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Waterboarding: Justifiable or unacceptable?

Waterboarding has been a "hot button" topic in the U.S. this past decade. For those who don't know, Wikipedia defines waterboarding as: "a form of torture in which water is poured over the face of an immobilized captive, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning." The U.S. government actually trains their many of their own soldiers to withstand waterboarding. Why would the U.S. waterboard their own soldiers if it is inhumane, unjustifiable torture?

Do "the ends justify the means"? Is waterboarding morally justifiable if the overall outcome is positive? Or is waterboarding always unacceptable no matter the results?

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    May 9 2011: Never acceptable, regardless of results.

    Is slavery of the few acceptable if it helps the many?
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    May 14 2011: We as a country set ourselves to be a beacon of justice, freedom and liberty. To stoop to torture of any kind, no matter any presumed benefit, defeats everything we stand for.
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    May 10 2011: If anyone interested in this topic has the opportunity there is a French Canadian movie called 'Incendies' that brings the issues to the human level. It is in French with subtitles and it is the moving story of a family and the effects of torture on their mother, themselves and of the man who tortured.It was up for Best Foreign language film in this year's Oscars.
    • May 10 2011: Thanks, I will try to find it!

      "Unthinkable" starring Samuel L. Jackson is another good one.
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    May 15 2011: I think that the recent finding and killing of Osama Bin Laden shows that waterboarding does not give results that justify its use. The information that led to this event was all gathered through standard interogation and surveillance even though waterboarding was used during the search. Surely this shows that it is not a reliable enough tool for such a controversial method to be used?
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    May 13 2011: "All is fair in love and war"

    If it is justifiable to kill people for things then surely it is justifiable to torture them. Would you rather endure some excruciating scenario for five days or be dead?
  • May 10 2011: Saying torture is helpful in a broader strategy and policy is like saying we can bring about world peace if we nuked the planet and bring about equality as well because we would all be equally dead. The ends do not justify the means. Having said that, in a particular situation as some have declared here like a family member of mine have been made hostage and someone won't disclosure that information, one could be emotional about it but the proper authorities could not and not endorse torture. That is also why we do not negotiate with terrorists: because we know, in the long term, it would be beneficial for the whole society, although it might seem the best option to safeguard someone's life.
    And waterboarding is another particularly stupid concept to me. The way the american govermnent played around with the concept and definition of torture to justify waterboarding as not torture is simply pathethic.
    • May 10 2011: Saying torture is helpful is nothing like nuking the planet to bring world peace. The reason torture may be considered helpful by some is because there cold be lives saved directly because of it. Nuking the planet would kill everyone... how does that directly save lives?

      But I agree with the rest of your response.
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    • May 10 2011: I'd disagree with "I don't think there is any positive outcomes" because I think there can be and have been positive outcomes because of it. The reason it is still practiced today is because it does sometimes work. Does that make it justifiable? Heck no.
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    May 9 2011: Absolutely unacceptable.
    Would you want your fellow citizens to have to endure it?
    • May 9 2011: What if a group of men came and kidnapped your child. You asked them where your kid was and they refused to say, would you let them be or would you take further measures to ensure the safety of innocent life? The impact that waterboarding has on these men is nothing in comparison to the deaths that innocent people may suffer because someone isn't willing to take the appropriate action to ensure the safety of as many lives as possible. US waterboarding is even overseen by a doctor! I'm not saying we should waterboard, but I'm trying to show the other side.
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        May 9 2011: Thanks Austin for the questions. They are moral ones and none of us could really say what we would do in extremis but we have to have moral guidelines for our behaviour when we are not faced with the impulses that can take over. The problem remains that this is a never ending spiral of horrors. If the men who killed Bin Laden had failed- men that believed they were patriots and morally right were captured would you say that they should have been water boarded or tortured using other methods? Dr. Mengele of Nazi fame was a doctor too. Is the Geneva convention now optional?
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        May 9 2011: Austin, is torture the best way to obtain the information in the kidnap scenario? How reliable is information obtained under torture?
        • May 10 2011: "How reliable is information obtained under torture?"
          Depends. Without any means of leverage, how should we make prisoners comply with our requests in any way? What incentive does a detainee have to release any helpful information if there are no negative consequences of him refusing to do so? The only leverage would be to give them a deal for early release (which may endanger society, depending on the prisoner).

          Here is an extreme example, to help me get this point across: A man is threatening to launch a WMD on an American city. The US has prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay facility that can tell us where this man is hiding, but they will not comply because they have no incentive to do so. What do you do... Unless you say "we let them be", I think this proves there are special circumstances where the ends do indeed justify the means.
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          May 10 2011: Your point was made from the beginning. The evidence is clear that nothing valuable is gained from torture and experts in it have said so. Even in the torture that Americans engaged in after 911 NO USEFUL information was gained.
          Maybe it made a few people feel better knowing that they had 'done all they could' but it unleashed a sickening blackness on the world. When the number one power in the world says these are the tactics we are willing to use it gives permission for every other country to devise its own rationale for inhumanity.
          The world agreed and only uncivilized nations outside of the mainstream used to engage in these behaviors from the time of the Geneva convention until NOW.
          NO TORTURE- NO HOW- NO WAY- There is no justification on earth that makes it OK.
          Monsters do not improve the world they just produce more monsters.
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        May 10 2011: Agree with Debra.

        Torture is sort of like a moral lottery... maybe (MAYBE) there is a chance the prisoner will release some form of good information, but there is also a good chance that nothing good comes out of it.
        • May 10 2011: I am not an advocate of waterboarding nor any sort of torture, but I have been pressed by others with these questions I have presented. Good answers-- thank you.
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    May 9 2011: i don't see how waterboarding is different than bombing buildings with people inside, supporting dictators, cutting nations off of trade, assassinating unwanted individuals, and so on.
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      May 9 2011: Krisztian, are you saying that waterboarding is part of a consistent and coherent pattern of national behaviour?
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      May 9 2011: If everyone else is doing it does it make it acceptable behavior?
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      May 10 2011: I don't understand . . . how can waterboarding be equated to bombing buildings with people inside??
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      May 15 2011: It is not much different but I maintain that "the end does not justify the means"
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        May 15 2011: i used to say: this is the other way around. the means justify the ends.

        you know that your goal is evil if it is only achievable by evil means. and if your means are always good, your goal can not possibly be evil.
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    May 9 2011: Loaded question . . . it's not as bad as slicing off someone's head in front of a camera and sending the video out to the world. I certainly have no problem calling that inhumane and unjustifuable torture.
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      • May 10 2011: I don't think she ever said it was okay, she said "I certainly have no problem calling that inhumane and unjustifuable torture." after she contrasted the two.