David Thompson
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February 29, 2008

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Matt M

Hmmmm.

"Awareness that such acts may or may not take place in other countries doesn’t imply that one condones those acts."

No. But by knowingly choosing a course of action which puts an individual at risk of torture the state is condoning it in a sense. As it's stating that this course of action is preferable to one in which the individual isn't put at risk.

"Tax payers could conceivably have moral objections to paying for the food, medicines and accommodation of foreign prisoners intent on doing them harm."

We do. But for me its a choice of lesser evils: A state which uses resources to contain such individuals or a state that participates (in a minor sense) in torture.

David

Matt,

“…the state is condoning it in a sense. As it’s stating that this course of action is preferable to one in which the individual isn’t put at risk.”

How does that follow? How is expulsion an affirmation of torture? In what real sense are we “participants”? It still isn’t clear. A society has no ‘natural’ obligation to indefinitely host violent and self-defined foreign enemies or to take all possible measures, however objectionable, perilous and expensive, to keep them from harm at the hands of other foreigners acting overseas. Any more than I have an obligation to protect an unwelcome and hostile houseguest against the possible actions of third parties on the other side of town. As I said, deportation in and of itself implies nothing more than a forfeit of the usual *conditional* protections extended to visitors.

R. Sherman

In the Saadi quote, replace the word "torture" with some variant of the word "hunger." Does Saadi's theory of moral responsibility still hold? Does one society, which has managed to create good lives for its members owe a moral responsibility to all those of other societies which are have not so progressed? If a society bears such moral responsibility for sending a non-member away for misdeeds, does it also bear a moral responsibility for refusing to allow such non-members in in the first place, before they have misbehaved?

Regards.

Matt M

I think you're really splitting hairs here.

The state is partly responsible because it's actively taken steps that will put an individual in a situation where they will (or are likely to) be tortured. It could have prevented it, it didn't. It's as simple as that. That, in my book, makes it partly responsible.

Responsibility doesn't end at the national border - If we're in a position to prevent torture then, if we're opposed to the practice, we should do so.

David

Matt,

“I think you’re really splitting hairs here.”

And I think you’re stretching notions of responsibility and affirmation to untenable, certainly contentious, lengths.

“The state is partly responsible because it’s actively taken steps that will put an individual in a situation where they will (or are likely to) be tortured. It could have prevented it, it didn't. It’s as simple as that.”

But is it? I’m not trying to be perverse here. I think clarity on this issue matters. I could - theoretically - prevent any number of things. I could give everything I own to charity. I could spend my life nursing the sick or irrigating fields. If I don’t, does that make me responsible, and how exactly? There are limits and conditions to consider; a balancing of rights and obligations. I refer you to my houseguest example above. Insofar as Person X might be “at risk” of ill-treatment overseas, that person is at risk primarily because of his own immediate *choices*, i.e. to commit serious and seditious crime in a country of which he’s a guest. It’s hard to see how any society can protect everyone, whether citizens or visitors, from all of the possible consequences of their own actions. (Though I realise there’s a belief among some that this is both possible and desirable.)

As I said, the protections and welcome afforded a visitor are conditional and not infinitely elastic. They’re a favour – a grace, if you will - not an absolute entitlement with an unending tab. If a visitor chooses to commit serious crime – say, by plotting to explode random tube passengers or inciting others to do so – then a fundamental covenant has been broken and the host society has been betrayed in the most serious way possible. Members of that society may have very real moral objections to Person X remaining under their protection at considerable expense and with the risk of his intentions being spread among others, either in prison or at large. So whose rights matter more? How much is the wellbeing of Person X worth? Exactly how far does one go to prevent a self-declared enemy possibly being tortured by a third party in a foreign country?

I repeat, banishing Person X doesn’t in itself *affirm* what others overseas may try to do to him. It doesn’t by default condone torture or physical harassment. It simply rescinds a conditional courtesy for what seem to be very good reasons.

Rich Rostrom

ISTM that if one takes an action one knows will have a certain result, one is responsible for that result, even if another party actually executes that result. For instance, a nation is justified in deporting illegal immigrants. But suppose the immigrant is a pregnant woman from China, who will be forced to undergo an abortion there. Is the deporting country exempt from responsibility? Modern, respectable countries, such as the U.S. or Britain, do not torture criminals, even the most depraved. To condemn anyone to torture, even tacitly, seems to me to be as wrong as tolerating anal rape in prisons as a form of added punishment.

David

Rich,

Well, ultimately, I think it’s important to be clear about the principle here. I see how often these things are asserted, generally as part of a wholesale package or attitude, rather than argued with clearly defined principles. It’s easily done and I’ve done it myself. The line “if you oppose torture in all circumstances, as you should…” is an example of what I mean. While a person may have a visceral aversion to torture and degradation and may object for any number of perfectly good reasons, there are nonetheless plenty of scenarios in which torture, or something like it, would be the lesser evil and possibly a moral imperative. I’m pretty sure many of us, perhaps most, would be willing to inflict serious pain and injury on an intruder in one’s home or to extract information regarding one’s abducted children. To avoid doing so “in all circumstances” could clearly be grotesque.

Matt says, “Responsibility doesn’t end at the national border.” But, again, this isn’t as simple as one might wish. There are several responsibilities to consider and some are more important than others. I suppose I’m asking at what point it’s okay to no longer feel “responsible” for the safety of individuals who’ve betrayed our trust in the most grievous of ways and who, in their own words, wish us very real harm. One might see such individuals as undeserving of sympathy, let alone of a protection that may compromise one’s own safety.

I return to my houseguest example. If he betrays my hospitality and declares himself a threat to me and my family, why should I be obliged to keep him under my roof, even if some third party on the other side of town may wish him harm? What about the interests of other members of my household? What say do they have?

