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I am always annoyed by the argument that torture is unacceptable AND it doesn't work. It's not totally implausible that this is true, but I think it's very likely that torture "works" in some sense and certainly everyone practicing it expects it to work.

So... for an anti-torture position to have some meat to it, you have to make it clear that you think torture is unacceptable even when it does work.

If you're not willing to sacrifice real lives and safety to avoid torture, I don't think you are meaningfully against it, and you certainly stand no chance of persuading those convinced of its efficacy.




It may be counter productive to try and argue both (totally consistent) positions at once since it opens you up to the implication that if it somehow worked that you'd be OK with it. Still I don't see why we should allow pro torture advocates to own the conversation on whether it works. All evidence is to the contrary and its deeply unethical to continue trying it just in case it does. Even if not torturing did lead to innocent death's it would be the wrong choice to torture, but simultaniously I reject that as a false choice presented by torture advocates who want you to concede that it works and give power to their argument.

If someone wants to claim that some action has some effect it is on them to prove it not the rest of us to refute it. US torture advocates have had every opportunity to do so and failed.


Do you believe that all those people that signed confessions to witchcraft during the Inquisition were truthful?

What about all of the people that are tortured that don't have anything to do with terrorism? What sort of reparations do they receive? What sort of penalty does the US citizenry or the US government pay for those types of mistakes? It's easy to throw others under the bus to save yourself, but I'm not sure if the US can really claim to be the world's Moral Authority when they are doing such things.


the poster you're replying to is not saying that it definitely works, only that it might. and additionally (and this is the crux of that statement): even if it does work, it's still morally wrong.


certainly everyone practicing it expects it to work

Or they like torturing. (They are torturers, after all.)


I don't think the world is black and white like that.

Hypothetical: someone kidnaps a child and the police capture someone who definitely knows where the child is. The child's life is at risk. If the parent were to beat up (torture) the person to gain knowledge, you'd assume the parent "likes" torturing people? I wouldn't.


I was disagreeing with the idea that a hypothetical torturer necessarily expects it to work (and giving an example of an alternate theory for why they might be a torturer), not saying that all torturers like torturing.


"If you're not willing to sacrifice real lives and safety to avoid torture, I don't think you are meaningfully against it"

I completely agree with this, and it's the crux of the argument that I've made against torture when having that debate with people.

Whether it works or not is a cop out. Yes, I believe that torture is, in general, vastly counterproductive. But I also believe that there might be occasional cases where it happens to "work" for extracting factually true information (I put "work" in scare-quotes because there are all sorts of practical and moral side effects even if it does "work"). No matter: it's still morally wrong.

Most Americans believe in the principle of "innocent until proven guilty." That alone should be enough to imply that torture is wrong, since it is almost exclusively perpetrated against the unconvicted (and even if convicted, there's the whole prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment," which I'd bet most Americans would also claim belief in).

I guess there are many people who don't think it through that far. And I'd bet that there are many Americans who believe that those rights apply to other Americans, but not non-Americans, or enemy combatants, or whatever. Such people are, IMHO, cowardly assholes. Everyone deserves the same basic human rights.


Torture gets people to talk. Those who say it doesn't work believe that it can't be relied on to get people to talk truthfully.


Torture doesn't "work" if you mean "getting useful information out of people". Torture "works" if your goal is torturing people.


Or if your goal is creating terror.


Why would you write off people who think torture would be acceptable if the trade off is big enough. Most choices are a trade off.

If torture really doesn't work, it's an amazing argument against torture.


I would not write them off - my whole point is that by making the double argument people are trying to avoid having to think about trade offs.

I get very suspicious when I see conjunctive arguments that neuter hard value judgments. It's extremely common to see them: "I think you doing X is objectionable AND it doesn't even work!" Example from the right:

Gun control is unconstitutional AND criminals will still get guns anyway!

In my experience, the second half of these arguments usually has nothing to do with the arguer's real motivations, it just helps him/her avoid cognitive dissonance from the trade offs.


> I think it's very likely that torture "works" in some sense and certainly everyone practicing it expects it to work.

I attack this by stating that "We got far more intelligence by NOT torturing people in WWII."

People want to talk. If you give them an environment where they can just talk, they can't help but tell you valuable things.




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