Unresolved debate: Does torture work?

By Matt Apuzzo

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The United States considered torture to be a war crime when the Nazi's used it. Ironically, this was over the Nazi's water-boarding of Norwegian "unlawful combatants" who were insurgents during their occupation. Oh well, what does irony count for these days?

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unresolved?...unresolved where?

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the problem is that US won't be prosecuted for war crimes any time soon because they have international law to protect them from prosecution even though they have committed greatest crimes against humanity - using atomic bomb, prhibited by law arms, torturing etc.

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Waterboarding shouldn't be included, anyone who has been through escape and evasion training has experienced it.

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All the bureaucrats who allowed torture should be subjected to the same treatment. Let's see how they like it.

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Unresolved debate: Does torture work?

Unresolved?? Who wrote this? Of course its been resolved! Its just that the Dick Cheney's of this world keep thinking they have discovered something new over all the experts but don't realize its impossible, because all the Dick Cheney's are idiots.

You could torture people like those, and demand they accept the fact that torture does not work. You torture them until they say the words "Torture does not work." at least one hundred times. Then they go home and tell everybody how torture works! Idiots.

Then you have the ones that really don't care if it works or not. They just like doing it. Look at Abu Ghraib.

Torture is for idiots and sadists. And this has been resolved for a long time.

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Blaming bureaucracy is just a nice way to put it. The only logical explanation for using waterboarding 183 times on the same guy is that you are an idiot. If there is still information to be gained, then the technique is not effective. If you have gotten all the information, then why are you wasting your time doing it for the 183rd time? Even if somebody thinks torture works, that is still a sign of incredible stupidity in the CIA. Makes it a little easier to understand why they still haven't found Bin Laden though.

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Agreed. Who other than the Bush crowd say this is "Unresolved?" This writer is clearly uniformed and out of touch global reality. Where do you get your writers JT? For all our sake please hire someone who reads as well as writes.

Torture may work, but it is morally wrong. A free and democratic society cannot turn to torture and maintain the moral high ground. If we compromise our principles we hand victory to our enemies. It is better that we should face risk than to compromise our values. This is a less that the criminals Bush,Cheney and their rightist allies do not understand.

America was founded on principles that should raise us and protect our culture of democracy, practice of just law and the protection of human rights. This cannot and should never be compromised for expediency.

The issue is resolve. Torture is wrong, it is a war crime and those guilty of sanctioning it should be tried and if found guilty imprisoned. Period. Issue RESOLVED in accordance to our standing treaties, social values and domestic and international laws!

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As I understand Darius Rejali (interview about his book, Tortue and Democracy) one of his central concerns is the persistence of recourse to torture, even among liberal democracies.

We know, from CIA docs released by the Obama administration, that 3 militant Islamic supremacists were waterboarded. I'm puzzled as to why no comparison is made with America's allies and ideological compatriots - among them NATO countries and Commonwealth nations.

Are Canadians like GJ Dailleult, Likeitis, Buddha4brains and smithinjapan troubled by allegations that Canadian forces in Afghanistan have apparently resorted to 'torture'?

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This writer is clearly uniformed and out of touch global reality. Where do you get your writers JT?

Darius Rejali is as informed as they come. He left Iran after the Shah was deposed. This man apparently lived through the 70's there when torture by SAVAK was widespread. He examines ancient and modern use of torture in warfare - including its recent use by British, Iranian, French, Belgian, Canadian,American and NATO member nations, among others.

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What GJDailleult said.

If there is still information to be gained, then the technique is not effective. If you have gotten all the information, then why are you wasting your time doing it for the 183rd time? Even if somebody thinks torture works, that is still a sign of incredible stupidity

The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. — Albert Einstein

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if the suspect has valuable information then i believe that torture can be used to extract it... however, if the suspect does not have information but believes that giving false information will end the torture then he is liable to do just that. since the interrogators have no way of knowing whether or not the suspect has useful information (otherwise why torture at all?) the whole process becomes compromised

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Yet his informed state still leaves him questioning the resolution of this issue.

Torture has been condemned by the UN and treaties exist that the US is a full party to that further condemn torture. At the end of the day it is denial of the fact that the issue is resolved that has created this desire by leaders to set up grey areas where they can rationalize exceptions to their own rules.

What needs to happen are war tribunals at the world court to call leaders who breech these treaties to account.

