I just got hold of Philippe Sands’ new book, (2008), “Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values,” New York, Palgrave, MacMillan. For those of you mildly curious about the relationship of the Bush Administration, U.S. Citizens, our legal system, and the acceptance of torture, this is a book that is really important. John le Carre says this about it: “Gripping, furious, and very serious indeed.”
In the context of the book, its focus - the Rumsfeld memo - and the commentary that has been going back-and-forth among CFI forum members, the following item may be of interest: superficially it is dealt with in John W. Dean (2006) “Conservatives Without Conscience,” New York, Viking Penguin. It is what is called the “Ticking Bomb Gambit” (pp 164 ff):
“Reports indicated that Dick Cheney’s favorite argument….is the old ‘ticking bomb’ gambit…..The argument runs like this: A nuclear bomb has been planted in the heart of a major American city, and authorities have in custody a person who knows where it is located. To save possily millions of lives, would it not be justified to torture this individual to get the necessary information to stop it? Absolutely. Is not this lesser evil justified? Of course it is. And this argument is a wonderful means to comfort those who have moral problems with torture. Its beauty is that once you concede there are circumstances in which torture might be justified, morally and legally, (through what criminal law calls the defense necessity: that an act is justified to save lives), you are on the other side of the line. You’ve joined the torture crowd. To paraphrase Bush, you have joined the evildoers.
“A number of great minds and moral authorities rely on this logic, so Cheney is not alone. Nonetheless, it is a bogus argument, a rhetorical device. It is seductively simple, and compellingly logical. But it is also pure fantasy. The conditions of ticking time bomb scenarios are in the same remote category as a meteor or asteroid hitting earth. No one has more effectively probed the fallacies of this line of thinking than Georgetown University School of Law professor David Luban. Writing in the Washington Post, Luban explains why, while it makes good television melodrama, this scenario does not produce critical thinking. Luban surgically dissects this argument at greater length in the October 2005 Virginia Law Review in his essay, ‘Liberalism, Torture, and the Ticking Bomb.’ Citing moral philosopher Bernard Williams, luban wrote that ‘there are certain situations so monstrous that the idea that the process of moral rationality could yield an answer in them is insane,’ and, ‘to spend time thinking that what one would decide if one were in such a situation is also insane, if not merely frivolous.’”
On page 166 Dean says, further, of the torture issue and its debate on the hill: “Senator McCain was negotiating with the House, and with the White House (for his stated amendments to stop torture - my words), when Congressman John P. Murtha (D-PA) forced the issue to the House floor, calling for a motion to instruct the House conferees to accept the language of the McCain amendments. ‘No circumstance whatsoever justifies torture. No emergencies, no state of war, no level of political instability…’
I do not believe that there is ever a justification for violence in any form.
As Mahatma Gandhi said:
•Nonviolence is a weapon of the strong
•The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles
•You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.
•A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
Ironically, in India, “Sonia Gandhi calls children’s torture a ‘shame’” (From: NEWKERALA.COM News Section: http://www.newkerala.com/topstory-fullnews-87836.html) because the Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney rule lead to the imprisonment of children, and the rape and torture of children as young as 8 years old in Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the unknown secret prisons in other parts of the world.
Sonia Gandhi continued: “Though children are god’s gift to the world and despite all laws to protect them, it is sad to note that in India children are still being tortured which makes our head hang in shame. All of us should raise our voices against such horrific incidents.”
And…..we still debate the veracity of torture, and the possible use of violence. Perhaps there is something wrong with us to debate it at all?