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Coercion and Torture

January 13, 2010

Despite my disagreement with his position on interrogations, I have to give credit to Marc Thiessen for at times using the term “coercive interrogations” for those controversial methods he believes do not reach the level of torture. Unlike the adjectives “enhanced,” “aggressive,” or “harsh,” which tell us next to nothing definitive about the interrogation methods, the adjective “coercive” has a clear-cut meaning.

Coercing someone differs from motivating someone, even when painful possibilities or realities are used as instruments of motivation. Motivation works with a person’s will. Coercion works to undermine it. Coercion forces one to act involuntarily, without volition or will. It forces a one to act contrary to their nature as a person, as a free moral agent.

We can distinguish coercive interrogation techniques from torture not because torture doesn’t involve coercion – it does – but because not all coercive techniques involve the infliction of severe physical or mental pain. Torture is one type of coercion.

Contrary to Thiessen, I oppose all coercive interrogation techniques, whether or not those techniques fall into the category of torture. Why? Because coercion is a sin against the person; it reduces the one coerced into a mere means to an end, and does so by stripping him of his capacity to make free, moral decisions. To be sure, we may take away a person’s liberty by putting him in prison, but the prisoner is for that imprisonment no less of a free, moral agent, capable of making free, moral decisions. But to coerce a person is to render them less than a person.

Thiessen would call me a radical pacifist for holding this position, a label I wouldn’t be quick to shake off, but he would be more accurate to call me a personalist. Personally, I think a society that disrespects the person is not long for the world.

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134 Comments
  1. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 13, 2010 8:37 am

    For the record, I find to be torture some of the techniques Thiessen insists are merely coercive techniques.

  2. ROB permalink
    January 13, 2010 10:36 am

    Yessireebob, we must not strip those who plot to murder innocents of their capacity to make free moral decisions in furtherence of their planned acts of murder.

  3. Chas permalink
    January 13, 2010 11:17 am

    “Because coercion is a sin against the person; it reduces the one coerced into a mere means to an end, and does so by stripping him of his capacity to make free, moral decisions. To be sure, we may take away a person’s liberty by putting him in prison, but the prisoner is for that imprisonment no less of a free, moral agent, capable of making free, moral decisions. But to coerce a person is to render them less than a person.”

    I deny your premise. Coercion does not of necessity deny the humanity of the person, but may rather presuppose it (coercion is not only for the sake of protecting the others, but preventing aggravation of the sin by its execution), while keeping the common good in view. Further, the good of the individual is necessarily subordinate to the common good in Catholic ethics. How do you ground the premise that coercion is a sin against the personal dignity of the one coerced?

  4. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 13, 2010 11:37 am

    Rob,

    One can prevent, or at least seek to prevent, a person from carrying out acts of murder without using coercion. I’m certainly not saying that we should allow suspected or proven murders to do whatever pleases them. I’m simply saying that we should not rob them of their core capacity to make moral decisions, which is what coercion does. I generally have no complaint against locking up a proven murderer for life or, if he’s shown to possess the willingness to kill again, imprisoning him in solitary confinement. Note, however, that even the person locked alone in a room for life still has the power to make free, moral decisions.

  5. Chas permalink
    January 13, 2010 11:41 am

    I don’t think I understand exactly what you mean by corercion. Please define your term.

  6. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 13, 2010 11:50 am

    Chas,

    True, coercion presupposes the human power to make free, moral decisions. It doesn’t deny this power, but, as I wrote, undermines it.

    One of my premises, which I take from Kant and from Pope John Paul II, is that a human person should never be treated as a mere means to an end, as a mere instrument or tool in my projects, no matter how honorable those projects of mine may be. Coercion reduces a person to a puppet of sorts, under the control and the instrument of the one who coerces. So I reject coercion on that ground. I also reject it because our personal dignity arises, in part, because of what we are: free, rational, moral creatures. By stripping a person of his power to make free, rational, and moral decisions, we sin against his dignity as a human person. The very aim of coercion is to render the coerced incapable of making such decisions.

  7. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 13, 2010 11:57 am

    I’m using the word “coercion” in the narrow sense of forcing someone to do something involuntarily in a way that aims to render him incapable of making free, rational, and moral decisions, of being a moral agent.

  8. January 13, 2010 12:03 pm

    Note that ROB simply assumes that whoever is being interrogated by the government is in fact guilty of the charges with which he is accused. So although the State can’t run a Department of Motor Vehicles with any impressive degree of competency, it can infallibly intuit that someone is a terrorist.

  9. Chas permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:07 pm

    On the one hand, coercion can be preventing a person from an external act, on the other, forcing him to act. In neither case, however, are we dealing with the interior act of the will but only with external actions. Coercion cannot remove the interior freedom of the will. Now, your post is about the second form of coercion, forcing someone to act by divulging information. You maintain that it is always contrary to the dignity of the person to use coercive measures in this way. What you need to do is show that these two types of coercion differ essentially such that one is intrinsically evil. I do not think that is possible.

  10. Chas permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:14 pm

    “in a way that aims to render him incapable of making free, rational, and moral decisions, of being a moral agent.”

    This seems to me a subjective intention on the part of the coercer rather than anything you can point to in the coercive act…

  11. Thales permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:23 pm

    Kyle,
    Interesting theory about coercion.
    Two questions.
    1. Under your view, you don’t have any problem with coercion of children or other people not yet capable of “making free, rational, and moral decisions”, do you?

    2. You don’t have any problem with persuasion, do you? That is, is it alright to persuade a terrorist to reveal information by offering benefits (a nice meal, an extra hour outside his cell, etc.)? What is the essential difference between persuasion and coercion, or, at what point does persuasion become coercion?

  12. David Nickol permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:14 pm

    You can’t be forced to testify against yourself, because of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. However, if you are granted immunity from prosecution for anything you say, you can be forced to tell what you know, and you can be fined or imprisoned if you refuse to testify, or you can be charged with perjury if you don’t testify truthfully. Is this coercion?

    Is plea bargaining coercion?

  13. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:23 pm

    Thales,

    Good questions.

    1) I would have a problem with a parent coercing a child in a sense that he or she seeks to undermine the child’s will; however, I do not have a problem with parents forcing behavior in an effort to form the will. I put my son in time out after his misbehavior because I seek to teach him to use his will to make good decisions. I want him to develop as a human person.

    2) I don’t generally have a problem with interrogation methods that seek to motivate or persuade a suspected terrorist to give information. Whereas coercion, as I’ve defined it, aims to undermine the will, persuasion seeks to move the will. Of course, persuasion can be used immorally to move the will toward evil.

  14. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:35 pm

    David,

    In a broader sense of coercion (using force), yes, but in my narrower sense (using force to undermine the will), no.

  15. David Nickol permalink
    January 13, 2010 2:19 pm

    Kyle,

    I think I am beginning to get the distinction, and I take it you would say sleep deprivation (to muddle the mind), or getting someone drunk, or using “truth serum” (sodium thiopental, aka sodium pentothal), undermines the will.

    “Truth serum” will presumably do a person (either guilty or innocent) no physical or permanent psychological harm. Would you object to it because it undermines the will?

    If somebody knows where the ticking time bomb is, does that person have a right to withhold information from legitimate authorities trying to save lives? Is the right not to have your will undermined superior to the right of other people to live?

  16. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 13, 2010 9:19 pm

    Use of a “truth serum” would not, to my mind, qualify as torture, as no pain, physical or mental, is involved. However, it would seem to undermine the will, and so, to be consistent, I would have to oppose its use. Of course, its use, while I deem it an evil, would be less of an evil than torture.

    I’m hesitant about the language of rights, as I don’t find it an adequate moral language, but in answer to your question, I would say that no, someone who has knowledge of a bomb does not have a right to withhold that information, but then the proper authorities do not have a right to obtain the information by any means necessary.

  17. January 14, 2010 7:33 am

    Once problem with torture and/or coercive interrogation is that it is almost always used on persons who are suspected of having “actionable” information, but have not been convicted of any crime. In Iraq, for instance, many of those subjected to torture (or coercion) were merely picked up in dragnets, or were only suspected of being intimately acquainted with “known terrorists.” Do those of you who are pro-coercion feel that such “fishing” techniques should be legally (and morally) licit? Or should a person need to have been convicted of a crime before being subjected to torture/coercion?

  18. Brian permalink
    January 14, 2010 8:18 am

    Under your definition isn’t putting someone in prison coercion? You are using force to keep them in prison and they can’t exercise moral judegement to get a gun and commit armed robbery.

  19. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 14, 2010 10:19 am

    Brian,

    Prison prevents certain courses of action, e.g., committing armed robbery, but it does not render a person altogether incapable of making moral judgments. Compare prison to a program of sleep deprivation lasting several weeks, which would leave the subject incapable of rational thinking and moral calculation.

  20. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 14, 2010 10:20 am

    Good questions, Rodak.

  21. January 14, 2010 2:24 pm

    Is it coercive to get someone to perform and action or cease to perform one based on the immediate threat of harm?
    Is it coercive to obtain the surrender of a kidnapper and murderer who has taken hostages and already begun to kill some of them by telling him that if he does not give up immediately he will be cut down by a police sniper’s bullet?

  22. January 14, 2010 3:16 pm

    No.

  23. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 14, 2010 3:24 pm

    Does either of those actions aim at making the person act involuntarily or incapable of acting in a rational, voluntary way? If no, then they would not be coercive in the narrow sense I’ve used the term. We could, of course, speak of them as coercive in a broader sense of the word as they use force (or threat of force) to influence another’s decision.

  24. January 14, 2010 3:31 pm

    I think that an aspect of the kind of “coercion” I mean is that the force is being applied to a person who has already been rendered harmless; he is in custody; he is in your control. Now, he may or may not be in possession of information concerning potential future acts which would not, if accomplished, be harmful. You don’t know. If you did know, you wouldn’t need to apply the coercion.
    In this instance, coercion is not the only available course of action. Knowledgeable persons are on record as saying that “befriending” your captive is much more effective and likely to elicit good information than is torture.
    In the scenario you give above the person is in the act of harming others. He is not in your power and he is not helpless. I think that this is a major distinction.

