Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What About Water Boarding a Fetus?

Marsha West exposes the blatant inconsistency of liberalism with respect to water boarding and abortion. Obama is morally outraged over something that saved countless American lives (water boarding terrorists to gain vital information), but cares not about the torture and murder of a million unborn human persons per year.


Mike Aubrey said...

I agree completely with the inconsistency.

But all it proves is that Obama is just as much of a sinner as Bush was.


1) When and how did torture save countless American lives? What evidence is there that water boarding was successful?,0,5011078.story

According to the military itself, all the "vital" information they got was after the fact information:

"After Time magazine revealed the harsh methods used at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to interrogate Mohamed Qatani, the so-called "20th hijacker," the Pentagon replied with a memo describing the "valuable intelligence information" he had revealed. Most of it had to do with Qatani's own past and his role in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Other parts concerned al Qaeda's modus operandi. But, conspicuously, the Pentagon has never claimed that anything Qatani revealed helped it prevent terrorist attacks, imminent or otherwise."

The article is also very helpful in making in rather clear the variety of way Bush and his administration conveniently placed themselves above the law.

Other relevant articles and papers:

This article is a piece by an Iraq interrogator who proved that there are better and more effective methods for gaining information than torture that also happen to be legal:

This article describes the moral and legal challenges resulting post torture:

And amazingly cognent piece showing clearly the nonsense of the "ticking bomb scenario" that supposedly proves the need for torture (this one was shared with me by a friend in the military who was water boarded as part of his SERE training, after which he said that he would have stolen a baby and given it to them had they asked - that'll make for some juice confessions):

And depressingly, I'm forced for once in my life side with the annoy Jesse Ventura on an issue (ugh):

ryan said...

Why is it that so many struggle to stay on topic? They hear any valid critique of Obama and their brain automatically triggers a rabbit trail involving transgressions of Bush.

Its like when I was a kid and I would get busted by my mom and I would say, "yeah but last week sarah (my sister) did..."

My Mom's response is just as apt to mike as it was to me, "it doesn't matter what they did, it does not excuse your behavior."

Why are so many obsessed with doing this?

Mike Aubrey said...

And Doug, I'm in complete agreement with on that point.

All I'm saying is that one sin (torture) cannot be justified by another (abortion) even one the latter is on a scale beyond comprehension. In fact, in one of the articles I linked to (, human rights lawyer David Luben is specifically warning against allowing torture (which is also a monstrous evil) to reach the level of comfort in normal conversation that we could seriously consider it as valid.

The greatest tragedy of the 2nd half of the 20th century is that abortion was allowed to reach such a level of comfort. And now look where we are.

As for Ryan's comment, I am no fan of Obama and I stayed completely on topic. The topic was waterboarding and abortion. I commented on both problems because I consider both of them completely wrong and evil. Exactly what is off topic about that is beyond me. The number of wrong assumptions he makes about me and my views are both ridiculous, astounding, and wrong. And apparently he completely missed my very first sentence where I said that I completely agree with the inconsistency.

On the issue of water boarding again, Doug, the issue isn't whether water boarding was wrong, but whether it is wrong. To be honest, I'm surprised that a Christian philosopher would be willing to defend it. I don't say that to condemn you. I say it out of honest surprise and quite a bit of curiosity as to your views on the morality of the issue. If you'd be willing to share your views, I'd be very interested to listen, whether via e-mail or through comments here.

So all this to say:

1) Abortion is evil and Obama is completely wrong is allowing it and I did not vote for him for that very reason. Anyone who thinks that I'm some Obama fan doesn't know me.

2) Torture is also evil, even when its practiced on any sort of scale smaller than what we seen of abortion. The magnitude of one evil does not justify the toleration of another evil continuing to exist. We should be fight to rid the world of both.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...



Even if the water boarding is wrong (I don't think it iss), and even if it didn't get needed information out of terrorists, that could not be acquired otherwise (which I don't think was the case), there is no moral equivalence with killing 1,000,000 innocent (non-terrorist) unborn human beings a year.

The disanalogy is stunning, striking, and spectacular.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


Sadism is morally wrong; that is a kind of torture. However, to use forceful interogation of known terrorists or enemy combatants is another moral category. I'm not sure it should be called torture.

