eternal damnation. And that's not a good thing, because hell scares the hell out of everyone, even those who don't believe in it.
Moreover, the torturers reflect back to us, the people, in a magnified image of what repressed sadism we have hidden away in all of us. This did not always bother us. "God gave Moses not one but two commandments against lust, and not a single one against cruelty; likewise, Augustine deemed cupidity a more serious offense". It was not until Montaigne and Montesquieu that cruelty acquired a special status in moral philosophy. "Our revulsion toward torture is hardly universal—children can be astonishingly cruel to animals—but, rather, the sign of a certain liberal disposition. Torture offends us through its frontal assault on human dignity. Beyond subverting free will into "anti-will"—your being tortured does not simply violate you: it makes you violate yourself—it denies something even more fundamental than freedom: personhood. It dehumanizes not only the victim and the torturer, but society as a whole. Or so our modern liberal sensibilities tell us.".
1 - www.fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/R40154.pdf
2 - Richard Posner, In Torture We Trust?,.
3 - Liberalism, Torture, and the Ticking Bomb, by David Luban, citing Judith Shklar, The Torture Debate in America"
4 - Terrorism and Torture: An interdipliscinary perspective by Werner G. K. Stritzke (Editor), Stephan Lewandowsky (Editor), David Denemark (Editor), Joseph Clare (Editor), Frank Morgan (Editor)
it is not at all unreasonable to assume a terrorist would admit to knowing where the bomb is, and refuse to spill the beans. that's spite at work.
con tries to vaguely deflect us to assuming there are other means to find the bomb, by citing a source, without even elaborating on it. if that's the crux of his argument... it seems pretty clear his prime argument then is deflection.
if you examine the artile it's merely an academic article that illustrates that under specific circumstances a nuke can be found, as part of long drawn out counter intelligence operations spanning years etc... this doesn't help in a ticking time bomb scenario. poor judgment on con's part.
also, it's just not possible to turn NYC inside out within a day. or a few days etc if we changed the timeframe. that's worse than finding a needle in a haystack. plus, the bomb might not even be in NYC proper, and the metrolopis spans to all kinds of other cities, and covers most of the geographic areas the NE part of the country there. poor judgment on con's part here.
perhaps torture is not always the best solution... but this hypotehtical is a very specific situation where no other viable option exists.
per means ends. people are not as means.. sure, as a general rule. but when they've put themself in the situation of the ticking time bomb, they've created the problem. while torture is gruesome, it's a dirty job, that somebody has to do. you can be sure that soldiers, executioners, police etc do not find their jobs in killing etc as clean... merely more examples of dirty jobs that somebody has to do.
con wants us to assume torture is inherently wrong, and that we should simply let millions die to preserve that value. what's inherenlty wrong, though, is to let those millions die merely to abide by a unwavering rule that the ends never in no cases justify the means. this is putting ideology before human life and dignity if you let them all die etc.
(we could have also made a hypothetical that said the terrorist was torturing people, and he knows where they are... and all evidence supports that. we refuse to torture a guilty man, so he can continue torturing bounds of innocent people? this defies the good senses of equity, and morality)
unless con can show that torture never works, then his argument fails. (even if there are wild goose chases, that doesn't mean there always is or will be. and that torture sometiems doesn't produce accurate info, that doesn't mean it never does) by definition of the hypothetical... all other tactics have failed trying to get the info... that means torture is worth a shot, and given all the lives at stake, it's the only truly moral option.
Would the terrorist spill the beans?