  25. January 14, 2010 3:33 pm

    Correction: my second sentence above should read “he may or may not be in possession of information concerning potential future acts which WOULD, if accomplished, be harmful.” Sorry for the confusion.

  26. January 18, 2010 9:40 am

    I believe that a terrorist in custody who withholds information to aid in a threat against civilian holds the power and holds the cards that are the key to stopping the threat against innocent civilians and indeed are still a threat both to civilians but even to the place where they are being detained as well. I do not believe that the terrorist is powerless since he controls the key to the information that will in fact harm innocent lives. In a scenario where the CIA agents only have a limited amount of time and cannot court him to talking I believe that coercion is the only possible way to obtain information.

  27. January 18, 2010 9:57 am

    Oops! Teresa wrote the above comment but either she did not change the name or the computer messed with her (it messes with me all the time).

    What she wrote is better than what I would have written. I will only add that I think a terrorist who is involved in a plot and who could stop it with a phone call or by imparting the information he has to authorities is not rendered harmless merely by being physically captured and detained. The idea that the only significant threat of harm a person like that can pose is the physical harm he can dole out in his immediate vicinity with fists, feet, blades, bullets or chest-strapped booby-trap bombs is a crude one. Even captured and personally disarmed, he remains a threat as long as he withholds the information necessary to eliminate the danger. By withholding that information, he continues to participate in murder and mayhem.

  28. January 18, 2010 10:43 am

    You speak of “the terrorist” in custody. Are you limiting your comments, then, to persons who have been tried and convicted of an act of terrorism? If that had been the case, then presumably most, or all, of that person’s relevant information would already have come into the hands of authorities in the course of investigation and trial. Or are you willing to torture men and women in order simply to find out if they might have information that could be used to stop future acts of terror? In other words, are you willing to risk torturing the innocent in order to prevent a hypothetical future event, which other events might well conspire to prevent in any case?
    And for how long after a person is taken into custody can it be expected that his information will remain “actionable?” If he is a “terrorist” and it is known that he’s been captured, won’t his fellow terrorists realize that he may be disclosing information–with or without having been tortured–and altered their plans?
    Do you completely discount those veteran interrogators who insist that torture is a poor way to get good information? Have you forgotten about all those “witches,” back in the day, who confessed to having sex with devils under torture?
    Finally, will you risk losing your soul in order to protect the security of your world?

  29. January 18, 2010 12:23 pm

    My answer to nearly all of your questions is NO, except for ‘If he is a “terrorist” and it is known that he’s been captured, won’t his fellow terrorists realize that he may be disclosing information–with or without having been tortured–and altered their plans?’. My answer to that is “Not necessarily.” But I am concerned with real terrorists, not “terrorists” with dismissive scare quotes.

    To put it as succinctly as I can, I do not believe that coercion or even torture is always wrong, necessarily and intrinsically. But that hardly makes me an enthusiastic supporter of torture, does it? I am not in favor of using these techniques as a matter of policy just to find out whether a terror suspect is the kind of sustained threat that would justify using these techniques on him in order to render him truly harmless.

  30. January 18, 2010 12:33 pm

    I am not for the willy-nilly use of coercion. I don’t believe our government targets perceived non-threats in a willy-nilly fashion either. When a terrorist is known to be hiding a plot that he is involved in or that other terrorists are planning I believe that it is in our country’s national security interests and the country’s duty to find out the truth about the terrorist plot. And, if that means allowing the use of coercion in those circumstances in order to neutralize the threat and stop terrorists from harming or killing many innocents than I can in good conscience allow those techniques to be used on rare occasions and I believe my soul can take solace in the fact that our brave men and women are doing all they can to prevent innocnt lives from being killed.

  31. David Nickol permalink
    January 18, 2010 12:39 pm

    Rodak,

    You have tossed aside the premises of the two messages written under the name of Kevin Rice and are criticizing an argument other than the one they made. They’re talking about the ticking time bomb scenario, and the premises are that you know the person in custody is a terrorist, you know there is a ticking time bomb, and you know the terrorist has, and is withholding, the information about how to disarm the bomb.

    The presumption of innocence is an important principle in our legal system, but it is very limited. It does not prevent the proper authorities from apprehending and imprisoning suspects. And suppose one or several persons were holding a group of hostages and executing one per day until their demands were met. If the only way to put an end to the hostage situation were to kill the hostage takers, they would not be protected by the presumption of innocence.

    Also, the Rice messages talk of coercion, and you talk of torture. I think we have established that “truth serum” would be considered coercion. The ticking time bomb scenario is usually used to raise ethical questions about torture, but in this case the Rice messages do not specify torture, and Kyle Kupp’s original post specifically sets aside questions of torture in order to consider other techniques of coercive interrogation.

    The ticking time bomb scenario is very unlikely, but it is not impossible. I don’t think we should base our laws on highly unlikely scenarios. I do not think it is difficult to imagine situations in which all the premises of the ticking time bomb scenario are present and one is faced with a situation where you have someone in custody whom you know possesses knowledge that, if extracted, will allow you to save innocent lives. There are any number of television shows that invent variations on the ticking time bomb scenario once a week.

  32. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 18, 2010 1:45 pm

    A few thoughts on the recent comments:

    1. It’s fair to consider a known terrorist in custody as dangerous and a wielder of power, and we’d be naïve to consider him otherwise, but those realities or potentialities do not negate the fact that the terrorist is in custody and that his being in custody ethically prohibits certain actions against him that might be called for on the battlefield.

    2. If coercion and torture can be justly used or are sometimes the only means available to save innocent lives, why keep their use to a minimum? Why use them rarely? If they are effective methods for keeping us safe, why not use them more often?

    3. I’ve been following the debate over interrogation techniques for some time, and what I (and others) have noticed is that the people who once justified coercion and sometimes torture (yes, by that name) in cases of the “ticking-time-bomb scenario” now justify their use in many more situations. What was argued for as the exception is now argued for as the rule. Why? Perhaps because if torture and coercion are acceptable (if not good) actions to keep us safe in the one situation, then it’s difficult to say why they should be avoided, morally speaking, in many other situations.

    4. I cannot stress enough that the aim of keeping us safe cannot alone make means and methods aimed at safety just, not without embracing a moral relativism in which the realm of self-defense is held outside the moral law. Just because an action keeps us safe doesn’t make the action just. We may even find ourselves in a situation in which it seems the only way of saving lives is to commit a truly evil act. That situation doesn’t render the evil act good.

  33. Rodak permalink
    January 18, 2010 3:04 pm

    David–
    Under our system of law, a suspect does not have to answer any question which would incriminate him; much less should he fear being tortured. We can stick to what made us great, or “we” can become like “them.”
    Moreover, I don’t see that the two Kevins have restricted their tolerance for torture to the “ticking bomb scenario.” Nor have the Americans who have been using “enhanced interrogation” techniques. There has not been, and almost never would be, such a scenario in the real world.
    All of that said, the ends don’t justify the means for moral agents. For amoral and pragmatic materialists, they do.

  34. David Nickol permalink
    January 18, 2010 4:32 pm

    All of that said, the ends don’t justify the means for moral agents.

    Rodak,

    This is such a cliche and a cop out. If the end don’t justify the means, what does? Now, not any end justifies any means. And some means may never be justified. But some are justifiable. The principle of double effect is invoked frequently in Catholic discussions. If a woman is pregnant and wants to get rid of the baby, she may not do so. If a pregnant woman has cancer of the uterus and removing the uterus (along with the baby, which will surely die) is necessary to save her life, the end (saving her life) justifies the means (removing the uterus even though the baby will die). The end justifies proportionate means. The Church (at least up until very recently) endorsed capital punishment — but not for shoplifting. It is a case of the end, in extreme circumstances, justifying extreme means.

    Under our system of law, a suspect does not have to answer any question which would incriminate him;

    Grant him immunity from prosecution. He no longer has a Fifth Amendment right to withhold what he knows. This has been affirmed by the Supreme Court.

    What Kevin and Teresa are saying, as I read them, is that there are some circumstances in which coercion (they never used the word torture may be used to extract life-saving information from a known, would-be murderer. I think there is a reasonable argument that torture may never be used (although I don’t necessarily agree with it), but this thread is about any form of coercion, and I don’t agree that something like truth serum, or hypnosis, or some other means to subvert the will is always impermissible.

    Suppose a lie-detector test could be administered that would reveal the information against the terrorist’s will. Would that be impermissible?

  35. David Nickol permalink
    January 18, 2010 4:44 pm

    Just because an action keeps us safe doesn’t make the action just.

    Kyle,

    But just because an action is one that should be used only under extreme circumstances does not make it evil. Police use deadly force too often, in my opinion, but I would not argue it is never justified. I can imagine situations in which police snipers would be justified in killing someone holding hostages and executing them one by one. But not every hostage situation need be ended by killing the hostage taker. And deadly force is certainly not justifiable to stop a shoplifter or some other petty criminal in the act.

    It seems reasonable to me to say that authorities must limit themselves to the use of proportionate means, and in a ticking time bomb situation, those means may be more extreme than in many other situations.

    If someone who has been granted immunity refuses to testify in court and is held in contempt, does imprisoning them indefinitely until they will talk constitute coercion?

  36. January 18, 2010 5:07 pm

    Actually in the real world the “ticking time bomb” does exist today. Realists understand the grave threat that these terrorists pose to this world, unlike normative thinkers who do not live in the reality or the now, and want us to live in a fantasy land that that they believe should exist.

    amoral is being against saving lives. People who force their morality of the normative state, and make judgments that allow others to die, instead of facing the reality of the threat, are not facing the reality of the threat like rational human beings. In addition, people who perceive that they are taking a moral high ground even though that moral high ground may in effect aid in or allow the killing of innocent lives may be relying on theories of peace from a textbook that is not applicable in the real world. Using coercion is along the same lines as self-defense but national security is much more important because that affects more lives.

  37. January 18, 2010 5:15 pm

    “This is such a cliche and a cop out.”

    It’s an abbreviation, but neither a cliche’ nor a cop-out. It is usually understood to mean that instrinsically evil means never justify even the best of ends. If one does not believe torture to be intrinsically evil, then one will use it with impunity, to be sure. If there is a price to be paid for that, it probably won’t be paid in this life.
    All of the torture advocates commenting here keep putting forth scenarios in which violent means are used to subdue evildoers who are free and in the act of harming others; no argument with that.
    The scenario in which the alleged terrorist is in custody, however, raises completely different issues. Granting a prisoner immunity so as to be able to torture him is a drastic perversion of our rule of law. Does he have the right not to accept that immunity? Are you really proposing to torture him, and then set him free because he can’t be prosecuted for his involvement in the crimes you force him to talk about? The hypotheticals that the torture advocates introduce to the discussion may make good debating points, but they seem to bear little relevance to what might reasonably be expected to transpire in the real world.

  38. January 18, 2010 5:21 pm

    “People who force their morality of the normative state, and make judgments that allow others to die, instead of facing the reality of the threat, are not facing the reality of the threat like rational human beings.”

    We are all going to die. And some of us, unfortunately, are going to die violently. Would you also ban the ownership and use of private automobiles because of the certainty that thousands of people will be killed on the highways every year? The world is not safe place to live. Never will be. But it is a place in which one can choose to live morally, even if that means accepting some risk.

  39. Alien Shore permalink
    January 18, 2010 5:22 pm

    The principle of double effect is indeed invoked in Catholic discussions precisely because the ends do not justify the means. That’s not a cop out on Rodak’s part. St. Paul said that one may not do evil that good may come.

    First, double effect is more concerned with ends than means. Basically, an evil or undesirable end can be tolerated if the good end intended is proportionate or greater. However, those who invoke double effect are quick to point out that the means used to achieve the desired good end must itself be moral or at least neutral.

    In the example you give of the cancerous uterus, the means is a surgical procedure to remove the uterus. The intended end is to remove the cancer and save the life of the woman. The end tolerated is that the fetus will also die. But, those Catholics who invoke double effect would typically tell you that a direct abortion is never justified, even for a good end such as saving a mother’s life.

    Sure, certain extreme ends might call for extreme means. But it is not on that basis that the means finds its moral justification.

    That is basic Catholic moral teaching.

  40. January 18, 2010 5:40 pm

    Alien,
    You mention the intension with regards to double effect and the removal of the uterus in order to save a person’s life.

    It seems to me that coercive techniques being used to save innocent lives is also making use of a good intension- the intension to save lives.

  41. January 18, 2010 5:53 pm

    You comparing automobiles with terrorists is nonsensical. There is a HUGE difference between automobile accidents and terrorists or terrorist attacks. Automobile accidents are just that, accidents, whereas terrorist attacks are well thought and purposeful. Are you saying that we should ignore a kidnapping because what the heck it might be the kids time to die? Or a teenager in a car accident? Oops, no medical help for you because you might as well die sooner than later. Your above statement is extremely callous.

    So, you don’t think that every life is precious.

  42. Alien Shore permalink
    January 18, 2010 7:02 pm

    Teresa,

    Correct. The end in view, or intention, is to save innocent lives. So if the principle that the ends doesn’t justify the means is true, whether a given “coercive technique” is justifiable is not able to be determined by the intention.

    You seem to be saying that a good intention is the means (i.e. “making use of a good intension”). I don’t see, at least in Catholic moral theology, that a good intention–and end–can be converted to become the means. One does not “make use” of the desire to save innocent lives to save innocent lives. One makes use of a means in order to achieve a desired end. So I would disagree that employing coercive techniques is identical to making use of a good intention. That would seem to conflate means with ends.

  43. David Nickol permalink
    January 18, 2010 7:30 pm

    Are you really proposing to torture him . . .

    Rodak,

    I am willing to grant (at least for the sake of this discussion) that torture is intrinsically evil, and consequently is never allowable. However, what I am discussing here is this statement Kyle Kupp’ made: “I oppose all coercive interrogation techniques, whether or not those techniques fall into the category of torture.” He has, in effect, declared all coercive techniques to be intrinsically evil. Is the use of truth serum or hypnosis intrinsically evil? I don’t know how that can be maintained. Kupp says, “To be sure, we may take away a person’s liberty by putting him in prison, but the prisoner is for that imprisonment no less of a free, moral agent, capable of making free, moral decisions.” Try telling a person who is imprisoned for contempt of court for refusing to testify that imprisonment is not coercion. It is, and it is intended to be. Remember Susan McDougal, who wouldn’t answer three questions about Whitewater? She spent 18 months in prison for refusing to talk. Remember Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who refused to reveal a source and spent 85 days in jail because of it? Here is a quote from Wikipedia:

    The civil sanction for contempt (which is typically incarceration in the custody of the sheriff or similar court officer) is limited in its imposition for so long as the disobedience to the court’s order continues: once the party complies with the court’s order, the sanction is lifted. The imposed party is said to “hold the keys” to his or her own cell, thus conventional due process is not required. The burden of proof for civil contempt, however, is a preponderance of the evidence, and punitive sanctions (punishment) can only be imposed after due process.

    Incarceration for contempt of court is clearly coercive, and I can’t see how Kupp is going to consider it justifiable if a person may never be coerced to tell what they know.

  44. January 18, 2010 7:39 pm

    In a non-Catholic view or in a realist view, I must disagree since the use of coercion intention would be to save multiple lives whereas the unintentional killing of a life is in order to save one life. I think the benefits of using coercive techniques outweighs the risks. Plus, the benefits of the use of coercive techniques could be great as opposed to the detriment to life if not used.

  45. Rodak permalink
    January 18, 2010 7:54 pm

    David–
    Susan McDougall, it seems to me, illustrates and supports Kyle’s argument, rather than yours. Although she was imprisoned, she remained free NOT to testify. Her will was not coerced, although her freedom of movement was severly curtailed. In prison, she continued to do that which she was doing prior to prison, which was to refuse to cooperate with the demands of the court. Had she been administered a truth serum, or been hypnotised, her will would have been suborned, in effect, by force; this would have been a violation of her human dignity and, from a Christian viewpoint, a sin.

  46. Rodak permalink
    January 18, 2010 7:56 pm

    NOTE: I meant to say it would have been “an evil”–although, for someone, it would also have been a sin, I suppose…

  47. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 18, 2010 8:37 pm

    David,

    You wrote:

    But just because an action is one that should be used only under extreme circumstances does not make it evil.

    I agree.

    In response to your question about whether or not imprisoning someone who refuses to testify in court constitutes coercion, I think it depends. Certainly in the broad meaning of coercion it qualifies. The court is attempting to force a person to testify. However, I’m not sure the aim or the effect is to render the person incapable of making free, rational decisions. I suppose if someone had a great fear of prison to where imprisoning him would cause such mental or emotional anguish that the person began to lose the capacity for free, rational decision making, then I would consider the imprisonment coercive in the narrow sense to which always and everywhere I object.

    I should add that my saying something is intrinsically evil doesn’t necessarily mean that it is very, very bad. I think use of a truth serum would be immoral because of what it does not a person’s will, but I don’t hold it to be as grave a matter as, say, torture, or even necessarily as some actions that are not intrinsically, but are rather conditionally evil.

  48. Alien Shore permalink
    January 18, 2010 8:58 pm

    Teresa,

    I believe we are talking past one another here. First, I’m not sure what you are disagreeing with since I didn’t state a position with regard to the rightness or wrongness of coercion. What I did was to say that the intention to save lives and the means employed are not the same. Calling it a “coercion intention” doesn’t change that. I can intend to coerce someone to achieve the intention, or end, of saving lives. In the context of this discussion, one is not so much intending to coerce as if coercing were the end to be achieved. Another way to say it, I may intend to employ coercion as a means to the end of saving lives. An end can be an intention, but not all intentions are ends in terms of double effect.

    I was replying to a previous comment on double effect. Because this is a Catholic blog and double effect is present more so in Catholic moral reasoning, I referred to Catholic moral thought. But double effect is not foreign to moral philosophy in general. It is not exclusively the property of Catholic moral thought. If we are appealing to double effect, then we need to use it correctly. My original response to you was because you suggested in light of double effect, that coercion was “making use” of the intention to save lives, essentially converting an end to a means. Regardless of whether Kyle is right about coercion, what I was pointing out is that your use of double effect was not in keeping with the principle itself. When you are talking about unintentional killing, coercion, saving lives and so on, you need to identify, if you appeal to double effect, which is an means, which is an intended end, and which is an unintended end. You are essentially tossing the terms around trying to get them to fit without any real regard to the formal structure of double effect.

    For the record, I think (along with Anscombe) that double effect, while a valid form, has been the most abused and misused principle among Catholic moral thinkers. When misused I think it can help one avoid difficult moral issues. Not good.

    Lastly, I have no idea what you mean by a non-Catholic or realist view. What non-Catholic view are you appealing to? They are not all a single piece. Plus, what do you mean by realist? In Catholic moral theology, especially conservative, realism is generally considered to be the Catholic position. At least metaphysically. I am going to deduce that by realism you just mean the way the “real world” is out there. Discussing the realities of the world is neither Catholic or non-catholic necessarily.

    In any case, the “real world” shows us that the abstract principles of moral reasoning don’t always fit neatly. Yet, we do not jettison moral reasoning on that account. Your approach from what I have read on this thread seems to be more of a consequentialist approach–i.e. we don’t want this bad thing (and killing innocent lives is indeed bad) so anything that stops this bad thing is good by that fact. In the theological/philosophical sense, this position is anything but realist. In the sense of the “real world out there” a better approach than consequentialism might be what I would call a “phronetic” approach. Following Aristotle, Paul Ricoeur referred to the role of phronesis, or practical judgment, when addressing that gray area between the objective, abstract moral principle and the real world situations that don’t easily fit into the idea.