Paul Power

The situation is worse than that. The person in question knows what he faces if he is deported and that all he has to do not to be departed is obey the laws of the host country, laws that require very little of him. And yet he still plots/engages in terrorist activity against his host country. Therefore he is extremely dangerous. In these circumstances he has no right to expect that people he would kill should be under a moral or legal obligation to protect him from harm.

steveaz

The same crude moral calculus that infects the left's notions of "territory" infects, too, the Left's understanding of "property," "ownership," and "possession."

Maybe the ignorance is intentional.

To equate "property" with "territory" could terminate the Left's appeal in our consumer-society. Because, if we all consider our Ipod or Hyundai to be our owned "territories," then the notion that you and I have to share these possessions with something called "The Village," just doesn't make any sense.

Now, does it?

The Thin Man

I find it interesting that many who argue against “rendition” use what appears to be a throwaway line without apparent consideration of a rather unfortunate paradox it engenders.

MattM makes it here, but I have seen it on several other comment threads when subjects like this are discussed.

“But for me it’s a choice of lesser evils:”

What this does is to uncover an important moral discontinuity which those opposed to rendition do not admit in the main context of their claims, namely that somehow there is a balancing of good versus evil in the apprehension of our behaviour as societies, but that the same weighing does not extend to the individuals whose own behaviour is the cause of the process of rendition being discussed in the first place. Surely our first duty is to protect good. And if that requires the destruction of evil then we should have no qualms about that destruction. The message that such a choice sends to those who would do evil is in and of its self a valuable tool to reduce evil, since some who may consider doing evil things will be constrained by the understanding of the possible personal cost of such actions.

It seems to me that our literature provides many examples of a template for framing a response to people who choose evil. In the tale of Hansel and Gretel, does it strike any child as wrong that the old woman ends up in the oven? Is Van Helsing wrong to drive the stake through Draculas heart? Should Ripley not blow the alien out of the airlock – should she instead attempt to negotiate with the creature, or attempt to capture and maintain it?

David

Heh. I’m trying to picture a film about Ripley’s sensitive attempts to pacify and “understand” the salivating xenomorph. Somehow, I don’t see bums on seats. Or indeed much of a moral.

There is, I think, a tendency to assume that one can somehow deal with serious threats – including what might be called evil - without ever treating the wrongdoer roughly or in unedifying ways. Perhaps it’s felt that this would reflect badly on those doing the protecting or those being protected. Perhaps it’s imagined that violence is in itself bad, irrespective of the intent. Or maybe it’s just squeamishness disguised as lofty principle.

Having had vivid first hand experience of being threatened with random, unprovoked violence while a group of pacifist “friends” looked on for several minutes with high-minded impotence, I don’t have much sympathy with that view. It’s rather important that the good guys can defend themselves, and their allies, and are prepared to do so when necessary.

Matt M

"I could - theoretically - prevent any number of things. I could give everything I own to charity. I could spend my life nursing the sick or irrigating fields. If I don’t, does that make me responsible, and how exactly?"

I think it does - We have the choice to devote ourselves to improving the conditions of others and choose not to. I could have donated the money I used to buy the computer I'm using now to cancer research, but I chose to put my needs above the needs of people I've never met. That I did so is just part of human nature - We give priority to our needs and the needs of those we care about. So it seems pointless to condemn it too heavily. But I still think we should accept the fact that we do have a *choice* in these matters.

This isn't to say that the choice made is necessarily wrong, just that we should accept responsibility for making it. Deporting someone to a country that engages in torture is to choose a course of action that will put that individual at risk - and we are responsible for that choice.

Matt M

In the last sentence above, "we" should be "the people who make it".

Matt M

"There is, I think, a tendency to assume that one can somehow deal with serious threats – including what might be called evil - without ever treating the wrongdoer roughly or in unedifying ways."

Surely this is a separate issue to that of responsibility?

Even though I see the state as being partly responsible for an individual being tortured if it knowingly put them in a situation where torture was likely, I can still see that course of action as being the lesser evil in some circumstances (i.e. if it were the only conceivable way of preventing loss of life).

ET

On a minor point, Matt, giving priority to one's own needs isn't selfish but responsible. Why should society, ie, other people, buy you your own personal computer?

Is it really an either-or choice, buying your computer or donating to charity?

With regard to territorial or societal responsibility, that's an interesting question. Let's say that a citizen of Society B (Bad) goes to Society G (Good) and does bad things. In his own Society B, he'd be tortured and lashed and etc for such behaviour.

Now, whose laws does this individual fall under? Those of Society B or G? Is he a member of Set B or G? I'd suggest that he remains a member of Set B. That means that Society B is responsible for constraining his behaviour.

Is it acceptable that we live in a global world where citizens of B-societies can hop a plane to G-society, blow up some embassy there, and not be responsible for their own actions as a citizen of B-country?

If I'm a member of G-society and, filled with my own Goodness, go over to B-society and try to spread my Goodwill and notions of multi-faith and gays, feminists etc, and B-society nabs, quite angrily...should I be sentenced to death, or, returned to G-society who can confine me to some leftist academic institution?

David

Matt,

“We give priority to our needs and the needs of those we care about. So it seems pointless to condemn it too heavily.”

Perhaps it’s pointless, and somewhat dishonest, to condemn it at all - certainly in the scenarios we’re talking about.

“But I still think we should accept the fact that we do have a *choice* in these matters.”

I don’t know anyone who’s ever denied the element of choice.

“This isn’t to say that the choice made is necessarily wrong…”

That was pretty much the point of my houseguest example above, which has yet to be addressed.

