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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/12768/how-civilization-deals-with-torture-states/

How Civilization Deals with Torture States

May 21, 2010 by

In her searing indictment of the Bush administration, Elaine Scarry contends that Bush and his leading associates should be criminally prosecuted. Moreover, she holds that in some cases, e.g., infliction of torture, international law requires prosecution. FULL ARTICLE by David Gordon


Brad White May 21, 2010 at 9:37 am

Scarry’s entire argument rests upon the faulty premise that combating terrorism should be a legal issue for law enforcement rather than a war, which is how the terrorist themselves view it, that requires a militaristic response. It doing to she, and Mr. Gordon, have fundamentally distorted both the word “torture” as well as the Geneva convention in an effort to portray the United States as the enemy.

For instance, Gordon points out that the United States has used false flags in interrogations and attempts to paint this as a violation of international law. However, the “false flag” deals specifically with combat operations, including false surrender, and is designed to protect surrendering troops. The idea that you must conduct interrogations under the same rules that you conduct combat operations is laughable because they are two very different situations.

Indeed, using Gordon’s definition of false flag, much of what our forces do would be classified as illegal, such as the donning of local clothes and customs by special forces units in an effort to blend in or electronic efforts to paint friendly units as hostile (or vice versa) on on enemy scopes.

One point that is ignored is that the Bush administration sought to define the legal limit of torture through the now-infamous torture memos. Because there is a gap between habeus corpus and torture (enhanced interrogations), a gap that military interrogators should be operating in, it became necessary to define that line not so that it could be crossed, but so that it wouldn’t. Thus, much of the talk about torture is based on an ever-shifting definition of what torture is.

For instance, water boarding, which causes no physical damage or pain, but rather intense fear and panic, is considered torture by some but not by the legal definition established by the Justice Department. Opponents of this technique are essentially defining torture as, anything that makes a person uncomfortable or scared.

Finally, one piece that is glaringly missing is the fact that enhanced interrogations, that is, water boarding, when properly used, can and has delivered high-quality intelligence in a timely manner when other methods failed. While the use of these techniques should be rare and only used on enemy combatants, not uniformed soldiers, removing these options from interrogators completely is an unwise move that weakens our war fighting capability, places our troops in greater harm by forcing them to work with less intelligence, and fundamentally disregards the nature of both our enemy and battle in which we are engaged.

newson May 21, 2010 at 10:05 am

so torture is ok on non-uniformed enemy combatants, but no doubt we should squeal with outrage when american troops in mufti are treated similarly. lack of intelligence is indeed a problem in the armed forces.

never wrestle with a pig. you both get dirty but the pig loves it.

mpolzkill May 21, 2010 at 10:03 am

I don’t know what battle “we” are engaged in. As a member of the tiny community of honest and well informed people on this planet, the only battle I’m engaged in is an intellectual one with warmongers and their dupes. That’s you, and you’re (en masse) the root cause of the other problem.

All your legalese is meaningless. Your State’s troops and contractors have no just business in the Middle East in the first place. All decent and informed people (all 500 or so of us) call for the criminal gang to be disbanded immediately.

There can be no doubt that your State *is* the greatest threat to peace in the world.

“water boarding…is considered torture by some”

Yeah, by those who have experienced it. (If they tell you otherwise, ask them if they want it done to them again, this time by an angry Muslim.)

Robert May 22, 2010 at 12:17 am

Didn’t Lenin refer to your “community of honest and well informed people” as “useful idiots” or “utter simpletons” depending on the translation?

Kurt Luchs May 21, 2010 at 10:55 am

Excellent review of what appears to be a fine book. One point I think should be mentioned: these abuses are for the most part ongoing under the Obama regime. Obama ran on a platform denouncing them, but since coming to power has done little or nothing to change the status quo. In other words, what he denounced as a candidate he has failed to renounce as an elected official. The wars go on, and all of the detestable, unconstitutional apparatus that accompanies them continues to exist. Where are the principled objections to these things now that Obama is doing them instead of Bush? The silence is deafening. It tells me that those who were shouting the loudest about them before have no principles and no concern for the human rights being trampled.

