Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Put her in the COMFY CHAIR

Here's an easy way for governments to determine what constitutes torture: he who authorizes experiences. Is waterboarding torture? The person who okay's it gets dunked. Is having electrodes hooked up to your genitals torture? Zap 'em. Are stress positions torture? Tie them up and leave them there. I don't think most of these would get past the description phase.

9 Comments:

Blogger Hamlette said...

Cardinal! Poke her with the soft cushions!

(I suppose we make it worse by shouting a lot, do we?)

2:19 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

Objection 1: if those things are torture, it's immoral to do it to the person who authorizes them.

Objection 2: bad incentives, obv, like making the President go to war himself.


Objection 3: it's not the same anyway, it's like saying "I'm tickling myself, so it's OK for me to tickle you!" Just because you'll stand with your hand against the tree trunk till your feet swell up to win Survivor doesn't mean you've really been tortured, the knowledge that you're in control changes the whole psychological effect.

Objection 4: What if somebody actually thinks being crucified is worth it to save his country?

8:14 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Objection 1: if those things are torture, it's immoral to do it to the person who authorizes them.

Counter 1: if it is freely chosen, is it immoral?


Objection 2: bad incentives, obv, like making the President go to war himself.

The Democratic Peace theory argues that democracies are more peaceful because those who decide also bear the costs.

the knowledge that you're in control changes the whole psychological effect.

Point granted.


Objection 4: What if somebody actually thinks being crucified is worth it to save his country?

Then they will be dead, and we won't have to worry about this form of torture being authorized.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

Counter 1: if it is freely chosen, is it immoral?

It would be for the torturers... unless he set it up so he could torture himself... again, I'm not sure that's possible. But are you saying it was OK for that guy to kill that German guy and eat him because the German guy wanted him to do that?

The Democratic Peace theory argues that democracies are more peaceful because those who decide also bear the costs.

Athenian style democracies yes -- representative democracies, not so much.

Then they will be dead, and we won't have to worry about this form of torture being authorized.

I figure going through with the entire crucifixion would qualify as an endorsement of the policy -- just sign it "To Be Opened on Death" or something.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

Here's an easy way for governments to determine what constitutes torture: he who authorizes experiences. Is waterboarding torture? The person who okay's it gets dunked.

I just now became aware of the case of Daniel Levin, who did exactly this:

[T]hree years ago, Daniel Levin, then the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, decided to bring reality to bear on his deliberations on the torture question. He went to a military base and asked to undergo waterboarding.

Mr. Levin, 51, a graduate of Harvard and the University of Chicago Law School, had served in several senior posts at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department since the administration of the first President Bush. But he had never served in the military, where American pilots, special operations troops and others for decades have undergone waterboarding to prepare them for possible treatment if captured by an enemy...

After his waterboarding, Mr. Levin went on to sign a new legal opinion on the limits of interrogation, released on Dec. 30, 2004, that made news with its ringing opening sentence: "Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms." That memorandum replaced a much-criticized opinion written in August 2002, which had defined torture as treatment producing pain equivalent to organ failure or death and had suggested that a president might be able to authorize torture under his constitutional war powers.


Looking at the date on this story, it was probably what encouraged you to write this post in the first place. I never heard about it till I read this thread about a guy who tried waterboarding himself (he reports a much worse experience than the guy I saw waterboard himself on YouTube. The Saran Wrap over the mouth is key.)

Of course it turned out that Levin's effort to grapple with the moral consequences of what he was authorizing was in vain:

A footnote to the 2004 interrogation opinion signed by Mr. Levin, insisted on by the White House and the C.I.A., said that despite the shift in legal reasoning, interrogation techniques authorized under previous Justice Department opinions remained legal. Those techniques included waterboarding.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

I actually came up with this from my own mind. I didn't read any article to trigger it.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

Objection 1: if those things are torture, it's immoral to do it to the person who authorizes them.

I'm not sure if I was on the right track here, would it really be that bad if, say, I asked you to waterboard me? Although it might turn out to give us the willies.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Objection 1: if those things are torture, it's immoral to do it to the person who authorizes them.

Most ethical philosophies, in my view, fail on the same account. They all seek to determine the good, right, or correct course of action. Ethics becomes much easier, albeit more damning, if you think that there are no good decisions, just less bad ones.

Therefore, I agree that it is immoral to waterboard someone, even if they ask for it. However, if by doing so we manage to avoid forcibly and needlessly waterboarding people, then it is a moral, though still wrong, act.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

would it really be that bad if, say, I asked you to waterboard me?

A German court ruled that it was still a crime to cannibalize someone who volunteered to be murdered and eaten. So I won't waterboard you in Germany. :-)

8:28 PM  

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