“…just that we should accept responsibility for making it.”

I for one can live with those who wish us harm having a *really* bad time. Perhaps those who are no longer welcome here or deserving of our protection should ponder their own responsibilities.

ET

It is an important issue in a global world - to whom is an individual responsible for his actions?

Is he responsible to the society in which he has committed those, let's say, Bad actions. Or is he responsible to the society of which he is a member?

So, again, this individual, a member of A (Any) society hops a plane and goes to O (Other) society. There, he embezzles, robs and etc. Is he jailed for life in O-society, or shipped back to A-society where the penalty is three years?

Let's say he murders and in O society, the penalty is death. In his own society, A, the penalty is life imprisonment which often means 10 years. We have such a case in Canada, where the Canadian murdered two Americans and was sentenced by a US court to death. Some in Canada are outraged; he should be shipped back to Canada which doesn't have the death penalty.

Now, does this mean, in our global world, that discrimination exists? That a citizen of Another country can commit heinous crimes in your hometown but he is treated differently by the criminal system than the local homegrown criminal?

Matt M

"Now, whose laws does this individual fall under? Those of Society B or G? Is he a member of Set B or G? I'd suggest that he remains a member of Set B. That means that Society B is responsible for constraining his behaviour."

Responsibility is not a zero-sum issue though - We are all responsible for our own behaviour. An individual is responsible for any harm they cause others. A society is responsible for any actions that promote the desire in individuals to harm others. And we are responsible for the way we react to those who would do us harm. These responsibilities overlap, rather than cancel each other out.

It is up to us to decide how we deal with these people and then accept responsibility for our decision.

Matt M

"Perhaps it’s pointless, and somewhat dishonest, to condemn it at all - certainly in the scenarios we’re talking about."

I think that's up to each individual to decide.

All I'm arguing is that we are responsible for the choices we make. So if the UK Government decides to deport someone to a country where they are at risk of torture it is responsible for those consequences. (Not wholly responsible, obviously, but still responsible for its contribution).

ET

But, Matt, how can you prevent an overlap from, sometimes, cancelling another decision?

If I'm a member of B-society, and come to G-society, and commit all kinds of crimes, for which in my B-society, I'd face severe punishment while in G-society, I'd be let off with 'retraining and anger management sessions', wouldn't these different decisions effectively cancel each other?

If I blow up an embassy, for which in my own country I'd face death, why is it G-society that bears the responsibility for shipping me back to B-society to face the results of my own decision?

Matt M

"But, Matt, how can you prevent an overlap from, sometimes, cancelling another decision?"

I'm not arguing that you can.

Whether or not it's G- or B-society that has to make the decision depends on what you do, but that doesn't alter the fact that they are responsible for any decision they have to make. Decisions are often forced upon us, however that doesn't mean we can avoid responsibility for the choices we make.

"If I blow up an embassy, for which in my own country I'd face death, why is it G-society that bears the responsibility for shipping me back to B-society to face the results of my own decision?"

Simply because it's G-society that made the decision to ship you back.

ET

But Matt, I'm involved in the action as well. I, a member of B-society blew up the embassy in G's country. So, it isn't simply the action of G-country involved in sending me back to my sad, alas, fate in my home country of B. I'm involved in their decision as well. I blew up the damn embassy.

AntiCitizenOne

George Orwell Predicting PoMo?

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink." - George Orwell

billm99uk

I think the problem at the moment isn't that we're unable to deport people to countries that will certainly torture them, it's even wider that that. It's that we're unable to deport then to countries that MIGHT torture them, which in practice means countries that have less rigorous legal protections against poor treatment than our own (i.e. 99% of the non-western world). Thus even if the government takes reasonable steps to avoid the possibility of torture, we still can't deport them.

Matt M

"So, it isn't simply the action of G-country involved in sending me back to my sad, alas, fate in my home country of B."

Sorry if I wasn't clear - Obviously you are responsible for your actions. If you blew up the embassy knowing that it would get you sent back then you are *also* responsible for your eventual predicament.

You are responsible for your actions and their consequences. G-Society is responsible for its actions and their consequences. And B-Society is responsible for its actions and their consequences.

We are all responsible for our actions and their consequences.

The Thin Man

"We are all responsible for our actions and their consequences."

So, if someone plots to blow up, or blows up a random collection of persons, say on a bus or train, then they are responsible for the consequences of making the choice to do that, everything that follows directly flows from the initial choice they made to put themselves outside of normal ethical and moral boundaries, including the possible consequence of being tortured or killed.

The society expelling them is responsible only for expelling them - since the torture is a consequence of the individuals own behaviour and choices and not a consequence of the expulsion. To argue that expulsion leads to torture is a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument.

The only consequence of expulsion is the persons absence from ones territory. Societies, like individuals cannot be responsible for anything other than their direct actions because they excercise no control over the actions of others.

To argue otherwise is like arguing that London Transport is responsible for the 7/7 deaths because they put the people who died on the buses - after all they must have known that a terrorist attack a possibility.

mr shifter

so.. it seems clear then.
terrorist abusing host G-society, is responsible for his actions and the consequence of his being deported to a potential tortuous time in B-society.
afterall, he doesnt have some god-given entitlement to be protected by G-society.
so long as G-society has balanced-up the "lesser-evil" books in protecting its own, and can sleep at night with its decision to deport, i dont see the problem.

mr shifter

heh.. TheThinMan.. you beat me to it

Matt M

"everything that follows directly flows from the initial choice they made to put themselves outside of normal ethical and moral boundaries, including the possible consequence of being tortured or killed"

So we are just mindless machines, blindingly reacting to their actions? Or are we conscious individuals with the ability to choose how we react?