    Ricoeur’s approach (which I can’t explain here. I’ve already gone on too long) takes seriously moral reasoning while recognizing the difficulties presented by that pesky real world. Yet he does it without falling prey to dogmatism with regard to the abstract nor does he fall prey to the consequentialism which is an easy out when moral principles don’t fit nicely.

    And I thought Kyle might enjoy a Ricoeur reference since he is clearly a Ricoeur enthusiast (as I am). :-)

    Of course, I may be wrong as to what you mean by realist. If you mean it in the philosophical sense, you are wrong and my point stands. If you mean it in the sense that I have described about the “real world” then you are wrong and my point stands.

  49. Gerald A. Naus permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:17 am

    Torture usually doesn’t render valid results. Not when the Catholic Church did it, nor now that the US engages in it. People will confess to anything just to make the pain stop – in the Middle East, being gay is one thing men frequently “confess” to, in addition to a laundry list of crimes.

    Frequently, the tortured will implicate others, no matter if they’re guilty or not. They then vanish into one of the CIA planes, without charge, without lawyer, without rights. This is what the US always claimed to be against. To
    it’s credit, the military did not want to get involved in it – as far back as the Revolutionary War, the US prided itself on treating prisoners well. The US had worked to outlaw torture, then Bush changed the definition of torture.

    The degree of sickness is astonishing, the humiliation, sleep deprival, sexual degredation, electro shocks, keeping people in coffins, you name it. All done by the US and its allies. Some things are so atrocious, even the Bush pack outsourced it (even while calling Syria axis of evil material, renditions were going on, suspects delivered to a special hell in Damascus.) the connections to former US-sponsored torturers helped, too – contractors from Latin America, what Cheney called the Salvador option.

    CIA agents who resigned over the horrors state that, no matter how repulsive it
    might be, showing a suspect respect goes a long way. It’s idiotic to think by destroying their Korans their hearts and minds will be won.

    Not to mention that committing vile acts damages the perpetrator, too. When you look into an abyss, the abyss will also look into you. The US simply has lost any credibility when
    it comes to human rights. It belongs next to Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, after all they’re doing the dirty work for the US (as well as some Eastern European countries – you know, not the derided “Old Europe.”$

  50. David Nickol permalink
    January 19, 2010 9:20 am

    Gerald,

    Is torture evil only when the US and its allies do it? Or is it evil when Iran, Pakistan, Russia, China, North Korea, and Al-Qaeda do it?

    I condemn the use of torture by the United States, but you make it sound like if you had a choice, you would rather deal with al-Qaeda justice than US justice.

  51. January 19, 2010 10:41 am

    David–
    That’s a cheap shot. Self-criticism does not in any way imply endorsement of the practices of any other group.

  52. David Nickol permalink
    January 19, 2010 11:47 am

    That’s a cheap shot. Self-criticism does not in any way imply endorsement of the practices of any other group.

    Rodak,

    It is not “self-criticism” to be constantly harping about how horrible the United States is without acknowledging that it is in a battle with a ruthless, evil organization that is bent on killing Americans, whether they be military or civilian, wherever in the world they are. To the best of my knowledge, Gerald is not in the United States, and whatever his citizenship is, he is not speaking as an American criticizing his own country.

  53. January 19, 2010 11:57 am

    It is hypocritical to apply different standards to other countries around the world with regards to International laws and International laws opposition to torture and then apply a different standard to the United States and other leading countries (members of G-8) in the world. Instead of penalizing the U.S. while applying justifications for its use by other countries around the globe the laws must be consistent for all of the countries around the world.

  54. January 19, 2010 12:13 pm

    Okay, David–If you have knowledge that Gerald is not an American, so be it. I, nonetheless, agree with him. And I AM an American. What I said stands.

  55. David Nickol permalink
    January 19, 2010 12:38 pm

    Rodak,

    I have no problem whatsoever with your statement: “Self-criticism does not in any way imply endorsement of the practices of any other group.” I am not objecting to self-criticism. I am objecting to criticizing the United States alone. I think the United States went seriously astray under the Bush administration when it came to handling prisoners. However, I hope you would acknowledge that they were acting in response to a totally unjustifiable attack on civilians without any knowledge about what might be coming next. I agree that the United States should stick to its principles when fighting a ruthless enemy, but I do acknowledge that the United States really is fighting a ruthless enemy, and justifiably so. Extraordinary measures are justified, but not all extraordinary measures.

    Let me put it this way. If the United States were to ask me to help fight al-Qaeda, and simultaneously al-Qaeda were to ask me to fight the United States, if I had to choose, there would be no question that I would side with the United States. I wouldn’t maintain some kind of moral equivalence between the United States and al-Qaeda.

  56. Rodak permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:05 pm

    “I wouldn’t maintain some kind of moral equivalence between the United States and al-Qaeda.”

    Oh, please. Climb down off it. The United States has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in fighting its never-ending series of wars in the past century. What were Hiroshima and Nagasaki, if not state terrorism? Japan was already defeated; the targets were civilians. Certainly the second bomb, if not the first, was unnecessary.

    Moral equivalence is as moral equivalence does.

    My position is that we should be much, much better than we’ve been to-date. And I make no apology to you, or to anybody else, for holding that opinion.
    Come to me when your hands are clean, and I’ll praise you to the skies.

  57. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:21 pm

    Here’s a disturbing investigative report by Scott Horton that three deaths at Guantanamo ruled suicides by the official narrative may not have been suicides at all. Evidence suggests our government may have tortured people to death and covered up the evidence.

  58. January 19, 2010 1:29 pm

    My best guess there is that they tortured one of the men to death, perhaps accidentally, and then just murdered the other two in cold blood to make certain that the story was never told. It stretches credibility to think that they simultaneously killed all three inadvertantly.

  59. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:35 pm

    It’s good to see the U.S. MSM is all over the story.

  60. January 19, 2010 1:42 pm

    It seems like Scott Horton’s report is supposition and not filled with any evidence to prove that these terrorists actually did not commit suicide. These terrorists were already on a hunger strike so the possibility that they actually did commit suicide and that the report is correct is very likely.

    The MSM will pick up any story with an anti-american agenda to it. Today, the “green” movement is the old “red” movement. Communism is arising in our country and destroying our country because of the MSM, the Democrats and their ilk.

  61. January 19, 2010 1:44 pm

    It is, indeed.

  62. David Nickol permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:44 pm

    My position is that we should be much, much better than we’ve been to-date.

    Rodak,

    I don’t disagree with that. But if I thought the United States taken as a whole was no better than al-Qaeda taken as a whole, I would move to another country. There is a difference between being deeply flawed and being dedicated to evil.

  63. Gerald A. Naus permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:54 pm

    I live near San Francisco. Born in Austria, married to an American from Ohio. I’m a permanent resident. Of course, none of that is relevant. Your nativism is rather sad, what’s next, “go back to Russia, boy” ?

    Other governments murdering and torturing doesn’t change a thing. There’s no medal for being better than North Korea. I observe frequently how people identify government with country – and thereby defend the former. It’s a godsend for criminals.

    What makes the US system so despicable is the claim to moral superiority when in reality it’s just another aggressive empire.

    US courts have been dismissing law suits re: torture, citing state secrets. The secret being torture, of course. How can a country bring “freedom and democracy” to anyone when it eroded its own long-cherished principles ? Torturing innocents, no legal recourse, no lawyer, no charge. that’s a banana republic.

    In a just world, Bush and Cheney would be sitting in Den Haag on war crimes charges. To defend the American system because one happened to have been born here seems second nature, and I’m sure it’s common in all countries. The problem starts with identifying with a country to begin with.

  64. January 19, 2010 2:10 pm

    In my book, Bush and Cheney are my heroes, and if people had an understanding of what it takes to win a war, like in WWII and in previous wars, than Bush and Cheney would be revered as heroes around the world also, instead of the MSM compromising our national security by leaking classified documents and in doing so, aiding our enemies while allowing our enemy to cause grave harm to our brave men and women serving overseas and protecting our country from harm.

  65. January 19, 2010 3:35 pm

    “There is a difference in being deeply flawed and being dedicated to evil.”

    If one is dedicated to one’s deep flaws, and those flaws are evil, then there is no such difference.

  66. David Nickol permalink
    January 19, 2010 3:36 pm

    I live near San Francisco. Born in Austria, married to an American from Ohio. I’m a permanent resident.

    Gerald,

    I have two basic points regarding your messages. First, you seem to be saying that the United States is morally no better than al-Qaeda. Two, wherever you live, and whatever your citizenship, when you criticize the United States, it is not “self-criticism.” I am more than willing to criticize the United States. I think Bush and Cheney did serious damage to the country. But I don’t believe the United States and al-Qaeda are morally equivalent. I don’t think it is necessary to be an American to be of that opinion. The NATO countries and the United Nations don’t seem to see a moral equivalence between the United States and al-Qaeda.

    You are certainly entitled to your own opinion, but I don’t take your criticism of the United States to be “self-criticism,” and it does seem to me you seem to delight in criticizing the United States in a way you don’t in criticizing other countries (if you do so at all).

    I agree with you a lot of the time, and I enjoy the way you needle people when you disagree with them, except in this case your needling gets to me. But I promise not to try to have you booted out of the country as long as you oppose Proposition 8.

  67. David Nickol permalink
    January 19, 2010 3:52 pm

    In my book, Bush and Cheney are my heroes . . . .

    OMG!

    I take back anything I said that might be construed to support Kevin Rice and Teresa! Bush was a terrible president, and largely because of Cheney. I am willing to support coercive interrogation in theory, but virtually everything Bush-Cheney did in terms of handling prisoners was not merely wrong, but counterproductive.

    There may someday be a ticking time bomb, but there has not been yet, and to use ticking time bomb tactics in the absence of a real ticking time bomb threat is totally unjustified.

