Friday, May 6, 2011

Post No. 164a: Re-Posting of "Who Cares If It's Torture?"


© 2009 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Earlier this week, Osama bin Laden was killed. By mid-week, various factions started debating whether our "enhanced interrogation techniques" played a significant role in locating the terrorist mastermind. We generated the following piece back in April 2009, and thought that a re-visit might be appropriate.


On most news issues, we don’t have an opinion.

At least, not immediately. We like to think stuff through.

In the case of this “torture” or “enhanced interrogation” debate, we definitely do not have an opinion.

Yet.

We don’t have enough concrete, credible evidence to competently form an opinion.

More importantly, we do not have first hand information.

Plus, it’s become difficult to decipher the “truth” from the media outlets.

At this point, affixing a label, to the purported conduct, may actually be little more than an academic exercise.

However, we do have some “observations.”

Many of our citizens feel that the methods employed were appropriate.

There is also a substantial segment which feels that they were not, at least for a civilized society.

Some apparently feel that the tactics worked, fulfilled a valuable function, and thus were “necessary,” whereas others disagree.

Yet, despite all of the dissection, few have really focused on the crux of the matter: Whether we are willing to embrace a “by any means necessary” philosophy to address a perceived threat.

This obviously is one amorphous, value-laden, context-driven, ball of Play Doh, moving like a Slinky down the Capitol steps.

There is nothing more unsettling to humans than the thought that we are capable of going to a place we consider unthinkable, although perhaps necessary. (Practice and frequency change all of that.)

It’s mentally akin to shooting a human for the 1st time, whether an intruder, or enemy soldier.

The reality is that at some point on the continuum, we’d all be willing to commit the ultimate act, or darn close to it, if we thought it “necessary,” and that the interests protected were significant enough.

Part of the problem is that it doesn’t matter whether something is actually a threat, but rather whether people think it is a threat, and reasonable people will differ on that.

All three Institute Fellows, the Optimizer, the Laughingman, and the Logistician, served in the armed forces during the Vietnam Conflict Era. Each learned to use weapons which kill, if necessary.

And efficiently.

We appreciate the concept of evil, and the concept of the “enemy.’

And yet, we’d all probably be far less likely to use torture, however defined, than 98% of you who have never served.

On the other hand, if we decided that it was necessary, we’d be at the front of the line, in the first 2%, to do it, efficiently, like Arnold, and move the freak on, with little yapping….

The History Channel and PBS recently aired programs documenting the inhuman treatment of Allied POWs in the South Pacific by the Japanese during WWII. Subsequently, we saw a discussion of the psychology of revenge.

Once it was clear that the Americans had won, and began to take Japanese POWs, our forces did some pretty despicable things. A U.S. journalist captured some of this on film. It was suppressed for years, and only recently disclosed.

We didn’t want the world to know that Americans could “go there.”

We need occasional reminding that fear can bring out the absolute freak in us.

And anger is frequently intertwined with fear.

Today, we witnessed the baptism of a young infant. Observing the congregation, we noted the serenity associated with that event.

All of us take on that glazed look when dealing with infants. We’re reminded of an era of innocence, when worries are nonexistent, and someone else has the responsibility of caring for us.

It’s a space to which many yearn to return - unrealistically.

Jack Nicholson reminded us, in “A Few Good Men,” that some force ensures that those of us on the home front, including that infant, sleep in peace and comfort through the night. (Funny that film should have taken place at Guantanamo.)

When we perceive a threat (especially one difficult to define and frame) is about to invade our zone of serenity, our willingness to “go there” becomes less objectionable.

We’re all located in different cars on the train that is the continuum as we approach that point.

That being said, perhaps we can do without labeling it torture or some other euphemism.

Perhaps no prosecutions, bloodletting, or rolling of heads.

We well understand the PR issues, and this desire to convey that America is the Mt. Everest of “high moral ground.”

However, that we live in a society capable of public introspection may be just good enough, for now, especially with other issues on our plate.

It’s what helps form the “collective conscience” that all societies need, but do not have.

The reality is that at the end of the day, all of us care.