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who knows? I think we should try anything we can for this

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"The United States considered torture to be a war crime when the Nazi's used it"

Little known fact, but the US also engaged in torture during WW2. Ask any one who majored in military history. The point about it is your not supposed to tell anyone you did it.

It is possible to get valuable, verifiable, information you would most likely start by asking questions you already know the answer to (but they are not aware of that) then, once you have established that they are telling the truth, you move on to other questions. For hardened people such as the one who masterminded the death of thousands of civilians in New York, I honestly don't care what they do to him. If it were me, I would have started with his finger nails and maybe a car battery before things got ugly.

I mean honestly, it's time Americans (and others) got of there G*d D**m soap boxes and pulled their heads out of their shopping malls for two seconds and took a look around the world. These terrorists are degenerates of the lowest order who would not hesitate to murder an entire city if they had the chance.

When I was in the army, one of the first things they do is sit you down and force you to watch videos of AMERICANS being tortured, and killed (heads cut off with a Swiss army knife killed). They do this to show us that this is not a game. While in a small town in Iraq, we dealt with insurgents who took over a hospital, murdered all of the children (Iraqi children), then placed bombs inside their bodies so that when their parents went to recover them, they would blow up and kill them too.

These people mean business. They are ruthless, cruel and despicable forms of life. If we try and fight them with kid gloves (AKA the US Justice System), we will loose.

I laugh every time I here some indignant blowhard politician crying about water boarding. They don't give two S**TS about it. They just want to get their face on the prime time news for ratings.

In WW2 we did a hell of a lot worse, but we had politicians, who had enough "statesmen" left in them to put aside partisan politics in light of the larger situation

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How easily the light of democracy and human rights can be extinguished by people who think the ends justifies the means.

What are we defending people? Is it set of principles and ideas that can so easily be set asside when we are in danger? Remember Franklin's admonition that if we trade liberty for security then we deserve neither. The same applies to trading our values and principles for safety. It undermines our society and our moral authority. And in the long term adds motivation to our enemies.

We must hold the high ground. The war on terror must be fought in the streets of depressed economies and in the hearts and minds of those targeted to join the ranks of terrorists. It must be fought with ideas and principles that many people around the world share. If we lower ourselves to the level of our enemies we may as well become our enemies. We let them win when we do this.

There are other options, options we must pursue and select. Otherwise we risk becoming the very monsters we fight.

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Indid... if no american is not going to be prosecuted for torture... Why americans are going to feel that they did something wrong? They can repeat again and again, no one is going to punish them, right?

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In response to the question. I suppose one must factor in a few variables like height, weight, psychological state, mental resolve, and whether the participant has any information worth gathering in the first place. Then a few control tests to determine tolerance and thresholds before succumbing to unconsciousness. Also, one must assure the participant that the exercises will never kill them and that they will be kept alive for a very long time.

A better question would have had something to do with morality and that old chestnut. A discussion which I would refrain from participating in due to the rampant subjectivity.

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"We must hold the high ground"

The truth is, America has never held the high ground. Where are these "values" that we need to protect? We took the country from others, through force, coercion and disease. I'm not passing moral judgment on America for this what happened, happened. It is just that, as Americans, we do not have a "moral high ground" to defend, and the fact remains the the US, as well as almost any other nation has used torture numerous times in the past to get valuable intelligence.

Tell the thousands of people on 9/11 about the "moral high ground" where a few opened laptops and some illegal wiretaps could have saved their lives. I like Franklin, but he was a bit to idealistic for my taste. I prefer Hamilton, a bit more realism.

I agree with your point about economics being a major factor. When people are working and can feed their families, put a roof over their head and take their kids to the soccer game in peace, they tend not to strap on bombs and go blow stuff up. However that is a different front, and you have to attack both sides of the issue. You have to deal with the here and now (terrorist wants to fly a plain into a building) and the future (how can we improve conditions in countries that breed terrorism)

However let me put the question this way. Lets pretend their is a Terrorist who knows the location, of a dirty bomb in the center of Disney Land. It is set to go off in 15 minutes. You asked him politely, but he refuses to divulge the information. Would you resort to torture?

If you said no, then turn around, walk away, and don't look while people who have the fortitude, do what it takes to save thousands of lives. Maybe the ends don't justify the means, but then again, maybe they do. if ripping the fingernails out of some low life trash will save the life of an innocent little girl enjoying splash mountain, then give me the pliers.

Honestly spare me the political speeches, they last as far as a politicians honesty. Reality is anything but ideal or pretty.

