R1) Criminal Justice
Here, we have two hypotheses on the effects of using torture in criminal justice. Con claims that torture would be an effective deterrent on crime, whereas I claim that the use of torture to punish common criminals is a signature of a primitive and oppressive regime, which encourages civil unrest due to dissatisfaction with the government. When we look at how things play out in the real world, we see a very clear trend-- countries which use torture in criminal justice not only have high violent crime rates, but they are also all infamous for their political turmoil. This flatly contradicts Con's hypothesis *and* fully conforms to mine. Yes, it is just a correlation, so it is not enough to conclusively declare anything, but it is certainly enough to say that my hypothesis is far more likely to be true that Con's. Even if it were true that those oppressive governments started using torture in response to high crime rates (a claim with no evidence whatsoever), we would still expect to see those countries' crime rates to decrease after they started using torture, yet no such trend exists.
Con claims that if my hypothesis is true we would see a similar dissent-inducing effect with the death penalty. He is correct, and we *do* see this effect-- countries with widespread use of the death penalty are less stable than those without it . Among the countries which commit the most executions per year are North Korea, Iran, and China, none of which are known for their political stability or low crime rates. With the exception of the United States, none of the World's most developed countries even have the death penalty as an option for criminal punishment; and the US's annual execution rate of around 40 people is hardly enough to be considered "widespread use" of the DP.
Con further argues that the use of torture to punish a criminal wouldn't evoke a negative public reaction if it was "justified". However, consider that Con's main premise of this contention is that torture would create a deterrent effect. The only way to accomplish this would be to use it frequently and across a wide variety of crimes-- if the average criminal did not think there was a high chance of getting tortured for his actions, then he has no reason to abstain from committing his crime, even following Con's hypothetical reasoning. And yet that sort of usage of torture, punishing crimes ranging from robbery to sexual misconduct to homicide, is precisely the sort of government action which people tend to perceive as oppression. Thus, even if torture was an effective crime deterrent (which it certainly isn't), using it as one would still cause political instability due to perceived oppression on the part of the population. The use of torture in criminal justice is entirely unfeasible.
Con claims that there are plenty of exceptional cases in which human rights can be violated. However, this completely defeats the purpose of a 'right'. Like I said, Con's utilitarian framework reduces rights to general rules which can be violated whenever 'greater good' is supposedly at stake. The problem with such a flexible moral system is that whether or not a given rights violation is justifiable is completely open to subjective interpretation. Con says that war, abortion, the death penalty, and euthanasia are all justifiable violations of the right to life, yet someone else may vehemently disagree and say that none of those rights violations are outweighed by their positive consequences. Utility and the "greater good" are inherently subjective, and so a system based entirely upon them cannot be relied upon to render objective moral judgments. A deontological moral system in which human rights are preserved as absolute is clearly preferable. Con claims I must justify the absolute nature of human rights, but I have already done so, in the first round of this debate... I justified human rights from personal autonomy, which is the distinguishing characteristic of a human being. In other words, a person's rights are intrinsically tied to his humanity, so as long as he is a human being, his rights must be preserved. In this sense, rights are, indeed, absolute. Notice that the *only* attempt Con has made at justifying his utilitarian framework is ad populum fallacies (i.e. "most countries do this, therefore I'm right"). Thus, my framework is preferable by default.
In an attempt to show why human life is more important than the right to personal autonomy, Con claims that "autonomy is a function of a living thing", but he fails to realize that life without autonomy is completely meaningless. Bacteria and protists are also alive, yet we regularly experiment on them and kill them in massive numbers in high school biology classes without any moral qualms at all. Life on its own does not grant a being ethical significance-- only autonomy can do that. As I stated before, a being without autonomy is mindless and might as well be inanimate. Con simply doesn't have any ground stand on, here-- if human rights exist, they are absolute, and must be preserved regardless of whatever Con personally feels outweighs those rights .