Those interogated have forfeited their right to a happy and peaceful life at that point because of theire evil actions and intents. If the information needed (to save American lives) can only be procured through things like water boarding (as a last resort), then it is morally acceptable in a fallen world. Unless you are a pacifist (which I reject), I don't see how you can argue otherwise.

Mike Aubrey said...

No, I'm not a pacifist. I also reject that position.

These are the issues as I see them:

It has not been proven that water boarding consistently or reliably provides accurate information. Or as Venture said,

"[Water-boarding] is torture... It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you -- I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."

That's the one decent thought that's ever come from that guy's head. I have military friends who have been water boarded in SERE and has made similar statements.

If the moral acceptability of water boarding is depending on providing accurate information that saves lives.

And there is no evidence that information gain from water boarding could ever be considered credible.

Then we cannot accept the water boarding as morally acceptable.

Maybe I'm unaware of some study or research done that has shown the validity for water boarding for obtaining reliable information, but according to the Chicago Tribune (my first link), the CIA never sought, "a rigorous assessment of whether the methods were effective or necessary, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter
'Nobody with expertise or experience in interrogation ever took a rigorous, systematic review of the various techniques – enhanced or otherwise – to see what resulted in the best information,' said a senior U.S. intelligence official involved in overseeing the program."

It's quotes like this one that prevent me from accepting water boarding as morally acceptable.

Mike Aubrey said...

One more point.

I also question the intent and heart of the interrogators.

1) Did they practice their water boarding, specifically as a last resort?

probably not

2) Did they do it with honorable intentions (e.g. saving lives) or did they do it with dishonorable ones (e.g. revenge). More specifically, after an event like 9/11 is it even possible to water board someone without doing it out of revenge, particularly for the unbelieving interrogator?

Steve Schuler said...


Straight up and without the mincing of words; I can say without reservation or hesitation that your support of torure, "in a fallen world", exemplifies a tremendous moral defect that I see in too many Christians. I am not familiar with Deepak Chopra's version of Jesus. Does his version, like yours, give a thumbs up to the torture of enemy combatant's? Are you sure you are being guided by THE Holy Spirit? After all, what would Jesus do?

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

There are two basic issues:

1. Is water-boarding effective?
2. Is water-boarding (and similar techniques) ethical, given what I've said.

I am certain that if it is likely effective, then it is ethical. If it is not likely effective, it would be pointless. But some other methods might work better.

But I do not oppose these kinds of techniques in principle. War is not pretty.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


You give no argument, just attack my character. Deepak Chopra is a red herring here. What does he have to do with anything?

Think it over.

There is a nuke about to go off in New York. There is good reason to think that a terrorist in custody knows where it is. He will not tell through normal interogation. Would you not use coersion to get the truth out of him to save the city? Is protecting the comfort of one evil man worth the lives of thousands of New Yorkers?

The man would not even die, merely be frightened and perhaps injured to some degree. Where do you geneate the idea that this kind of thing is absolutely wrong?

Believe me, I don't like it; I would not want to do it! But this is the world we live in. I don't want the innocent dead or maimed because we refuse to get the truth out of terrorists.

Mike Aubrey said...


I'd be interested in hearing an argument for such tactics without appealing to the Ticking Bomb Scenario.

A TBS is, for all intents and purposes, impossible (again cf. the paper by David Luben).

"There is a saying in jurisprudence that hard cases make bad law, and there might well be one in philosophy that artificial cases make bad ethics."

Henry Shue, “Torture,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 7 (1978): 124-43; cited 141; the classic essay on torture.

The fact is that ticking bomb scenarios are not the world we live in. There has never been a true TBS and probably never will be. What we do have is a lot of myths and legends about purported TSB's that turned out to be nothing more than the rumor mill.

Now, with all of that said, Steve Schuler needs to learn how to discuss an important and sensitive topic in a more reasonable way. Mass condemnations without any attempt to understand those you condemn are quite foolhardy and I might even say naive.

Anonymous said...


Ventura (and all who talk like this) is misguided. There is a serious flaw in the analogy: Ventura's (non) analogy assumes the innocence and therefore necessary false confession of the waterboarding victim. In reality, a world frequently uncontacted by the contemporary mind, these detainees are in that position by way not of feeding the bears at Yellowstone but of engaging in or cooperating with known terrorist activities.