Hans Michaud May 21, 2010 at 11:06 am

Thank you for the review, Professor Gordon. Very thought-provoking.
Some initial thoughts: I appreciate the consideration regarding the book itself and the premises underlying it and limiting your review to that territory (Scarry’s premises). However, I am strongly inclined to take a Hoppean stance in these regards. In other words, it somehow seems meaningless to me to comment on the finer points and intricacies (and debates) of state-initiated war, torture, mass-murder, etc. unless one apprehends the state itself, the incentive structures underlying it and the machinations and results of mass-democracy (i.e. ideological war = total war). Am I going outside of set boundaries here? Comments appreciated.
Mr. Luchs: great points about the Obama regime and the continuation of abuses. My argument exactly.

Deus X. Nihilo May 21, 2010 at 11:44 am

Fortunately for the civilized, the corrupted and decaying edifice of statism and imperialism is falling apart in bigger and bigger chunks, and it may now be only a matter of time before the American imperium is relegated to the dustbin of history, destroyed by its own bloodlusting hubris.

Knee-jerk militarist apologists such as “Brad White” sense this; you can almost smell the distinct whiff of desperation and panic amidst all his moral relativism and legalistic rationalizing. If Mr. White is himself employed by the imperial stormtroopers, he can rest assured that come the imperial collapse he’ll be gainfully employed where his talents would be of the greatest marginal productivity, such as pumping gas or flipping burgers.

Wildberry May 21, 2010 at 11:45 am

As mpolzkill so consistently demonstrates, self-righteousness has no bounds. As Kurt points out, what is a crime to one partisan is not worthy of mention in relation to one’s own team.Nonetheless, although David’s review of Scarry’s book is interesting, and no doubt Scarry’s arguments are passionate, the whole issue is far from a bright line to me.

It is logically inconsistent to argue that it is justifiable to blow someone’s head off with a rifle, but not justifiable to “torture” them, although the techniques being highlighted here were far from unconstrained torture. As David properly argues, conventions of war are mutual obligations of treaties between sovereign nations who agree to be bound by the conventions. The violation by one side of a conflict creates a “competitive disadvantage” on the battlefield. That is the case here. This particular enemy is not a sovereign nation and is not conducting their affairs in accordance with any measure of civilized restraint. Certainly beheading your captives could be viewed as a measure of torture, as would flying a planeload of innocents into a building filled with more innocents.

I am with Kurt; if it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander. All of the intellectual posturing about how such matters should be analyzed in relation to the doctrines of libertarianism, of which I am personally a huge fan, gets rather fuzzy when the fact pattern is so foggy as this. I have a right to take a life that is invading my safety and sanctuary. As a principle, don’t I have the same right at the level of sovereign defense? I concede there are good arguments concerning whether we are acting correctly by projecting our military power throughout the world. But that is not the issue here. Let’s go back to the basic legal concept. What limitations should we impose upon ourselves with an organized enemy that observes no civilized restraint whatsoever. How many lives should we offer to the principle that we owe it to ourselves to be more “civilized” than our enemies? By the time you get to armed conflict, civilization has already gone out the window. I do not agree to be conquered for the sake of philosophical purity. So enough already about Bush being a criminal. They are all criminals.

Obamadamadingdong is not above the fray. The wrongs on his scale of offense cannot be corrected by some minor adjustment in military conduct or by getting your pound of flesh from a former President. Intellectual debate is one thing. In fact it is a good thing. But it is also a luxury not too often indulged in the heat of battle. Far more important for us her in the US, and for Scarry in Europe is the question of whether, given the current trends of fiscal and political conduct at the highest levels our governments, are we capable of remaining a viable, sovereign nation at all?

Contemplating that really IS torture.

Wildberry May 21, 2010 at 11:59 am

I wanted to acknowledge the quality of your post. Very well articulated that actually stays on point. Well done.

Being called a “burger flipper” really hurts, doesn’t it?

mpolzkill May 21, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Yes, the ease of being righteous (possessing a full and basic humanity) in comparison to stunted defenders of torture *is* boundless.

