Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Flesh and Bone"

***1/2

Air date: 2/25/2005
Written by Toni Graphia
Directed by Brad Turner

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Here's a session in the box that's intense enough, deep enough, psychological enough, and acted well enough that I'm willing to say it could be compared to some of the top-shelf box sessions from Homicide, which of course is the undisputed champion of the box.

Because this is Battlestar Galactica, however, there are additional considerations, like debate over religion and sci-fi concepts, the mysterious mythology of Kobol, the warfare between civilizations, and the characters' self-granted right to torture the subject who is in the box. It's a brave new world.

A Cylon copy of Leoben Conoy (Callum Keith Rennie), whom Adama killed in the miniseries, is discovered hiding on a ship in the fleet and is immediately taken into custody. Adama recommends dispatching this Cylon at once, lest he cause damage to the fleet or start putting dangerous ideas into people's heads. Roslin, however, wants Leoben interrogated for information about the Cylons. Adama puts Kara in charge of the interrogation with a warning that Leoben is a master of psychological manipulation, and that he will try to get into her head.

Thus begins a duel of wills between the interrogator and her subject. The interrogation takes up most of the episode's running time, but the show is not confined to the interrogation room like Homicide's famous "Three Men and Adena." This episode cannot be fairly held up to the likes of "Three Men and Adena," but it's worth noting that it made me think of that episode on more than one instance.

This interrogation is not about guilt or innocence. That Leoben is a Cylon is beyond dispute. He fully admits it. He's guilty of being a Cylon, and so far in this universe, there is no innocent Cylon; they are all the enemy. (One wonders what will happen once Sharon is revealed as a Cylon.) No, this is about learning about the Cylons and their tactics, something that will hopefully garner strategic knowledge.

The thing about Starbuck as played by Katee Sackhoff is that she's believable balancing the no-nonsense intensity with the abrasive sarcasm. She can pull off the role of badass, but at the same time she has a condescending grin that reminds me of Garak's philosophy of adversarial encounters: When in doubt, smile, because it confounds your enemy.

It does not, however, confound Leoben, who immediately claims to have planted a nuclear warhead somewhere in the fleet — a claim that cleverly narrows the scope of the interrogation's information-gathering goal. Not that it matters, because Leoben's refusal to answer questions quickly turns the interrogation into a battle of wills and a discussion of Leoben's existence as a human mimic.

For example, Leoben admits to being hungry, having not eaten in days. Starbuck asks him, what's the point of being a machine programmed to feel hungry? Wouldn't that simply interfere with the efficiency of operation? For that matter, why feel pain? That's a question for when the beatings and torture begin. Can Leoben, who is a machine, flip a switch and turn off the pain? And if he does so, does that make him less "human"? Starbuck's assertion is that it would: Human beings are forced to suffer through their pain, and if a Cylon can simply turn their pain off, they really aren't human.

But Leoben either cannot or refuses to turn off his pain, and takes his beatings — followed by being repeatedly dunked into a bucket of water — as if it were his duty.

Between the torture are discussions that venture into philosophy. Leoben says he sees "patterns" in the universe that humans cannot see, which he claims gives him the ability of prescience. Furthermore, he says "I am God," and says that all Cylons are gods in a way, because they have a foresight that humanity can't grasp. More specifically, in an iteration of a speech Leoben gave Adama in the miniseries, he says the Cylons were created by God as a punishment for humanity's sins.

Callum Keith Rennie's performance as Leoben is effective in its straightforwardness. Here's a Cylon whose goal under duress is to turn the screws of mental manipulation, to be menacing via his utter Cylon implacability, and yet at the same time he maintains an underlying sincerity, as if he believes every word he says to Starbuck (which he very well might). The claim of the nuclear warhead, we suspect all along, is simply the device by which Leoben buys himself time to start in on his Cylon philosophizing.