This portion of the debate has gotten rather disorganized, so I will just respond to it point by point...
"Pro must not merely show that torture is ineffective where it is commonly used. He must show torture is never effective in every case."
I do not have to show that torture is ineffective in every case-- I have to show that there is a *better option* in every case. I do obviously maintain that torture is rarely effective, but the crux of my argument is that there are always more humane alternatives which the government should always prefer.
"being current evidence, it is extremely unlikely that the director would want to put his national security on the line by revealing this information to the public, as opposed to the executive who have the actual oversight powers here."
The use of torture wasn't "current". It had been going on for years, and at the time the report was published (2014), both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan were already coming to a close. If there was any merit to the director's claims, then surely there would be at least one older example which wouldn't endanger national security. But there is no such example. All Con was able to present us with was the empty promises of a politician who was in trouble.
given his organization's purpose is to defend the country as opposed to being right at all costs, the director's vested interests would more drive him to act in the best interest of the people, including abolishing torture if necessary.
His organization may have the ultimate goal of defending the country, but that does not mean that is always going to be his goal-- especially not when his professional reputation is one the line. Politicians are not perfectly noble; when they are under pressure, they will say what it takes to get out of it, even if it is not truthful. When someone has advocated something for a long time, it is natural for them to become defensive and continue supporting it even after they have been proven wrong, simply because they do not want to have to publicly accept their mistakes. Con places far too much faith in the director's integrity.
Pro's reports suffer from the same problems: they contain plenty of redacted material (and no specific details really) and each had more or less the same purpose (defending the country)
Con's attempts at showing that my evidence is also subjective are absurd. The article I cited was not a study itself-- it merely made references to other external studies, all of which do contain specific examples within them. And the article was *not* written with the purpose of "defending the country"... it was written with the purpose of providing information, as all newspaper articles are. There is simply no way around it-- the newspaper article, with its ample credibility, reputable sources, and lack of motive for fabrication is without a doubt *far* more objective and likely to be accurate than the single, questionable quotation Con has offered.
Pro does not answer my "hypothetical" reasoning backing up my evidence and contradicting his. He merely calls it a hypothetical and says it means nothing next to his analysis (no further explanation given). We simply don't see that as enough.
As I said last round, my evidence showing how things *do* work easily trumps Con's reasoning showing how he feels things *should* work, which is really all that he has supported his argument with thus far. And I have already provided hypothetical reasoning of my own in the first round-- suspects can stop the pain just as easily by lying or being unresponsive as they can by telling the truth, so there is no reason to believe that torture will result in obtaining accurate information.
Pro argues it's more than just asking nicely. It's not.
Con uses a tired, old fallacy, called Reduction-to-the-Ridiculous, in order to make it seem like humane interrogation techniques are nothing more than asking nicely. Such a fallacy is the equivalent of referring to God as a "sky fairy" or referring to supporters of abortion as "baby-killers". In reality, humane interrogation techniques are far more sophisticated than that. Reversing brain-washing is designed to challenge the beliefs which extremists are indoctrinated with (i.e. America is evil, etc.), and invoking fear can involve anything from mock executions of the suspect's loved ones to artificially-induced depersonalization. Even if alternative interrogation techniques really were nothing more than asking nicely, the point is that they *work*-- a point which Con has yet to directly address.
Sure, it worked for Matthew Alexander. It worked in a few theoretical models the FBI ran, maybe. But torture has worked well for centuries.
Con keeps insisting that torture has worked well for centuries, but he has not provided a *single* example of torture being used to obtain meaningful information in a situation where alternative interrogation techniques couldn't have been used instead. I have provided reliable, scientific evidence for my side of the resolution, while Con has only provided speculation, fallacy, and heavily biased sources; it is clear who is winning this contention. There is no situation in which torture is the best way to save lives.