Let's look at this with all level of seriousness: A man comes up to the police station, and says "Hey guys! Guess what? I planted a bomb in the city! lol!", and then what happens? We ignore the insane maniac, at most lock him up due to insanity. Do we take him seriously? Not until he starts blowing things up. And when he does blow things up, the idea that he'd lie is still perfectly strong. It takes incredible guts to torture a man based on the idea that he says he planted a bomb. When terrorism is involved, people make things up to take credibility: for example, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility to 7/7, independent groups claiming responsibility, shouts that it was illuminati... the claims of responsibility go on and on: we'd not end up torturing one person, but dozens and dozens for no reason whatsoever. And yes, it is unreasonable for one to say you've committed terrorism, proide proof, then not speak about where the boom is, whilst taking the person seriously. My opponent has given no precedence for why we would take him esriously, but I shall: people claimed they will cause the events of 7/7, 9/11, murder of Fortuyn, and many other large events. If we took it seriously, we'd have a ludicrous number of crimes to deal with: we'd be torturing people on such a scale that it becomes inprofitable to do this. We'd have starte d torturing thousands of people, week in week out, due to the minor possibility of a threat. Thus, it is unreasonable to promote torture, due to firstly the immorality of torturing people on flimsy evidence, and secondly the impracticality of it all. The truth is, we'd have a single case of retrospective empiricism where we look at the single event and say that maybe it caught someone, then have thousands and thousands of cases where we randomly and gratuitously torture people.
Are there other means of finding the bomb?
My opponent claims that my sources do not help within the time constraints. I disagree. Firstly, the link cites Nanocomposite Scincillators. This technology allows us to have "fast and effective detection of gamma radiation" through a crystal sized at roughly a milimetre. Gamma Ray Spectrum analysis also can be used to detect within an instant areas the size of "a port or border crossing". Thirdly, there is Low-Risk Dual-Energy Radiography, which can detect radioactive cargo. We have many means at our disposal to detect the nuclear weapon. The means are there.
Is it possible in the time frame?
Let's do the maths. The case is New York City. The active police force for duty is 34,500. If, in the irrational circumstance, we do decide this terrorist is telling the truth, we send out, say, half the policemen to look around the areas. That's 17,250. The area of NYC is 469 square miles. This means that they'd have to cover 46 metres each to cover the city. I'll say that again. 46 metres. How long does it take to cover 46 metres? If it takes a day, someone is not doing their job right. Or let's look at this another way. A policeman could easily cover a square mile in a day thoroughly. This means they'd have to send what, 469 policemen out to look over New York City? That's less than the amount of people on the beat anyway! There is no problem. Finally, all hope being lost, we could still rule out certain areas with basic certainty. For example, would the bomb be in the police station? No? Rule out about half a mile. Rich areas or major businesses? No, rule out a few dozen miles. We go like this, and we'd eventually cut it down to, say, 50 miles of viable targets. That's 50 policemen needed to search. No problem. Finding a needle in a haystack is a problem within, say, five minutes and only one person. But a full day with thousands of people? Unless the haystack is the size of Wales, then there's no problem.
Because it's their fault, so I can do what I want.
Let's evaluate what has been said. My opponent claims that, in the ticking time bomb scenario, if we do not stop the bomb, millions of people will die. Firstly, this is false, as shown above. We can easily find a bomb in a single day, certainly find it in three. Secondly, no police force would take a lunatic claim on the scale of Joker or The Penguin threatening to bomb the city any more than they'd take seriously the claim that Jupiter is the source of France's owl population. Thirdly, we have easy ways to detect the bomb. Fourthly, we can, all else in the impossibility of failing, evacuate the city. So he concludes that, ignoring all this, we can do what we want, because he's a bad, bad man. We can forgo right and wrong, because we want to torture this man to find unreliable information. My opponent has given no reason to justify why his horrible sense of morality is better than one with actual clear guidelines, and simply states that I am being immoral. Clearly, by the standard which we all possess, I am not. In reality, my opponent is being immoral.
But does this mean that we cannot torture them?
Torture is immoral, and it is wrong, and it should not be done. But is it politically pragmatic? Quite possibly, yes. But this does not change how it is immoral. My opponent is arguing from political pragmatism, saying that the pragmatic option is best. But my opponent has not justified that political pragmatism is what is best. He has simply stated that we ought to do what is politically pragmatic, but not justifying this. Nor has he justified why it is politically pragmatic.
Is it politically pragmatic to torture people?