  68. January 19, 2010 4:15 pm

    There is a huge difference in using flaws to both allay people’s fears and using them to fight terrorists(flaws as perceived by others) (some would consider what others call flaws in actuality necessities to win wars) and Al-Qaeda which is using its evil to kill innocent civilians.

    Or do you believe that there is a moral equivalency between innocent civilians and terrorists?

    The terrorists are using evil to kill innocent civilians, whereas the Bush administration was using all neccessary means to fight that evil. Besides, I consider people who are willing to sacrifice themselves and be suicide bombers as violating their own humanity and possibly entering a sub-human category that deserves any type of harsh interrogation methods as such as is necessary to provide for the United States’s national security interests. We have no obligation, as a nation, to consider our enemies so-called human rights or their feelings being hurt as human rights organizations would have you believe. This is about winning war and we cannot let human rights organizations dictate how we fight a war, or lose the war due to them pleasing terrorists.

  69. January 19, 2010 4:28 pm

    @David
    First, my husband thinks to at least to some degree differently than me regarding Bush and Cheney.

    But, I believe in certain circumstances where there is a “ticking time bomb” scenario or where there is a limited amount of time to follow up on a threat and to stop that threat than I believe coercive techniques of all kinds are justified to use on the terrorist. As much as I am glad that the poll showed 58% of Americans wanting the underwear bomber to be water-boarded and people realizing the reality of fighting a war and the threat posed against our nation, I don’t think that the underwear bomber was of high-value, like KSM was, so I don’t see it as a necessity to water-board him.

    But, I do think considering 9/11, which was an Act of War, and all the issues surrounding that event after that tragic event, that Bush and Cheney did the right thing and the necessary things to protect this country. Obama has weakened this country greatly and as you saw on Christmas Day, the terrorists are taking advantage of his weak presidency.

  70. David Nickol permalink
    January 19, 2010 4:33 pm

    We have no obligation, as a nation, to consider our enemies so-called human rights or their feelings being hurt as human rights organizations would have you believe.

    Teresa,

    We followed the first three of the four Geneva Conventions in our fight against Hitler, and all four of them through the Cold War. Everyone has basic human rights, otherwise they wouldn’t be called “human rights.”

    Extreme times call for extreme measures, but they don’t call for pitching human rights and American values out the window. If we go down that road, the United States really will become as bad as Gerald and Rodak claim it is.

  71. David Nickol permalink
    January 19, 2010 4:42 pm

    Obama has weakened this country greatly and as you saw on Christmas Day, the terrorists are taking advantage of his weak presidency.

    Teresa,

    Al-Qaeda is reduced to putting lone individuals on airplanes with explosives (that don’t explode) in their underpants, and you say Obama has weakened the country?

    I think it is playing right into the hands of al-Qaeda to make a big deal of the failed attack on Christmas. Terrorists want to intimidate, and if you are frightened by not having absolutely perfect security, then they have won.

  72. January 19, 2010 4:48 pm

    @David

    First, EIT’s and the actual torture committed prior to the Iraq war are on way different levels. Plus, The Japanese waterboarding was of a different method than the United States used. There is a huge difference in using certain unconventional methods in order to save innocent lives and the terrorists beheading a reporter or soldier, in fact targeting innocent civilians.

    In WWII, there were NO reporters that could endanger the Nation’s national security interests. And, who knows exactly what techniques were used during that war that people don’t know of. But, now most of our hidden secrets that aided in our national security interests are shot to heck because of the MSM and their anti-american sentiments.

  73. January 19, 2010 4:56 pm

    David,
    Its not just that terrorist attack but also, the Ft. Hood terroist shooting. But, there are other signs of Obama’s weakness in office, like treating terrorists as civilian criminals. That is unconsionable. Never, in the history of this country has an enemy combatant that has been captured on a foreign battlefield been considered a mere common criminal.

    I am not frightened. Just pointing out the weakened security. But, I am ambivolent on whether we should have body scanners or not.

    National Defense does not go against our American values.

  74. Joshua Brockway permalink
    January 19, 2010 6:36 pm

    “Never, in the history of this country has an enemy combatant.”

    Where is the War…Congress has not declared war. Even if they did, what state would be the Enemy? We are talking about a stateless, loose coalition of people. How is Hasan an enemy. He has no links to funding by Al Qaeda. At most he is a domestic terrorist…akin to McVeigh.

    So if these “enemy combatants” are not common criminals, does this mean their punishment is somehow worse? Is the Geneva Convention wrong for placing limits on what a state can do to a prisoner of war? Even the Nazi’s were tried as criminals, in a court with representation with expectations of rights.

    No, National Defense does not go against our values…but the WAY we are defended can. (But apparently David thinks this is a cop out, which is a debate for a whole other thread).

  75. January 19, 2010 7:45 pm

    @Joshua

    It is proven that Hasan had ties to al-Qaeda. http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2009/11/09/abc-fort-hood-shooter-hasan-tried-contact-al-qaeda

    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/fort-hood-shooter-contact-al-qaeda-terrorists-officials/story?id=9030873

    Since you state that there is no one particular country that is our enemy than the Geneva Convention does not apply. There needs to be a new convention that specificallly focuses on terrorists and the threat of terrorism. These terrorists do not use conventional warfare and do not wear uniforms and follow warfare rules so the United States must accomodate its strategy and do whatever is necessary to kill these evil terrorists, and thus should come a new Treaty focusing on terrorists or Muslim Jihadists.

    The Trials at Nuremberg were Military Tribunals.http://nhs.needham.k12.ma.us/cur/Baker_00/03-04/Baker-scl-cap-3-04/nuremberg_war_crimes_trial.htm

    Like there would have been already if it hadn’t been for Eric Holder and his cronies. http://teresamerica.blogspot.com/2009/12/eric-holder-and-his-leftist-comrades.html

    So, Justice would have already been served if it wasn’t for Eric Holder and his comrades defending terrorists por bono.

    Military court is far different than a civilian court.

  76. Gerald A. Naus permalink
    January 19, 2010 8:14 pm

    “certain unconventional methods”

    Teresa Orwell, I presume ?

    There also is little difference between intentionally killing civilians or accepting the fact that my actions are going to kill them, day after day, without any good reason. Murder 1 vs Murder 2.

  77. Joshua Brockway permalink
    January 19, 2010 8:26 pm

    So Al Qaeda funded and trained a lone gun man? Just because he sought out the group does not mean he was Al Qaeda.

    I am not even going to touch your dismissal of the AG. I am sorry but the office deserves more respect than that.

    Now, please explain to me how a military court is far different, and apparently better, than a civilian court.

  78. David Nickol permalink
    January 19, 2010 8:27 pm

    Military court is far different than a civilian court.

    Military justice is to justice as military music is to music.

  79. January 19, 2010 8:37 pm

    “…accepting the fact that my actions are going to kill them…”

    There it is; there is the crux at which we make an idol of our “flaws.”

  80. Joshua Brockway permalink
    January 19, 2010 9:10 pm

    “Military justice is to justice as military music is to music.”

    Does that mean it needs a good Sousaphone?

  81. January 19, 2010 9:18 pm

    Yes, justice would have been served to terrorists in Gitmo if it wasn’t for AG Holder and his comrades aiding the terrorists by donating many, many hours pro bono.

  82. January 20, 2010 12:31 pm

    Are you using the word “justice” where the word “vengeance” is what’s really intended? How is justice diverted by providing defendents with legal representation? Let us not forget that Gitmo is (pace, Cuban sovereignty) technically American soil.

  83. January 20, 2010 1:10 pm

    “These terrorists do not use conventional warfare and do not wear uniforms and follow warfare rules so the United States must accomodate its strategy and do whatever is necessary to kill these evil terrorists, and thus should come a new Treaty focusing on terrorists or Muslim Jihadists.”

    And so, we cannot fight them as a conventional enemy.

  84. January 20, 2010 1:19 pm

    Asymmetrical warriors share one fundamental thing with the uniformed troops of a regular military force: they are human beings, made in the image of their Creator.

  85. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 20, 2010 1:33 pm

    Exactly, Rodak.

  86. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 20, 2010 1:33 pm

    And so, we cannot fight them as a conventional enemy.

    Can you expound upon that, Liberty?

  87. January 20, 2010 2:32 pm

    Dear God, I come back from vacation and wonder what has happened here? For here, on Vox Nova, on Catholic blog, I see people arguing that Bush and Cheney are heroes for torturing people, and that the US state should not accord human rights to “enemies”. I’m sorry, but this is as much a violation of the gospel as claiming that abortion is a good thing.

  88. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 20, 2010 2:50 pm

    Indeed, MM. Indeed.

  89. David Nickol permalink
    January 20, 2010 3:09 pm

    Morning’s Minion,

    The lesson is obvious. You must never go on vacation again.

  90. January 20, 2010 3:10 pm

    MM – Ding ding ding. These people are republicans first. The kind of people for whom the term “republicatholic” was coined.

  91. David Nickol permalink
    January 20, 2010 3:28 pm

    Unfortunately, we have strayed from the discussion, in which it was taken for granted (at least for the sake of argument) that torture was never permitted, and the question was raised as to whether any coercive interrogation was permissible. I see two problems. First, as I have mentioned before, I wonder if a person withholding life-saving knowledge (e.g., where the ticking time bomb is hidden) has a right to withhold that knowledge. If he had his finger on the detonator and was about to explode the bomb personally, I don’t think anyone would argue that it was impermissible, if there was no other way, to shoot and possibly kill him to prevent him from making the bomb explode. So why would some non-lethal form of coercion (say truth serum) be an objectionable method of preventing him from letting the bomb go off? Are exploding the bomb and letting the bomb explode so different from one another?