R4) Ticking time-bomb
Con compares the possibility of torturing innocents to the possibility of sentencing an innocent to the death penalty. And he's right. The possibility of executing an innocent is one of the most-used arguments against allowing the death penalty! With the DP there is *far* more time to carefully consider the case from every angle and closely examine the evidence, and yet so many modern countries still accept the possibility of executing an innocent as a reason to reject the death penalty. It makes no sense to not apply the same reasoning to torture. Con's comparisons to other punishments such as speeding tickets and imprisonment are inapplicable because both of those are reversible punishments, and they do not involve the violation of fundamental human rights like torture and the DP do. Con's comparisons to accidental shootings and self-harm are irrelevant because those aren't government actions.
Con claims that there are times when torture is the only option, but he doesn't actually provide an example of this being the case. There is simply no realistic scenario in which the police have enough information to know who to torture, but not enough to at least have an idea of what area is going to be bombed; an evacuation is always feasible in a ticking time-bomb scenario. Con's response to my point about alternative interrogation methods relies on his rebuttal to R3, which I have already debunked. As for waterboarding, it is most definitely not psychological-- it clearly involves the infliction of extreme physical suffering upon a suspect, even if it doesn't leave lasting scars; psychological interrogation does not involve inflicting any suffering at all. This contention remains standing: there are always other ways to handle ticking time-bomb scenarios, and since there is a significant possibility of accidentally torturing an innocent (which is an irreversible moral atrocity), the government should always prefer the alternatives.
Con starts off with the bare assertion that people generally support the use of torture in warfare, yet the evidence I provided flatly contradicts that assertion-- the revelation that the US government uses torture so extensively incurred an extremely negative response by both Americans and foreigners alike. Con goes on to claim that because he doesn't think people should be using double standards, the United States' use of torture could not have resulted in the negative outcomes I described. But that is ridiculous; the fact is that people *do* use double standards, and that the United States' use of torture *was* used as a recruitment tool by extremists. Again, Con's ideals of what *should* happen do not match up to what actually *does* happen.
Con claims that no moderates were radicalized to the US cause by extremists' use of torture, but that is patently false-- a substantial portion of Muslims in the Middle East *have* begun support the US due to their disgust with the brutality of terrorist groups such as ISIS; it works both ways . It is true that the US didn't step up attacks in response to Al Qaeda's torture, but that just shows that the US *does* care about public perception-- by publicly announcing that they would not be intimidated or seek revenge, they were taking the moral high ground, and by using torture themselves, they are jeopardizing that advantage.
Return To Top | Posted:
2015-03-05 13:11:27 | Speak Roundadmin (CON)
My opponent accuses me of assertions without evidence, but his assertions are no better. What I've done is presented a logical case that the evidence inherently supports neither viewpoint - a correlation may indicate high crime being a response to torture, or else torture being a response to high crime. Political turmoil is also much more strongly correlated to high crime than the use of torture, be that because criminals piss off the people enough to make them have political issues, or because there are political issues and the protesters turn criminal. There is likewise a correlation between prison population and whether countries use the death penalty. The truth is that governments use options like torture and death as options of last resort. Further, we believe they are in fact effective in reducing crime. Against my opponent's not-an-actual-shred of evidence, I now would like to present Saddam Hussein's Iraq, perhaps one of the most recent non-current governments to employ torture. While the government was far from ideal (which in this case was probably the biggest reason for the high crime), we should recognize that in the current, torture-less Iraq, with a different controversial government, violence crimes run rampant
. Hundreds of thousands have died. Crime has not been in any way reduced - in fact the life expectancy in Iraq has fallen dramatically
since the invasion. Iraq is an extreme case because their torture is very well documented. In reality though, as I said last round, we're talking about hundreds of countries.
We don't see the effect with the death penalty that my opponent described, and people in China or the USA are significantly more afraid of committing extreme crimes because of it. Studies show that each person killed deters around seven others
. While torture can perhaps not boast quite the same record due to UN conventions, it remains a sufficiently open secret in many countries to give it that deterrent impact.