I can't believe that I have to argue for the concept of personal responsibility *here* of all places.

If you make a choice, you are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of that choice. If the government chooses to deport an individual to a country where they know there is a significant risk of torture then it should accept responsibility for that choice.

"The society expelling them is responsible only for expelling them - since the torture is a consequence of the individuals own behaviour and choices and not a consequence of the expulsion"

Again, there seems to be this weird idea of zero-sum responsibility - as if only one individual / agent can be responsible for an action. If an individual commits an act which they know will likely lead to their capture, deportation and torture then they should accept responsibility for that. This in no way cancels the fact that the agent which chooses (and it's always a choice - whether we think its good or bad, it's always a choice) to deport said individual is *also* responsible for making that decision.

"To argue otherwise is like arguing that London Transport is responsible for the 7/7 deaths because they put the people who died on the buses - after all they must have known that a terrorist attack a possibility"

They hold some responsibility for what happened, as they made a series of choices about how best to deal with that possibility.

David

If I can momentarily stop the pinhead on which some of us are dancing, I can’t help but notice how the term “responsible” has been used in several different ways. Sometimes it’s been used to imply legal responsibility and a duty of care, as one might have for a child. At others, it’s been used to imply a capacity for choice, which no-one here denies. Except, of course, the robots, which do whatever I say, and with ruthless efficiency.

Maybe now’s a good time for a vote. I know, we’ve never had one before. It’s very exciting. The question as I see it is whether expelling foreign visitors guilty of, or suspected of, seditious acts is something we can live with, irrespective of whatever beastliness befalls them overseas at the hands of third parties whose actions we don’t control.

A show of hands, perhaps?

Matt M

Depends on the act.

"Sometimes it’s been used to imply legal responsibility and a duty of care, as one might have for a child. At others, it’s been used to imply a capacity for choice, which no-one here denies."

I'm not sure the confusion can be avoided - As surely arguments for the responsibilities of the state ultimately have to come back to the issue of personal responsibility, as I can't see what else we'd base it on...

David

“Depends on the act.”

Okay, let’s say that our friend is particularly keen to overthrow the infidels’ democratic system by agitation and other, unspecified, means. We can’t be sure of all the details, as is often the case. Let’s also say that he, and probably his associates, are known to be talking with enthusiasm about actions that, if successful, would most likely cause fear and distress, or possibly the injury and dismemberment of, say, a British soldier or several passers-by. I’ll leave the specific victim(s) and the severity of their injuries to your imagination.

Matt M

It still depends, I'm afraid.

How long have they been in this country... How likely are they to actually go through with the act / be successful... What are the exact conditions of the country they'd be deported to (is there a risk that they'd be released / escape)... What efforts are being made to get assurances against ill-treatment / encourage the country to reform... Etc.

I do believe that there are circumstances where deporting individuals to countries where they'd be at risk of torture will be the lesser "evil". But I also think it's a complicated issue.

I see it as less "what do we owe these people?" as "how do we want our government to act?". A government that's dismissive of torture elsewhere is less likely, in my opinion, to condemn it at home.

ET

According to Matt's assumptions, Being a Terrorist in G-country is actually quite a positive and successful profession. Mr. Terrorist can blow up trains, planes and whoever, in G-Country, without the dread repercussions he might undergo is he did those same actions in his own, B-Country. Not bad.

G-Country does not have the death penalty and 'ought not' to deport Mr. Terrorist to his own B-country, which does indeed have such a penalty for terrorism.

Somehow, I think that Mr. Terrorist ought to be responsible for his decisions, and their ultimate actions - which includes the death of his victims, and his own death as a citizen of B-country. Remember, he made the decision, on his own, to come into a foreign country and attack its citizens. Since, in his country, such an action has a death penalty, then, he ought to abide by its rules.

I cannot see how the G-society which deports him is responsible for his decision. Remember, he's not a citizen of G-country and does not fall under their rule of law.

Matt M

"I cannot see how the G-society which deports him is responsible for his decision. Remember, he's not a citizen of G-country and does not fall under their rule of law."

Do you think you might, at some point, want to deal with what I've *actually* written rather than what you're making up in your head? It would make things more enjoyable for me - as repeating myself over and over, to apparently educated adults, isn't something I tend to for fun.

I've said that the individual is responsible for the consequences of their actions. I've said it numerous times. On this thread. Using English.

With that out the way...

Legally, I believe it's been ruled that the ECHR forbids signatories (such as the UK) to deport individuals to countries where they're at risk of torture.

David

“Legally, I believe it’s been ruled that the ECHR forbids signatories (such as the UK) to deport individuals to countries where they’re at risk of torture.”

I’m not terribly concerned with the ECHR or the legalities as they stand. The Harry’s Place post I quoted prompted numerous comments on the ECHR, often in tedious detail, but almost nothing was said about the moral and practical principles that supposedly *inform* the laws we wish to have. I think that omission is both odd and rather important – and it’s that underlying morality I’m trying to clarify here.

Matt M

...isn't that what I've been trying to do?

David

Um, well, I remain to be convinced that your position is sound, insofar as I can make it out. I had hoped my houseguest example might evoke some response and perhaps clarify the issue.

ET

Yes, Matt, I think we are all talking about the underlying morality.

You are opposed to torture or 'unreasonable punishment' which might, presumably, include the death penalty.

Are you opposed to the murder of civilians, which is, in itself, an act of 'unreasonable punishment' or torture.

My point is that a state has the duty to protect its citizens. If Mr. Terrorist has an a priori immunity to his actions in G-country, such that he can enter that country, and bomb to his satisfaction, how does that show that the G-society is protecting its citizens?

In B-country, this same individual would face severe penalties for such behaviour.

