Torture conversation questions

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This is a potentially controversial subject in some societies, and consequently some teachers may want to carefully consider if they wish to use all of these questions.

Torture[edit]

  • What do you understand by the saying “The ends justify the means.”? Do you agree with it?
  • Do you think it could ever be permissible to torture people to gain information if the information obtained would save other lives?
  • If you are prepared to torture people who you regard as "evil" doesn't torturing them make you "evil" as well?

Usefulness[edit]

  • What do you think of the suggestion that you can get anybody to confess to anything if you torture them enough?
  • Information obtained under torture is claimed by some to be highly unreliable as the prisoner has no real desire to cooperate. What do you think?
  • Others claim that the prisoner will say whatever he thinks will make his captors happy. What is your opinion?

What is torture?[edit]

According to various reports the following (and others) were all used by US interrogators in the past (they were subsequently banned by the Obama administration). Are they torture?

  • The attention grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
  • Attention slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.
  • The belly slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.
  • Long time standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
  • The cold cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50f (10c). Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
  • Waterboarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. A cloth is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over his mouth. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.
  • Forced nudity: Male prisoner is forced to be naked in front of female guards. A highly embarrassing situation for devout Muslims.
  • Threats by attack dogs: Prisoner is threatened by attack dogs, perhaps while naked.
  • Playing loud rap music: Prisoner is forced to listen to strange sounds.
  • Isolation: prisoner is left in total isolation for three months in a cell always flooded with light.

Consequences[edit]

Reports suggest that some prisoners died as a consequence of these activities and that others have psychological problems.

  • In late March 2009 a Spanish judge opened a case against various members of a former American administration which authorised the above practices. What do you think about other countries involving themselves in this manner?
  • If you feel that the officials were wrong to authorise these practices, what punishment do you think they should receive?

See also[edit]