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Waterboarding and other torture methods are justified in the time of war

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/28/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 977 times Debate No: 67592
Debate Rounds (4)
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I will be defending waterboarding(how it was conducted in the CIA). Round 1 is for acceptance, Round 2 is for cases, Round 3 is for attacks, Round 4 is for defense


In this debate, I'll try to demonstrate why waterboarding and other torture methods are never justified in the time of war.

This is the case for several reasons... first of all, you speak of them being justified 'in the time of war', but when it concerns human lives, this really is too vague a justification. War, for a start, would cover everything from WWII to the War on Terror, and if this is a reason as to why it is acceptable, it would mean that torture would inevitably occur for immoral reasons, for example, prisoners of war could be tortured brutally for no reason at all, but the torturers could easily slip through the net and would probably never be charged with war crimes because they could justify it so easily with the fact that 'it's a time of war.' An example of where a similar scenario has occurred is the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, where U.S. troops killed and tortured many innocent civilians. Now, this is a scenario in which those who conducted the crimes were charged... just imagine how much worse it would have been if similarly brutal crimes could go undiscovered.

Also, many who believe in the use of torture imagine it as a last-case scenario - something that will only be used once all else has failed. For example, it would be easy to sympathize with its usage in a scenario where extracting a confession from one man - say, the known plotter of an attack, would save a thousand civilians, but this isn't normally the case. Torture occurs in backstreet basements of war-torn countries, and the chances of torture that is currently being conducted by the U.S. and other superpowers leading to absolutely nothing - only destroying the victim's life and exposing them to excruciating pain and misery - is high. Do you think that torture during war always leads to confessions or valuable information? It's interesting that recently, the CIA lied to Britain, over-exaggerating the importance of information which was gathered through torture methods to justify - and ultimately let them continue the torture of prisoners. Why, if the torture gave such brilliant results, would they have to lie in order to practice it - It clearly doesn't. And so, given that what we are talking about is something that would ordinarily be extremely inhumane, and is, as I've hopefully just proved, unproductive and therefore unnecessary, how can torture ever be justified in wartime?
Debate Round No. 1


I will be attempting to prove that waterboarding is justified in saving American lives.

Argument 1: 911- 911 was a brutal time in America. The attacks resulted in the deaths of 2,996 people, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. The victims included 246 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. 2,996 fathers and mothers were killed. 2,996 sons and daughters died. The value of just one life is too much. The value of 2,996 fathers,mothers,sons, and daughters is extrordinary. Utilitarianism-the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people. If there was a probability that these terrorists could do another 911, and kill another 2,996 fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters, than we would have to do everything possible to preserve those lives. If there was a probabily that there was a reality that you could be attacked by terrorists than you would use everything possible in trying preserve your own life an other people's lives. We had to achieve it by using the value of Utilitarianism. We had to achieve a greater benefit.

Argument 2: Benefits-Republican Senator John McCain, in a Washington Post opinion piece,[69] disputed Mukasey's account, saying:

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed's real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

So basically the reason why Osama bin Laden was caught was because of waterboarding. We caught the leader Bin Laden and America won. Now, if he was not caught , there could have been another attack. It was probable. We caught him. Thanks to waterboarding we also caught an abunant amount og terrorists.

Ohio-based trucker Iyman Faris pleaded guilty May 1, 2003 to providing material support to terrorists. He secured 2,000 sleeping bags for al-Qaeda and delivered cash, cell phones, and airline tickets to its men. He also conspired to derail a train near Washington, D.C. and use acetylene torches to sever the Brooklyn Bridge’s cables, plunging it into the East River.

Jemaah Islamiya (JI) agent Rusman “Gun Gun” Gunawan was convicted of transferring money to bomb Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel, killing 12 and injuring 150.

Hambali, Gunawan’s brother and ringleader of JI’s October 2002 Bali nightclub blasts, killed 202 and wounded 209.

Suspected al-Qaeda agent Majid Khan, officials say, provided money to JI terrorists and plotted to assassinate Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, detonate U.S. gas stations, and poison American water reservoirs.

Jose Padilla, who trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, was convicted last August of providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to kidnap, maim, and murder people overseas. Padilla, suspected of but not charged with planning a radioactive “dirty bomb” attack, reportedly learned to incinerate residential high-rises by igniting apartments filled with natural gas.

Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, an American-educated biochemist and JI member, reportedly provided hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi housing in Kuala Lumpur during a January 2000 9-11 planning summit. He also is suspected of employing “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui. Page 151 of The 9-11 Commission Report states: “Sufaat would spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al Qaeda in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport.”

Innocent people would have died if we haden't used these tactics. Waterboarding has proven to save people's lives. We have to do things during the time of war. Some things that we might not be proud of, but we did it for the greater benefit.



In terms of cases to prove my argument...

Ali Soufan was a former interrogator, and according to the Telegraph newspaper, is quoted to have said 'Torture
is not wrong, it just doesn't work.' We are also informed of how he believes that if he were able to 'interrogate another one or two of the most senior figures in al-Qaeda, he could have prevented 7/7, Madrid, and the Bali bombings.' Bear in mind that whilst sounding perhaps overconfident, this was a man, as the newspaper puts it, whose 'record of getting prisoners to talk when he left the bureau six years ago was enough to bring him into the notice of the director of the FBI, who labeled him the "future of the FBI."' In Soufan's opinion, somebody who knows the process of interrogation well, torture is not morally wrong, it just simply doesn't work. - So why would you chose to continue such brutality when doesn't even succeed in its aims? Utilitarianism, where the end justifies the means, falls apart if the means cannot even produce the end, i.e. information that may save lives.