You seem to be bringing in G-Country as co-agential in Mr. Terrorist's activities. That is, he CAN do whatever he wants in that society because they will ensure he is protected from responsibility for those actions, as a citizen of B-Country.

Heck - B-country can even send all kinds of agents over to G-country, to destabilize it, knowing that all that might happen if the person gets caught, is a tedious civil trial and maybe five years under Her Majesty's care.

My point is that the citizen of B-Country has no moral right to go over to that country to destabilize it and harm its citizens - just as he can't do it in his own country.

Matt M

David,

I'm not sure what the houseguest scenario really adds - You are responsible for the decisions you make in that situation, just as the government is responsible for the decisions it makes regarding the treatment of terrorists and suspects. In most cases, nobody would expect you to put your own life at risk to protect the life of the intruder. In the same way, I wouldn't expect the government to put its citizens at risk in order to prevent the torture of terrorists.

However, let's say that you could, at minimal risk, securely confine the terrorist so that he could not cause harm to others and others could not cause him to him. This, for me, would be the best option and is the one I'd advocate. (While also looking into what can be done about those across town that apparently pose such a risk to the terrorist - blood-thirsty mobs are rarely a good thing to leave unchecked).

Matt M

"Are you opposed to the murder of civilians, which is, in itself, an act of 'unreasonable punishment' or torture."

No.

I'm all for the torture, murder and generally maiming of people - preferably the elderly, young or infirm. I also like to kick small puppies, especially the cute ones with the big eyes. You know the ones I mean?

"My point is that a state has the duty to protect its citizens. If Mr. Terrorist has an a priori immunity to his actions in G-country, such that he can enter that country, and bomb to his satisfaction, how does that show that the G-society is protecting its citizens?"

So... if we're not allowed to deport people then there's absolutely no other action that can be taken in order to prevent terrorist attacks? We either ship them out or let them roam free?

"My point is that the citizen of B-Country has no moral right to go over to that country to destabilize it and harm its citizens"

It's a good point. It has f*ck all to do with what I've been saying. But it's a good point nonetheless.

David

Matt,

“I’m not sure what the houseguest scenario really adds.”

Well, I hoped the houseguest scenario would focus the basic argument. If nothing else, it strips away the legalese, which often clouds the underlying issue. If you follow the thread at Harry’s Place, there’s surprisingly little interest in the broader context or whether the laws being discussed are actually morally palatable. At times, the legalese seems a way of *avoiding* any testing of the basic assumptions – among them, that torture must be avoided at all costs.

“I wouldn’t expect the government to put its citizens at risk in order to prevent the torture of terrorists.”

Sweet mother of God. At last. Thank you.

“Let’s say that you could, at minimal risk, securely confine the terrorist so that he could not cause harm to others and others could not cause [harm] to him. This, for me, would be the best option and is the one I’d advocate.”

Well, here we differ, and differ quite a lot, but at least I see where you’re coming from.

Drinks all round.

http://fp.ignatz.plus.com/lppaint.mp3

Matt M

"Sweet mother of God. At last. Thank you."

Um...

"Even though I see the state as being partly responsible for an individual being tortured if it knowingly put them in a situation where torture was likely, I can still see that course of action as being the lesser evil in some circumstances (i.e. if it were the only conceivable way of preventing loss of life)."
- Me, March 02, 2008 at 15:56

David

I can’t imagine what confused me. :)

Matt M

It's call nuance.

Some people confuse that with bad writing, but no: nuance.

Matt M

*called* nuance.

For f*ck's sake....

David

Matt,

“Let’s say that you could, at minimal risk, securely confine the terrorist so that he could not cause harm to others and others could not cause [harm] to him. This, for me, would be the best option and is the one I’d advocate.”

As I said, here we differ. There are plenty of reports of jihadist sentiment being spread by foreign nationals, whether detained or at large and under surveillance. The spread of this ideology poses a very serious threat and efforts to inhibit its spread have been both thin on the ground and less than successful. Were the foreign nationals who propagate such beliefs to be expelled, even at the risk of their abuse by third parties, I wouldn’t be sleepless with worry about their potential misfortunes.

There’s also the not insignificant issue of cost. Monitoring of such individuals isn’t exactly cheap and nor is confinement, and both carry risks. I’m not convinced that your concern for the wellbeing of such people justifies the expense and inconvenience (let alone the risks) that their presence entails.

The Thin Man

We should CHOOSE to send these monsters to whatever fate awaits them. And that sending them to face horror and death is what they deserve. I have no qualms in this.

As in Hansel and Gretel, to me it is fitting and JUST that the old woman ends up in the oven. It is not a bad choice - it is the RIGHT choice.

The Thin Man

David is right about cost. We should be spending our limited resources providing for the law abiding.

Hmmm - should I spend £37,500 per year on someone who wants to blow me up, or should I give that poor child an education? Such a difficult choice.

It is a mockery of justice, logic, philosophy, compassion and humanity that we are prepared to invest more than the cost of a one way plane ticket in "persons" who would resort to indiscriminate murder in pursuit of their political or idealogical ends.

Jamie

I think that if we are to argue for the superiority of western values, then we shouldn't compromise them when it suits us.
It's not about what they deserve. It's about what makes us better than them.

AntiCitizenOne

The only core western value is reciprocity.

They want to harm us, so we should have no qualms about what harm awaits them when returned.

mr shifter

"I think that if we are to argue for the superiority of western values, then we shouldn't compromise them when it suits us."

Nor should we be lily-livered bleeding hearts in our defence of them.

Brendan

"There’s also the not insignificant issue of cost. Monitoring of such individuals isn’t exactly cheap and nor is confinement, and both carry risks. I’m not convinced that your concern for the wellbeing of such people justifies the expense and inconvenience (let alone the risks) that their presence entails."