    It also seems to me also that if all coercion is impermissible, it must be admitted that there are degrees of coercion, and declaring all coercion out of bounds would prohibit even mild coercion. Sleep deprivation would, in my opinion, be coercion. But there can be degrees of sleep deprivation. Should we make sure someone who is being interrogated always gets 8 solid hours of sleep so that they are never less than 100 percent alert while being questioned? Are all psychological interrogation tricks (e.g., good cop, bad cop) out of bounds because they are attempts to manipulate the subject? Is lying to the subject impermissible because it subverts the will by forcing the subject to make decisions based on false information? (“Your partner already told us everything he knows. If you come clean we’ll go easy on you.”) Extreme isolation (as in the case of Jose Padilla) is basically torture in my opinion, but wouldn’t long periods of isolation and boredom (or playing of loud music) be coercion as well, but of a milder sort?

  92. January 20, 2010 5:10 pm

    There is a big difference between unborn babies and terrorists.

    Are unborn babies trying to kill us?

    Unborn babies are innocent human beings whereas terrorists are NOT INNOCENT and will take advantage of United States’s weaknesses to kill us.

    Terrorists are evil in nature and unborn babies are not. Coercion should be permissable to use when we are fighting against our enemy.

  93. January 20, 2010 5:19 pm

    Teresa – Innocence or guilt does not affect the dignity worth of a human person. This is what your church teaches. Get with the program.

  94. January 20, 2010 5:20 pm

    Also – Quit letting FOX News and the u.s. government tell you who your enemies are.

  95. January 20, 2010 5:56 pm

    I let my heart and soul dictate what is right, not any news channel or Church. I am not willing to allow these evil terrorists to rule the world out of some misguided sense of humanity. The terrorists justice is due. The Bible does teach about justice. I am not abandoning that concept. Sometimes the Church can be wrong on issues. It has abandoned its roots in traditionalism and has veered far left into communism. The Catholic Church has abandoned me and that is why I am looking into the Marionite Church.

  96. January 20, 2010 6:10 pm

    or Church

    This is quite obvious.

  97. January 20, 2010 6:13 pm

    Teresa – You might also consider why you are putting the “Catholic Church” and the “Marionite Church” (sic) in opposition to one another. Last I checked, the Maronite Church is part of the Catholic Church.

  98. January 20, 2010 6:32 pm

    She might also want to see what the Maronites say when talking about torture; there is a good article here:

    http://www.stmaron.org/Maronite%20Voice%20for%20June%202009.pdf It’s on page 10.

    “Torture and Human Dignity” by Bishop Gregory Mansour;

    To quote:

    “Let us not be fooled by any arguments. Human dignity is not given to some and not to others. All people have the right not to be tortured, not to be killed in the womb, not to be used in medical experiments, and not to be assisted in taking ones’ own life, no matter how convincing the argument goes. One has the right to be respected, even loved and appreciated, no matter who they are and what they have done. Human rights are not bestowed by man, but by God.”

  99. January 20, 2010 6:37 pm

    There seems to be a HUGE difference between Roman Catholicism and the Marionite Catholicism and it all stems from liberalism infecting the Roman Catholic Church immensely or widespread and in a much more apparent way after Vatican II. Liberalism in the Roman Catholic Church has skewed the just war theory and many other facets of traditionalism within the Church.

    Meant to say Roman Catholicism before.

    • January 20, 2010 6:51 pm

      Teresa

      I would dare say you probably are not too well informed on the Maronites; they are closer to the West than most Eastern Churches. Look at the book Transfiguration Catechesis for example, and you will find connection to a certain Roger Mahony in it. Vatican II was a major renewal for them as with all Eastern Catholics (of which I am one). It is not “liberalism.” In fact, tradition goes against the application of the Just War theory used in the Iraq War. It didn’t meet the criteria (and, you might not realize this, JWT was made to limit war, to encourage peace).

      So what exactly are the huge differences between Maronites and Roman Catholics? Liturgy. Certainly it is different, but is it a “huge difference”? Well, not in the liberal/not liberal debate. Americanism is liberalism, however, and that you support American nationalistic ideologies might make you want to look back to pre-vII documents against Americanism. You will find out it is you who supports classical liberalism when you do.

      Finally, you might want to see what tradition says to the “not the Church, but what I want” forms of obedience. That’s not just liberal, that is the way heretics speak. “I won’t seek to will with the Church, if the Church speaks against me, for the Church can be wrong.” What is it to you, who certainly can be wrong?

      Once again, Maronites will not support your American liberal way on this…

  100. Rodak permalink
    January 20, 2010 6:55 pm

    Doesn’t it go without saying that your religion should inform your politics, and not vice versa?

  101. January 20, 2010 6:57 pm

    Teresa: Terrorists are evil in nature and unborn babies are not. Coercion should be permissable to use when we are fighting against our enemy.

    With apologies to the good Calvinists out there, this sounds more Calvinist than Catholic, and as I never tire of saying, the US is a predominantly Calvinist country. How in the name of God can you possibly call yourself a Christian and call for torturing your enemies? I would remind you that Jesus the Christ was tortured to death and murdered by the major political empire of its day. The Romans no doubt viewed him as “evil in nature” and deserving of his fate. Unfortunately for you, the whole basis of the Christian fate involves turning this on its head.

  102. January 20, 2010 7:01 pm

    Teresa,

    What do you mean by “liberalism”? When the Church vociferously condemned “liberalism” in the past (think Pius IX and Pius X), they were referring to such notions as democracy, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free market economics, national self-governance….is that what you are talking about?

  103. January 20, 2010 7:08 pm

    Harshness kept is safe for many, many years. It wasn’t until we started coddling our enemy and looked the other way that terrorists caught us offguard and killed 3000 innocent lives.

    But, General Pershing knew how to keep Muslim extremists out for forty-two years. http://woodstermantoo.blogspot.com/2010/01/thoughts-on-waterboarding.html

    Enhanced Interrogation Techniques is not torture.

    Here is an article:http://spectator.org/archives/2009/05/11/obamas-tortured-logic

    • January 20, 2010 7:17 pm

      “Harshness kept is safe for many, many years. It wasn’t until we started coddling our enemy and looked the other way that terrorists caught us offguard and killed 3000 innocent lives.”

      So does that mean it would be a good idea just to abort Muslim babies in the womb? Why are we coddling them and letting them get out? And what about Hitler. Shouldn’t we find a way to go back in time and have him aborted, saving millions of lives in the process?

      Of course the error in such consequentialist ethics are several-fold; intrinsic evils are evil, whether or not we like the results of it (abortion, torture, etc). Second, it is the way of Satan not the way of Christ — he encourages the use of such tools for the sense of “safety.” Look to Satan’s temptation to Christ in the desert, or the fact that Christ worked against the zealot desire to make war against Rome (he could have done it if he wanted, and it would have ‘saved lives.’)

      Probably the best example of why this is the spirit of the anti-Christ is found in Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, where Christ is confronted by your ideology — and is killed once again. Apparently the “sheep of Satan” will be led with the calls for safety…

  104. January 20, 2010 7:23 pm

    Mornings Minion,
    Did Jesus Christ want to strap on bombs to kill innocent civilians? Did Jesus pervert his religion for evil means just because people don’t follow their Sharia Laws? Was Jesus not tolerant of other religions? These terrorists do not want to share this planet with people who believe in any other religion. It is not about us leaving them alone or being nice to them. They will plan the murders of us regardless, and that is why I have a realist view of the world. To ignore this and not to allow certain techniques to be used to stop the murders of innocent civilians would mean that you would force people to ignore their obligation and duty to do their all in protecting this country.

    • January 20, 2010 7:38 pm

      Teresa

      Since Jesus didn’t do it, why do you want to follow strategies which are contra-Jesus? He was for peace, to show love to one’s enemies, not to go killing them. The Christian response is the path of Christ, to follow him, even if it means our martyrdom. That’s what the early Christians did when faced with persecution and violent opposition. They didn’t go seeking the death of the Romans, but the conversion of their heart. The way of Christ is not always easy, but it certainly opposes the idolatry of violence.

  105. January 20, 2010 7:25 pm

    I am not talking about that type of liberalism. I am talking about the liberal ideology in politics today. I am talking about Communism and Socialism with regards to many areas of politics.

  106. January 20, 2010 7:37 pm

    Abortion is murdering an innocent human baby in the womb. Comparing aborting Muslim innocent unborn babies to terrorists who murder or are willing to murder many innocents is absurd. Generalizing and lumping everybody into one group is not what I do. I look at each group individually for who they are, and in the case of terrorists or Muslim Jihadists they are willing to kill at all costs so we must stop them. Yes, I do believe that there are good Muslims out there. I have met some, so I don’t believe all Muslims are terrorists.

    Maybe, this will help you understand me a little better: I have been sexually assaulted twice and at all costs and using whatever means necessary I will never allow that to happen to me again. What those men did to me was evil, and nothing less. What these terrorists are doing is evil, and I am willing to allow our CIA agents to protect us at all costs or using harsh necessary means to stop that evil, while protecting innocent civilians.

  107. David Nickol permalink
    January 20, 2010 7:43 pm

    I have been reading a very sanitized account of torture during the Inquisition in the online Catholic Encyclopedia, and although the article bends over backwards to minimize the Church’s role in torture, it is still crystal clear that a number of popes explicitly permitted it:

    Curiously enough, torture was not regarded as a mode of punishment, but purely as a means of eliciting the truth. It was not of ecclesiastical origin, and was long prohibited in the ecclesiastical courts. Nor was it originally an important factor in the inquisitional procedure, being unauthorized until twenty years after the Inquisition had begun. It was first authorized by Innocent IV in his Bull “Ad exstirpanda” of 15 May, 1252, which was confirmed by Alexander IV on 30 November, 1259, and by Clement IV on 3 November, 1265. The limit placed upon torture was citra membri diminutionem et mortis periculum — i.e, it was not to cause the loss of life or limb or imperil life. Torture was to applied only once, and not then unless the accused were uncertain in his statements, and seemed already virtually convicted by manifold and weighty proofs. . . . .

