Torture: Do the Ends Justify the Means?

Lately our public dialogue about torture has taken a very frightening turn. No longer is it “did we or didn’t we.” Now it’s become “Yeah we did it. It worked, so it’s ok.” If the last 8 years hadn’t already numbed me to this kind of statement, I would be shocked and sickened.

Let’s presume for the sake of argument that the “enhanced interrogations: did work (and there’s much evidence to the contrary). Does that make it ok that we violated basic human rights? Does it validate our breaking of the Geneva Convention? Do the ends justify the means?

I’ve heard many people say yes, it does – we need to do whatever it takes. You know, I bet Bin Laden had some similar thoughts as he planned 9/11. But I don’t hear many people backing him up. “But he killed innocent people,” one might say. True. But let’s not forget that many of our detainees in the “War on Terror” have not been proven guilty in a court of law. Innocent until proven guilty, right?

Torture is not an American ideal. There’s a reason the US has been a beacon for the world since its inception. We are a nation of laws, of rights, of representative government. Where, theoretically at least, all men are created equal. Torture does not jive with those ideals. What would the Founding Fathers think to see a former Vice President making such statements?

There is a reason so many nations of the world (including the US) came together and signed the Geneva Convention: torture is wrong. Isn’t that one of the reasons used to support the overthrow of Saddam Hussein – that he tortured his own citizens? How about the Soviets and their forced-labor camps? The human-rights abuses of China? Or the treatment of political dissidents in Central America for so many years?

Regardless of political ideology, we should not support torture. It isn’t justified by any end. To stoop to such measures makes us no different than those we seek to defeat. The rest of the world can see that; why can’t we?

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Ed Albetski

Eloquently put. It is sadly funny that the torture-philes are trying to make Nancy Pelosi the focus of this debate. Politicizing this is interesting. Most of my conservative friends are military types who draw the line at torture. They allow that while troops on the ground under certain conditions may indulge in atrocities, our government can never officially condone their actions. That would endanger our own troops and lose our moral high ground as well as the support of our civilized allies.

Emi Whittle

The right thing and what actually occurs are often different things… but that does not mean that we should not still hold tightly to what those “right” things are… We would live in a truly horrible place if no one was outraged at immoral things and if our government condones immoral things like torture…. We also would not live in a free Country if our forefathers did not engage in some immoral actions – war, killing, maybe torture… But then if our forefathers did not then staunchly return to their basic moral foundations, we also would not be living in these awesome United States of America…


Link to the latest torture photos, which Obama backed out of releasing:

Emi: fighting for freedom — even if it means war and killing — is not necessarily immoral. Of course, it’s best to fight for freedom and justice without killing, but sadly our species is not that advanced. But you put it well: fight for freedom, but once you’ve won return to the moral foundation. That’s probably the best one could hope for.

Perhaps we should not say moral (which carries a tone of religious values) but rather ethical (which implies intrinsic, universal value). War might be immoral, depending on one’s views, but it can be ethical, if certain rules of warfare are followed. Torture, however, is both immoral and unethical.

I just read a post on Huffington Post. John Cusack wrote an open letter to Obama about not releasing the photos. One of the commentors posted (and I paraphrase): Where were you on 9/11? Would you have been anti-torture then? What short memories we have!

This is what concerns me. The idea that it’s ok to torture these people because they may have had some connection with 9/11. Even if we had the perpetrators of 9/11 themselves (those who took over the planes), would torture be validated? Or Osama Bin Laden? It just supports my theory that we are a nation of children.

“I hit him because he hit me first!”


Weird, the link I created didn’t come out! So much for the link feature. Anyhow, the pics weren’t any worse than what we’ve already seen — though I heard on Thom Hartmann that there were some that were gruesome. I haven’t found those yet. If anyone has, please post a link so the truth can be known.

Allen Sheaprd

I know how you feel. Horrible things done are often forgotten by the victors (Dresden Germany, “re-location camps” for Americans of Japonese ancestry, the French-Indian wars, Indian reservations, etc)
Willing torture bothers me, particualy when it is us, US, doing it.
Lets say there is no torture and the suspects are found guilty. Since we will not torture them, they sit quietly holding information that could save lives.
Water boarding is over the top for me but I’m a laymen.
Question – what ever happened to the good ole days of sodium penathal(sp?) or truth serum. Is a voiliation of privacy and human rights a violation regardless of the physical pain inflicted.
It seems the new technology helps collect more political prisioners so this issue will grow, not fade away. I’m also bothered that people do not want to have these people in the USA. Why is that we can keep Chalse Manson, Al Capone and other mass murderes in prision and give them a trial but not these folks? Again I’m not a professional soldier so I’m open to an explination.

“Many sleep safe at night because a few rough men stand willing to do great harm on their behalf” – George Orwell.

“So much worth living for, a few things worth dying for, very little worth killing over” – Pat Benatar, from a song

Ed Albetski

Jerry, given certain circumstances, even I could succumb to “the dark side” and beat something out somebody. Rage is a part of human nature. So is fear. But I am an individual and prey to the emotion of the moment. Governments, cold calculating bodies of rational people can never, ever condone torture. Not civilized governments anyway, those who claim higher ideals. We have to stand with other civilized nations against this. We can’t say “Torture is bad except when somebody does something really, really bad to us.” Yes, Geekchick, that just sounds so childlike.


I understand Jerry’s point, but I just can’t go there. My penchant for “the good of the many vs. the good of the one” might tempt me to slap someone around a little bit, but I like to think that in the end, I would stop prior to torture. Because even if all those lives were lost, then the blood would be on the perp’s hands, and he/she would be subject to this thing called a fair trial.

Of course, what I would REALLY do is don my cape and bust into the building to save the people, hero style.


You know what else chaps my hide? Torture supporters inevitably say something like, “They killed 3,000 innocent Americans!” Does it matter that they were “Americans”? Wouldn’t 9/11 have been just as heinous if it were some other nationality? They killed innocent PEOPLE. We should care either way. And not torture either way.