Just answer the question. Rip out the fingernails of the low life scum? Or Let an innocent child die?

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Hmm... but that is an exeptional example, that play with hipotetical perfect scenario for torture, where the torturer is supoudesly 100% sure that the suspect is guilty (with out a fair trial) and that the torturer is sure that the suspect knows something, all under time pressing conditions. The other side can play that to. Imagine that the torturer have a suspect, and think that the suspect knows where a bomb is going to explode. Hard pressed for save the lives of innocents torture him to death, but the know nothing. A more realist scenario is one where the torturer is not 100% sure that the suspect is guilty and/or that he knows something. Because we are humans that can committ mistakes, there is no a 100% efficient way decide if a person is wort use torture. In esence, a society that allow torture sacriface the moral in a shoot in the dark, from pure desesperation and impotence. In my humble opinion, for many people is far easer apology torture, than try to explore the roots of the problem and see from where suicide terrorists hate/fear come from.

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There is some serious word-gaming going on here. The critics have labelled all these interrogation techniques "torture", but how do they define it?

There is not question that racks and iron maidens, meet hooks, electric shocks to the genitals, or dropping people feet first into meat grinders (all the nice things that went on under Saddam Hussein) are torture.

But is playing loud rock music torture? Is putting a caterpillar in someones cell torture?

Personally, I feel reading a lot of the braindead comments from some JT readers is torture. But is it?

It seems to me that according to the politically correct position, anything short of 5-star hotel accommodation is torture.

So someone is playing a political game here without concern for a real issue.

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Unresolved debate: Does torture work? it worked on the templars, it worked on the "witches", it worked on the downed pilots behind enemy lines. you want a confession then Turture works!

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Does torture work? It is a very broad question. And the expert quoted in the article, Darius Rejali, goes to great lengths explaining how prevalent it is, even in liberal democracies, but how it often undermines the very cause it is used to protect. He mentions the IRA and British efforts against them. I recall reading of how the Brits, as recently as the 70's, held what were basically military tribunals in N Ireland. The excuse was impaneling a jury was too dangerous.

A little research turns up the fact that even Canada is guilty of 'torture'.

"The abuse included "savage beatings, electrocution, whipping and extreme cold." Although Canadian soldiers were reported not to have engaged directly in the beatings, one of the detainees insisted that they would have heard his screams.As Mahmad Gul, 33, reportedly said: "The Canadians told me, 'Give them real information, or they will do more bad things to you.'"

As the Globe and Mail concluded on its editorial page:

"Canada is hardly in a position to claim it did not know what was going on. At best, it tried not to know; at worst, it knew and said nothing."

Canadians like smithinjapan and likeitis are apparently okay with this.

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no it doesnt. People will admit to anything under torture, just so it stops.. so how do you sort out the liers from the ones actually telling the truth? you dont

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Torture is stupid.

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dpurcell84: These people mean business. They are ruthless, cruel and despicable forms of life. If we try and fight them with kid gloves (AKA the US Justice System), we will loose.

Fighting people -- torturing people. Two COMPLETELY different things. We are not handing anyone rubber bullets to fight with.

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Oh no.

This is just too much.

The Lancet - the same unimpeachable source that assured us, two weeks before the 04 election, that between 600 000 and 1 000 000 Iraqis had died in the regime change and liberation of that country, apparently found Canada was also guilty of 'torture'.

"In the mid-1990s, Canadian troops stationed in Somalia were found guilty of torturing and murdering detainees. Now Canadian soldiers and doctors are under investigation again, this time for human rights abuses following recent operations in Afghanistan. Paul Webster reports."

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Just being sent to Canada would be torture for the sand hermits -No reason for Canadians to be physically torturing anybody

If G-Mo was in Canada or Alaska the liberals would have a fit.

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It only works when Dick does it.....Torture is only good for one thing, striking fear into the masses.

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The only way to truly find out if torture works or not is through the scientific process. We can get a healthy cross section of terrorists, divide them into two groups at random. We tell them a certain secret they have to keep or we will kill their family. Group A will be tortured to see how many reveal the secret. B group will be questioned without torture to see who gives up the secret. We can then reach an objective conclusion through statistical analysis whether or not torture is effective.

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If you force-feed foreign prisoners Natto -they will talk. All good Japanese detectives know this. =Send all your prisoners to Japan 99% confession rate.

