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Harris on torture
Posted: 10 September 2006 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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The irony of the religious zeroing in on Harris’s arguiment on torture is that they will usually be against torture but not against the war in Iraq and wars elsewhere, which is a stance Harris does a good job of illustrating the illogic of.

I think Harris was simply taking some ideas that we all have preconceived notions of showing how many of our ideas are rooted in emotion or presumption, not in well thought out rational argument.

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Posted: 24 September 2006 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. I was thoroughly enjoying the book until I got to this bit about torture. He then used some “logic” to justify it, and I kept reading to find out where would he say “Oh yes, btw, that whole bit about justifying torture was nonsense, and if you were paying attention to the first bits of this book it is completely clear.”

Was it just a test to see if we read the section on the Spanish Inquisition? That anyone can be made to say anything? That torture was used because they believed that it could give them actual information? It amazed me that Mr. Harris did not take the time to research the known (complete in-)efficiency of modern day torture - although I believe he referenced one Atlantic Monthly article on it. I don’t have access to that magazine or that paper, so I’m not sure what it said.

Putting aside that torture is completely useless - *especially* against religious nut cases, Mr. Harris quite clearly makes the case against torture in the earlier parts of his book. Not only the fallacy that it can produce any information worthwhile, but that its use could not be in any way ETHICAL.

He talked about a torture pill which could, hypothetically, produce an hour of torture to an individual, and then that individual, so aghast from the experience, would then reveal everything that the torturer wanted. Nevermind that perhaps this individual never had any such information, is it right to use such a tool? Did Saddam Hussein, and various other nefarious men also use twisted logic to justify torture? I’m certain that they did. This should have been explored more, but I think perhaps he didn’t as he realized it really was out of place with the rest of the book.

I hope Mr. Harris reviews the position he outlined, and short thrifted, and possibly missplaced, in EOF.

As for the rest of the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I especially liked how he talked about meditation and mysticism, seperate and distinct from religion and “New Age” nonsense. There is something to this stuff - something I’ve personally experienced of introspection and awesome power, that I feel religions tend to confuse and muddle, and even obfuscate, and that needs to be seperated from their domain. End of Faith recognizes that this is one step towards ending Religious Dominance, and I believe it can be used as a tool to help bring enlightment to the religiously enslaved.

I’ve preordered Letters to A Christian Nation and look forward to seeing what else he has to say.

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Posted: 25 September 2006 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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Coolfish,

I agree.  What happened at Abu Graib and dozens of other U.S. torture chambers, (in Iraq, and places like Egypt where our secret agents spirit people to be tortured) has probably won more suicide bombers to Al Quaida’s cause than any amount of Islamist exhortations or violent passages from the Koran.

These days, news and photos of U.S. torture quickly fans the flames of Muslim hatred and resolve, but it isn’t new to our policies.  A quiet book called ‘Silence on the Mountain’ explains how the U.S. orchestrated the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Guatamala, and trained and supported a military dictatorship that tortured and murdered tens of thousands of people.

http://www.silenceonthemountain.com/

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 11 October 2006 03:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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I am in agreement with Sam collateral damage is every bit as tortorous as the real thing.  Imagine cowering in the dark huddled with your children when a laser-guided bomb takes out the building next to yours sending shrapnel through the walls and eviscerating your loved ones.  Perhaps it takes days of watching them slowly fade and suffer.  That would probably make me Al Qaeda if roles were reversed.

The issue of intent it sticky.  One is more morally despicable having intentionally murdered someone rather than accidentally.  However, from the victim’s point of view (which is the relevant one truly) does that matter?  If I am being murdered brutally by decapitation or by a laser-guided bomb or run over by a tank, I wouldn’t much give a shit about how the bastard doing me wrong feels about it at the end of the day!

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Posted: 06 January 2007 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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The US is the has most powerful military on earth. It has 10k nuclear weapons, dozens of nuclear submarines, stealth bombers and all manner of assorted high tech weaponry.

Somehow the argument is made that even with all this might, the safety of downtown Omaha can only be secured by pulling fingernails off of hapless Afghanistan Goat Herders.

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Posted: 08 January 2007 02:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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[quote author=“Joad”]The US is the has most powerful military on earth. It has 10k nuclear weapons, dozens of nuclear submarines, stealth bombers and all manner of assorted high tech weaponry.

Somehow the argument is made that even with all this might, the safety of downtown Omaha can only be secured by pulling fingernails off of hapless Afghanistan Goat Herders.

Mr. Harris hasn’t justified all uses of torture, just as he doesn’t approve of all forms of war.

Under a narrowly construed set of circumstances, he is not opposed to torture. If one has reason to suspect that X has placed an explosive device inside a school (because he has explosive residue on his hands, you have his credit card records and know he has bought materials to construct explosives and has no other reasonable excuse to have them, etc)... and you need to know -where- the bomb is, torture and the threat of torture are possibly acceptable. This is the sort of case Sam defends. It should be viewed in the larger context of suffering.

(Does it prevent more suffering than it causes.)