There's a lot of meat in "Flesh and Bone." In addition to Leoben's pervasive dialog, there's also the interesting underlying religious themes, including the polytheism versus monotheism in the difference between the Colonial Lords of Kobol versus the Cylons' singular God. What does all of this mean? I don't know that it means anything specifically right now, except to suggest the nature of the Cylons having established their own independent religion and their belief that they have souls of their own. Can a machine have a "soul"? (Starbuck's initial belief is that Leoben has software, not a soul, but she begins to question that belief.) Perhaps one way to look at it is that any being intelligent enough to comprehend its own death and ponder its meaning probably has the right to lay claim to the concept of a soul.

What's interesting is how this process wears on Starbuck, the interrogator. Leoben eventually is able to get into her head by telling her things about herself that seem too personal to have been researched in a background check. Leoben either has unique insights, or is a master of psychological manipulation. Eventually, he begins prognosticating, saying that humanity and the Cylons are involved in a cosmic, historic struggle destined to repeat itself. He quotes from Colonial religious scripture (either that, or The Matrix Reloaded), saying, "All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again." He tells Starbuck that the Galactica is going to find Kobol.

Beyond the prognostication, the simple fact is that Starbuck beings empathizing with her subject. When Leoben refuses to give up information, she calls his willingness to endure more torture a malfunction, a state of sickness. Eventually, she can't stomach it anymore. The more Leoben talks, the more questions Kara has, and the more troubled she becomes. Sackhoff shows a solid range in her character's gradual shift from hard-line interrogator to one of surprising vulnerability. One of the show's best strengths is its moral ambiguity; by the end Kara is praying for Leoben's soul, if he has one.

Kara isn't the only one empathizing in this story. There's also Sharon on Caprica, who meets with her fellow Cylons to report that she's had sex with Helo. "Does he love you?" Six asks. The Cylons tell Sharon to convince Helo to stay on Caprica, or to kill him. This puts Sharon at a crossroads, where she chooses Helo over her co-conspirators, and decides to truly go on the run with him rather than pretending.

Meanwhile, the other Sharon on the Galactica reaches the end of her frustration. Her humming and stroking of the captured Cylon Raider (ever-so-eerie, that) raises Tyrol's eyebrow a bit, to the point that Sharon wants to clear herself of being a Cylon once and for all. She visits Baltar in the lab and insists on being the first test subject for his Cylon detector. When he demurs, she plays the "you owe me" card, reminding him that she and Helo saved him from annihilation on Caprica. I like the continuity of this moment, which reminds us how all these players have been moved into place.

The scene where Baltar analyzes the results and is about to inform Sharon is a mini-masterpiece of hypnotic tone and dialog. Baltar realizes Sharon is a Cylon, and then must decide what to say to her. Six tells him Sharon's likely to go into Cylon mode and break his neck on the spot. Can't have that. I liked the musical continuity, melding what I'm willing to call Six's theme and Sharon's theme (see the opening minutes of "Water") into a tense undercurrent. Sharon stares at Baltar, awaiting his answer, as if unconsciously waiting to explode. Below the tension is the humor of Baltar's panicked facial expressions, as he looks back and forth and decides what to say. Of course he says what he must to protect himself from possible death, and tells her that she's 100 percent human. Of course, the implications arising from Baltar's discovery have their own foreboding.

Back in Leoben's storyline, Roslin orders the interrogation ceased and promises to spare Leoben's life if he tells her where the warhead is. Ironically, Leoben comments — in regard to being tortured — that the military are trained to dehumanize people, even as the interrogation itself had forced Kara into doing exactly the opposite. He confesses what we suspected all along — there is no warhead. But then he whispers to Roslin that "Adama is a Cylon." Roslin has her own response: "Put him out the airlock." Which they do.

This is some pretty dark stuff. Interestingly, the character arc for Roslin in the episode is the opposite of Kara's. Roslin begins the episode in a vulnerable place, having prescient dreams involving Leoben, and waking up in particularly rough shape from her illness. By the end, she shows a side that I didn't know existed, willingly venting a man into space without a trial or hearing. Because he's a Cylon, he has no rights, is guilty and is given an automatic death sentence. End of story. It raises some tough questions, to say the least. That the story doesn't compromise or supply easy answers is a credit to its makers.