You cannot avoid the discussion of what threshold of threat or evidence warrants deportation of a 'suspect' by a government to another when human rights are a concern. I think Matt has pointed this out quite clearly. The obvious cases are, well, obvious. What about when this practice becomes a mere convenience for the government and is no longer questioned? Or when the foreign government begins to provide torture services to your government? Can't do him here, get him done there kind of thing. There are a myriad of examples of this in commissions at the moment. Bad business, costing taxpayers here a f*cking fortune.

The death penalty is also an apt moral comparison. If someone commits a murder in your country do you extradite him to face the death penalty when the penalty where the crime has been committed is life in prison? Remember that it is our own standard of justice that matters, not *theirs* whoever *they* may be.

David

Brendan,

“The obvious cases are, well, obvious.”

Not obvious enough, I think, as recent cases seem to demonstrate. They should be obvious, of course, but sometimes clarity is avoided for reasons of vanity – of wishing to appear high-minded and compassionate. That, or the obvious can be snarled in legalese – the moral assumptions of which are not always clear, or indeed agreeable. There’s also the issue of laws that seriously impact on this country, but which the electorate is not, it seems, involved in framing.

“What about when this practice becomes a mere convenience for the government and is no longer questioned? Or when the foreign government begins to provide torture services to your government?”

Fair points. Threshold is everything. I doubt anyone here is in favour of the government being able to expel foreign nationals on a whim or based on someone’s bad mood; but that’s not quite the situation we’re discussing. As I understand it (and here I defer to any lawyers among us), it’s remarkably difficult to expel people who’ve betrayed their welcome and pose a serious threat if there’s a possibility of their subsequently being abused by a third party. I suspect this arrangement jars somewhat with popular sensibilities and a sense of what is just.

Jamie,

“I think that if we are to argue for the superiority of western values, then we shouldn’t compromise them when it suits us. It’s not about what they deserve. It’s about what makes us better than them.”

Again, a good point. But the issue is whether this kind of extended sympathy and forbearance is in fact a “Western value” or one we wish to have; and whether protecting at considerable expense and risk those who wish us harm is actually a mark of moral superiority, or something less noble. Clearly, it’s seen by many of our enemies as an opportunity and a sign of weakness, as it often is - tactically, at least. Is our moral standing compromised by expelling self-declared foreign enemies, or is it compromised by an urge to *look* high-minded regardless of the consequences for our own security and cohesion? Where does such forbearance and sympathy lead if our aggressor will definitely not reciprocate? If I turf out my hostile houseguest and leave him to his fate, whatever that may be, do I really become morally inferior? And if so, how?

Matt M

David,

I think the question of how best to deal with foreign terrorists is a complex one that's a little beyond my ability.

The only point I would make is that, whatever action is taken, it should chosen in as calm and rational a manner as possible. Some people here seem to think that the primary concern of the government should be to provide catharsis for the general public - inflicting the worst possible treatment on terrorists so that we might feel better about things, having vented the rage and anguish inside us. Leaving aside any moral objections (of which I believe there are some), it seems the most ineffective method of dealing with terrorism and a seriously dangerous habit to encourage in government. Imagine policy being determined by 'The Sun'.

While deporting individuals to countries which engage in terrorism may be, in some circumstances, the best possible option. It does us no good to turn a blind eye to such practices (let alone encourage them) - which not only corrupt governments but also creates alienation in their populations, setting up a breeding ground for terrorist groups and the like, which ultimately threatens our own interests.

My objection to torture (and a refusal to condemn it where possible) is based not on any real concern for terrorists, but on enlightened self-interest.

The Thin Man

"Some people here seem to think that the primary concern of the government should be to provide catharsis for the general public - inflicting the worst possible treatment on terrorists so that we might feel better about things, having vented the rage and anguish inside us."

I would counter that some people here seem to want to hide their own sqeamishness behind behind sophistic phrases like "enlightened self interest".

"calm and rational". "inflicting the worst possible treatment", "vented the rage and anguish inside us", "Policy set by "The Sun".


How subtley "identity politics" of you to attempt to dismiss views different to your own by attaching these sorts of code words and thereby deligitimize them.

How elitist: "Imagine policy being determined by 'The Sun'." The last time I heard a line like that was on one of Rory Bremners "Islington Dinner Party" sketches.

Imagine poor people having a say in running things/Imagine uneducated people having a say in running things/Imagine policy being determined by The Guardian etc.....

So - anyone opposed to your position is an enraged Sun reading unenlightened teroroist encourager?

David

Matt,

“Imagine policy being determined by ‘The Sun’.”

Or indeed the Guardian. It’s easy to recoil loftily from whatever Sun readers may want and it’s easy to dismiss the urge to deport foreign villains as emotional, cathartic or somehow less refined. (No doubt the words “Daily Mail” and “rightwing” are lurking somewhere in the bushes.) But unless we’re clear about *why* those hypothetical Sun readers are wrong, we’re left with little more than snobbery dressed up as refinement.

Deporting foreign nationals who clearly wish us harm doesn’t constitute “inflicting the worst possible treatment on terrorists” unless one has the most delicate of sensibilities or a very limited imagination. Nor is the preference for deportation necessarily based on pleasing the crowd or “venting rage” or “feeling better about things.” And whether or not deportation is “ineffective” has yet to be established (though the policy of protecting our enemies from third parties has some rather serious flaws).

As The Thin Man suggested earlier, the possibility of an enemy’s misfortune at the hands of others is not necessarily something one should fret about or shy from or regard as immoral. There is a notion of justice in those who wish to do us harm having a seriously bad day, and it can be arrived at by perfectly calm and rational means. Forgetting this, or pretending to be above it, seems unwise.