32 comments:

  1. Sorry for the length of this post I will post in two segments:

    Part I:
    You are right, this is a tough issue. I too was a “Vietnam guy”. Like many of my comrades, as part of “Escape and Evasion” training in the Philippine jungle prior to deployment “in Country”, we experienced the pleasurable process of being “broken” by harsh interrogation practices. (Including water boarding). Yes we all broke. But was this torture? While a very unpleasant experience, by any definition (including the Geneva Convention’s) it was not deemed torture at the time.

    Those actually captured did endure disfiguring torturous practices that make water boarding and the harsh techniques employed today look like grade school antics. The Geneva Convention defines torture as: “For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

    A problem arises in the definition of severe pain or suffering and the meaning of the last sentence. So what are lawful sanctions? And what if the combatants are not lawful, in other words they are outside of the protections of the Geneva Convention? So to whom does the Geneva Convention apply? It is interesting that Eric Holder the current Attorney General indicated the following:

    “November 22-23 Wall Street Journal (page A13) that Barack Obama’s selected Attorney General, Eric Holder,
    agrees with us that terrorists are not uniformed combatants who are
    entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention.”

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  2. an informative comment from Coop.

    Not having an opinion on 'news issues' is a bit confusing. There is news and there are issues. 'News'(the happening) is true, and opinion is not relevant. 'News' (the reporting of happenings) is accurate, inaccurate, or a mixture, and an opinion could only be about the reporting. 'Issues' exist independently of news and are comprised of ideas or concepts. Opinions are interesting, and a bit like 'play doh' (dough) - they should be soft and pliable to begin with, even kept to yourself. When opinions are cooked they harden, and become useful as projectiles.

    Osama bin Laden either died years ago, last week, is hiding somewhere else, or living in luxury employed by the US. but his 'spirit' will continue forming opinions for years to come.

    His death is not a matter of opinion, but the belief of it will cause history to swerve slightly in its course. Obama can cry 'mission accomplished' and wind down the 'war on terror' in the hope that it might steer history towards peace a little, and save some petro-dollars too.

    'Terrorists' might launch revenge attacks, and/or the West might simulate a few in order to promote justification for response.

    Peace in the world is a concept not worth wasting thought on until some Power has the weaponry and trained army
    capable of ENFORCING peace on the rest of us. Now THAT'S an opinion.

    Please let that Power be American or European, for the sake of our daughters, and let all us ordinary weak people get used to the idea that satellite-guided high explosives available in massive quantities MAY be the only argument other Powers respect in the interim.

    OK IC, I'm coming to your question. I cannot cope with torture. Introduce me personally to a torturer and I will readily erase him as instantly as possible. But I will not do to him what he does to others. In certain circumstances it is unforgivable, in my opinion, and in others it would be irresponsible (oops!) to avoid its scientific use to gain information that would save lives. For instance; a captured American pilot has information about a bomb attack on an Al Qa'ida headquarters.........

    The graphic news of torture and violence causes real mental suffering to thousands of sensitive people who can do nothing about it; it can damage children seriously. Its general reporting is therefore wrong, because the people involved in ACTION need not be spared the information.

    Those of you able to perform in extreme danger have my deep respect. In a short time you could have earned a good pension for life, and would get all the post traumatic counselling you needed (whether you wanted it or not). Too many brave people have been treated as outcasts after a war, just because they have become ineffective in peacetime due to their experience. They may not be ABLE to work with ordinary weak people and can only sit at home barking and complaining, therefore not deserving of help from the government or No.1 dogs (irony)(I will never let you lie(down) IC).

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  3. Marvelous Coop, simply marvelous.

    No apologies are necessary with respect to the length of your comments in this instance. Considering the complexity and seriousness of the subject matter, you managed to mention the "27" most significant issues in just a few paragraphs.

    You provided (in our opinion) several things:

    (a) some personal perspective;

    (b) a balanced analysis;

    (c) some research, including the acknowledgement that Wikipedia may have its limitations (although anyone can pursue the source material by examining the footnotes); and

    (d) a better appreciation of how divided we are as a "society" on this subject.

    HOWEVER, two other things also loomed very large for us which led us to label your input "marvelous."

    a) You actually provided the language from the Geneva Convention; and

    b) Most importantly, you made reference to the issue of "UNIFORMED COMBATANTS," which makes the application of the Geneva Convention even more problematic.

