Let us be clear: we can all do whatever we want to you

Obama's Justice Department has cleared some high-ranking Bush officials of any legal ethics violations in authorizing torture of people who were not charged with crimes.

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The principle

that the collective is entitled to dispose of the individual as it sees fit is fully implicit in democracy in general the U.S. Constitution in particular. Nothing new here.

Drilling Down

After searching around for source documents, I found this fisk thread on the relevant OPR report by the Justice Department.

It's a bit more detailed than the NPR blurb.

Torture

Unfortunately we are dealing with people who have openly declared war and think their god will reward them for killing sinners. Sometimes, even if the evidence is sketchy, it might be a good thing to get information out of them using non-conventional means (like waterboarding, which btw isn't torture since it doesn't leave any long term damage like breaking fingers or other nasty stuff), especially if they are planning to kill (and therefore infringe the rights of) many more other people.

It could be argued that strictly adhering to the Qur'an (which is profoundly anti-libertarian, itself advocates torture and promotes violence toward non-Muslims) is enough to arouse suspicion.

Uh oh, my neocon alarm just

Uh oh, my neocon alarm just went off!

It could be argued that strictly adhering to the Qur'an (which is profoundly anti-libertarian, itself advocates torture and promotes violence toward non-Muslims) is enough to arouse suspicion.

One could say the same for the old testament. As a matter of fact.

(like waterboarding, which btw isn't torture since it doesn't leave any long term damage like breaking fingers or other nasty stuff)

So, you wouldn't mind if I practice my amateur waterboarding on you or your children?

Dehumanize the "muslim menace" all you want, you are not convincing me that torture or mass murder can be justified. Just go back to listening to Laura Ingraham and reading your John Yoo book, get off my intarnets.

Lame argument.

"So, you wouldn't mind if I practice my amateur waterboarding on you or your children?"

I would mind if you imprisoned my children, but that isn't torture, is it?

To intentionally induce extreme suffering in a defenseless individual is torture, and waterboarding certainly qualifies. Imprisonment may produce extreme suffering but that is not necessarily the intent of imprisonment. Extreme suffering is undeniably the intent of waterboarding.

I fail to see anything

I fail to see anything inherently wrong with inducing suffering. Perfectly good forms of punishment involve suffering. In fact, I'm not sure that something can be called punishment if it does not involve suffering. If the intent of imprisonment is not to produce suffering but merely to protect society from the criminal for a while, then it hardly merits the name "punishment". It is merely a kind of protective custody (the public is the one being protected). But clearly imprisonment is largely considered by all involved to be largely a punishment.

Given that I see nothing inherently wrong with inducing suffering, then the question is whether there is or is not an upper limit. The word "extreme" is not very helpful.

If we're not specifically talking about degree of suffering but more abstractly about degree of punishment, then positive infinity is execution. If positive infinity is acceptable, then anything less than positive infinity is acceptable. If it is acceptable to execute someone, then I would say it appears acceptable to do anything less - for example, if it is acceptable to execute then as far as I can see it is acceptable to waterboard.

It is arguably not allowed under existing law. But the point of political philosophy is to question existing law.

I find there to be however an important moral distinction to be made, and it is not between degrees of suffering, but rather the function of that suffering. What I have long understood as "punishment" is suffering intentionally induced in retaliation for a wrong which has been committed. What I have long understood as "torture" is suffering intentionally induced for some other purpose. For example, suffering induced in retaliation for an act which is not a wrong - for example, failure to confess.

Punishment

There is, here in America, this simple phrase "innocent until proven guilty". Punishments are not inflicted until guilt is proven. The treatment of prisoners has been disgusting and un-American. Even if torture is the only way to get the information, we should not stoop to that level to get it.

Please clarify...

If we're not specifically talking about degree of suffering but more abstractly about degree of punishment, then positive infinity is execution.

I don't understand some things about this statement.

  1. How the distinction between suffering vs. punishment relates to the rest of the sentence. Are you saying that execution is the most extreme punishment, but not the most extreme form of suffering?
  2. Why "positive infinity" and not "a maximum degree". Are you saying that execution is the most extreme but can only be approached, but never reached? This clearly isn't true, so are you saying that nothing else comes close to execution because other punishments are finite but execution is infinite?
  3. I can think of many things that could be done to me worse than being executed. Maybe clarifying item (1) could show me why these are not counterexamples to execution being infinity.

I'll just stick to this detail and let someone else take the bait to see if you are really advocating torture, or if this is part of a larger point you are about to make...

Replace "infinity" with

Replace "infinity" with "pretty fucking high up there on the scale of severity, higher than waterboarding in my assessment and I would wager pretty much anybody else's."

I agree with you regarding

I agree with you regarding suffering, I see nothing wrong with inducing it in the pursuit of contract enforcement. What I have a problem with is physical imprisonment and the infliction of pain as retribution or means to acquire information. I feel that these methods fail to resolve any disparity that the original depredation may have caused.

if it is acceptable to execute then as far as I can see it is acceptable to waterboard.

Seems to me that laws currently favor that mindset. Executions start to become de rigueur as justice is suspended on a temporal basis due to the victim's abrogation of responsibility. More crimes would be resolved immediately if the intended victim was allowed (and socially required) to carry the tools necessary to mete out justice on an ad-hoc basis.

I know this is an unpopular concept. It has been called Law of the Old West and more recently Street Justice, but I feel it is the most just and places the least imposition upon the rights of others.

If positive infinity is

If positive infinity is acceptable, then anything less than positive infinity is acceptable. If it is acceptable to execute someone, then I would say it appears acceptable to do anything less - for example, if it is acceptable to execute then as far as I can see it is acceptable to waterboard.

I think a little introspection refutes this immediately. Almost everyone would prefer to be executed rather than experience unlimited torture.

The pertinent comparison is

The pertinent comparison is between execution and waterboarding, and I would rather be waterboarded 1000 times than executed.

What you've done here is keyed in on an exaggeration in my argument which, once eliminated, leaves my argument intact. That's called quibbling.

I didn't know which part of

I didn't know which part of your argument you would drop when challenged, a just knew a moment of reflection would refute what you wrote.

You now appear to be saying that if it is morally permissible to execute certain individuals it is likewise permissible to inflict anything short of execution.

Most people would seem to rather be raped than executed. Would you say it is moral to rape prisoners?

I fail to see it as lame

I fail to see it as lame when you take it in full context. I imagine your children neither deserve to be imprisoned or waterboarded, yet according to current policy it is not required that victims be deserving of their fate at the hands of statists. To have your children unjustly removed from your home by net tax consumers - literally kidnapped in the middle of the night - without word as to when you may get them back or how, can be torture to a parent.

I would venture that unintentional consequences are features, not bugs. In my opinion these collateral incidences either show a willful lack of foresight or intentional malice. Justice is not being served.

Abrahamic religions are un-libertarian

Uh oh, my neocon alarm just went off!

My alarm for people willing to create a libertarian utopia that will in practice be constantly terrorized by and defenseless against other old-fashioned states and religionists with balls also went off.

One could say the same for the old testament. As a matter of fact.

So, you wouldn't mind if I practice my amateur waterboarding on you or your children?

If I previously openly declared that I belong to an organization whose main contract (holy book) mandates murder and genocide, no, I wouldn't mind.

Upholding one's contract with Yahwe or Allah is not compatible with uupholding natural law and libertarian principles, as you can read here:
http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/Quran/index.htm

Furthermore, more than 90% of all terrorist attacks in the last 10-20 years were carried out by Muslim extremists working in cells - so this is the only reason not to start waterboarding Christians in order to prevent terrorist attacks. If the roles were reversed I'd have no problem with inducing unpleasant, temporary sensations so that the safety of people who do respect natural law and the Golden rule is preserved.

My alarm for people willing

My alarm for people willing to create a libertarian utopia that will in practice be constantly terrorized by and defenseless against other old-fashioned states and religionists with balls also went off.

Even if I place an index finger on each of my temples and make long low sounds in my throat, I cannot seem to emulate your power to witness the future. The best part is, you seem to think I wish to create libtardtopia, which I do not.

[...]in practice be constantly terrorized by and defenseless against other old-fashioned states and religionists with balls.

[...]more than 90% of all terrorist attacks in the last 10-20 years were carried out by Muslim extremists working in cells.

Haha oh wow, you just argued against your own point. Troll on buddy, troll on.

You cannot torture without intent

A parent might suffer at being separated from his child even if the child is justly imprisoned. Is that torture?

Harm and suffering exist independent of the intent of any acts which may precipitate them, but torture is not identical with either harm or suffering.

The intentional infliction

The intentional infliction of suffering is what makes punishment punishment. If someone is imprisoned merely to protect society and not to cause him suffering, then that is not punishment but merely protective custody, where society is the one being protected.

Okay then, are the words

Okay then, are the words punishment and torture synonyms? Most people think there is a difference.

I think one fundamental problem with torture is that it strongly tends to tempt the inflicter to indulge in emotions which will impair his judgment and tempt him to overstep whatever moral license he may have to inflict punishment. Punishment which is not applied dispassionately is far less likely to be applied justly.

When my children were very young I applied corporal punishment on occasion. But my rule was to never inflict such punishment while angry. I think that was a good rule.

I think it's hard enough to imprison and execute criminals dispassionately and I think this has long been recognized by civilized men. It is certainly possible to imagine a waterboarding being administered dispassionately and perhaps U.S. agents have done so scrupulously in their war on terror, for all I know. But I think it a very dangerous and slippery slope.

I would be willing to hire reliable professionals to imprison and even execute criminals on my behalf. I would not hire anyone to torture on my behalf.

Yes, imprisonment is

Yes, imprisonment is torture. Kill the person or set them free, imprisoning them is pointless and serves no one especially the often ignored victim whose wealth confiscated to fund the prison. I am of the opinion that all crime can be handled in a civil court with no need for a "criminal justice system". The current system exists to enforce statutory insanity, where anything can be a crime even if no victim actually exists.

Punishment and protective custody do neither. Crimes are committed in prison, crimes "on the outs" are also frequently commissioned from within the prisons. So the basic premise for imprisonment falls flat on its face, especially in the digital age.

Someone must always pay for the imprisonment of others. Who should it be?

Someone must always pay for

Someone must always pay for the imprisonment of others. Who should it be?

Willing parties, obviously.