Let's look at this from the perspective of those who have to do the torturing: should they break the law? No, they should wait for presidential permission. Should the president give an A-OK to torture? Well, seeing how Obama's main political promise was to stop torture, the promotion of torture is politically worse than the very minute chance of people dying. If the chance is one in a thousand (which is very, very generous) of someone dying, and one in one of people being pissed off and voting him out of office, the politically pragmatic decision is still to not torture the people involved.
Do I have to show that torture never works?
No. I have to show that intelligence dictates it will not work. Have I shown that? Considering how torture the vast majority of times would lead to an hour of the tortured saying nothing, then creating a wild goose chase until the bomb goes off, or the person not saying anything at all (still ignoring the much more likely option that the man or woman is simply insane), and that torture is a worse option to the possibility of looking for the bomb, then I have fulfilled my burden to show the correct response in the circumstance.
Torture doesn't work. Torture is firstly inherently immoral, as I have shown through an observation of our own morality. My opponent has not justified his through moral observation. I have shown through practical knowledge and science that the alternatives are more likely to succeed. My opponent has not shown how torture is more profitable than looking for the bomb. I have shown how torture gives bad results. My opponent simply concedes this point. Finally, I have shown how torture is politically unpragmatic. My opponent is yet to justify why pragmatism is moral to begin with, yet alone why it is the pragmatic option. I hope you hold this in mind.
Round Four for conclusions: no new arguments. Thank you for reading.
1 - http://www.scoop.co.nz... example
2 - http://www.lanl.gov...;(text & picture)
3 - http://www.fas.org...
4 - http://www.nyc.gov...
4 - google "size of NYC"
if we wanted to get more crazy with the hypothetical.. we could have a situation where the person is blowing up an area, then another etc etc just so we know he will continue at a very high probability. the purpose of this hypothetical is to again illustrate that there are possible situations where torture would be necessary, even if in this case it's more hypothetical and less likely to actually happen. but, aside from this, as just mentioned, there are more realistic scenarios too.
pro simply wants to ignore reality... if he can envision a world where torture would never be necessary he doesn't have to make the hard decision that would allow millions to die. he waxed on poetically about how he thought everyone 'knew' torture was wrong, but i think his insistance on dodging tough decisions shows that he knows it would be wrong to just allow those people to die... a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
he continues with his nuclear finding capablities. if it was so easy, people wouldn't question whether iran or a country has nukes... they would know. these are merely tools that help if circumstances are receptive to it... eg, carrying nukes open to the sky and surveillence, or nukes that are poorly hidden, or nukes that escape detection via lead or whatever material helps hide them. the means are not always there to find them.
con is assuming we're talking about NYC proper, as i said the bomb could easily be the surounding metropolis too, too large to turn inside out. for that matter, we could assume that we know there's a bomb, but we dont know which city, etc. he's poking holes in the hypothetical that at best are showing how the hypotheical needs tweaked is all (he's actually not even showing that), more incidental stuff... not that he's right about the core dispute. all con is doing is again trying to find a way to avoid making the tough decisions.
i'm not arguing that "it's their fault so we can do what we want" as simply as that.... i might venture to agree it'd be wrong to torture him if we had other ways to detect the bomb. i'm assuming there are no other means or tactics... and when we look at whether to torture, that value call in and of itself, we can say that that person has forgone their right to not be tortured, their inherent worth in that regard, etc.
it's a distraction to talk about the law or presidential authorization etc... this debate is clearly about the moral decisions involved in and of themselves. these are merely incidental considerations, that are only relevant incidentally to the heart of the discussion.
con won't show that torture never works... because he knows he can't. there are surely times when it does work. this is common sense. he might argue that torture is unneeded cause he contends he found ways around torture.... but i contend that he hasn't shown this. there are hypotehtical situations where torture would be required and very potentially helpful. given we can take even con's tacit admission that torture works sometimes.... if we can conclue, which we are forced to conclude, that when all else fails, torture does remain a viable option for possibly gathering necessary information.
As this is the final round, I shall simply post a conclusion, as per standards.