    As a general proposition, folks who do not "play" by the rules of traditional warfare are not entitled to the protections of the Convention. One of the rules involves wearing a uniform so that friends can recognize friends, and foes can recognize foes; otherwise the killing becomes even MORE chaotic.

    Lots of stuff to think about here. Thanks again Coop.

    P.S. We humans are fascinating. The gem of your comments was your reference to the Pew study, which found that the religiously unaffiliated are the least likely to support torture, and that the more a person claims to attend church, the more likely he or she is to condone torture. Fascinating.

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  4. Thank you CorfuBob for another pithy examination of this very complex subject.

    The "27" issues which you raised are different than the "27" Coop raised, and thus we are already at 54 today with only two of our readers commenting thus far.

    It just goes to show, that "[t]here are more than 2 or 3 ways to view any issue; there are at least 27."TM

    Several things immediately came to mind while reading your comments, particularly in conjunction with reading Coops, namely how thinking people (a) go through the process of weighing the pros and cons of such serious conduct; (b) appreciate the difficult decisions which others have to make; (c) appreciate the exponential complexity of human behavior in this diverse world; and (d) devote time and thought, (contrasted from simple adherence to dogma), to the consideration of conduct which could have grave ramifications affecting US ALL.

    Thanks.

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  5. Excellent Bob, I concur with your analysis as well.

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  6. But two questions remain:

    Can torture ever serve a useful purpose?

    What is torture?

    The Geneva Convention is purposely (I think) vague "pain or suffering... inflicted intentionally" which is plain enough until you ask what constitutes pain.. or "suffering"? And there was something about "physical or mental", wasn't there?

    So, you have prisoners you've captured on the battlefield or captured hiding in neutral territory. They have information you could use. You apply techniques you are told are legal. You gather much information. That information leads to more information and that eventually leads to the location of a highly prized target.

    You didn't starve the prisoner, you didn't leave him with physical scars, he was never in real danger of dying, and you did as ordered and what was described as legal, were you a torturer?

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  7. On CBS' "Face the Nation" earlier today, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, responding to questions regarding the role played by the Bush Administration's use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques, said that [paraphrasing] they worked, and that it would be a mistake to discontinue their use.

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  8. As we type this President Obama is explaining the raid on the bin Laden compound on CBS' "60 Minutes."

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  9. Douglas wrote:

    "But two questions remain:

    "Can torture ever serve a useful purpose?

    "What is torture?"

    As for the first question, the answer is, "Of course it can, in certain circumstances."

    Does it work every time on every person subjected to it? The answer is "Of course not, it depends on the circumstances and the person subjected to it."

    It is possible, for example, that it only works 3% of the time, but if that 3% yields valuable information, then the perpetrators will argue that it worked. Maybe not efficient but effective.

    As for the second question, the characterization of certain conduct as torture is both personal to the subject and the observer, and the vast majority of the debate will be engaged in by people who never come close to being an actual participant in any fashion.

    Here's the deal: Since time immemorial, warring factions have been doing whatever they deem necessary to achieve their goals. They will continue to do so in the future.

    It's the professional ad weasels and PR folks who lead the debate on propriety and proportion. It's not something you can teach in school.

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  10. You are a clever and wise man, Inspector. I would say that torture works more often than not. Why would I say that? Because it would have fallen out of favor quickly enough if it only worked a little bit. Torture does "break" people. Even if they don't reveal all, they reveal something.

    The problem, I think, is in the definition. Is it torture to deny darkness to a person for 72 or more hours? How about to deny them light for 72 or more hours? How about a constant grating noise for that period? Rock music? Rap music? None of these would leave a physical reminder but all would weigh heavily on the mind.

    Like you say, inspector, "torture is both personal to the subject and the observer."

    So how do you outlaw it?

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  11. Douglas:

    You will recall that we posed this question to our readers some time ago:

    Assuming you only had two choices in the business of war, neither result you can know with any degree of certainty on the front end, would you rather be a noble / ethical/ responsible/high moral ground loser OR a winner using whatever means necessary to win?

    Question No. 2, which we did not present previously. Should we teach our kids to be the latter or the former, or even both?