Previous episode: Six Degrees of Separation
Next episode: Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down

Season Index

44 comments on this review

Alexey Bogatiryov - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 3:01pm (USA Central)
I must say that this episode reminded me more of DS9 "the Waltz" with Kara playing Sisko and Leoben playing Dukat. Leoben's character is similar to Dukat in his ability to manipulate people and the fact that his POV is consistent yet clearly immoral. Very fascinating character development here...
penguinphysics - Fri, Mar 27, 2009 - 1:36pm (USA Central)
I know this is a tiny nit-pick, but I think that Jammer misspelled something in paragraph 14. He metions that "...Starbuck beings empathizing..." which I think was meant to say "...BEGINS empathizing..."

Otherwise a fantastic review and analysis.
Bad Horse - Fri, Jan 22, 2010 - 3:30pm (USA Central)
If DS9 has a champion of The Box, it's Duet. It's 10 times the episode that Waltz is.
Ulkesh - Mon, Nov 8, 2010 - 6:28pm (USA Central)
Speaking of box episodes, Babylon 5 had two great ones.

"Comes the Inquisitor"'s main plot was in a box, and "Intersections in Real Time" was 100% 'box-y' (pardon the BSG pun), with 98% in one room, the rest in another identical room.
Nic - Sun, Nov 21, 2010 - 10:04pm (USA Central)
Roslin's choice at th end is not only questionnable, it's downright illogical. Here is a man they KNOW is a Cylon, the perfect subject to use as a guinea pig to see if Baltar's Cylon detector actually works! And they just shove him out an airlock. What a waste.
Nick Poliskey - Tue, Apr 12, 2011 - 9:35am (USA Central)
Sorry, this episode has one redeeming thing, and a whole lot of flaws. I will readily admit it was fun to watch, but it hurt my respect for what was initially my favourite character, Adama.

Jammer, I think you missed a big one here. I am watching the series first time here, so I have no idea what each individual episode will be about until I finish it. Adama did something here that blew my mind, and put me right back into season 1 TNG. I thought he was joking. Adama sends STARBUCK to interrorgate the dangerous Cylon? I realize everyone here has a boner for Starbuck, and she is "sort-of" hot, but she is an injured PILOT for christ sake. Adama seriously couldn't couldn't someone better trained out of 45,000 people?

I just kept thinking Picard sending Wesley to interrogate a borg!! I am sorry this is a major flaw, and this is the 3rd episode in a row with Adama making questionable decisions. I am very unhappy with his character development. for the 1st 5 episopes, I had him up in Picard-Kirk land in how much I liked him, but now he isn't even in my top 5 favourite BSG characters.

And please GET RID OF STARBUCK. She is Wesley-Yar-Troi all wrapped up into one disgusting package. And lance those moles! YUCK
Nick Poliskey - Tue, Apr 12, 2011 - 9:37am (USA Central)
Oh, and the one redeeming thing I forgot to mention. The Baltar Sharon Six scene. WOW, that is my favourite scene yet. I was on the edge of my seat watching Baltar flounder with Sharon watching him, and him finding shes a cylon.
Jack - Sat, Jul 16, 2011 - 8:29pm (USA Central)
1. Adama sent Starbuck because Roslin asked him to send someone tough enough to deal with Leoben's BS and she was the only one of his line officers who wasn't able to perform her normal duties. Basically he trusts her and she had nothing better to do.

2. They had another dead Leoben copy in cold storage which they used to build the dector in the first place. They didn't need another copy of the same model to test it.
Michael - Sat, Nov 12, 2011 - 1:58am (USA Central)
Well, I happened to enjoy this show immensely.

I hold Adama in high regard. He's no-nonsense and doesn't give himself to emotion and fluff.

