Sunday, October 13, 2013

Idle Thoughts -- Torturous Logic

Unthinkable a movie.

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My comments:

The terrorist is finally forced to talk after his wife is murdered in front of him and the torturer threatens to torture his young children in front of him.   However, he admits to only three bombs and the officials come to suspect there is a fourth bomb.  An agent refuses to bring the children back to be tortured. The terrorist grabs a gun and kills himself. Then the fourth bomb goes off killing millions.

So, point number one.  The movie is not realistic. Terrorists don't actually behave this way and the whole thing is played for maximum entertainment rather than even minimum reality.

However, the question of torture is at least presented in a way that allows people to discuss it.  I am very disappointed that even Hollywood would stoop to the level of preparing to torture young children.  Even though they were attempting to get a discussion going, frankly, it just disgusts me.

Let's take a look at torture as was actually practiced by the United States and our allies. Point number one:  All professionally trained and experienced interrogators say torture does not work. The way to get information from the suspect is to build a relationship of trust with them.

Point number two:  The only individuals who are now claiming that the torture worked are those were guilty of this international and American crime. That is to say the criminals say,  we were right to commit our crime.  These claims are denied by the professional interrogators who say that in fact it was their professional interrogation techniques, not torture, that gained useful information. Someone is lying. I prefer not to believe those who are confessed criminals to crimes which are generally regarded as worthy of the death penalty.

Point number three:  Of course, in the movie there is a ticking time bomb. There is no time to develop a professional interrogator's working relationship with the prisoner. In reality, no one can point to a single case in which this was true when United States officially declared torture legal and proper. It simply didn't happen.

Having expressed my complete disgust with this movie, for all it's well intentioned effort, I will now repeat to you a case which I think I told you earlier, in which I believe torture was justified.

Some years ago a man in Germany kidnapped a small boy. He was captured. He did not deny that he was the kidnapper, in fact he said that if they released him he would let the child go.  In other words, the evidence was very clear, he was guilty.

During the Bush years we tortured many people. Many of them turned out to be completely innocent and were later released. That's right, there is no doubt that we tortured innocent people to get information they did not have.

In the German case, the kidnapper said the child of been placed in a closed box and would suffocate if he was not released in time to save the child's life. The desperate police official in charge of the case went to a court and got an actual permission to perform torture under these circumstances. This was probably not legal, nevertheless, it was given.

As soon as the kidnapper saw the man who was prepared to torture him and the instruments going to be used on his body, he immediately told the police where the child was to be found. No torture was actually necessary.

Unfortunately, it was too late. The child had died. Had the police officer simply prepared to torture the man himself, without seeking permission, the child might well have lived.

Let's look at how this is different from the torture practiced by our government.  1. The individual was doing this for profit not because he was willing to die or suffer for his cause.  2. There was excellent evidence that the individual was guilty, he even admitted it himself.  3. There was actually a ticking time bomb in that the child was running out of oxygen. 4. Torture was only attempted as a desperate last measure after all other methods had failed.

And to differentiate this from the movie, the torture was performed on adults to save a child suffering, not too inflict it upon the child.

It is easy when one suspends his disbelief, to make a very compelling movie.  However, movies rarely have much to do with reality. It makes as much sense to make moral judgments based upon a movie as it does to make moral judgments based upon a cartoon starring Bugs Bunny. The level of reality reflected is usually remarkably similar.

After all, a terrorist who is prepared to die for his cause, believing this will take him straight to heaven, might very well permit his children to be tortured to death. After all, they would then face an eternity of eternal reward in heaven.  He might well think it worthwhile.

The key here, is to understand that people are willing to commit horrible acts of mass murder or not what most of us were generally regarded as sane or rational. Expecting them to behave in a sane or rational manner is not rational on our part.

We know that the most effective way to get effective accurate information out of an individual is to build a long-term trust relationship with him. This is what actually works.

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