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  12. A nice choice IC - a noble loser or a winner! Not a loaded question to our friend Douglas by any chance? I remember it being said that if GB had lost the 1st war against Germany, my motherland would have been prosperous by now (then). But also there would have been no second war against Germany for us German speaking British. Is that a 'win' or a 'loss'?

    Here is something I wrote yesterday but could not post.

    Torture - The deliberate subjection to a conscious being to severe physical/mental pain for a purpose other than immediate self defence.

    Purposes include: extraction of information, extraction of confession or other statement, revenge, warning to subject, warning to others, gratification of sadistic desire by the torturer.

    Obviously 'severe' is subjective, but 'purpose' is intrinsic. In practice, purposes can be mixed.

    Sychopaths like Rumpsfelt, or whatever he's called WOULD say 'it works'. Of course it does sometimes. So would reducing Iran to rubble and bodies, then Syria et al would pay more attention.

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  13. CorfuBob:

    We visit (but not with the frequency we should) the blogs of some of our regular readers, including Douglas and Independent Cuss. Just yesterday, we got into an exchange with Douglas about whether society values people who are firm in their beliefs and consistent.

    We responded that we preferred people who questioned their beliefs and views, and the underpinnings for them, on a daily basis.

    The most enjoyable part of operating this blog for us is to read something put forth by one of our readers which makes us go, "Hmmm," pause, and really think about the content.

    Your proposed definition of torture made us do that. We're going to have to sleep on that one for a while.

    We hope that you participate in our forum for years to come. You frequently force us to think (for several days on the same issue).

    Thanks.

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  14. BTW CorfuBob, right at this moment, we're really liking your defintion; and Douglas previously answered the question about a noble / ethical loser vs. an unscrupulous winner.

    We'll get back to you on the substance of your comment.

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  15. Even though you say I previously answered Question 1, I'd like to address it.

    I would rather be the winner. For one thing, losing just sucks but it also could put you in a war crimes docket. Or worse, you could be annihilated along with what remained of your country*. Much better to be the winner.

    The answer to question 2: We teach both. We do, of course, teach our children (officially) that honorable behavior trumps winning or losing. "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." I believe that's the adage. Unofficially, we teach them to go the extra mile, to push the limits of the rules. And that "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

    A question back would be:

    Which army would you want defending your city/nation? The one that ignores tactical advantage in favor of honorable behavior? Or one that assumes a war is a struggle for survival and rules may have to be broken?


    But my point was about the illusive definition of torture. Sleep deprivation, healthy but bad-tasting meals, inundating a prisoner with bad rock and roll music all his waking hours can each seem to be torture. To the prisoner. But are they?

    We all understand that beating a prisoner, attaching and energizing electrodes to sensitive parts of his body,aiming an unloaded (unknown to him) gun at a prisoner's head and pulling the trigger are tortures. But what about the previous practices?

    Would excessive kindness be considered torture? I have thought for a long time now that treating people with more than deserved kindness would drive them a bit crazy.

    I used to argue with my first wife until she was red in the face and then abruptly state, "You're right" and stop arguing. She thought I was torturing her.

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  16. * Not all winners create things like The Marshall Plan.

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  17. No Douglas, being to kind is not torture, better to use words in their agreed way. When you stopped arguing with 'you're right' you were either lying, or teasing - irritating certainly!

    Thankfully my parents did not think in terms of winning and losing in the context of ambition and personal behaviour. In sports and war of course, but if American parents do teach 'winning is everything' generally to children it could explain the high levels of stress and violence in your society.

    Thank you IC for those kind words. I am entirely with you on the matter of people being firm in their views or not, but again it depends on the circumstances. And again, this firmness is a continuum. I am a totally firm atheist, but would be happy to believe in a god who created the universe in 7 days if the evidence was convincing.

    Nature is enough of a miracle for me, and mystery a stimulus, I do not understand the weakness of intellect that leads people to accept answers delivered on a plate by a religion, but to ACCEPT the weakness in individual cases is very easy. Three of the top women in my life were church-goers.

    Stubbornness of opinion or belief is surely both a sign of weakness and strength of mind. Lifelong experience - a very strong experience - a very old book bound in leather - very deep study, all these form opinions but intellect is not required equally in all of them, in my humble opinion,

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  18. Corfubob, I would suggest that being polite to your enemy, even friendly and courteous, would be a strain on one's self-control. It would not be "honest", just as my tactic with my ex-wife was not, but that's not the point; little is honest about interrogation. I don't think it's been tried yet because it is just too "outside the box" for most.

    It isn't the parents that teach that about winning. It's a part of our culture. There was a man called Vince Lombardi who is responsible for the quote "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

    But he also said this, "Winning is not everything – but making the effort to win is."

    But I do not think it contributes to the violence in my society, though I agree it leads to stress in some areas. Stress is also the product of restraint, I believe.

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  19. Earlier today on C-Span, we heard a guest claim that "conscience is the part of a civilized state's character."

    Perhaps it's okay to torture our enemies during the course of war, as long as we feel badly about it afterwards?

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  20. Come on Douglas, what has being 'polite' in the context of war and torture go to do with anything? Lombardi was trying to broaden his appeal as a wise man by claiming opposing views - at different times no doubt. Put them together and he just looks like a fool. Bloody foreignor any way.

    Parents contribute something to the character of their children and learn from fools like Lombardi. It is part of your culture but parents could resist training their kids to be greedy, and thus change the culture. Could they not?

    Stress is certainly a product of restraint, but not all stress is damaging.

    Where are you Cuss? I worry that you had a bad dream and shot yourself.

    It's difficult to imagine correct answers to some of the main questions about war and torture.

    It is strange indeed to contemplate the fact, yes, the fact that less suffering would be the result of instantly anihilating every Chinese/Muslim/Greek (one only allowed) family than by allowing any of them to try controlling an enemy country. Bet you're glad I'm not GOD.

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  21. CorfuBob:

    You have, on occasion, referred to "continuums" in relation to examining human conduct. While we agree with you in this regard, we frequently wonder whether most of the world's population thinks of issues in this manner. We doubt it.

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  22. IC, The world will come to think like this, but we had better be patient.

    Most of the worlds population has been damaged by destructive training in the name of religion which does not encourage humanist logic. Black and white, good and bad, absolute moral values. Are you saying we shouldn't try arguing for the reality of lack of clarity in the actual truth?

    After more than 2000 years of wars and suffering in a world where even its 'moral' leaders can't agree about the rights of the weak and poor, still apparently educated people dress up and take themselves to church on sundays to sit respectfully before these lying con-men, and sing for this vicious God that they believe wrote the manual of human behaviour that needed no modification as the human mind evolved.

    Even many non-believers are still afraid to admit this fact of themselves, and in America they had better not be honest about it if they want to work for the government.

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  23. As we type this, here in the US on the History Channel (and possibly elsewhere on History International, there is currently airing a program on Ancient Aliens and UFOs.

    The discussions about these forces intertwined with religion are fascinating.

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  24. Corfubob, I must disagree with you on a number of things. First, Lombardi was not a foreigner. At least as far as I am concerned. You are the foreigner. It's all a matter of perspective. Almost everyone ever quoted has contradictory quotes. Look up Thomas Jefferson quotes sometime for a good example. But I don't think those two quotes were contradictory or made him look a fool. I think they were complementary. But maybe that's because I agree with them.

    As for parents teaching something other than cultural norms (perhaps in an effort to effect change in one's society or culture), that would depend upon the society's current form, wouldn't it? If the society is healthy, why try to change it? If the society isn't healthy and is repressive then, certainly, change would be a good thing. I am not one who thinks change is always good. I am one who thinks change must always be questioned strongly.

    As for my "politeness" regime for interrogation, it has never been tried as far as I know. So there is no way yet to judge its efficacy. I do know that being polite does not have to be sincere or honest in order to be effective. You don't tell your wife (assuming you are married) that that particular article of clothing makes he butt look big, do you? Not if you don't like sleeping on the couch. I have used feigned politeness many, many times to gain (or regain) control of an argument. I have used it to avoid fights or to gain advantage before a fight. I have used it to avoid getting a traffic citation and as an aid to avoid conviction on other traffic citations that I could not avoid. Trust me. It works.

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  25. There is probably more misunderstanding than disagreement going on here, but 'bloody Foreigner' was a joke based on the name. One really great thing about the USA is that most people have 'foreign' names, having welcomed immigrants during formative years.

    However - winning is NOT everything. Not in the broad social context - simply because winning implies losing, and in the social context, when people see themselves as (and are labelled) 'losers', trouble starts. Actually, I AM a bloody loser, (fortune in estate/cash, foreign wife, career, etc) but count myself lucky not to have lost imagination and perspective.

    I don't think 'politeness' implies sincerity Douglas, what do you 'feign' in the examples you gave? Sometimes it 'works', sometimes it doesn't.

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  26. Thank you for your introspective comment on "Left is Right". Torture I think is a manifestation of our generally violent behavior ingrained in our genetic composition, a result of millions of years of evolution geared towards survival. Our civilization cannot continue to advance without laws to encourage (motivate) civil behaviour and reprimand our uncivil actions. We now see a conflict with our base desire to address our fears via torture, and our civil intelligence and altruism directed against violence. Assuming our civilization survives, we should eventually see a universal reluctance to torture, unfortunately not likely in our lifetimes.

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  27. I commented. It failed. I did not make a copy first before attempting to post. I am going to refrain from commenting from now on because I think it shouldn't be necessary to capture a copy before attempting to post.

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  28. Mike, it's good to agree 100% with you. Instinct and brain are at loggerheads in the homo sapiens, no doubt about that. The brain is even in denial occasionally that instinct still exists in humans. But un-natural selection HAS to work, don't you agree?

    Douglas, Is it a Blogger problem? Do you have a fast internet connection? Anyway, 'ClipMagic' is worthwhile; it saves everything from your clipboard. (Ctrl C, and it's there for ever - until you delete it) I think there is a much better way to manage lengthy comments - the Blogger default system is a bit primitive Inspector. Scrolling 'snippets' would be much more user-friendly, and we could even get used to making sure the snippet lead into the comment - like headlines.

    Surely TV is an exceptional site, worth modernizing?

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  29. Blogger periodically displays "Error Code 305."

    Someone once suggested that we used a Web 2.0 comment add on, like Disgus. We tried to add it on two prior occasions to no avail. We're not sure whether it will address the concerns mentioned, but we will try again.

    CorfuBob, your comment regarding "scrolling snippets" implicitly suggested that the feature is provided in some application add-on with which you are familiar. Please provide the name of the app and we'll be glad to check it out.

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  30. Mike: Thanks for visiting our forum. We hope that you visit regularly.

    We think that you hit the nail on the head. You indicated that violence is "ingrained in our genetic composition...."

    While we agree with you, we found it interesting that so few of our readers mentioned this as a possible factor in their discussion of the use of terror.

    We're pretty much of the school of thought that anyone would use torture given the appropriate circumstances.

    Evolutionary survival. That's why we posted the noble loser vs. unscrupulous winner scenario. In wars between nation states, we seriously doubt that any state chooses to be a loser of any sort.

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  31. If I view Torture as that what it is: an act were severe pain or suffering, (physical or mental) is intentionally inflicted on a person, my (un)common sense tells me that any debate about "What constitutes Torture?" is senseless. We are all different and we all start to suffer (physical or mental) at different levels. Even though I'm a Night-Nurse and have to deal with sleep- deprivation for years, I know that Sleep deprivation can be a form of torture. I just don't use myself a yard-stick.

    Torture, the word sounds so awful, that is clearly something reserved for more uncivilized nations. With the right amount of propaganda one can instill enough fear and the next logical step is to rename Torture. Once you start calling Torture things like "moderate physical pressure" , "enhanced interrogation techniques" or "water boarding" It all does not sound too bad and “by any means necessary” will be the philosophy of today. The masses (not wanting to appear unpatriotic) will support it.

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  32. Thanks much wSteffie for your insightful comments, and welcome back. We missed you.

    We posted this piece twice now, and we were fascinated by the responses both times. Most people focused on the inflictor of the torture, not the inflictee. And, as you so appropriately pointed out, the inflictees fall over the spectrum in terms of what they are capable of handling, and the point at which they break.

    Our bigger concern is the seeming lack of objectivity in the analysis of this subject. People, on both sides of the debate, seem to be able to justify, rather easily, the positions that fit within their view of propriety and morality. If that is the case, then there is no "standard," and we should arguably stop fooling ourselves as a society.

    Someone once said that at the end of the day, when pushed far enough, we're all barbarians.

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