Initially I thoroughly disliked Starbuck, particularly after the scene where she punched Tigh. Her appearance and manners/mannerisms are off-putting. However, she comes across as really good at her job and she does have a good heart underneath the oft-unpalatable exterior.

A character I really can't stand is the "doctor." He has an annoying accent, for one. More importantly, it's just frustrating seeing him continually deceive everyone with impunity. I hope he gets rumbled soon.

BTW, great to see enhanced interrogation techniques in action. It's a good thing the lily-livered "madam president" wasn't there to witness it because she'd for sure have put a stop to it and instead given the Cylon a cup of coffee and a blanket. I must say though, her ruthlessness toward the end did--pleasantly--surprise me.
Justin - Tue, Jun 26, 2012 - 7:33pm (USA Central)
@Michael, glad to see that torture entertains you. Do us a favor and keep your Red State politcs out of here.
Michael - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 2:00pm (USA Central)
@Justin: I have every right to propound my views here as you do. Why don't you do us all a favor and keep your lilly-livered bleeding-heart liberal dogma out of here. Put simply: Bite me.

;)
Zane314 - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 2:35pm (USA Central)
Hey Justin, I support your criticism of people who think its "great to see enhanced interrogation techniques in action" - good for you, don't ever be shy about your morals and reasoning for disliking something as abhorrent as torture! Also, just like the U.S. First Amendment doesn't allow us to scream FIRE in a crowded theater when there is none, Jammer has the right to restrict speech on his forums which are actually not legally "public" - the Jammer forums are on his computers and content that he allows the public to participate in. Selections from Jammer's comment policy from www.jammersreviews.com/info/commentpolicy.php follows ...

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Elliott - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 3:54pm (USA Central)
Of course, abhorring torture is "dogma." Michael, if you're going to say stupid shit, at least have the decency to defend yourself instead of "I know you are, but what am I?"
Zane314 - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 4:08pm (USA Central)
Jammer, this got a little long and is only loosely related to BSG so thanks for allowing the post and no problem if you pull it due to length/content.

Justin, I wanted to follow up your anti-torture comment with some documentation you and others might find interesting. It think this is also very much related to the excellent 1.08 Flesh and Bone episode which took the topic of torture head on.

Torture largely occurs for 4 reasons:
1) To gain information that could save lives or lessen suffering. The classic example is the Ticking time bomb scenario (Google it for Wiki’s page).
2) To punish someone for past or possible future actions. This frequently happens before executions (mostly in the past) and in past and present extra-judicial and criminal executions.
3) To instill fear in the torture victim and if he or she survives, in the public. This is a form of terrorism, spreading fear to achieve an end. The 80's terror wars in Central America has many examples of this.
4) To satisfy the torturer either for a specific grievance or due to pathological sadism. For example, someone may torture because the torture victim killer their family or because they are a pathological sadist in general.

Most (but maybe not all) will agree that 2, 3, and 4 are unreasonable in most if not all situations. Certainly no government of rational, calm individuals should make laws condoning 2, 3, or 4 nor should these governments covertly promote torture for these reasons.

Reason 1 is tricky though and it is most frequently held up as a justifiable reason to torture. This reason has also gained prominence recently because it’s the rational behind the Bush administrations ordering of systematic widespread torture after 9/11. By the way, the Obama administration has only partially curtailed the Bush regime and has dramatically stepped up the no longer covert extra-judicial assassination program which covers both U.S. and non-U.S. individuals.

About reason 1, using torture to gain info to stop more death/suffering, there’s just no consistent evidence that this *reliably* works and what are the *boundaries* for the torture to be used. The 9/11 case was broken wide open by a completely non-torture interrogation by an FBI agent, Ali Soufan. Plus, the Senate committee investigating Bush’s torture program has found that no attacks were prevented from the torture and no useful intel was gained. The Republicans on the committee withdrew because pro-torture evidence could not be found.