More “our” and “we”.

“But that is not the issue here.”

That *is* the issue here, is always the issue here. Go back to it and spare us the mental masturbation.

- – - -

Yes, Kurt, 99% of lefty antiwar noise was merely a club to beat W with.

Matthew Swaringen May 21, 2010 at 1:55 pm

“Mental Masturbation” seems to imply hypocrisy or something more than just a matter of disagreement on an issue. Most of us are willing to say that we should be tortured should we be doing things bad enough for us to be killed.

Would you rather be killed or tortured? Now, this might depend on the severity of the torture, but I am doubtful that most people would choose death over the degree of torture that we are talking about right now.

I suppose I can agree to an argument that if it’s worse than death itself, you’ve gone too far, but up until then I don’t think it’s anymore inhuman to torture a terrorist than to kill him.

mpolzkill May 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Haha, no it just implies a stroking of the wrong thing for the sake of self gratification. You’re down the wrong path, for I don’t know what reason. Let’s forget it. Being a fellow serf, I just do this blogging for fun myself, but you all are giving me a headache on this one.

- – - -


You reminded me, I think it was W.C. Fields who said instead of warring, the rulers should fight each other with socks filled with horse manure.

Matthew Swaringen May 21, 2010 at 4:48 pm

I’m going down the wrong path for a reason you can also apparently not explain except to state it as fact, so I guess we’ll have to forget it…

Wildberry May 21, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Right on. Isn’t it tiresome and worthless?

mpolzkill May 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Matthew, I didn’t feel like having a conversation about the strange false dichotomy you invented and why you felt compelled to invent it. Sorry I can’t play, I *am* off my game, mainly because this smarmy sophist here is right, it’s nearly worthless and it does get downright tiresome being a chattering serf. Dostoevsky said that a soldier is a corrupted peasant. I’m thinking internet blatherers are close relations. Goodbye.

Eric May 21, 2010 at 11:54 am

The only true law is that might makes right. Had Germany won WWII, there’d have been no trials, unless it was the Brits and the US for bombing civilian populations.

And to those that think that the US government is going to collapse any time soon, I would remind you that it took a few centuries for Rome to totally crumble. I doubt any of us will see the US demise in our lifetimes.

newson May 21, 2010 at 6:51 pm

where does the “might” come from? from the wealth unleashed by civilized and liberal societies. brutes from the third world are less dangerous not because they’re nicer, only they’re less able to project their power. without moral underpinnings, there is no accumulation of might in the first place.

on purely utilitarian grounds, what are these great revelations supposedly to have come from torture? the government never describes this, nor even points out how much “intelligence” obtained under duress turns out to be nonsense. national security may be compromised and we just have to trust them. and their competency is beyond question, right? (wmd, ussr overtaking usa economically, domino effect in se asia, …)

Gil May 22, 2010 at 12:06 am

Well duh! I’m sure there are plenty of countries who would like to prosecute certain U.S. Presidents as war criminals but they don’t have the might to do so.

Gil May 22, 2010 at 12:04 am

Indeed. What would have been the terms if Germany had won WW1?

newson May 22, 2010 at 6:31 am

do you get paid by word, or by comment?

Matthew Houseward May 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Dr. Gordon: Excellent point regarding international law and war-to-the-finish. By Starry’s own reasoning: Sadaam Hussein was a war criminal, and as such, the international community was obliged to remove him from power and prosecute his crimes under international law. Starry inadvertently provides a justification for Bush’s war. Bush’s war, then, was not unjust, only the prosecution. In prosecuting the war, Bush violated various international laws, and now the international community is obliged, yet again, to prosecute those crimes. While Bush is no longer in power, the Obama Administration is willfully and intentionally harboring a war criminal. Therefore, the international community would be justified in invading and removing the Obama administration in an effort to bring Bush to justice.

Obviously, this is a recipe for an endless war of reciprocity. At some point, one must balance the need for international justice against the harm that these endless wars cause. One must recognize that, although the perpetrator escapes justice, administering that justice will result in greater injustices being done to hundreds of thousands of people.

