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Old 07-24-2002, 07:47 PM   #1
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One Small Leap Into the Middle Ages...

U.S. to Block U.N. Torture Vote
Wed Jul 24, 1:43 PM ET
By DAFNA LINZER, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Concerned about the possibility of independent visits to U.S. civilian and military prisons, the United States sought Wednesday to block a vote on a U.N. plan meant to enforce a convention on torture.

The United States wants negotiations on the plan reopened, a move human rights groups say could kill the proposal, which they believe is essential to ending torture around the world.

Debate on the anti-torture plan was underway Wednesday in the U.N. Economic and Social Council, known as ECOSOC, and a vote was expected in the afternoon.

However, the United States had submitted a proposal to block the vote and it wasn't clear whether the council would agree to the U.S. request for open-ended talks on "the current text and the process connected with it."

Among the U.S. concerns is language that could allow for international and independent visits to U.S. prisons and to terror suspects being held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said allowing outside observers into state prisons would infringe on states' rights.

Another problem, the official said, is the issue of access to suspected al-Qaida and Taliban fighters captured in Afghanistan and being held in the war on terrorism.

The anti-torture proposal enjoys wide support among Western European and Latin American countries. But conservative Muslim states that shun outside intervention are likely to back the U.S. request in order to stave off a vote.

Human rights advocates argue that the optional protocol is essential to enforce an international convention on torture passed 13 years ago and since ratified by about 130 countries, including the United States. Countries are supposed to enforce the convention on their own, but rights groups argue that that isn't working everywhere.

"A vote against the optional protocol would be a disastrous setback in the fight against torture," said Martin MacPherson, head of Amnesty International's legal program. People were tortured or ill-treated by authorities in 111 countries last year, according to an Amnesty report.

Activists fear that if the United States succeeds in reopening the negotiations, "it will mean a kiss of death," for the protocol, said Rory Mungoven of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

"This protocol would create a more pro-active mechanism that includes visits to prisons and other preventive measures which would help enforce the convention," Mungoven said.

The protocol, which has been under negotiation for a decade, would be an optional, supplementary document. According to the text, the objective of the protocol is "to establish a system of regular visits undertaken by independent and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment."

If the protocol is approved, it moves to the General Assembly where it would need to be approved by a majority of the 190 member states. Then, it will require 20 ratifications before it can go into force.

Your thoughts?

Melon
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Old 07-24-2002, 08:54 PM   #2
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I don't give a damn if those prisoners are being tortured or not. If thats what it takes to keep another 911 from happening, or rather to find out when the next one is going to happen then it is thier duty to reveal the information by any means possible.

However, I suspect they don't want these visits to take place for security reasons only. I wouldn't trust these activists to come in there with an un-biased opinion anyways. The last thing these prisoners need is a glimmer of hope that they really won't be tortured for not revealing vital information.
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Old 07-24-2002, 09:28 PM   #3
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Originally posted by z edge
If thats what it takes to keep another 911 from happening.
The only way to stop that is to kill everybody on the planet.
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Old 07-24-2002, 09:33 PM   #4
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The only way to stop that is to kill everybody on the planet.
of course, I forgot.
shame on me
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Old 07-24-2002, 09:34 PM   #5
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of course, I forgot.
shame on me
Don't worry, there's probably a few people working out how to do it as we type!
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Old 07-24-2002, 09:39 PM   #6
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Don't worry, there's probably a few people working out how to do it as we type!
what is your point here??
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Old 07-24-2002, 09:42 PM   #7
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what is your point here??
I think my main point is that there will be more terrorism no matter what happens. If they want it badly enough, they will do it.
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Old 07-24-2002, 09:48 PM   #8
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I think my main point is that there will be more terrorism no matter what happens. If they want it badly enough, they will do it.
I'm sorry
I completely misunderstood you then on this

Cheers
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Old 07-24-2002, 11:18 PM   #9
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The US probably should agree to these anti-torture measures.

I'm not going to say that any form of torture under any circumstance is immoral (a very tiny fraction of all such cases might be absolutely necessary), nor am I going to say that I know the US is or is not torturing the captives in Guantanamo Bay, but it would be wise for the US to agree to these measures because there is the very real possibility that American forces will be captured in future conflicts.
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Old 07-24-2002, 11:49 PM   #10
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If American forces are indeed captured in a future conflict, it will likely be by a country that either did not sign the agreement or does not abide by it in practice.

