Friday, December 14, 2007

helmut testifies to congress on torture

Torture Hearing

UPDATE: Here's the set of statements from the hearing, including a better version of mine than the one below.

Yours truly gave testimony on torture this morning to the Helsinki Commission, chaired by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). Here's the transcript of my statement passed out to everyone at the hearing.

Historically, torture has been used to suppress dissent, force renunciation of beliefs, extract confessions or punish, force denunciation of others, intimidate or humiliate a wider population, and gather information through physical and psychological abuse.

Recently, the sole purpose being advanced by some to justify torture is the gathering of information. They argue that the information gained from torture is of greater moral significance than the torture of a human being who may have such information. Torture, they say, is a necessary evil in the fight against a greater evil. Since cruelty – of which torture is the epitome – is the worst side of human nature, the moral threshold for moral significance of information is very high. The ticking time bomb example, so corrosive of our moral imagination in the public discourse on torture, provides a crude utilitarian justification for the use of torture: torturing one bad man vs. saving many innocent people. This serves to trump the claims of the moral absolutist. But why stop there? If the potential information is of great moral significance, why not torture the one bad man’s family, or his children? A state of necessity has been used historically to justify the greatest atrocities. All torturers claim a state of necessity.


Read it all!

(Hat'tip Mike the Mad Biologist)

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