Where were Western philosophers when the following questions were asked?
- Should we torture to save many lives?
- Which cricket/sports team should you support?
One of the fundamental tasks of philosophy has been to identify the correct question. If the correct question is asked often the bias of the incorrect question is exposed.
Norman Tebbit posed the ‘cricket test’ complaining that many immigrant communities still support their country of origin in sports against England. This is simply the wrong question. UK has a long history of emigration and expatriate populations can be found all over the world. A better question would be: for the English or Irish emigrant who now lives and settles abroad in US, Australia or Italy, would we expect them to continue with some affection to the “ol’ country” even so far as to support England, Wales etc against their adopted country? Would we be surprised or upset to learn that a US citizen who marries a French citizen and settles in France supports France against every other country except the US? Would we accept as a legitimate act any country that sought to withdraw citizenship from English immigrants who continued to show affection for their country of birth and support England against the adopted country?
We now come to the Padilla question:
If one suspected a detainee of knowingabout a plan to detonate a nuclear weapon and kill millions of innocent people would it not be acceptble to use torture to obtain further information to save lives?
In fact if we stick to the question (we will come to the reality of the Padilla episode shortly) it would be better phrased as follows:
Would it be acceptable for a foreign country to torture or watrboard a US or British citizen because they suspected he/she might be involed in a terrorist plot? Would it be acceptable if the only evidence was from a drug addict or similar? Would it also be acceptable that if it turned out to be untrue that no compensation should be paid?
As it turned out the initial version put out about Padila was a pack of lies.
Initial report was that;
‘José Padilla, who was accused of plotting a radiological dirty bomb attack inside the United States, was one of the first American citizens designated an “enemy combatant.” The Bush administration credited the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah with uncovering the plot and leading investigators to Mr. Padilla. His arrest has been held up for years as proof that waterboarding and other tactics worked.’
It later transpired that this event happened prior to torture progra and the intiail information was obtained without torture and the so-called plot was based on an internet satire:
‘For all the publicity the Bush administration gave Mr. Padilla, the committee revealed that the government never took his dirty bomb plot seriously. It was based on a satirical Internet article titled “How to Make an H-Bomb,” and the plot involved swinging a bucket full of uranium over one’s head for 45 minutes. One internal C.I.A. email declared that such a plot would most likely kill Mr. Padilla but “would definitely not result in a nuclear explosive device.” Another called Mr. Padilla “a petty criminal” and described the dirty bomb plot as “lore.’
But for me the critical issue is the silence of the Western philosophy community. Since the wrong question was asked the public in US and UK are left with lingering suspicion that torture may in fact be justifiable in circumstances, whereas with the correct question being posed their opinions could be dramatically different. This behaviour of the Western philosophy community is spineless and morally worthless.