Steve May 21, 2010 at 1:17 pm

“As if this were not enough, the American forces violated another rule of civilized warfare. These rules strictly forbid assassinations of enemy political leaders; lethal force may be directed only against enemy soldiers. (Scarry notes a dissenting view but argues forcefully that this is unfounded.) America brazenly flouted this rule with its deck of cards depicting members of Saddam Hussein’s government. Rewards were offered for the capture of these people, dead or alive, in complete violation of this prohibition.”

Isn’t gunning for the “leaders” lawful under Article 1 Section 8 of the constitution? As far as making war and killing people, and that’s what governments do, why not gun for the leaders? The “leaders” are the most guilty and responsible of causing the aggression, they should therefore have the most to lose. This is one area where I don’t understand the conventions; while the “leaders” are held up as special and different and therefore should be protected, everyone else (soldiers, civilians) are cannon fodder. Maybe leaders would be less cavalier about war if they knew that they would be the first and most important target to the enemy. (This argument goes both ways even though the article was talking about American aggression toward Iraqi leaders).

Matthew Swaringen May 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I agree with your perspective on gunning for the leaders. Why should government officials have their lives respected more than the military that serves them? I’ll grant that getting rid of leadership may not end the war, but it’s more likely to do so than killing individual soldiers, some of whom may have been drafted/etc.

newson May 21, 2010 at 7:46 pm

where’s the argument that assassinations actually do anything but create martyrs, if successful, or entrench leaders, if not. castro was empowered by botched attempts on his life, and used this as a pretext for further incursions against his domestic enemies. hitler, stalin – were those regimes weakened by assassination attempts? where were the successful kills that bore good fruit?

going in for the political kill makes diplomatic settlement even more difficult. israel’s taking out hamas leadership hasn’t solved their security problems.

Steve May 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm

It’s hard to prove one way or another, it depends on the circumstances. For instance in the case of Israel, as long as they maintain their war like policy, they will never have an end to their troubles, no matter who they assassinate. It’s less a matter of killing a leader and more a matter of government policy, law, and citizen opinion that dictates what happens thereafter. My point was that I have a hard time understanding why it’s okay to assassinate the lowly soldier (on the order of thousands) and not okay to assassinate leaders. (I suppose it’s the argument of whether the ends for the society outweigh the preferences, wants, or needs of specific individuals i.e. soldiers, civilians, etc.)

Anne Observer May 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I agree. That “rule” is anything but “civilized”. It was formulated by leaders who did not want to be the targets of other leaders. How could it possibly be “civilized” for it to be okay to kill some John Doe from the streets, but not the people who organized and declared the war? It seems to me that it would be much more “civilized” to target those leaders, so that many thousands of others need not die.

Even better, let’s put them in the ring at UFC and let them duke it out. No holds barred.

Along the same line, Congress has never declared war since Korea. They are afraid to, because they know they would lose votes. And in the war in Iraq, while the sons and daughters of “common” people were sent to wage war, in all of Congress, only one of their children was sent overseas. Seems to me, a good way to keep the peace would be to amend the Constitution so that the families of elected officials would be the FIRST to be put in the front lines of any military conflict. After all, it’s their decision, they should have some stake in the matter. Then let’s see how many “foreign police actions” we get involved in.

Sword of Damocles May 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Did the US Congress declare war on Korea? I *think* the last US Congressional declaration of of war was WWII. But then maybe I misunderstand.

One thing I will agree on, let the leaders of the countries that are warring be on the front lines of the battle and I can guarantee you that there would be MUCH fewer wars.