Matt M

Thin Man,

"I would counter that some people here seem to want to hide their own sqeamishness behind behind sophistic phrases like "enlightened self interest"."

The government does not exist to make you feel good.

If someone could prove to me that torture did more good than harm then I would support it. So far the evidence seems to suggest that not only is it ineffective but it also has a corrosive effect on states which practice it - Promoting the view that individuals are simply a means to an end. A government which has no qualms about torturing its citizens is unlikely to worry too much about basic things such as civil liberties - Which I regard as rather important.

That you dismiss enlightened self-interest so easily is pretty pathetic. I'm sure that jumping up and down in a rage while shouting at the world around you is quite enjoyable, but it's a slightly questionable way of running a country. Don't you think? Nor do I really need "code words" - as such a stance, throwing away reason as it does, has never bothered to legitimise itself in the first place.

"Imagine poor people having a say in running things/Imagine uneducated people having a say in running things/Imagine policy being determined by The Guardian etc....."

So... poor people are irrational and, to borrow a phrase, emotionally incontinent? And are you really suggesting that it isn't legitimate to regard the "uneducated" as possibly *not* the best people to be deciding policy?

I suggest that next time you try counting to ten before posting.

Matt M

David,

"But unless we’re clear about *why* those hypothetical Sun readers are wrong"

I believe I was quite clear - I'm opposed to policy based on emotion rather than reason, as I don't believe it's in our best interest (as it often fails to consider the consequences). Nor have I ever said that there aren't rational grounds for deportation.

David

Matt,

“I believe I was quite clear…”

Then I suggest you re-read this thread at some later date. For instance, you’re once again conflating a preference for deportation with unthinking emotionalism, and you’re conflating the deportation of foreign self-declared enemies with an affirmation of torture. As we’ve shown umpteen times, one doesn’t necessarily imply the other. No-one here is championing the use of torture. But an aversion to torture shouldn’t make it impossible for a society to expel those who may do much worse given half a chance. Again, deportation in these circumstances merely signifies that a hostile visitor’s protection from foreign adversity has been rescinded – and for very good reasons.

As you pointed out, torture is unreliable as a means of extracting information and it’s not exactly an ideal tool, except perhaps for sadists. But the aversion to torture “in all circumstances” has for many become a kind of shibboleth – an absolute marker of being A Good Person, or being seen to be one. Logically, the “in all circumstances” bit doesn’t hold up very well, as we’ve already discussed. No-one wants to be seen as being in *favour* of torture – it’s a hard sell, to say the very least. But avoiding any possibility of it being done by third parties to an enemy who wants to harm us leads to other, arguably more pressing, moral problems.

Matt M

David,

"you’re once again conflating a preference for deportation with unthinking emotionalism"

By saying that there are rational grounds for deportation?

"But an aversion to torture shouldn’t make it impossible for a society to expel those who may do much worse given half a chance."

Which I believe is pretty much what I've said various times on this thread.

"Again, deportation in these circumstances merely signifies that a hostile visitor’s protection from foreign adversity has been rescinded – and for very good reasons."

This is where we disagree - As I see it, what happens to the individual after they've been deported *is* the state's concern, as it's a consequence of making that decision. It cannot simply wash its hands of the matter. The state is responsible for its actions.

The Thin Man

Matt

I have NEVER claimed that the Government exists to make me feel good.

I also find it interesting that you continue to assert that my views must be somehow motivated by rage. They are not. These views have been arrived at calmly and with no little consideration. I am not jumping up and down shouting at the world. I am perfectly at rest. I have not thrown away reason - reason motivates my choices. Reason to me says that you do not protect the innocent and good by allowing the guilty and evil to survive.

I simply accept that violence is sometimes required of good people in order that the world does not descend into chaos and anarchy. In order for good to thrive, evil must be destroyed. And if the facility exists to "outsource" that violence so much the better.

Should outsourcing not be available, I am fully prepared to see such people executed right here in the UK.

David

Matt,

“By saying that there are rational grounds for deportation?”

Again, you may want to re-read your own posts, which are more shifting and ambiguous than you seem to realise. For instance, in response to the subject of deportation, you said, “If someone could prove to me that torture did more good than harm then I would support it.” This suggests a conflation of the preference for deportation with torture or its affirmation. Likewise, you said, “Nor have I ever said that there aren’t rational grounds for deportation.” Yet you’ve rather hurriedly characterised the endorsement of deportation as either constituting “the worst possible treatment of terrorists” or as being driven by an urge to do just that, or as “venting rage”, “feeling better about things”, etc.

Hence the confusion.

Matt M

Thin Man,

"I also find it interesting that you continue to assert that my views must be somehow motivated by rage."

This "assertion" is based on the fact that you seem to have difficulty with my argument that policy decisions should be calm and rational rather than emotionally-driven. If you're not opposed to this idea then I'm at a loss as to what the point of your 13:34 comment was.

"I simply accept that violence is sometimes required of good people in order that the world does not descend into chaos and anarchy."

Which is what I've argued.

Matt M

David,

"This suggests a conflation of the preference for deportation with torture or its affirmation."

If torture is a likely consequence of deportation than preference for deportation *does* entail a preference for torture in that circumstance. The state is saying that the individual concerned being tortured is preferable to them being locked up here / allowed to roam free. There are circumstances were this preference is completely rational. So I fail to see what the problem is.

"Yet you’ve rather hurriedly characterised the endorsement of deportation as either constituting “the worst possible treatment of terrorists” or as being driven by an urge to do just that, or as “venting rage”, “feeling better about things”, etc."