Anonymous said...

You know, I usually don’t address these discussions…but I’d like to point out one inconsistency. Has it escaped anyone else here that we train our solders in the SERE training, with the experience of being “water boarded”, and I am sure that the terrorists are being trained in the same way. So ultimately how effective do you thing this technique is?
So it just becomes a contest in “ up-ing the ante” and where do you draw the line?

Yet we must not forget that the original discussion was the inconstancy of the administration over the abortion issue vs. terrorists and their supposed rights; and how idiots that want to cause mayhem in the world get more so-called rights than an unborn defenseless human being.

So focus people!

Mike Aubrey said...


You're confusing analogy and experience.

And its this very kind of experience that has formed the basis of the Western legal tradition that says any testimony obtained through torture cannot be considered evidence in a court of law because such testimony cannot be considered reliable. This is true in all of Western Europe as well as in the United States. You can argue against it, but you're actually arguing again history. The question of innocence is irrelevant because a person could just as easily give false information just to make the torture stop.

Again, I point you to the tribune article. The CIA has never tested the reliability of its methods.

Steve Schuler said...

Mike has done a pretty good job of arguing against the morality and utility, the effectivenss of waterboarding, and the reliability of the information that might be obtained thusly. I have read, at Sojourners, that the same criterion used to justify waterboarding as an interogation technique are equally applicable to the use of rape as a means to coerce information from a prisoner. I won't go into the details, but the parallels are pretty remarkable. In as far as I have been able to determine waterboarding is a form of torure. Torture is wrong. Torture should not be sanctioned by the government. Torture should not be sanctioned by the citizens of a civilized country. It almost amazes me that we are having this discussion in America in 2009. More evidence of the fallen state of mankind, I suppose.

Yes, I can imagine scenarios where I might agree that whatever means that might be effective to extract critical information from a person may be justified. Sitting on the jury of the people or person who chose to cross the line of legality and utilize illegal techniques in extraordinary circumstances I would likely be merciful. Likewise, I can imagine scenarios in which I might hope for a juries merciful treatment of myself where I had crossed a legal boundary to acheive a greater good. Still, it is hard for me to imagine Jesus, my version at least, of giving the green light to waterboarding people who might have information that might be useful.

Steve Schuler said...


I am not sure exactly how you concluded that I was foolhardy or naive in my comments to Doug. Be that as it may, there are significant sectors of the Christian community that are dismayed that there is widespread approval within the Christian community and it's leadership, Doug for example, that approve of the use of torure. I have read a number of articles written by Christians who are truly disheartened by the acceptance of "harsh interogation techniques" by people who profess to be Christians. The fact that about 60% of evangelical Christians in a recent Pew poll approved of the use torture compare to about 40% of people who described themselves as non-religious is interesting. This was a finding that caused some Christians to question the moral condition of contemporary Christianity in America. Yes, I also find it somewhat incredible that so many Christians are so comfortable with the idea of torture, Doug included. No, I am not a Christian and probably am not in a position to question the validity of Doug's perspective relative to his understanding of Jesus. Perhaps I am being unfair in challenging Doug's opinion on this matter by throwing out some pointed comments. If so, I apologize.

ryan said...

Uhh Mike you happen to be wrong in stating that water boarding is not effective.

The government memos released earlier this year clearly stated that water boarding terrorists directly led the the thwarting terrorist attacks in LA and on the Brooklyn Bridge. This is not a hypothetical ticking time bomb situation, but reality in which lives were saved.

In addition people seem to miss the point that these are TERRORISTS who if they had their way would more than happily (and have) murder thousands of innocent civilians if they could. Overwhelmingly, they are not innocent people who were randomly picked out of crowds to be interrogated. There is good reason that the military treats them this way; to protect innocent lives.

Also lets move past the silly argument that these things have made us "less safe." Last time I checked there has not been a terrorist attack in the USA since 9/11, therefore the methods of the military have been successful by the standard of preventing attacks.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


I am not "comfortable" with harsh interrogation; nor am I with capital punishment or other hard things in a harsh world. I deem them necessary and fitting, given the abundance of evil in the world.

Why are Christians more prone to endorse this (if they are)? Perhaps because they have a worldview that takes moral evil seriously: humans are fallen, sinful, and no utopia (apart from the Second Coming) is in sight.