It’s interesting that lower classes in Roman times (e.g. ~300BCE t0 350CE) were *required* by law to be tortured if they were to give evidence. Even if they gave it up front, torture was applied. I’d think after the Enlightenment, the European Wars of Religion, the Spanish Inquisition, WWI, WWII, etc we’d have moved way beyond torture but back to Roman times it is!

A few more data points on torture:

Google: After Waterboarding: How to Make Terrorists Talk?
Quote:
At their next meeting, the Americans brought him some sugar-free cookies, a gesture that took the edge off Abu Jandal's angry demeanor. "We had showed him respect, and we had done this nice thing for him," Soufan recalls. "So he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures." It took more questioning, and some interrogators' sleight of hand, before the Yemeni gave up a wealth of information about al-Qaeda — including the identities of seven of the 9/11 bombers — but the cookies were the turning point. "After that, he could no longer think of us as evil Americans," Soufan says. "Now he was thinking of us as human beings."

Google: Fort Hunt's Quiet Men Break Silence on WWII
These awesome old men are true heroes of World War II: they did their job successfully and were as humane as possible in tough circumstances. Our current and last administration could learn a lot from them.
Quote (excerpts):
When about two dozen veterans got together yesterday for the first time since the 1940s, many of the proud men lamented the chasm between the way they conducted interrogations during the war and the harsh measures used today in questioning terrorism suspects. Back then, they and their commanders wrestled with the morality of bugging prisoners' cells with listening devices. They felt bad about censoring letters. They took prisoners out for steak dinners to soften them up. They played games with them. "We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture," said Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist who had been assigned to play chess in Germany with Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess. Blunt criticism of modern enemy interrogations was a common refrain at the ceremonies held beside the Potomac River near Alexandria. Across the river, President Bush defended his administration's methods of detaining and questioning terrorism suspects during an Oval Office appearance. Several of the veterans, all men in their 80s and 90s, denounced the controversial techniques. And when the time came for them to accept honors from the Army's Freedom Team Salute, one veteran refused, citing his opposition to the war in Iraq and procedures that have been used at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. "We did it with a certain amount of respect and justice," said John Gunther Dean, 81, who became a career Foreign Service officer and ambassador to Denmark. The interrogators had standards that remain a source of pride and honor. "During the many interrogations, I never laid hands on anyone," said George Frenkel, 87, of Kensington. "We extracted information in a battle of the wits. I'm proud to say I never compromised my humanity."

Google: Verscharfte Vernehmung
The author is a Republican who considers himself a conservative! So it’s nice to see at least one of our Red State friends taking the moral, right stand about torture. Also note that the Church during the worst of the Inquisition tortured with a “no blood” rule so they’d stretch torture victims on a rack or lift them off the ground with their hands behind their backs dislocating their shoulders. If the torture victim was to be executed, they were turned over to secular authorities since the Church could not be stained with the sin of murder. So we are following in some very old and bad footsteps with water torture, “stress” positions, slamming against walls, beating prisoners in heavy bags with steel pipes, etc.
Quote:
The phrase "Verschärfte Vernehmung" is German for "enhanced interrogation". Other translations include "intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation". It's a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their "enhanced interrogation techniques" would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.

Google: From Water Torture to ‘Waterboarding’ fair.org
That’s right, the United States *executed* Japanese war criminals for water torture aka water boarding of U.S. and Chinese POWs. Now it seems the U.S. government and most people have forgotten ...
Quote:
Following World War II, when U.S. military tribunals tried Japanese military officials for war crimes for torturing prisoners of war, graphic accounts surfaced about the practice called “the water treatment,” which, as federal judge and laws of war scholar Evan Wallach observed (Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, 2007), “differ[ed] very little” from the “descriptions of waterboarding as it is currently applied.” One of the common practices of the Japanese military was described as follows in the Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East: “The victim was tied or held down on his back and cloth placed over his nose and mouth. Water was then poured on the cloth.”

