Thursday, September 28, 2006

On Means and Ends: Torture

I found some possible examples of means becoming ends regarding the recent torture debate (on which more soon). One even cites Aristotle on the matter, in a way similar to but distinct from my own formulation.

From Jason Vest at the National Journal via Digby at Hullabaloo:

The moral dimensions of torture, [former CIA Moscow station chief Burton L.] Gerber adds, are inextricably linked with the practical; aside from the fact that torture almost always fails to yield true or useful information, it has the potential to adversely affect CIA operations. "Foreign nationals agree to spy for us for many different reasons; some do it out of an overwhelming admiration for America and what it stands for, and to those people, I think, America being associated with torture does affect their willingness to work with us," he says. "But one of my arguments with the agency about ethics, particularly in this case, is that it's not about case studies, but philosophy. Aristotle says the ends and means must be in concert; if the ends and means are not in concert, good ends will be corrupted by bad means...."

"If you talk to people who have been tortured, that gives you a pretty good idea not only as to what it does to them, but what it does to the people who do it," [Merle L. Pribbenow, 27-year veteran of CIA's Directorate of Operations] said. "One of my main objections to torture is what it does to the guys who actually inflict the torture. It does bad things. I have talked to a bunch of people who had been tortured who, when they talked to me, would tell me things they had not told their torturers, and I would ask, 'Why didn't you tell that to the guys who were torturing you?' They said that their torturers got so involved that they didn't even bother to ask questions." Ultimately, he said -- echoing Gerber's comments -- "torture becomes an end unto itself."

Amanda at Pandagon:

But the thing that jumped out at me is that because torture isn’t really an effective means to an end but an end in and of itself, once it becomes policy, absolutely everything is considered a reason to torture someone. No “ticking time bombs” necessary, but you already knew that.

No comments: