Thursday, 11 December 2014

I Just Can't

Here is CIA director John Brennan on the recently released US Senate report on torture:
"We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause-and-effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable."
Okay, so apparently before I say it was bad that they tortured people, I had better be damn sure that torturing people didn't result in anything useful. Otherwise, that would make me the monster, right?

Sort of like how if a police officer kills a black man, before we go condemning the killing, we'd better be absolutely certain that the black man didn't do anything that might have made the police officer nervous, and hadn't done anything bad in the past.

Imagine, for a moment, that one of those people who was tortured by the CIA would have otherwise gone on to be the next Hitler. What then?

This is honestly what passes as a reasonable way to think.


  1. If you knew for certain that a specific person would be the next Hitler (say someone from the future came back to let you know and you completely trust said someone) would you kill them preemptively?

    The 'Trolley Problem' but with an entire population of people tied to the track.

    1. I think that kind of moral question distracts us from real world morals. Real life doesn't have a lot of 'kill or no?' problems, not a lot of 'torture or no?' problems.

      When it comes to torture, the fact is that no one who has studied it thinks it is actually an effective way to accomplish anything except hurting people. It's satisfying for people who find that kind of thing satisfying, but it is not a good way to get useful information out of people. The Spanish Inquisition had documents that confirmed that. The CIA's own training materials drying state it as fact. If the time bomb is ticking and you need intel *right now* your best chance is to treat the subject of your interrogation with respect and trying to appeal to their humanity.

      So if you had a time machine, what would you do in 1920s Germany to prevent the holocaust? Would shooting one person help? Would a country that elected the Nazi party on a cleat platform of anti-semitism go a totally different way because one particular maniac wasn't around to shout things? Hardline right wing parties are on the rise all over Europe right now - parties on the verge of neo-Nazism. That happening because the political establishment seems to be under the thumb of bankers who only look out for the very rich and people just want a change, any change.

      I don't know what could have happened differently to stop the holocaust, but if you really had future tech and a time machine, you'd be better off doing something to address the economic situation in Germany leading up to the election of the Nazi's. If your only option was to kill exactly one person, it's hard to believe that Hitler would even be the one. There was probably a campaign organizer or a financier who had more impact on the Nazi win. With a time machine you could probably figure it out.