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December 19, 2005

Are Torture-Supporters Moral Relativists?

This is the hot topic from last week and before, but I'm just now getting around to it so: After months spent defending his administration's right and obligation to torture (often by proxy via Dick Cheney), Bush has agreed to support a ban on torture. Terrific! Still, it seems some people think this is just a wink/nod sort of thing, and that it's still ok to torture under certain circumstances. What do you think?

Please respond in the poll in the right column. Is it ok to torture, or isn't it? And if you claim that it's ok sometimes, but not usually, aren't you engaging in the dreaded “moral relativism” for which conservatives have long condemned liberals?

Oh, and just for the record, two weeks ago George Bush supposedly called the United States Constitution “just a goddamned piece of paper!” Even if he didn't say it, he's provided ample evidence that that's how he really feels.

Posted December 19, 2005 08:49 AM | general politics

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I think the question in the poll is vague, actually. Are you referring to torture to get information, the knowledge of which would prevent some event?

Or are we talking about a situation like in an Ursula K. Le Guin story, where the utopian nature of a town is based on the torture of one person? (I mean, I guess the question is whether you're talking about reality or not.)

I guess my point is - we need a CowboyNeal option.

Posted by: monica at December 19, 2005 01:06 PM

Are Torture-Supporters Moral Relativists?

yes, if in "moral relativists" you mean "batshit crazy."

Posted by: asian provocateur at December 19, 2005 02:14 PM

Monica: Yeah, I'm not so good at the poll writing. I meant it to be "reality" at least in the sense that Charles Krauthammer posits this as "the textbook case. Ethics 101: A terrorist has planted a nuclear bomb in New York City. It will go off in one hour. A million people will die. You capture the terrorist. He knows where it is. He's not talking.

"Question: If you have the slightest belief that hanging this man by his thumbs will get you the information to save a million people, are you permitted to do it?"

That's basically the question I was asking, but it was hard to shorten that to fit nicely into a poll.

Oh, and I sort of thought "impeach bush" was the CowboyNeal option, but I guess it's too plausible....

AP: Yeah, batshit crazy is pretty much what I meant. ;-)

Posted by: ambimb at December 19, 2005 02:36 PM

sounds like a good poll to me. and it's a hard question. it's like the classic one where you're at the switch and the train could either run over a little boy on the track or fall off a cliff.

yeah, it's tough.

Posted by: monica at December 20, 2005 11:58 AM

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