I looked over my comment referred to here in case I'd been sloppy or vague in writing it - but I honestly can't see how you'd read it as condemning *all* endorsement of deportation as that way. There is, I think it's hard to deny, a strain of argument for things such as deportation derived not from rational consideration but from emotion - and it's *that* I'm opposed to, not deportation or even torture itself.

David

Matt,

“If torture is a likely consequence of deportation than preference for deportation *does* entail a preference for torture in that circumstance.”

Even if we assume that deportation and its possible consequences amounts to an evil, albeit a lesser one, choosing the lesser evil doesn’t in itself constitute an affirmation of it. What third parties may do to my enemy once banished is not necessarily synonymous with my own moral ideals. No longer feeling a duty to protect a hostile guest is not synonymous with torture, or an endorsement of such. The banishment of my enemy may be a moral imperative – and the very act of banishment suggests to me that one is by definition no longer concerned with his welfare. Quite rightly, in my view.

“There is, I think it’s hard to deny, a strain of argument for things such as deportation derived not from rational consideration but from emotion - and it’s *that* I'm opposed to, not deportation or even torture itself.”

No argument there. But, again, your readiness to assume – assert – that this must be the motive here suggested otherwise. And I think I (and others) can be forgiven for misunderstanding you occasionally. At times, the ground has seemed to be a-shifting. For instance, your assertion that London Transport “hold some responsibility for what happened” on 7/7 suggests you’re assigning responsibility in ways that are peculiar, and which don’t stand scrutiny. (Presumably, by the same logic, people who chose to travel by bus that day were also “responsible” for the horrors inflicted on them.) Indeed, the rather elastic and nebulous use of the word “responsibility” has caused much of the confusion.

Perhaps that’s the “nuance” you were talking about? :)

Matt M

David,

"Even if we assume that deportation and its possible consequences amounts to an evil, albeit a lesser one, choosing the lesser evil doesn’t in itself constitute an affirmation of it."

I think it does - but only *in those circumstances*. (Can you not enable HTML formatting? I'm sure the ability to italicise words would help convey the nuance of my position better). As I've explained, I'm opposed to torture, but I still believe that in some circumstances it may be the preferable thing to do (as a "good" option isn't always available). It's like shooting a mentally unbalanced individual to prevent them bringing about an even greater loss of life. I'm generally opposed to shooting the mentally-ill, but would affirm it in those specific circumstances.

"your readiness to assume – assert – that this must be the motive here suggested otherwise"

I don't believe I did assert that it *must* be so. I said that it *seems* to be the case with *some* people here - I was engaging in crude pop-psychology (and qualified it appropriately) in order to make a wider point.

"Indeed, the rather elastic and nebulous use of the word “responsibility” has caused much of the confusion."

If that is the case then I apologise - although I'm not sure it's been as ill-defined as you say. My argument is simply that we are responsible for our actions and the foreseeable consequences of them. When a state deports someone to a country where torture is likely then then it should accept responsibility for doing so.

David

Matt,

It’s important to understand that I don’t regard it as terribly admirable to be concerned for the welfare of one’s individual mortal enemies. If someone declares their ambition to do me harm, or attempts to bring that harm about, I feel no obligation to go out of my way to protect them or fret about their health. Making great efforts to spare those individuals from misfortune or degradation at the hands of others is not, I think, something one should take tremendous pride in.

The Thin Man

"Can you not enable HTML formatting? I'm sure the ability to italicise words would help convey the nuance of my position better"

'Tis Better to be thought a fool than to italicise and remove all doubt. /sarcasm

Matt M

David,

"Making great efforts to spare those individuals from misfortune or degradation at the hands of others is not, I think, something one should take tremendous pride in."

I'm not sure where I've suggested otherwise - Where I've stated my reasons for opposing torture I've done so on the basis of the threat posed to the rest of us.

mr shifter

it seems matt m's argument is merely an academic one, no?
correct me if i'm wrong,... but if we are presented with options akin to 'sophie's choice', and have to make an unpalatable decision one way or the other, then notions of responsibility (or does he mean guilt) for the deemed lesser evil, is purely a matter for discussions amongst the peecee islington dinner cicuit and the like, and needn't inform/paralyse our effective decision-making in any way.

David

“…responsibility (or does he mean guilt)…”

There’s the nub of it. Tickle it gently.

The Thin Man

I think to concern oneself with the fate of people beyond ones' own jurisdiction smacks too much of the absolutism of the precautionary principal - it gives too much weight to the possible downside of an action without giving due consideration to the upside.

I understand why rendition is very hard to accept, but I am reminded of the effect that the precautionary principal had when applied to DDT and the eradication of Malaria - Rachel Carson, with the best of intentions, got a worldwide ban on DDT - but this action has led to many, many preventable deaths. If she had been prepared to moderate her position and allow for limited use of DDT I wonder how many millions would still be alive.

I also wonder how many innocent people will die when terrorists are released from incarceration and go on to commit further terrorist acts, as is well documented in former gitmo detainees and under the catch and release policies in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Jamie

Another good argument against rendition. Some of these countries can't be counted on to keep these guys.

"I also wonder how many innocent people will die when terrorists are released from incarceration and go on to commit further terrorist acts, as is well documented in former gitmo detainees and under the catch and release policies in Yemen and Saudi Arabia"

David

This post at Harry’s Place caught my eye:

“I am angry because there is more public debate about the rights of terrorists and criminals facing deportation than there seems to be for genuine, innocent and vulnerable people.”

http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2008/03/06/uk_will_send_teenager_to_his_death.php

I wonder whether legitimate asylum seekers might fare better in their applications, and their welcome, if the broader public was reassured that visitors who abuse such favours could be expelled without great difficulty.

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