Just my thoughts,

Walter l. Brown Jr. May 21, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Her work based on the quick review presented here, appears to lack objectivity and perhaps professionalism as well. Her focus on the Liberal Democrats favorite whipping boy and her background as a Liberal Arts teacher from an unappolgetically socialist leaning institution (school would be a stretch) alone is enough to call into question her work. No mention is given to the legality of the military procedures applied, the rules of war, the status of protections afforded to enemy combatants, which are clearly relevent and important as these are the standards of which establish legality. Her past work, on aircraft crashes although lauded by the NYT’s appear to be nothing more than ameteurish fascination wherein she fixated on one possible cause and attributed all of the cases she “investigated” to the same. The adage, “if you only have a hammer in your tool box, everything looks like a nail” seems appropriate for her previous and present works, and she certainly seems determined to use that hammer on President Bush. Just another liberal hack, out to crucify people doing what she and her friends don’t now and have never had the courage to do.
I will be a believer when one of her wonderchild projects discovers that the group that has the least respect for the rule of law are the very people that she works with, and that they have systematically undermind the American Dream a crime against all Americans and by extension all mankind. Take the log out of your own eye before criticizing the twig someone else’s….
. With balance comes credibility, something that Mrs. Scarry is badly in need of.

newson May 21, 2010 at 6:55 pm

if her points had been made against obama, would they be any less valid?

Robert May 22, 2010 at 12:21 am

No, she’s just a hack.

Michael A. Clem May 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm

While Scarry’s book may raise interesting points, let’s not forget that wars are conducted by governments. The broader question is what is a “just” war, and why do nations go to war, never mind the question of what is a proper way to conduct a war. Governments, by their very existence, exhibit little respect for human rights, so why should anyone expect them to have more respect for the rights of enemy combatants?
More important than the torture the U.S. military engaged in is the reason we went to war with Iraq. The Bush administration was called out on this, changed their story, then was called out on it again.
While Obama may not have gotten us into war if he had been President at the time Bush was, he certainly doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to end the occupation of Iraq.
And I have to disagree about not assassinating political leaders. If they know they’re a target, then they may be less willing to engage in actions that make them a target. Also, isn’t it better to kill the person who declared war instead of drafted grunts who probably don’t even want to be at the front? Do political leaders have more rights than your average soldier?

Deus X. Nihilo May 21, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I think it’s wonderful to see so many neocon dead-enders crawl out of their caves to post their intellectually and morally bankrupt defenses of their war criminal heroes here at Mises.org. Only a few years ago they would have thought that this site was barely worth a few seconds of their time. Now they’re coming out of the woodwork!

This is solid evidence of Mises.org’s tremendously growing influence on the battle of ideas. Keep it up, guys!

Matthew Swaringen May 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm

I actually agree with you on Mises.org, though I am sure to you I am another “neocon dead-ender” because I don’t go party line with everything libertarian either. I’m not a big fan of purists unless they are good at explaining why they are purist. Kinsella does a very good job in most of his articles of explaining to me why he’s against things like intellectual property, and others do an excellent job with explaining the problems of modern mainstream economics. They make good arguments and this is why Mises is winning people over to it’s side on those issues.

But, when it comes to this, I am not seeing it. The argument isn’t good. It’s founded on reasoning that seems rather circular, the axiom being that torture is bad, without a real explanation for what torture is in the first place.

I’m much more inclined to agree with anti-Iraq war articles here (even though I did originally support it), and have read some of those here which I couldn’t argue with. But, not this. It’s just not well argued in my opinion. In discovering this place I’ve also discovered Napolitano’s Freedom Watch show @ FoxNews, and his show has been pretty convincing on things that I didn’t think about before (our totally unconstitutional attempts to murder Anwar Al Alwaki). So anyway, I don’t think that I’m unreasonable, I really think this position on torture is just not well established, at least not in this article or by any of the posters here thus far.

Wildberry May 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Keep it coming Matthew. Brilliant!
So much more interesting, and contributory.
Crawing back into the woodwork now.

newson May 21, 2010 at 7:27 pm

if one government agency adopts the “means justifies ends” m.o., then there’s no way to isolate this creed. “enemies of the state” can be defined as broadly as politicians wish, and as selectively.