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Also teleprompter, something you missed in your lame attempt to smear Canada is that nobody ever said individual Canadians were not capable of this. EVERY country has people who have done this and worse at some point, including your homeland of Russia.

The point is that the Canadian government NEVER authorized the torture. Thus the guilty people were prosecuted. Thus:

apparently found Canada was also guilty of 'torture'.

is yet another LIE.

Then we have:

The Lancet -...apparently found Canada was also guilty of 'torture'.

No, the Lancet most certainly did not. The Canadian military courts did, except for the guy against whom charges were dropped because he is now brain damaged after trying to hang himself.

Anyway, completely daft of you to bring up the brutal slaying of a Somali teen by grunts acting alone and not even trying to get information. Why the mods allow you to continue off topic and LYING like this is beyond me.

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teleprompter: A little research turns up the fact that even Canada is guilty of 'torture'.

Uh, no. The article cites Canadians turning people over to the Afghan authorities knowing they would be tortured by the Afghans. So, no Canada, the country, is NOT EVEN ACCUSSED OF TORTURE.

Yet, here you are stating its a fact that Canada is "guilty" while giving us an article about two men merely accussing members of the Canadian government of a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHARGE, knowledge that people turned over would be tortured by others.

And its still got NOTHING to do with the question of whether torture works but is just another attempt to smear Canada while telling the further lie that I and others are Canadian.

This is getting to be COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS...

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Countries have been outsourcing for years. You can't blame Canada for that. There are many countries that can torture for a cheaper price and with better results. If saving a few bucks makes the Torys happy I am all for it.

Look at G-Mo: American base on forced lease Cuban land. -Now that's think ahead of the curve, but you could be hiring Cuban labor at maybe 1/10 the cost. People need jobs -torture? -No problem I can do that.

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"no it doesnt. People will admit to anything under torture, just so it stops.. so how do you sort out the liers from the ones actually telling the truth? you dont"

I can not speak for the CIA, or for how they conducted "torture" (Sleep deprivation, rock music, slamming against walls etc) but it sounds like Basic Training to me. I would not consider it torture, and a hardened terrorist who has fought in one war or another for most of his life would most likely concur. Even water boarding (done on Special Forces Trainees) Is something that is hard to define one way or another.

However, if I were going to torture some one it would be that I already have some sort of intelligence to go on. IE from another source we found out there is a Bomb in a city. You know from unnamed informants that the current person in question was intimately involved in the planning process. You just need a name. Most likely they would start by asking a series of dummy questions that they already know the answer to. This way they could scare said person into telling the truth. If he lies about something you already know, you can challenge him on it. Do this a couple of times, and the person being tortured won't know what you know or don't know, and will be a bit more careful about telling a lie. Through in sleep and sense deprivation, find out their likes and dislikes and slowly feed them one or the other depending on behavior etc. And you can create a weekened, confused and scared individual who will find it more difficult to think clearly. There are a lot of techniques that can be employed to get at the truth, or get at enough of the truth to take action.

I think interrogations like this are extremely delicate about how they are handled. One wrong step and it is likely you will not get anything useful.

One more problem about this is the publicity of it. We all remember when we caught the "mastermind" of 911. It was all over the news. I bet the CIA BEGGED Bush not to make it public. Terrorists get CNN too and as soon as they new he was caught I am sure they changed any plans he might have known. So timing is also an issue. How relevant is anything he might know any way? Most likely Bush just needed a "win"

So I think the ultimate answer to this question (does interrogation work?) depends.

According to Cheney (who challenged the Justice Department to release ALL of the memo's which apparently detail several foiled plots based on information obtained from the tortured), Some say yea that's just Cheney! But Obama still has not released the memos in question, sooooo...

My opinion? All of this crying and screaming for justice by the politicians is completely political. They don't give to Sh*ts about torture. They have no morality. They just want to get top Bush officials in front of their committees so they can throw out the pre-scripted bullish questions for the camera, look all stern and pretend to be disgusted so they will get a few more people to pull the lever for them back home.

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Whether torture works or doesn't work is irrelevant. Torture is immoral. It is immoral even dressed in its current euphemism, "harsh interrogation." It is immoral: period. Torture can never be tolerated or forgiven, no matter who does it. I hope the Bush torturers get prison, including Bush and Chaney.

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Whats immoral? torturing a low life piece of trash who blows up school bus's in Afghanistan, or letting thousands of innocent people back home die?