In this debate, I have attempted to show that there is no scenario in which we could propose adequate reason to torture people in order to learn where a nuclear warhead is in NYC. My opponent's previous examples, as I have shown, have been flawed. The additional answers have simply made using torture less and less sensible. We have now been tracking the bomb and nuclear materials, have other witnesses who would most likely know at least roughly where the bomb would be, and yet we still don't know anytihng about the bomb? This is getting ludicrous. The FBI, who are tracking the bomb, would know where it is. Even if they don't, they'd have the nuclear material tracked, as we use Muon Tomography. And once we find the weapon, by torturing the person, we'd still need to know how to disarm it. That's where NRFS, or Nuclear Resonance Flourescence Systems, comes into play. This helps us discover how to disarm the warhead, long story short. But how does the technology work? "Photons resulting from NRF are differentiated from the incoming photon beam because the latter produces a broad continuum of photon energies while photons generated by NRF produce very narrow peaks. Further, the photon beam travels in a forward direction, while the NRF signal is emitted in all directions, so a photon detector placed behind and to the side of the material being interrogated (relative to the direction of the photon beam) detects photons traveling backward from the beam direction, which are mainly NRF photons. " The technology "can scan a cargo container quickly for SNM and high-Z shielding material. The average scan rate for the EZ-3D mode is 15 seconds", by the average civilian, according to a Stanford study, and size compacted into "two feet".
But even if this technology did require specialist users, we still have technology such as PITAS, or ISIS, which work between "100 and...1000 metres" depending on how the device is used. With such an item able to cover and protect the region of NYC, it is simply certain to be usable. Facts are facts: thanks to modern science, torture is out of date.
And regarding Iran, very quickly we know Iran has nuclear material, and they haven't denied that. However, they won't let us in Tehran to check if they are building nuclear warheads or nuclear experimental facilities. No matter how good the radiation detection technology is, we can't differentiate whether it is a testing facility or a warhead. Of course, in NYC, if the government does not know about it, it's illegal to hold nuclear warheads or nuclear testing sites. So either way, this is not a problem. In short, we know Iran has nuclear power, just not sure how the nuclear power is used. Either way, we know that they currently do not have nuclear warheads, and no-one suggests that they do. Even Panetta predicts over 3 years until Iran gets a warhead.
If we are saying we don't know what city, we've basically got an even larger scavenger hunt going on. Ignoring how first round was for acceptance & definitions, and I accepted the hypothetical for discussion was in NYC, what we've got is a system where we are torturing someone because somewhere there might be a nuclear warhead. I got to say to that: how the hell is there a nuclear weapon in the country which we know of, that we've been tracking, yet suddenly it disappears and we've only just decided, a day before the bomb will go off, that we're going to do something? It's an event of impossibilities, now. The correct thing to do would have been to actually have been looking for the warhead, not fondling with ourselves while we got a bomb with terrorists in the country.
My opponent says I am ignoring reality: I am saying he is. He is creating more impossible scenarios in order to justify some sadistic reason to torture, and call it 'justified'. We have not seen any circumstance in which it is justified to torture a man because he says he's planted a bomb. We still have no reason to believe him, except other corroborating evidence magically coming out of thin air, enough to arrest and stop many people, yet we don't for no reason other than the enjoyment we get from doing nothing while such a massive threat is in the country.
My opponent seems not to dispute that he has not provided any reason for the pragmatic approach to this problem. I have provided the moral one. It is immoral to use torture, and we know it intuitively. I have given reason to suggest this. My opponent, though, has given none. In fact, he rejects political pragmatism, stating this debate is "clearly about the moral decisions", yet only wants to discuss how it is pragmatic, not moral. We intuitively know that torture is immoral, as I shown in the first (or second, depending on how it is read) round. My opponent still has not disputed this. In fact, he still has not given any precedence or reason to suggest that torture would work: I have provided reason why a tortured victim would lie. Indeed, terrorists are trained to withstand torture, and give out false information to cause more problems. Even government-led studies have only shown the ineffectiveness of torture. Yet my opponent still claims that torture works. He has not provided any reason to why, I have previously and repeatedly till the very end provided reason why it fails. In light of this, I urge a vote for fairness, for intelligence, and for PRO.