According to the New York Times, 'the C.I.A.'s lawyers wrote in a November 2001 memo that it would be easier to defend against torture allegations if the tactics saved lives'. Now these are individuals who's job is to constantly defend the Central Intelligence Agency no matter what, but even they believe that what it is doing is - never mind immoral - but not even successful. Again, there is no way to justify an act that not only does not work, but involves horrific mistreatment of many individuals as well.

You say that the confessions required for Bin Laden's discovery did not actually come from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was tortured to the extent you mentioned, but rather someone whom we believe was not. I don't understand why you posted that because it benefits my argument: If somebody who has been water-boarded 183 times managed to endure suffering to such an extreme degree, over and over and over again when all they had to do was say a name, this almost proves that torture is not effective in the way that we would want to believe it is, and so it cannot be justified.

Also, Shaker Aamer is an inmate of Guantanamo Bay and has been so for over twelve years. We are aware of some of the torture methods used in Guantanamo Bay and their horrific nature. We are also aware that Aamer has been held in the prison camp and tortured without conviction and without trial. This violates basic legal standards which many in the western world would probably take for granted: the right to a fair trial (Aamer didn't even get an 'unfair' one), and the principle stating that somebody is 'Innocent until proven guilty.' Both these standards exist for a reason, yet the mistreatment of many others like Shaker Aamer is an example of how they fall apart in these cases, and everyone seems to think its justified, because 'torture's necessary'. If Shaker Aamer had given a confession wouldn't he be released and charged? Wouldn't the U.S. want the world to realize that they were not in fact caging an innocent civilian, and so publish the fact that he was convicted? If this is the case, why is he still there today?

Finally, coming back to morals, there is a good chance Aamer is not a criminal, has no associations with terrorism and is being tortured for crimes that he did not commit - to obtain information he doesn't posses.

Torture is unjust for three reasons: It applies brutal treatment, it could target incorrectly, i.e. be used to extract confessions from the wrong individual, and it is very ineffective and so cannot be justified.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent first starts out with Ali Soufan and his "opinion" on the interrogation methods. My opponent also states that he might be the future of the FBI. Interesting, because Ali Soufan is of Lebanese decent and is a Muslim. His information would be ruled as bias because he shares his heritage and religion with the people being tortured. So, it would seem like he would be more subjective and not objective. My opponent cannot use Soufan, therefore his entire argument is irrelevant and subjective.

The New York Times is also a very liberal organization that writes news from a liberal perspective. I can't trust my opponent's source because it would allow this newspaper to cherry-pick information. My sources that came from CIA files basically say that Khalid Sheik Mohammed admitted where Osama was and that was true. Also, my opponents sources are more liberal, so they are also more bias, so his information should be ruled as irrelevant.

My opponent's argument is also on Shaker Aamer. My opponent blames waterboarding for mistakes that America made alone. There are mistakes in the system, but that does not mean the tactic should go away. By using my opponent's logic, If I shoot a tree instead of an animal on my first day of hunting, that would mean that I should give up hunting because I missed and shot a tree. We should still use a tactic and blame America for handling the tactic so poorly.


There is actually very little to attack about the argument my opponent gave, because there is very little argument. My opponent provided a list of terrorist attacks and those convicted of supporting, assisting, or organizing them. This doesn't prove or show anything. My opponent then followed this up with a passage basically saying that torture is justified in saving lives, and if what they are trying to argue is that these people wouldn't have been convicted and future attacks they planned to commit wouldn't have been prevented if it weren't for torture, then there is no factual evidence given to show that any of their confessions/convictions/valuable information given is the result of torture techniques used upon them.

Also, even if it WAS the result of torture, of course there will have been cases where torture does work - if nobody had ever given information as a result of torture then it wouldn't be practiced at all. This list of cases is simply a few examples informing us (if torture was used in the first place) that torture has the capability to draw confessions and potentially save lives. All of this is irrelevant as we knew this already; this debate is about whether or not it is justified in war, not simply 'has torture ever worked?'
Debate Round No. 3


Ariesx forfeited this round.


My opponent first accused me of using Soufan as an example as he 'shares a culture and religion' with those he tortures, and so this makes him more inclined to sympathise and less likely to use torture techniques upon them. This isn't true: the quote I used of his specifically stated that he felt 'torture is not wrong', his reasons for a reluctance to use it is because 'it just doesn't work.' So this disproves my opponents claim that his reluctance to torture victims is because he is of the same culture and religion. This claim also makes the assumption that all torture victims are Islamic.

My opponent later said that my sources are 'liberal' and so that makes them biased and thus irrelevant. This isn't true because in my argument, I only gave facts; I obtained these facts by searching 'torture is wrong' or 'torture cannot be justified', to try and find arguments to support this to use as cases, and you may consider my sources biases, but the facts that I have used are not, simply because there is no opinion on the matter: Liberals, Conservatives, Anarchists, Socialists etc. etc., regardless of their own beliefs, they would ALL accept that 'The C.I.A.'s lawyers wrote in a November 2001 memo that it would be easier to defend against torture allegations if the tactics saved lives.'

My opponent also made the point that I believe torture is wrong simply because mistakes have been made in the past, claiming that, by my logic, if I were to shoot a tree on my first day of hunting, then hunting should be banned. This was not my argument, and I was simply saying that since torture - even if it was hugely successful in saving lives, is difficult to justify as it is, so when so much points towards the fact that torture has been and will continue to be often ineffective, harming others in such a brutal way can't be justified.
Debate Round No. 4
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2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by FaustianJustice 1 year ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: BoP not met, and the premise soundly refuted through sources and Pro's own arguments.
Vote Placed by Krazzy_Player 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF