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October 20, 2007

Comments

Tony M

I have seen a casual definition of torture as an imposition on someone in custody of such a nature as to present them with maiming or death, or conditions of distress comparable to those causing maiming or death. The moral point of this definition is rooted in this: given the imperfect human condition, the imposition of great harm or great pain, or threat of death, will too likely induce a man to give in to a choice which is (perceived to be) contrary to his own perceived highest, final end (i.e. his relationship to God, the good, the right, his country, etc.) Doing this is a fundamentally immoral act, because by it we knowingly push a man into violating his conscience - which is to say we treat him as less than human because we tell him he has no morality he need pay attention to: we treat him as an animal.

While I agree with your basic point that there should be recognition that there are acts which, taken once, are NOT torture, done many times may constitute torture, I think waterboarding may not be the right example. It is clearly a technique in which the subject is presented with the appearance of being drowned to death, and therefore it causes the mental distress of either facing immediate death or violating one's conscience.

I do not agree with those who abjure all harsh treatment of whatever sort, nor with those who claim every act beyond mere detainment of the prisoner constitutes torture. I think that in the long run their simple-mindedness is probably counter-productive of their goal. It is much more valuable to make valid distinctions about WHY torture is wrong, and then draw appropriate conclusions.

Tony M

I have seen a casual definition of torture as an imposition on someone in custody of such a nature as to present them with maiming or death, or conditions of distress comparable to those causing maiming or death. The moral point of this definition is rooted in this: given the imperfect human condition, the imposition of great harm or great pain, or threat of death, will too likely induce a man to give in to a choice which is (perceived to be) contrary to his own perceived highest, final end (i.e. his relationship to God, the good, the right, his country, etc.) Doing this is a fundamentally immoral act, because by it we knowingly push a man into violating his conscience - which is to say we treat him as less than human because we tell him he has no morality he need pay attention to: we treat him as an animal.

While I agree with your basic point that there should be recognition that there are acts which, taken once, are NOT torture, done many times may constitute torture, I think waterboarding may not be the right example. It is clearly a technique in which the subject is presented with the appearance of being drowned to death, and therefore it causes the mental distress of either facing immediate death or violating one's conscience.

I do not agree with those who abjure all harsh treatment of whatever sort, nor with those who claim every act beyond mere detainment of the prisoner constitutes torture. I think that in the long run their simple-mindedness is probably counter-productive of their goal. It is much more valuable to make valid distinctions about WHY torture is wrong, and then draw appropriate conclusions.

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