Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I suppose rape isn't torture, either

Now this is a bad argument. Huffington Post quotes a footnote from one of the recently released torture memos:

"While detainees subject to dietary manipulation are obviously situated differently from individuals who voluntarily engage in commercial weight-loss programs, we note that widely available commercial weight-loss programs in the United States employ diets of 1000 kcal/day for sustain periods of weeks or longer without requiring medical supervision," read the footnote. "While we do not equate commercial weight loss programs and this interrogation technique, the fact that these calorie levels are used in the weight-loss programs, in our view, is instructive in evaluating the medical safety of the interrogation technique."
My God, the CIA needs a paid ethicist on staff. I nominate myself for this role. If the organization does employ an ethicist, and he/she signed off on this travesty of moral reasoning, then he/she needs to be thrown into the sea, preferably with an anchor tied around his/her neck.

Let's explode the argument via analogy. Sex is good, right? Sure! People voluntarily have sex all the time. Sex can even improve your health.

Grant all of the above (not too hard, I know.) So can we draw any conclusions about involuntary sex -- otherwise known as rape -- from these facts about voluntary sex?

No. And starvation, voluntary or otherwise, doesn't exactly have the same unequivocal health benefits as sex. We sometimes allow people to voluntarily starve themselves, of course, even if we don't think it's a good idea. Voluntarily, people treat themselves in stupid ways all the bloody time.

But depriving prisoners of food to get them to talk? Involuntary starvation? It doesn't become right just because some idiots (and a few non-idiots) starve themselves voluntarily. Nor does rape become okay because people have sex voluntarily.

The voluntary part of these behaviors is rather important.

If there is an afterlife, the officials who endorsed these coercive interrogation techniques are going to spend a long time being sodomized by the second version of Kant's categorical imperative.

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