1 - http://www.fas.org...;(cited every round so far), page 56.
2 - Ibid, page 70.
3 - Ibid, 73/4
4 - http://www.reuters.com...
a bomb would have to be hidden in a spot where they could scan it, without lead or whatever could hide it, and in the largest metro areas they'd have to be scanning every few feet everywhere, turning buildings inside and out etc. if the size is two feet?
here are some places it could be hidden (or a lethal bomb that isn't as easily detected). a random house above the ceiling, below the floor above. prop up some side walk area, dig a hole, put it in, put side walk back down. bore out some grass and put the bomb there, put bomb back, it's undected by the naked eye. insde a gas tank of a random car. ventilation systems of large buildings. elevator shafts. hidden around the engine area of a random car. a septic tank underground. i could go on and on into areas that could not be deduced unless we tore the city and everything in it to shreds, practically.
these are all places that are not easily scanned or deduced... and that's assuming we have enough scanners, which we probably wouldn't, and assuming the bomb is a variety that could be scanned, which is probably not, and that we can located something near enough to find it.
here is a hypothetical. Bob the terrorist says a nonnuclear (read, bomb without the technological traces of advanced bombs) but highly lethal bomb will explode in a few hours in city 1. it does. immediately after, he says where it was specifically located, and the epicenter shows that he was correct. a while later, he repeats the process for city 2. then 3. now before he says 4, we know he must be on to something by virtue of his accurate calls and specific locations. we don't have much other evidence to go on, it could be any city, anywhere. he says city 4... what do we do? if we fail in that one, and he says city five, what do we do?
perhaps instead of a bomb he knows of a street gang that will suddenly grab people and start torturing them, and he repeats the process successfully city after city until we know he knows what he's talking about.
im only making hypotheicals that cannot have holes poked into them by fanciful theories that would never work in real life. the hypo may be less realistic, but that's only because i'm catering the unrealities of opponent, and making a hypotheical that is ironclad.
i'm sure we'll hear of unicorns and the possibility of Xmen with mind reading and bomb detecting abilities next, and how we can't torture until we've exhausted finding those with said abilities etc.
what i'm trying to do in essence (most of this hypo debating is a distraction from the real issues) is show that we could be realistically forced to either let people die or be tortured, or give torture a shot. opponent is stretching his credibility, being tenuous etc, about alternatives etc, probably most likely because he doesn't want to say that he'd let millions die (or themselves be tortured, or whatever) before he'd torture someone. this is probably because he knows that that'd be immoral and we all understand this intuitively. he goes on philosophically about how it's immoral to torture in and of itself... yet he won't elaborate and go on philosophically etc about how it's the morally superior position to let millions die, or be tortured, instead of torturing a person when there are no real alternatives. simply saying torture is wrong, period, isn't really articulating a reason why it's better than letting millions die.... if you're going to add a "torture is wrong period" to anything, it should be after a reasoned response about letting people die or be tortured. the reason he has yet to really elaborate like this, is because he probably knows better.
because it would be ridciduolus and absolutely wrong and immoral to let millions die, or be tortured themselves, or whatever, because someone won't torture a person.
|Agreed with before the debate:||-||-||0 points|
|Agreed with after the debate:||-||-||0 points|
|Who had better conduct:||-||-||1 point|
|Had better spelling and grammar:||-||-||1 point|
|Made more convincing arguments:||-||-||3 points|
|Used the most reliable sources:||-||-||2 points|
|Total points awarded:||5||1|
|Agreed with before the debate:||-||-||0 points|
|Agreed with after the debate:||-||-||0 points|
|Who had better conduct:||-||-||1 point|
|Had better spelling and grammar:||-||-||1 point|
|Made more convincing arguments:||-||-||3 points|
|Used the most reliable sources:||-||-||2 points|
|Total points awarded:||3||0|