Friday, December 02, 2005

I've been "published"!

Doonesbury (online at has a regular feature called "Blowback" where Trudeau posts the more interesting and relevant feedback he gets. As the invitation to comment says: "If you'd like to send us a comment yourself, please note that civility, if not approbation, counts."

So I commented on their latest Straw Poll, on the current-event topic of Waterboarding. Lo, and behold: my comment was published. Check it out: It's the one from Kim in Fort Worth, and it will scroll further down the page as time passes and eventually drop off.

My friend and I were discussing it last night, and she asked: "If we're not allowed to use those types of methods, how are we going to get the information we need?" I struggle with that, because when it happened on 24 last season, (Jack Bauer used physical torture to get information that probably saved millions of lives) I almost found myself in favor of his actions. At the same time, if we (America) don't uphold the Geneva Conventions and treat Prisoners Of War and Political Detainees and Enemy Combatants with HUMANE dignity, then we are just as bad as those we villainize (Japan, Korea, North Vietnam, Iraq, etc.) for their inhumane treatment of our captured citizens.

It's always a weighty ethical question, whether or not torture is justified, especially when many civilian lives hang in the balance. It's never easy to choose between the principles of individual good and collective good. The end of the line, I think, is that if you DO allow yourself to descend into the use of torture that you MUST be prepared to accept that others will use it against you and yours. You may have high ethical standards governing its use, some way of verifying that the victim actually HAS information that will be relevant to you, and that you are capable of extracting that information within the limits of your tolerance for torture. You must be prepared for the fact that your enemies will not necessarily have those strict ethical standards regarding the use of torture and that their methods will be inflicted on the front-line soldiers and aviators who are most likely to be captured. That is always the way of war, though; the politicians make decisions that never impact them directly, but which are felt in the skin and bones of the fighting men and women.

I don't think there's a "right way" and a "wrong way" to torture. I think whether it leaves physical scars or not, it's wrong. I wish I could say I was opposed to it in all cases, but even as idealistic as I am, I see the need for harming one individual in order to effect the greater good, especially when time is short and I haven't the resources to get the information by other (more ethical) means. It's a dangerous precedent to set, however, because every time you commit such a wrong, it becomes easier to commit it again. Accumulate enough of these lesser wrongs, and you've cancelled completely the collective good you were attempting to achieve.

1 comment:

Zoraster said...

I agree with your post, but the 'ticking time bomb' situation which is frequently used to as a hypothetical to even consider torture seems to be about as realistic as '24'. Honestly can anyone site one example of a ticking time bomb situation in real life?

I don't agree with giving any credit to that line of thinking. To do so is just a justification for torture, to be blunt.

BTW, Nice site :)