So torture is bad and doesn’t work reliably for even extracting information to stop deaths/suffering. Other reasons for torture are simply (and rightly) dismissed. Personally, I’m against all torture. If someone knew of a bomb that was about to go off and I could only stop it by torturing him I’d say in a calm moment (like now) I wouldn’t do it. And I think we should write and enforce laws similarly. Now, if someone killed my love ones, I’d be enraged and want to torture and kill then murder the perpetrator. But that’s not how a civil society should be managed.
Zane314 - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 4:19pm (USA Central)
How about torture and Battlestar Galactica 1.08 Flesh and Bone? Well, Roslin has a drug induced dream/hallucination about Leoben and she wants Leoben interrogated over Adama’s desire to immediately "destroy it" since she thinks "it might be important." While I don’t condone summary executions of "persons" (I think Cylons are persons), I think this is actually bad leadership and selfish of Roslin: over the military leader's objection she wants more information, probably because her dream has peaked her interest. There was nothing specific in the dream about the fleet or the safety of humanity so her interest was selfish. She actually endangered the fleet by letting Leoben interact with the crew, critically with the super valuable top pilot who happens to be a bit of a nut case.

So Adama orders Starbuck to interrogate Leoben since the President orders him to "send someone who won't be easily confused." Why didn’t Adama pick Apollo? I think he’d been much better, he’s got a cooler head and Adama can trust him. But Starbuck gets the call, busted knee and all.

Here’s how our crack interrogator (that’s sarcasm) plies her trade:
* wake up the prisoner
* in one sentence, insult his religion and use a racial epitaph (at least to Cylons)
* ask simple, blunt questions in a monotonic voice, even repeating questions verbatim
* 64 seconds after asking her first question, Starbuck becomes impatient and gets up to leave

Wow, she may be the top pilot in the fleet but come on, this is pretty shoddy questioning! She reports to Adama that Leoben said her call sign and he says "Don't take any chances, Starbuck" – guess that means start torturing!
* now they banter back and forth about religion, Starbuck is totally off her game now
* she brings in a tray of food and starts eating it just out of his reach (classy!)
* she allows him to eat after he asks
* they talk about Cylons sweating, being hungry, and feeling pain

Then the critical passage:
Starbuck: Hmm. Here's your dilemma: turn off the pain, you feel better but that makes you a machine, not a person. You see?, human beings can't turn off their pain. Human beings have to suffer and cry and scream and endure because they have no choice. So the o­nly way you can avoid the pain you are about to receive is by telling me exactly what I wanna know. Just like a human would.
Leoben: I knew this about you. You're everything I thought you would be. But it won't work, I won't tell you anything.
Starbuck: Maybe not. But then you'll know, deep down, that I beat you. That a human being beat you. And that you are truly no greater than we are. You're just a bunch of machines, after all.
Leoben: Let the games begin.

This is terrible, just awful for Starbuck to say. She’s trying to put Leoben in a lose-lose position: be a computer/machine and turn off his pain receptors when she tortures him which makes him a non-person. But he wants to be a person so he won’t deactivate the pain and thus the torture will hurt and he’ll give up the info. This is wrong on several points: she assumes Cylon humanoids can control pain in a way which they can’t. She also assumes Leoben "wants" to be a person – why does she think this? Lastly, she assumes any normal, feeling person will react to torture by giving up the information she wants. All wrong!

So she tortures the frak out of Leoben and still gets no info. He’s totally under her skin which is exactly what Adama warned Roslin of and he warned Starbuck twice. So Starbuck fails miserably: fails to get info, fails to keep Leoben out of her head, and fails to retain her humanity.

When Roslin came in, I initially liked her but ... to quote:
Roslin: What the hell is going on here? What exactly is it that you are doing here?
Starbuck: It's a machine, sir. There's no limit to the tactics I can use.
Roslin: And where's the warhead?
Starbuck: I don't know.
Roslin: You don't know. You've spent the last eight hours torturing this man... this machine, whatever it is, and you don't have a single piece of information to show for it.