The opposition to this is probably coming down to three questions:

- What will happen to US sovereignty - particularly in such instances as death row inmates?

- Will this be used as another way for dictators, thugs, and the Europeans who condone them to criticize the US?

- And will our intelligence program end up losing too much power in its ability to interrogate spies and terrorists?


And before you say that torturous interrogation is unquestioningly wrong, ask yourself this:

Say the CIA or FBI were holding someone who knew that, in 24 hours, a major American city was going to be attacked by a weapon of mass destruction - be it a "dirty" bomb, a truly nuclear device, or a biological agent. The agency doesn't know the details - what kind of bomb, where it is, when it will be detonated. If torture is the only way to extract this information in time to save millions of innocent civilians, is it STILL so immoral that we must absolutely abstain from it?

Would you still say no if your family and loved ones numbered among those millions?

I honestly don't think there's any easy answer to that question. But if we decide that we should torture the guy, this plan could make it that much more difficult.
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Old 07-25-2002, 12:21 AM   #11
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So I'm correct in assuming that people here are defending the idea of torturing other people?

I'm afraid that my worldview and belief in God cannot endorse such a thing. Normally I hate this sort of thing, but Bubba and Z Edge, you both have a faith in God... how can you imagine God sitting in heaven, looking down on one of his creations being TORTURED and nodding his head in approval?
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Old 07-25-2002, 01:53 AM   #12
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I'm not saying that torture is a good idea, nor am I defending the act. I'm just wondering if we should ABSOLUTELY abstain from it.

Like I said, "I honestly don't think there's any easy answer to that question."

Let me put forth three ideas:


First, while I am an objectivist - I believe that any individual act is either definitely good, definitely bad, or definitely neutral - I believe that some acts that are NORMALLY bad are sometimes good, that the morality of an individual act depends on the situation.

I could come up with a half-dozen hypothetical or historical examples (and I will if pressed), but I need only one: Oskar Schindler. Lying is NORMALLY immoral, but this man lied to protect the lives of over a thousand Jews who would have otherwise died during the Nazi Holocaust.

Not to sound to Machiavellian, but sometimes the ends may actually justify the means. At the very least, it's very hard to say that Oskar Schindler was wrong to lie.


Second, it could be said that mild forms of torture are already applied throughout society - that society would be nearly impossible without it.

One dictionary gives several definitions for torture, including the following:

"anguish of body or mind"

"the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure"

It seems to me that the more complete definition would be "the infliction or threat of intense pain - physical or psychological - to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure." This definition allows for the more psychological tortures (sleep deprivation, forced nudity, etc.) to ALSO count.

But the inclusion of psychological threats and harm means that ALL sorts of civilized behavior could count as torture - very mild torture, but torture nonetheless.

Specifically, the punishment doled out to schoolchildren (standing in the corner, etc.) and the threat of a longer prison sentence to get a criminal to cooperate with an investigation could BOTH be considered mild torture.


Finally, while it seems pretty clear that torture for sadistic pleasure is always wrong, we must consider two additional questions about torture for the sake of coercing information: is the information valuable enough, and is there any other way to obtain that information?

I will again use the example of the terrorist, an example that would have seemed far less plausible this time last year: let's say that we raided a base of operations for some terrorist organization. From that raid, we captured a cell leader and discovered a plot to set off a thermonuclear "suitcase" bomb in a major city on the Eastern seaboard - and the bomb was to detonate in 28 hours. The plot is already in motion, and the individual with the bomb does not know we've captured his boss and discovered his plan.

Unfortunately, we do not know who is carrying the bomb, which American city is targeted and where specifically the bomb will be placed. We've combed the terrorist base, and the critical information simply isn't there.

We suspect that the cell leader knows what we desperately need to know. Let's ask the two questions above:

1) Is the information valuable enough? Worst case scenario, the terrorists hit New York City, killing something around 7 million people. Counting only the casualties (not the property loss OR the radioactive fallout), that's a disaster two thousand times worse than 9/11. Even using liberal estimates, the death toll would be 14 times that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. So the information could lead to the saving of upwards of seven million innocent lives.