Yes, that is a "clear cut example" and life is not usually very clear cut. However the "Torture is immoral" statement is also clear cut. So applied to the clear cut situation as mentioned above, and (for the sake of argument) assuming that it will result in enough actionable intelligence to stop a bomb from going off in a major urban center, what would you consider to be immoral? Letting thousands of innocents die? Some would say that would be quiet the selfish/immoral decision on your part to preserve your conscience at the cost of thousands of lives.

When you step away from your laptop, and step onto the ground, things move from black and white to a bit more gray.

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I still think further testing is required...

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Imagine this case, you have a bomb in A city or B city, and you got this suspect. He's hell bent on letting the bomb go off what's going to make him give up the information? You "torture" him, threaten his family friends etc (who could all very well be innocent people), he says "B City" so you send everyone to B city, and guess what? A city blows up. Torture goes against the very fabric of American society and the constitution. Defending freedom is no excuse in ripping what you swear to protect to pieces.

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Too many people here are watching far too much 24. Reality is not so black and white. And the compromise of our values does not rest on the shoulders of some hero, it rests on the shoulders of a nation and society that must then deal with the degredation of its moral standing and the blowback from its actions.

We are not innocent in this war between the radicals of Islam and our "way of life". We got here through years of policies and practices that were not representative of our American values. We allowed our cold war fears and interests to supplant our values. And in doing so we created the very monsters we now have to fight.

Bin Laden is a product of our training and funding. His empowerment was given through our Afghan policies during the Soviet war. And our unquestioning support for Israel when we should have had a more balanced Middle East policy have earned us the mistrust and hatred of many. This is all blowback from our own willingness to compromise what we have always stood for.

If America had stood by the values of liberty, peace, freedom and justice our policies would have been different. We could not have allowed dictators to rise in nations just because we needed an ally against the Soviets. We would not have alienated populations because of our perceived fear that they would be more inclined to support our cold war enemies. And we would not have allowed one group of people to repress another using our funding to achieve it.

When we compromise our values we set the stage for ever more bloodshed and danger. At some point we must take the high ground even if it is costly and do the right thing. It may be deadly for us today, but in the long run the faithful support of our values will earn us the moral authority and cooperation we need to make things better for the long run.

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Bin Laden is a product of our training and funding.

No, he isn't.

His father's wealth and his religion made him what he is.

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teleprompter at 12:53 PM JST - 24th April

Bin Laden is a product of our training and funding. No, he isn't. His father's wealth and his religion made him what he is.

With all due respect to you and your theory. Can you please elaborate your argument? Because in my humble opinion, out there are a lot of rich muslims that are not terrorists and preffer living good lifes than hiding in caves.

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What is an effective means of interrogating prisoners? At the extreme end of torture you have electrodes attached to the privates, but at what point does interrogation become torture?

Interrogaters naturally need to persuade, disconcert and confuse their interviewees, but we need to agree where the fine line is. Water boarding falls into the unacceptable category as far as I am concerned, but certain interrogation techniques are required to encourage the subject to talk.

Actual torturers have stated that the threat of torture is more effective than the act itself. If you survive water boarding once, a second time will not help much. A 183rd time would be pointless.

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why is this a unresolved debate tourture DOES NOT WORK hell we knew this since the dawn of man ffs trust me if anyone decided to detain a person and acuse them of a crime and ask them to confess they will say whatever the hell you want if your hurting them they will do or say anything to make the pain stop period so as to the question no tourture does nothing but inflict fear and doesnt solve a problem

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TORTURE TERRORISTS! Loose Lips Save Lives!

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why is this a unresolved debate tourture DOES NOT WORK hell we knew this since the dawn of man ffs trust me if anyone decided to detain a person and acuse them of a crime and ask them to confess they will say whatever the hell you want if your hurting them they will do or say anything to make the pain stop period so as to the question no tourture does nothing but inflict fear and doesnt solve a problem

I bet you that I could get you to tell me your PIN number for your bank card armed with only the tools in my tool box and a power supply and you safely shackled.

I hate to be purile, but these things are not as black and white and you claim. People have been torturing since the dawn of time because it almost certainly does work, used "correctly".

I am not supporting its use, simply making clear that it can work practically.

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It depends upon the strength of the person and the threshold of pain. I would hope that no amount of torture would lead me to deny my faith or country. If anyone has read Fox's Book of Martyrs, Martyrs Mirror or any of the myriad accounts of torture during war, you will find that torture does not seem to work.

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