Note Starbuck thought it was fine to torture a "machine" despite it being sentient and able to feel pain as we would define it. But I ended up more disappointed in Roslin who is most upset that Starbuck didn’t get any useful intel, not that she used torture! It’s one thing for a hot shot crazy pilot to torture a prisoner but the head of the civilian government just endorsed torture *if* it gets good intel, for both machines and humans! Then the President summarily executes Leoben for him saying Adama is a Cylon without consulting with Adama (though he’d probably says airlock Leoben since he wanted him dead from the start). Well, I’m definitely not voting for Roslin! :)

Pulling my last comment on torture, I think Starbuck tortured for 3 of the 4 common torture reasons:
1) To gain information that could save lives – they thought there was a bomb, the classic case
2) To punish someone for past or possible future actions – he’s a Cylon who's part of a race that almost eliminated humankind and he can't be trusted/released/etc
4) To satisfy the torturer either for a specific grievance – Leoben seriously irritated Starbuck and got under her skin, he's not getting away with that, she's going to win!

Moral of this story: Starbuck should stay in the cockpit and torture should never be used!
Zane314 - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 4:33pm (USA Central)
Hi Elliott, please see my comments above on torture in general and Starbuck in 1.08. I guess to be more accurate, I *HATE* Starbuck's actions in Flesh and Bone, her over the top sarcasm and smirking and, above all, her hearty embrace of torture. Now at the end, she at least partially redeemed herself to me by genuinely feeling for Leoben and not wanting him executed. And she prayed for him at the end. But when Leoben grabbed her I was exhilarated! I find her attitude in general to be nasty and snarky and combine that with the torture and I *HATE* her actions in 1.08. I'm real disappointed in Adama giving Starbuck this job instead of, well, anyone else! I think Tigh would have done better and he's pretty nuts. Apollo would have been cool since it makes sense to me and he doesn't do as much as Starbuck. Note, that I totally agree BSG characters mostly go up and down, do good and bad (with 2 exceptions). And you nailed it about the dialogue and myth making the show great, Flesh and Bone was outstanding for it's take on torture and for being engrossing TV.
Nick P. - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 10:51pm (USA Central)
My opinion on torture. Very Simple. It always has existed, and always will, so i don't really see the point in debating it endlessly.

I sympathize with both sides, but at the end of the day, side with the "lets keep it for rare circumstances crowd". The only real argument that isn't filled with half-truths is the one about what kind of country are we. it sounds nice, but I feel that torture has been around since the beginning of life on earth, and I don't remember reading in the constitution it is illegal, so i suspect the idea that America is somehow "NOT" America if it tortures is a platitude and best, and downright dangerous at worse.

Look, president Obama can do what ever he wants, but if he gets reliable intel that a bomb is about to go off in New New York City, and we have in Custody a guy that we reasonably expect knows the location and "sugar cookies" just don't seem to be working, than OF COURSE he is going to torture. He will authorize it and than pretend he didn't, just like he SHOULD. because like any general/politician, he doesn't want to be responsible for the death of millions.

At the end of the day, the arguments against torture, as the lengthy on above, are not incorrect, but it is slightly and red herring. Obviously, if you torture people that don't know anything, you are going to get bad intel. The anti-torture people constantly bring that up. Is being really nice to them better, argueable, but I am not a bleeding heart, and if someone wants to cause me mor my countrymen harm, I don't give a sh$t less if they are tortured. Sorry.
Nick P. - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 10:56pm (USA Central)
The other point I was going to make, is that for every idiot Bush era-"torturer" that couldn't get the job done, there is swarms of Vietnam-era torturers who could tell if someone know something "just by looking at them". I remember reading about them when I read a GIANT book on the Vietnam war. Plus let's not forget the numerous Roman torturers who would capture scouts and then torture them for the location of enemy encampments.....And right there is why I don't buy the anti-torture arguments, the romans used it often, effectively, and it frankly saved their own troops lives because then they didn't need open field battle.
Elliott - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 11:12pm (USA Central)
Hmm...The Vietnam War, the Bush era and the Roman Empire...yes indeed, excellent company and paradigms of civilisation to which we should all aspire...