It is not true that torture needs to be a likely outcome of crime. As I said, torture is a sentence of last resort. However, torture would need to be frequently employed at least for serious crimes, such as homicide. That way people are deterred from those crimes and towards others that police can handle easier, creating a deterrence overall as police can have a greater impact. This is in fact what regularly happens. No country tortures people for jaywalking, light littering, or stepping on grass despite a clearly marked "keep off the grass" sign, and yet my logic is still able to hold so long as people fear torture at least for some crimes.
My opponent's conception of a right as being inherently inviolable is flatly incorrect. A right is a general rule with exceptional limits. You may recall my example of free movement from the last round. We also don't see the problem with a non-objective ethical framework for the debate, unless pro wants to prove (as opposed to assert) that ethics are objective. Given that ethics are not, we feel that commonly held ethical principles are exactly what should drive this discussion, unless of course pro proves beyond any doubt that an uncommonly held ethical idea must be true, which he hasn't.
Let's look at his justification, something I call Kofi Annan logic (because that's who basically was the first to point this out), but which I suppose would be accurately called circular reasoning. Because you're a person, you have rights. More correctly, there exists a right to be a person, an inversion of the statement, which is the right to life. Reversing it does not make it more true. That doesn't mean the right is inviolable, because one may cease to be a person, for example, if one dies. In that case, the right to life also ceases. Other than that, no right is intrinsically tied to human life, least of all the right to be free from torture. Nature itself is torturous on the human body. Life is torturous in a certain light. And the right to life can be reasonably limited while still maintaining the general right. Euthanasia, abortion and war are all examples of times when the right can be legally restricted. There is no justification behind the principle that non-objective human rights cannot exist.
Pro argues that life without autonomy is meaningless, but that's him imposing his subjective values on the debate. Many who believe in predestination, for example, also reject autonomy, but accept meaning in their lives. The fact that pro has no moral qualms killing bacteria only supports my case that the right to life is not absolute, and has exceptions - quite big ones in this case. Even assuming though that humans are the only autonomous creatures and that autonomy is required for ethical significance, itself an outrageous ethical claim for anyone who believes in animal rights (as I do), the right to autonomy would still be trumped by the right to life, because without life there would be no people and thus no autonomy. Life must be protected first. We place such reasonable restrictions on personal autonomy in the name of protecting lives all the time - the fact I cannot ethically leave a train while it is moving is still relevant here.
My opponent has dropped the claim that torture is ineffective in every case, but argues other options may always be more effective. I look forward to reading why that is necessarily the case.
I could have found torture reports from the 50s that support my position. Instead I chose something from the late 00s. I chose a current, relevant example for this debate. With the idea that there would be at least one older example that wouldn't endanger national security, it's actually quite a thing for pro to be basing their entire case on. It can be rebutted, in that while the wars were winding down, the CIA was not. The CIA probably would still use the same techniques because they work well. In fact if there were examples that would mean the CIA has found better techniques, which rebuts my case, but torture is still the most effective tool that the most advanced agency of its kind, the CIA, knows about. It's ok if my opponent doesn't trust the integrity of the man appointed to one of the most heavily vetted job positions on the planet, but his statements remain consistent with the idea that torture works. Ultimately if it didn't, he'd have had no reason not to abandon the policy and switch to something that actually does, since he wouldn't have to publicly accept that mistake, since nobody knows what the hell the CIA gets up to anyway.
The "specific examples" pro refers to are either first hand accounts, or meta analysis of first hand accounts. In other words - subjective. Further to claim that every newspaper article ever written is totally objective is even more absurd. I suppose pro has never read editorials. The difference is that:
- The CIA director was credible in talking about torture because he led the organization that did it. There is literally no person more qualified to talk about torture.
- His sources were reputable. One would better expect the CIA director to know about torture in his secret organization than a journalists interpretation of some loose subjective observational studies.