Matthew Swaringen May 21, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Did you mean “ends justifies the means”? I think I understand what you are saying but wouldn’t that logic also apply to killing people?

newson May 21, 2010 at 11:10 pm

oops, you’re right on the inversion. the killing of presently armed combatants is removing an immediate threat, so an act of self-defense. once the combatant puts down his arms and holds his hands up in an unambiguous sign of submission, that threat is no longer serious, and to kill would be unnecessary and barbarous (besides the utilitarian consideration of how it would make surrender of enemies much less likely once word got around).

Matthew Swaringen May 22, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Ok, I can follow your reasoning here. You are saying that killing is ok in the context of battle because the other person is a threat, but torture can only be conducted when the person is not a threat.

Killing is not ok if the person is not an immediate threat, presumably, so you would theoretically be against any kind of death penalty, since only direct and current threats are allowable.

I think this is a logical view, but it is not a view that I agree with entirely. I do not disagree with a death penalty, provided sufficient crime and future threat (murder of others, and intent to murder in the future) . For the same reason, I don’t find that those who have done these things deserve to be treated like every other human being. They have murdered others, and in doing so I believe forfeited their right to be treated like any other human being. After all, they did not grant those privileges to others when they murdered them.

If this viewpoint makes surrender less likely, so be it. But that’s not the only way to capture people.

billwald May 21, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Torture only works when the inquisitor already knows the correct answer to his question or can quickly verify the answer.

newson May 21, 2010 at 7:29 pm

if the answer be known, why torture?

Matthew Swaringen May 21, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I think your assumption is false, and the logic could easily be applied towards interrogation in general. “Asking only works when the inquisitor already knows the correct answer to his question or can quickly verify the answer.”

This makes sense if you assume that the person on the other end believes that you won’t do worse or continue the process if their answer is wrong. The trick is for the interrogator to start by asking a question that they do know the answer to, so that they can hopefully judge the accuracy of later statements. Of course either way it’s an imperfect system, and there are legitimate reasons to question whether torture is truly effective (in general it’s not the best way).

newson May 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm

women on the rack gladly admitted to having had carnal relations with satan. is one to doubt the veracity of their oaths?

Gil May 22, 2010 at 12:00 am

Actually in the West if you admitted to practicing witchcraft and implicated others you were set free or given a light punishment (e.g. the Salem Witch Trials). Not admitting to witchcraft led to torture and death.

newson May 22, 2010 at 12:53 am

the torture was to help the recalcitrant to come clean about their devil worship. naturally, many admitted, so i guess they really were witches.

what’s your point, that to rat on others is the best defense against torture?


Gil May 22, 2010 at 3:01 am

The point was in the West women were tortured for not confessing to witchcraft.

newson May 22, 2010 at 4:46 am

so what’s your point: was torture a useful method for those divining those women who didn’t admit to being witches, and yet who actually were (the war-against-satan)?

what benefit did the torture bring, apart from the apparent pleasure of the inquisitor?

aren’t you supposed to be coming up with some utilitarian defense of torture?

Peter May 26, 2010 at 1:59 am

Putting them on a scale to see if they weigh the same as a duck is both more accurate and more humane.

Matthew Swaringen May 22, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Yes, one should doubt this, however, the argument that one cannot always trust answers given under duress is no reason to believe that one cannot sometimes trust answers given under duress.

It’s always possible they are going to “randomly” lie or that they may know more than you think, but any interrogation is not perfect, and this is true regardless of whether torture is used.

newson May 21, 2010 at 11:29 pm

homework for torture 101: “the brothers karamazov”, fyodor dostoyevsky.

Lee May 22, 2010 at 4:32 am

The blog and apparently the book it’s about are exactly the same sophist garbage “law” and governments are built on. If one looks at the realities of how the world works then mindless tripe about how “law” separates us from savagery becomes almost unbearably sickening. The fundamental fact , whether we like it or not, is that practically every organism in the world lives off the death and destruction of other organisms; from that it logically follows that life always has been and always will be a struggle. Government and laws are nothing more than a scam perpetuated on the gullible who perceive themselves as weak and needing “protection”.

newson May 22, 2010 at 4:47 am

law and government aren’t the same. spend some time on this site and familiarize yourself with the difference.