To be sure, such occasions are very rare. Before 9/11, the CIA (and/or its ‘independent contractors’ etc) did torture people on behalf of the American government. This does not mean we want to have every private in the armed forces conducting putative judicial torture on every suspect. (For the same reason we don’t level Bagdad to kill all the terrorists.)

One might not slaughter a pig if it were in front of oneself, but said person might still eat bacon. Harris sees this disconnect as a problem… Torture and War are equivalent in the sense that “having someone else kill the pig for me” doesn’t make it any more, or less, right. (If you’re particularly anti-vegetarian, consider substituting “human” and “manbacon” for pig and bacon in the above argument)

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Posted: 08 January 2007 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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B.Dewhirst,

Sorry. I wasn’t clear.

I was addressing the policy which created Guantanamo, etc.

If one has reason to suspect that X has placed an explosive device inside a school

If one has reason to suspect that The USAF has placed an explosive device inside a Stealth Bomber .... is it acceptable to torture any American who might know when and where that bomb will be dropped?

I understand Sam’s point. It’s like debating whether or not rapists should use condoms.

I think I am trying to point out that by the time torture is an issue, there are so many greater failures, that it is absurd.

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Posted: 08 January 2007 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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Seank,

Thanks for posting Sam’s comment.

It fails to address certian important points.

1: We do not torture them because we do not wish to become them.
2: We do not torture them because we do not wish to authorize their use of torture on us.

The Ticking Time Bomb scenario fails because every one of our planes contains a ticking time bomb for them.

The real question is “Who will determine our actions?” Them or US?

What bothers me most is a general failure to understand assymetrical warfare.

The old adage states, “Never stop your enemy when he is committing suicide”.

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Posted: 08 January 2007 09:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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The Ticking Time Bomb scenario is simplistic.

Anyone who would commit such an act is probably far beyond torture.

For example, how are you going to torture someone who watched their child blown to bits?

Imagine that you were being tortured. The only way to stop it was to agree to let your child be tortured instead. How much would you endure?

However, you might get information by showing them pictures of what the aftermath of their bomb would look like….1000’s of blown apart children.

Torture is ineffective against zealots and psychotics. Better spend whatever time you have finding a way to reconnect them to reality.

I don’t deny that torture might be effective on the average footsoldier. But he is very unlikely to have any vital information. By the time you get to any serious threat, the person is either psychotic or so well trained that torture would be a waste of time.

What is the relationship between a housefly and some child that is pulling off its wings?

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Posted: 10 January 2007 02:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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Psychological torture is generally far more effective than inflicting great pain.  The CIA has an instruction manual detailing this.  They first deprive you of stimuli, then scare you, then inflict pain if necessary, and then present themselves as a friend to you.  Often times victims will form a connection or bond with their abusers.  If you can capitolize on this then you can abuse someone and convince them to give you what you need.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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‘effective’.....the torchure MYth
one thing you all (including Sam) have failed to consider - is that torchure no matter what kind doesn’t achieve results of any value to security…...............Colonel Charles Rothrock, who was in charge of extracting vital information from Vietcong prisioners in order to save American lives thinks so.

instead you all blindly follow along with the idea.

Does torchure make ‘you’ feel safer?

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Posted: 16 January 2007 02:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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I suppose that in Harris’ mind “effectiveness” is hardly the moral point, it is kind of “if we could, in a certain narrow circumstance get info from someone… that could, say, prevent another 9-11..”

Of course, on the that shaky foundation, the US has sent prisoners to other countries to be held and probably tortured. We have even gotten
“intelligence”. However, everytime I hear intellegence people talk about
this sort of “intelligence” they say “the question is how useable is that intelligence”. People being tortured have an uncanny sense of what we want to hear and have given it to us. There was some torture involved in the decision to go into Iraq, for instance. This had to do with the so-called link between El Qaeda and Iraq.

Torture doesn’t have much of a track record, even though, under certain circumstances it might seem to. Isn’t this “faith”?

>Does torture make you feel safer?

I would guess that’s actually more to the point.

—alie

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Posted: 16 January 2007 03:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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Rogerflat wrote:

They first deprive you of stimuli, then scare you, then inflict pain if necessary, and then present themselves as a friend to you.

Sounds like the recipe for a God-believer relationship! 

First religion alienates you from the rest of the non-believing, rational world, then they scare you into believing that if you don’t believe in God as they do, God will get you when you die and send you to hell, and then they present Jesus, the friendly form of God, as the only friend who can work interference between his tyrannical father to save your sorry butt!

This is obviously a very successful method of torture seeing as billions of people the world over have fallen for it and are totally caught up in the trap unaware.

Susan

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Posted: 16 January 2007 05:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Rasmussen,

Certainly worked for the Moonies, etc.

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Posted: 17 January 2007 02:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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This is obviously a very successful method of torture seeing as billions of people the world over have fallen for it and are totally caught up in the trap unaware.

Except that religions often find willing participants and use that method as a form of mind control.  It is those who are unwilling that you usually have to inflict some degree of pain in conjunction with the mind control.

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