    . . . . In the beginning, torture was held to be so odious that clerics were forbidden to be present under pain of irregularity. Sometimes it had to be interrupted so as to enable the inquisitor to continue his examination, which, of course, was attended by numerous inconveniences. Therefore on 27 April, 1260, Alexander IV authorized inquisitors to absolve one another of this irregularity. Urban IV on 2 August, 1262, renewed the permission, and this was soon interpreted as formal licence to continue the examination in the torture chamber itself. The inquisitors manuals faithfully noted and approved this usage. The general rule ran that torture was to be resorted to only once. But this was sometimes circumvented — first, by assuming that with every new piece of evidence the rack could be utilized afresh, and secondly, by imposing fresh torments on the poor victim (often on different days), not by way of repetition, but as a continuation (non ad modum iterationis sed continuationis), as defended by Eymeric; “quia, iterari non debent [tormenta], nisi novis supervenitibus indiciis, continuari non prohibentur.”

    According to the limits placed on torture (“it was not to cause the loss of life or limb or imperil life”), it wouldn’t have been torture according to the Bush administration.

    It’s interesting to note that today it is an excommunicable offense to absolve an accomplice.

    Here’s my favorite sentence:

    When Clement V formulated his regulations for the employment of torture, he never imagined that eventually even witnesses would be put on the rack, although not their guilt, but that of the accused, was in question.

    How do the authors of the Encyclopedia know what Clement did and did not imagine?

    It continues

    From the pope’s silence it was concluded that a witness might be put upon the rack at the discretion of the inquisitor. Moreover, if the accused was convicted through witnesses, or had pleaded guilty, the torture might still he used to compel him to testify against his friends and fellow-culprits. It would be opposed to all Divine and human equity — so one reads in the “Sacro Arsenale, ovvero Pratica dell Officio della Santa Inquisizione” (Bologna, 1665) — to inflict torture unless the judge were personally persuaded of the guilt of the accused.

    Interesting title for a book: A Church That Can and Cannot Change.

  108. January 20, 2010 7:51 pm

    @David,
    Thanks for posting the interesting article and link. I will look into this further.

  109. January 20, 2010 9:10 pm

    Teresa – Thanks for sharing your experience. Although I try to be committed to pacifism, I cannot fathom the experience you have had nor am I in any position to judge how you must feel about what you might need to do to protect yourself personally. But elevating your personal experience universally such that you would turn them into a blueprint for u.s. terror policy seems to me a tad dangerous.

  110. January 20, 2010 9:22 pm

    Michael,
    I appreciate your kind words.

    As much as I am for the use of coercion or/and EIT’s I am sure that the CIA agents did use them more than actually necessary because they were given orders to keep us safe. While I do think that EIT’s should be permissable, I believe they should only be reserved for use on people like Khalid Sheik Mohammed who withhold invaluable information or others who are withholding the specifics related to a terrorist plot.

    I just think there is a big difference between targeting civilians as terrorists do, and trying to do everything you can to save our country from enduring another 9/11 type of terrorist attack.

  111. January 20, 2010 10:39 pm

    Teresa,

    Are you familiar with consequentialism? I recommend an excellent essay by Elizabeth Anscombe called “Mr. Truman’s Degree” (Anscombe coined the term “consequentialism” and it was later treated in by JP2 in Veritatis Splendour. In a nutshell, it is never permissable to do evil so that good might come of it. That is a basic tenet of Catholic teaching.

  112. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:40 pm

    David,

    Earlier you wrote:

    If he had his finger on the detonator and was about to explode the bomb personally, I don’t think anyone would argue that it was impermissible, if there was no other way, to shoot and possibly kill him to prevent him from making the bomb explode. So why would some non-lethal form of coercion (say truth serum) be an objectionable method of preventing him from letting the bomb go off? Are exploding the bomb and letting the bomb explode so different from one another?

    I see a key moral difference between the acts used. Shooting with the intent to stop him from detonating the bomb wouldn’t be in itself evil, whereas coercing him with the intent to destroy his will would be.

    It also seems to me also that if all coercion is impermissible, it must be admitted that there are degrees of coercion, and declaring all coercion out of bounds would prohibit even mild coercion.

    As I’ve said, I see two distinct types of coercion, one type that renders the person coerced incapable of reason, will, etc. and one type that uses force but leaves the person coerced still capable of free, rational, moral decisions. The former I object to altogether; the latter I think may be justified. I’m of the opinion that all coercion in the first sense is impermissible, but that not all coercion in the second sense is out of bounds. A technique like sleep deprivation could fall into either category, depending on how it’s used. So, yes, I see that there are degrees of coercion, both within the two types mentioned and taking them together.

  113. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:51 pm

    In a nutshell, it is never permissible to do evil so that good might come of it. That is a basic tenet of Catholic teaching.

    Yes! It means that even if our goals are the best of intentions, such as protecting life, we cannot under any circumstances, no matter how dreadful or horrific the situation is, do evil in the name of those goals. Our having good ends doesn’t render our means to those ends good.

    The reason why this is a basic tenant of Catholic teaching is that doing evil destroys the soul. The more we do evil the more we lose ourselves, our very identities, to evil. We may begin with good intentions, such as saving lives, but in doing evil and becoming evil, we lose sight of those good intentions. In time we cease to have good intentions. We become like wraiths, enslaved to sin. And that is a fate worse than death.

    The consequentialism that Morning’s Minion warns against ignores this spiritual truth. It is one of the most dangerous philosophies known to man, for it corrupts those who might otherwise be engaged in noble endeavors.

  114. January 20, 2010 11:00 pm

    Mornings Minion,
    Would JP2 be against killing if it was in self-defense? The act itself may be evil but necessary to live. Well, national security is responsible for keeping us safe (several lives) and that means killing terrorists and finding out information using coercive techniques which may be in fact evil but not necessarily intrinsically evil so I believe the use is justified.

    To both Kyle and Mornings Minion?
    Why can’t saving innocent lives and thus saving souls save your soul? I believe that their is always salvation even after committing an evil act. I believe the very act of trying to save lives or saving lives can repair ones soul even if a sin or an evil act is committed.

  115. David Nickol permalink
    January 20, 2010 11:44 pm

    Yes! It means that even if our goals are the best of intentions, such as protecting life, we cannot under any circumstances, no matter how dreadful or horrific the situation is, do evil in the name of those goals.

    I understand the principle, but the application of it here presupposes the point you are trying to make. Coercion may never be used if it is “intrinsically evil,” but what you are trying to convince us of is not that evil may never be done so that good may come of it, but that coercion (as you define it) is intrinsically evil.

    Many, many years ago my family was invited to dinner by someone who also invited a bishop who had been in China. I remember him telling a funny story about someone (a priest, if I remember correctly) who was supposed to go home but wouldn’t leave. So the bishop and some friends got him drunk and carried him on to the boat. It seems to me that they subverted his will and coerced him. Now, I think we would all agree that it would be wrong to get a person drunk in order to, say, get them to submit to sex or some such thing. That would be evil. But in this case they were getting the person drunk to coerce him into doing what he was supposed to do.

    It seems to me a person who withholds lifesaving information has no right to do so. You are allowing him, out of respect for his will, to cause the death of many people. Injecting a person with Sodium Pentathol is certainly not evil when done to anesthetize a person about to undergo surgery. But you maintain it is evil if the drug is used to daze the person and cause him to give up information that he would try to withhold were he more mentally alert. So you are saying that a person’s will must be respected at all times, even if what the person wills is killing innocent civilians. But you are also saying that if necessary to prevent the person from doing evil, you may take his life. (Even Pope Paul II said you may execute someone to protect society. He just said with modern penal institutions, in is seldom if ever necessary.) So it seems to me you are saying a person intent on doing evil may be forfeiting his life, but his will is so sacred that he can’t forfeit that, even for a few moments, and even if it will save innocent lives.

    Would you place the same value on not subverting the intellect? Is a sting operation impermissible because you subvert someone’s intellect by fooling them into believing they are in a real-life situation rather than a staged situation?

  116. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 21, 2010 8:25 am

    Teresa,

    You wrote:

    Why can’t saving innocent lives and thus saving souls save your soul? I believe that their is always salvation even after committing an evil act. I believe the very act of trying to save lives or saving lives can repair ones soul even if a sin or an evil act is committed.

    Only Christ can save souls, and only the grace of God can repair our souls. But God also gave us the freedom to accept or reject his Grace. To accept his grace, to be healed from the damages of sin, we must have a contrite heart. We must truly seek his forgiveness. We must truly be sorry and seek to sin no more.

    Committing a good deed and a bad deed together, as if the one cancels out the other, does not speak of a contrite heart, but rather of a disposition that makes excuses for sin, for evil, and is therefore closed off to the saving power of God.

  117. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 21, 2010 8:48 am

    David,

    There are of course particular dangers of getting someone drunk in any circumstance, but putting those aside, I’m not sure if the story you tell illustrates the kind of coercion to which I always object. The bishop and friends sought to put the priest in a state wherein he couldn’t act, not a state wherein he did act but a acted not of his own will but of theirs. What they did would be akin to punching the priest to knock him out before carrying him away unconscious. There might be reasons to object to this act, but I’m uncertain as to whether it is coercive in the narrow sense of which I speak. Perhaps I’m splitting hairs.

    I wouldn’t say that a person’s will must be respect at all times in the sense that we must always permit someone to will something evil. What concerns me are actions that take away the very powers that make us persons. By striking at the very core of personhood, which is what coercion does, we make a person incapable not only of free, rational decisions, but also of love, of goodness, of virtue. In a sense, we sever the person’s spirit from his body. He acts only as an animal, not as a rational animal, not as an embodied spirit. I find this practice very dangerous, to say the least.

    Clearly use of a truth serum, if evil, is much, much less evil than mass murder. One can hardly compare the two. However, the fact that use of a truth serum is a very minor evil compared to mass murder doesn’t permit us to use the one to stop the other. I am interested, though, in what my fellow VN contributors and others have to say here. Am I wrong to oppose the use of a truth serum? David’s example here does pose quite the challenge to me.

    A sting operation is deceptive, but hardly coercive. It doesn’t have the same de-personalizing effect. Those fooled still have all their faculties.