Lee May 22, 2010 at 4:58 am

Unless you’re referring to natural law, which I see as “rules” which CANNOT be broken, I doubt that I’ll find any difference I’d consider significant. Man-made laws, in my opinion, can never be anything more than disguised predation.

newson May 22, 2010 at 6:15 am

so you see a private golf club and the government to be essentially the same?

Lee May 22, 2010 at 7:01 am

Unless every single member of that club agrees with the “law”_ in which case there is no need for it anyway_ then no, I don’t see there is a difference. In both cases it’s just one group of people trying to use “law” to control the behavior of another group. But strictly speaking I don’t consider the making of laws to be an “illegitimate” activity; I’d just like it understood for what it is: just one more predatory type of behavior. Of course even once a fact is established then of necessity whether it’s good or bad has to be a value judgment. But then that value judgment is going to be made on the basis of perceived self-interest so we’re right back where we started. I just get weary of all the blather that pretends to be debating some noble higher standard.

newson May 22, 2010 at 10:00 pm

law is the result of enlightened self-interest. people voluntarily agree to adhere to the rules of their golf-club because they see the trade-off between group and personal interest as acceptable as a way of reducing interpersonal conflict. no predation whatsoever, nor any intrinsic nobility.

Court Ditch May 22, 2010 at 8:11 am

So Lee, I take it that if I come steal your computer, maybe harm some other property of yours while I’m at it, you won’t try to impose any of that hoity-toity moral indignation nonsense upon me?

“It’s all relative mannnnn, jeez.”

Lee May 22, 2010 at 8:45 am

Left to act just as freely as you’d have been doing? I’d probably try to inflict severe bodily harm upon you!_ unless I saw it somehow in my best interest to act otherwise. Why bring any mythical “morality” into it? “Morality” based on true self-interest would, I believe, make a far better world than the chaos of the present system. Then we could just debate what is in our best interest without complicating it with some noble standard that never has and never will exist in the real world. No, I don’t think it’s at all relative_ I think there are very definitely good decisions and bad decisions for our self-interest; we just have to learn what those are. Looking at the world as it is I think that so far we’ve done a miserably poor job of it. “Law of the jungle”? I find it much kinder than ours.

Guard May 22, 2010 at 2:56 pm

For those of you who understand that there is a spiritual realm: torture is not a means to an end, it is an end in itself. It is not for the crass purpose of mere gratification of sadistic persons. Power requires both torture and human sacrifice to survive and will have it one way or the other. Much torturing and killing only seems senseless because people do not understand its true purpose.

Lee May 23, 2010 at 4:48 am

Thank you. You’ve perfectly illustrated the sort of attitude I’ve been talking about. Since torture and killing are such noble things should it be applied to you? I think your comments also beautifully illustrate the difference between real self-interest and perceived self-interest.

Barry May 24, 2010 at 3:31 am

As a participant in a group outing to S.E. Asia in the late 1960s I saw Communist doctrine in action at first hand. In common with the Mohammedan war doctrine (jihad), a prime component is to use the West’s core values against those of us who uphold western civilization. One of many examples includes the use of women and children as human shields, knowing the reluctance of westerners to endanger civilians and seeing this civilized value as a weakness.

At this point the communist and socialist sock puppets will start screaming about My Lai. I contend that Ly Lai was an aberration, and runs counter to American military and political policy. There were, of course, other similar events. Some were punished, many not. The fact remains that this type of behavior was against orders and against policy.

In contrast, the massacre of thousands of Vietnamese women and children who were family members of anti-communist Vietnamese exemplifies communist policy, as did the deaths by starvation of millions of Ukrainians by the Soviets, the Hungarian massacres in 1957, the Communist mass murder of millions of Chinese, the ongoing step-by-step cultural genocide in Tibet, and let us not forget Pol Pot.

The daily car and truck bombs targeting civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan exemplify Mohammedan policy. In the real world, war has no rules. It has winners and losers.

Call it what you will and be damned. If connecting a terrorist to a truck battery will preserve the lives of my troops, prevent the loss of eyes and limbs to any one of my men, I have but two things to say: Black is negative, red is positive.

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