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SecaucusFats
01-07-2005, 01:01 PM
A Nasty Business
(published in the Atlantic Monthly, January 2002)

Gathering "good intelligence" against terrorists is an inherently brutish enterprise, involving methods a civics class might not condone. Should we care?
...

I cannot use his real name, so I will call him Thomas. However, I had been told before our meeting, by the mutual friend—a former Sri Lankan intelligence officer who had also long fought the LTTE—who introduced us (and was present at our meeting), that Thomas had another name, one better known to his friends and enemies alike: Terminator. My friend explained how Thomas had acquired his sobriquet; it actually owed less to Arnold Schwarzenegger than to the merciless way in which he discharged his duties as an intelligence officer. This became clear to me during our conversation.

"By going through the process of laws," Thomas patiently explained, as a parent or a teacher might speak to a bright yet uncomprehending child, "you cannot fight terrorism."

Terrorism, he believed, could be fought only by thoroughly "terrorizing" the terrorists—that is, inflicting on them the same pain that they inflict on the innocent.

Thomas had little confidence that I understood what he was saying. I was an academic, he said, with no actual experience of the life-and-death choices and the immense responsibility borne by those charged with protecting society from attack.

Accordingly, he would give me an example of the split-second decisions he was called on to make. At the time, Colombo was on "code red" emergency status, because of intelligence that the LTTE was planning to embark on a campaign of bombing public gathering places and other civilian targets. Thomas's unit had apprehended three terrorists who, it suspected, had recently planted somewhere in the city a bomb that was then ticking away, the minutes counting down to catastrophe.

The three men were brought before Thomas. He asked them where the bomb was. The terrorists—highly dedicated and steeled to resist interrogation—remained silent. Thomas asked the question again, advising them that if they did not tell him what he wanted to know, he would kill them. They were unmoved.

So Thomas took his pistol from his gun belt, pointed it at the forehead of one of them, and shot him dead. The other two, he said, talked immediately; the bomb, which had been placed in a crowded railway station and set to explode during the evening rush hour, was found and defused, and countless lives were saved.

On other occasions, Thomas said, similarly recalcitrant terrorists were brought before him. It was not surprising, he said, that they initially refused to talk; they were schooled to withstand harsh questioning and coercive pressure. No matter: a few drops of gasoline flicked into a plastic bag that is then placed over a terrorist's head and cinched tight around his neck with a web belt very quickly prompts a full explanation of the details of any planned attack.

END

Thomas, you'll note, didn't just torture a terrorist; he actually "murdered" one in cold blood. (I don't know if we can really call this "murder," but I've no doubt as to what the statutes would say about it.)

Did he do wrong?

Should he have just allowed the bomb to detonate?

Would that have been the more moral choice? By what calculus?

SF

crawdaddio
01-07-2005, 02:14 PM
[ QUOTE ]
Did he do wrong?

Should he have just allowed the bomb to detonate?

Would that have been the more moral choice? By what calculus?

SF <hr /></blockquote>

Why don't you tell us?

In my opinion, yes, he was wrong to kill him.

Peace
~DC

Chopstick
01-07-2005, 03:11 PM
I would have to agree with crawdaddio on this one. What if the guy he shot was the only one who knew where the bomb was? I prefer the Soprano solution. Many men aren't afraid to die but there is one thing men don't want to live without. /ccboard/images/graemlins/shocked.gif

If you want to be nice about it, tell him you'll have the doctor sew it back on after you find the bomb. You can always shoot them later.

SecaucusFats
01-07-2005, 03:54 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote crawdaddio:</font><hr> &lt;/font&gt;&lt;blockquote&gt;&lt;font class="small"&gt;Quote:&lt;/font&gt;&lt;hr /&gt;
Did he do wrong?

Should he have just allowed the bomb to detonate?

Would that have been the more moral choice? By what calculus?

SF <hr /></blockquote>

Why don't you tell us?

In my opinion, yes, he was wrong to kill him.

Peace
~DC <hr /></blockquote>

Was it wrong? Perhaps..but it was done for all the right reasons, and apparently it was quite effective.

The man he shot was a willing participant in a a plot that would have resulted in the deaths of many innocent people.

I see it this way..when confronted with a real life situation, one does not have time for long philosophical musings. Sometimes, not always, the ends do justify the means. I would go so far, as to say that the operative who extracted the info did an excellent job. He killed one.. to save hundreds, IMO that alone makes it justifiable.

We have to have men like that, to do some dirty, dangerous, work. I think that we should let them be. Those men, like the guy in the original post, have to deal with their own personal psychic baggage.

SF

nhp
01-07-2005, 06:46 PM
Instead of killing the guy he should have tortured them all.

Qtec
01-07-2005, 11:42 PM
What if they were inocent?

Q