  118. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 21, 2010 8:57 am

    Henry Karlson’s latest post pertains to this discussion and is worth the read. The last line especially deserves reflection.

  119. January 21, 2010 8:57 am

    We will just have to disagree on this matter because I believe in our national security, justice and protecting innecent civilians and in using all the necssary means to do just that. I believe that doing the “right” thing (saving lives) does impact your soul since your are saving both lives and souls. National security is much more important than self-defense but you give a person’s self-defense more weight or more justification even though that act saves less lives. I don’t believe any of the coercive techniques fall into the evil category because stopping evil and saving people is doing the Lord’s will. He would not want people to sit idly just to pronounce some type of moral superiority. Jesus preaches about justice and ignoring that message would be naive and also harmful to both souls and lives in a much more apparent or self-evident way. By not acting to save innocent people the CIA would be jeopardizing people’s lives and thus jeopardizing their souls also. I believe that every person if he asks to be saved can be saved. I believe that the the Catholic Church through the liberalism today has perverted God’s word with things like the just war theory and social justice in order to use their podium for liberal propaganda and not truly for the purpose of spreading God’s word. I would say that the Catholic Church has shown in recent years how sin can deteriorate ones standing with God and in the World. I believe the main reason they are following certain communist policies and liberal propaganda is for the money. They are following liberal policies and falling into sin by doing so and not acting on God’s will. Sin has corrupted the Church in recent years and that is why the Thomist philosophy is (Who would have thought that Kevin an his love of philospohy would have had an impact on me as much as I am not into philosophy) is the correct philosophy. The Thomist philospohy allows for these types of techniques to be used in the name of justice.

    But, anyways we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the coercive techniques matter.

  120. January 21, 2010 8:59 am

    In the unlikely event of a true “ticking bomb” scenario, in which it was known, without doubt, that an individual in custody could provide information that could, with certainty, be used to disarm a bomb, the explosion of which would, for certain, harm x-number of innocent people, I would probably, reluctantly, use a truth serum. And I would pray that I wasn’t using it in vain.

  121. January 21, 2010 9:03 am

    Just wanted to add one thing: Some things that go on in prisons are degrading to the body but those type of things don’t permanently harm the person either psychologically or physically.

    I believe that the coercive techniques fall into that category as well since nothing has been proven to show that coercive techniques causes either permanent physical harm or phsychological harm.

    But, I think psycholgically harming a terrorist is an oxymoron. I don’t think that’s possible.

  122. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 21, 2010 1:35 pm

    Teresa,

    You wrote:

    I don’t believe any of the coercive techniques fall into the evil category because stopping evil and saving people is doing the Lord’s will.

    This statement expresses in religious language the very consequentialism that is so very antithetical to Christian moral principles. It’s a perversion of the gospel. Indeed, you are proclaiming a false gospel. From the standpoint of the Gospel, evil is stopped and people are saved not by human acts of killing or other acts of violence, but by the divine act by which we are given sanctifying grace. We do the Lord’s will by giving birth to the love of Christ in the world, not by placing our faith and energies in the power of human beings to kill, harm, or destroy.

    I believe the main reason they are following certain communist policies and liberal propaganda is for the money.

    Explain.

    Sin has corrupted the Church in recent years and that is why the Thomist philosophy is (Who would have thought that Kevin an his love of philospohy [sic] would have had an impact on me as much as I am not into philosophy) is the correct philosophy. The Thomist philospohy [sic] allows for these types of techniques to be used in the name of justice.

    Non sequitur.

    I believe that the coercive techniques fall into that category as well since nothing has been proven to show that coercive techniques causes either permanent physical harm or phsychological [sic] harm.

    This statement is false. Sensory deprivation, for example, when used for an extended period of time, has been shown to cause anxiety, depression, hallucinations, and even death! Indeed, we know of at least 100 detainees who have died while in U.S. custody. Autopsy reports are available online. Causes of death are attributed to the very techniques you find permanently harmless. Death is a pretty permanent state, I’d say.

  123. January 21, 2010 4:08 pm

    “Two sources also told ABC that the techniques — authorized for use by only a handful of trained CIA officers — have been misapplied in at least one instance.”

    Exactly. People may have died but from the misuse of the application of the EIT’s. That doesn’t prove that the techniques are wrong, only that the CIA agents either weren’t trained properly or didn’t follow the procedures on purpose. I fault the CIA agent, not the EIT’s.

    Actually death probably should have happened on the battlefield so I can’t say I feel too sorry for the evil terrorists being accidentally put to death. They are not innocent humans and do not deserve the same rights as innocent human beings.

    The Roman Catholic Church is as currupt as they come. After their corrupt actions in the sex abuse scandal and letting sin spread all over the United States as well as in other countries, they have no standing to state anything regarding politics that would hold any clout or possibly consist of any truth. The Thomist Philosophy realizes the realism of both the past and present. Justice is due to the terrorists and nothing less. To not allow the EIT’s is to disavow justice and ignore our national security and the obligations that national security has to stop terrorists and protect innocent civilians.

  124. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 21, 2010 6:17 pm

    People may have died but from the misuse of the application of the EIT’s. That doesn’t prove that the techniques are wrong, only that the CIA agents either weren’t trained properly or didn’t follow the procedures on purpose. I fault the CIA agent, not the EIT’s.

    You are making an assumption here that doesn’t hold up against the evidence. Coercive techniques have been shown to result in permanent physical and mental damage and even death. The effects they have will vary from person to person, just as the effects of medicine do, even when used “properly.” The fact of the matter is that no matter how you try to control their use, such damage can and will occur.

    Actually death probably should have happened on the battlefield so I can’t say I feel too sorry for the evil terrorists being accidentally put to death. They are not innocent humans and do not deserve the same rights as innocent human beings.

    We’ve killed innocent people as well. Many of the people we’ve captured and held indefinitely or shipped off to other countries to be tortured were not “evil terrorists” at all. But, putting that aside, your desire that the guilty pay with death is inconsistent with the Gospel. What a Christian should desire most is not the death of the guilty, but their redemption and salvation. Remember, none of us deserves life. For our sins we deserve death. All of us. It is only because of the mercy of God that life is even an option.

    The Roman Catholic Church is as currupt as they come. After their corrupt actions in the sex abuse scandal and letting sin spread all over the United States as well as in other countries, they have no standing to state anything regarding politics that would hold any clout or possibly consist of any truth.

    The latter doesn’t follow from the former, even if we assume for argument’s sake the veracity of your accusations against the Church.

    The Thomist Philosophy realizes the realism of both the past and present. Justice is due to the terrorists and nothing less. To not allow the EIT’s is to disavow justice and ignore our national security and the obligations that national security has to stop terrorists and protect innocent civilians.

    I wonder what the good saint would say about your pitting his philosophy against the Church and associating it with an ethical view that opposes the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  125. January 21, 2010 6:58 pm

    Casualties of war have always been a part of wars.

    What do you think Thomas Aquinas would say?

  126. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 21, 2010 7:19 pm

    I dare say he would disapprove. Permit me to ask you a yes-or-no question that would help solidify my understanding of your ethical philosophy. For this question, let us put aside the moral question of the coercive techniques we’ve been discussing and speak more generally about morality. You have indicated in many of your comments your belief that we should be able to defend ourselves against terrorists by any means necessary. You don’t seem to want to place any limits on what those entrusted with our national security and with defending us against terrorists need to do to protect us and save lives, particularly in extreme situations in which many lives are at stake. Here’s my question: if the only way to save the nation from a major attack was for those responsible for our national security to commit a truly evil act, should they be permitted to do that evil? May they legitimately do evil so that good may come of it, so that millions of lives may be saved?

  127. David Nickol permalink
    January 21, 2010 7:43 pm

    Here’s my question: if the only way to save the nation from a major attack was for those responsible for our national security to commit a truly evil act, should they be permitted to do that evil?

    Say, behead a randomly chosen, innocent child on television to prevent a Hiroshima-sized bomb from going off in Manhattan.

  128. January 21, 2010 7:47 pm

    NO.

  129. January 21, 2010 8:21 pm

    I don’t think I would be for it, but I have to admit I am conflicted on that. If it was made to look like the boy had died than I would definitely be for it (meaning staged so the bombers thought that it had actually happened).

  130. Kyle R. Cupp permalink
    January 21, 2010 8:37 pm

    Thank you for the quick response, Teresa, and I’m glad that “No” is your answer; however, with this answer, you contradict what you said earlier: that those responsible for our national security should “do their all in protecting this country,” do “what it takes to win a war,” that “our brave men and women” should do “all they can to prevent innocent lives from being killed,” and it is right to use “all necessary means to fight” evil. Based on what you have said earlier, if an evil act is necessary to save lives, necessary to win a war, necessary to fight evil, or necessary to protect this country, then that evil act should be an option. You said “all necessary means,” not “some necessary means.”

    You have also claimed that the terrorists are sub-human and that we “have no obligation, as a nation, to consider our enemies so-called human rights.” Therefore, what is the problem if using evil against them? If they have no rights worth respecting, why not brutally torture them or inflict other evils upon them?

    Furthermore, you wrote: “In addition, people who perceive that they are taking a moral high ground even though that moral high ground may in effect aid in or allow the killing of innocent lives may be relying on theories of peace from a textbook that is not applicable in the real world.” By your stating that we should not do evil to save lives, you yourself are taking the high moral ground and you yourself would rather allow “the killing of innocent lives” than do evil to stop this killing.

    Please note that I think your refusal to do evil in the name of national security is honorable and right and true, but it does undermine many things you have said in this thread. You can’t consistently hold both these positions and a position that evil cannot be used for good. You’ve insisted throughout that the techniques you defend are not evil, and so you show, at times, an inclination to hold a legitimate Christian moral philosophy. Whether or not we ultimately agree on coercive techniques, I encourage you to recognize that your previous ethical statements conflict with the moral philosophy you seem to want to espouse.

  131. January 21, 2010 9:37 pm

    Yes, you’re right that is an inconsistency on my part. But, we still disagree on which coercive techniques are considered evil.

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