- If the CIA director can have some mysterious secret agenda for fabrication (little sense though pro's hypothesis does make - if he's outgoing he doesn't have a job to protect) then so too can some random journalist have a secret agenda for fabrication.
Pro basically admits at this point that my evidence concerning how things should logically work is faultless. In practical cases, externalities corrupt the results. All else being equal, however, this means that torture is an effective policy. A practical argument does not inherently trump a principled argument, but the other way around. I rebutted my opponent's logical counter material in depth in the first round as well - simply repeating again that he said it isn't going to beat my existing analysis.
Asking nicely is not inherently ridiculous. I ask nicely for a lot of things - for example, if I felt like taking a photo of somebody, I would ask nicely. Pro has to show how his "sophisticated techniques" amount to more than asking nicely, because that's exactly what they are. When pro says "reversing brainwashing" what he means is "asking nicely, as opposed to what they have been brainwashed into thinking you will do". Matthew Alexander never intended to reverse any brainwashing and if you read his book, he was surprised about it. He never thought asking nicely could be so powerful. That doesn't change the fact that it's still just asking nicely. Saying the fact that I haven't addressed their effectiveness at all is stupid at this point. I did it in round one.
I'd like to address invoking fear. Most techniques of this kind are physiological. Waterboarding is one example - it doesn't actually damage you in any way, but tricks you into thinking that you're drowning. Artificially induced depersonalization is usually achieved by a combination of isolation and sensory deprivation, severely inhibiting the normal function of the brain. And so on. These kind of things qualify as torture under every definition - the Euro, the UN, basically every convention on torture has agreed that techniques like waterboarding or sensory deprivation ARE torture. I agree that these things can be effective, and I don't want this debate to descend into semantics, but it sounds like what my opponent is really advocating is non-violent torture as opposed to no torture. You can't tell me that psychological tricks like waterboarding causes extreme physical suffering even though it's all illusionary, while psychological tricks like mock executions do not. People physically hurt when a loved one dies, and THAT'S why people come to fear it, much like they fear all torture.
As for there being no situations where alternative interrogation could have been used, sure, I accept that. One could always ask nicely instead of torture. What is not known is whether it would have the same outcome. I've shown before that people respond to asking nicely differently, so I'm sure it wouldn't. Our world today is a world rife with torture, but one that enjoys more peace than ever before in human history.
Ticking time bomb
Of course nobody wants innocents killed or hurt, but that can happen with ANY criminal justice. Torture is BETTER than the death penalty because it can be apologized for later. The same reasoning could be applied to ANY crime - there's no point in having any law if you're willing to accept the possibility of a false conviction. On the con side we think the rule of law is a great thing that actually helps our society to function well. There's also no reason why this couldn't be extended beyond government actions, and unless pro justifies this further, we can only assume that that's pro's artificial limitation because he holds governments (really just collections of people) to a double standard.
Pro now claims ticking time bombs are not realistic, without providing evidence of that. Even if they're not, it should be permissible to use torture in the hypothetical case that it did happen. This isn't a debate about the norm, but about exceptional cases in which torture might hypothetically be justified. All I need to do is identify one such case to win the debate. As for other ways to handle it, see my previous contention.
I feel like the points on warfare have been sort of addressed in the other rounds. Pro's material here is also nothing new, so since this debate is wrapping up, I kind of tried answering it broadly elsewhere in my case and condense the debate down to the most relevant issues. Just realize that these points I'm making apply in a military as well as in a civil context. In the specific case of Al Qaeda, note my opponent's only source comes from an opinion page. Also, note that even if torture did recruit people to the other side in a war, that doesn't inherently mean torture couldn't save lives overall. It's Kofi Annan logic again but I just wanted to be sure everyone understood that this principle applied here too.
I look forward to the final round.
Return To Top | Posted:
2015-03-12 13:06:46 | Speak Round