It's also likely that the information is the ONLY way to save them. At the moment, the terrorist agent is going by a fixed schedule; he will set the bomb at a certain location at a certain time. If you tell the President give a press conference to evacuate the cities, the agent will know the plan's been foiled. The BEST case is that he aborts the plan, but the terrorist organization he works for will develop a "Plan B" for the bomb - and you'll have to start all over to track down those plans.

WORST case in announcing the plan? He sets off the bomb, then and there, killing however many millions are close enough to him.

2) Is there any other way to obtain that information? Given the time constraints, probably not.

So, do you torture the guy? I'm not sure what's the right thing to do - or whether I would be capable of doing that right thing. But at least consider the consequences of BOTH decisions.

If you torture the guy and he coughs up the information in time, you've saved the lives of millions in exchange for causing tremendous pain to one man - one of the men who plotted that mass murder.

If you torture the guy and he doesn't give up the information, those millions still die. But every investigation that follows (and with a death toll in the millions, there would be MANY investigations) would come to the same conclusion: you personally did everything you could to save those lives.

If you DON'T torture the guy, the millions of innocent lives still die, and the investigations reaveal something else entirely: that your moral code kept you from doing all you could to save the lives of millions, that the physical condition of one evil mass murderer was far more important to you than the lives of the millions of innocent men, women, and children he wanted to kill.


Given that scenario, I find it hard to believe that you would still be CONFIDENT that opposing torture is the morally right thing to do.
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Old 07-25-2002, 02:33 AM   #13
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As a final note, NROnline has two very good articles about the subject, both originating in the first few months following 9/11/01.

One article agrees with me that torture might just be on very rare occasions morally permissable. The other agrees with KingPin, that it is never permissible.

That said, the first writer still concedes, "I agree with numerous readers when they say torture is morally corrupting. Even when we torture those who deserve it pedophile rapists or the 'comedy' troupe 'The Capital Steps' come to mind torture demeans the torturer, and the whole society that condones it."

The second writer admits, "My answer would be 'No!' but I'm under no illusions that this is an easy call."

Like I said, KingPin, no easy answers.


If I may, for a moment, digress, I believe these two articles demonstrate two things about conservatism in general and National Review specifically - facts that I think are obvious but apparently still need to be said.

First, conservatives are not monolithic. That should be obvious, given that the "Christian Right" and near-libertarians strongly disagree about whether government should legislate morality. That two NROnline writers could so strongly disagree is icing on the cake.

(Want another example? The National Review, what "Like Someone to Blame" generously calls "the poster child for extreme right views," SUPPORTS THE LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA.)

Second, conservatives are not extremists, certainly not on all issues; both writers seem to take very pragmatic approaches, neither justifying all acts of torture or condemning necessary military actions. I believe that many liberals think that all conservatives are by their nature "extreme," that "extreme" always precedes "right," that "arch-" always precedes "conservative."

I'm sure that not a single mind was changed by what I just wrote. Those who see these things see them as nearly obvious. Those who don't will turn a blind eye. (And I'm frankly tired of having to assert what should be obvious.)

But it still needed to be said.
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Old 07-25-2002, 08:01 PM   #14
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The anti-torture proposal enjoys wide support among Western European and Latin American countries. But conservative Muslim states that shun outside intervention are likely to back the U.S. request in order to stave off a vote.

hahahahaha!!!!
is the US using reverse psychology or something?
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Old 07-25-2002, 09:18 PM   #15
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So I'm correct in assuming that people here are defending the idea of torturing other people?

I'm afraid that my worldview and belief in God cannot endorse such a thing. Normally I hate this sort of thing, but Bubba and Z Edge, you both have a faith in God... how can you imagine God sitting in heaven, looking down on one of his creations being [I]TORTURED[/I} and nodding his head in approval?
Simply put, my faith tells me that God loves us all no matter what we do. Therefore I do not see God as nodding in approval at torture. God is all-knowing however, and knows of the evils created by the terrorists to their own people and abroad. Had we done our job in 1993, 96, 98, and 2000-to include the capture and torture of these bastards then maybe we could have prevented 911.
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