I don't like torture. I don't agree with it. I do, however, condone its use and portrayal in this series because of the arguments and definitively ANTI-torture ideals that rise out of it. Remember that the Colonials' justification for torture is that the Cylons aren't people in their estimation. I am flabbergasted by the hubris of people who seem to think that being a "terrorist" or whatever justifies being de-humanised--as though they themselves would never, ever do something which by some nation or culture would be considered heroic and by another "evil"--that doing something which in their own people's eyes is a worthy sacrifice, they may be justifiably denied basic human rights should that other nation capture them. But, just like in Rome, Fear > Empathy.
Nick P. - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 11:44pm (USA Central)
You may think you are better than the Roman empire, with your high and mighty modern ideals. The Roman empire was the greatest empire the world ever saw, and they fought hard for the place in the world they achieved. It is so easy to critisize the Roman empire, but those people had to live through norhterners coming south, stealing their land, raping their women, and murdering their children. How quickly you forget that the roman empire, as abhorrent as you think it was, was the Pax Romana. 500 years of peace.

But I forgot, your a modern person. The romans had slaves, they tortured, thus they were not worthy of the ground you modern angels walk on. Please understand, that these things exist regardless of the roman empire, and without the empire, the world truly was in chaos.

WOW, sorry, but I am a passionate defender of the Romans.
Elliott - Thu, Jun 28, 2012 - 12:30am (USA Central)
Hey, I like the Roman Empire, too--great literature and art, fantastical stories, epic wars, aqueducts, orgies...it's all great--I don't, however, think that Roman culture is a thing to which we ought to be ASPIRING in the 21st century. Nor do I think that the Romans' greatness in many ways justifies EVERYTHING about their existence or their way of life. Yeesh.
Michael - Thu, Jun 28, 2012 - 5:34am (USA Central)
@Elliott: Who in the motherfrak are you that I should have to defend myself and my views to you!!? Nick P. has the patience to eloquently and sensibly present a position I share; I don't. You're clearly not interested in a sensible, dispassionate discussion, but only want to "out" me as some medieval neocon cryptofascist, for -- obviously -- all those who do not scream outrage at the merest of hint of torture being acceptable ARE such.

Go jump in a lake, punk.
Zane314 - Thu, Jun 28, 2012 - 10:58am (USA Central)
Hi Nick P. and Elliot (again!). A few hopefully short torture comments. (rats, too long a post ... again!)

About torture in BSG, Lee and Kara torture a Human later in s1 - where's the "it's just a machine so it's ok to torture it" rational there?

This is not an endless debate, I made and will continue to make the points I did about torture. I hope it changes the minds of others and lessens suffering in the world.

Torture is implicitly repudiated in the founding documents for the United States: the Eighth Amendment against Cruel and unusual punishment and the United States Declaration of Independence: "that all men are created equal ... that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." And yes, that covers Nero, Hitler, Mao, and OBL. They're all Humans. It's also against U.S. and world laws, many of them in fact.

Also, note that I don't hold the Constitution and other founding documents as inerrant and unchangeable. In fact, I really think the Constitution should be scrapped since it was originally so largely structured around slavery and has led to a very undemocratic system: presidential election electoral college (should be popular vote), bicameral system with the Senate being extremely undemocratic (should be 535 members in a single legislator), and state drawn electoral districts which are manipulated like crazy (should be an objective, geometric formula, e.g. rectangles with only rivers and state borders as the boundaries). I'd also limit all judges to 10 years of service, especially the Supreme Court, to better reflect the current populace. These 4 things would go a long way to modernizing our political system and making it more democratic.

The President can't do whatever he wants, at least not 100%, and that is most definitely not the ideal to reach for. Also, torture has been shown to frequently not yield results even when he victim does know the desired information. E.g. in Casino, a movie setting based on a true event, a guy is tortured with his head in a vice - an eye eventually popped out (in the extended version and in real life) and the guy died. But he never gave up the info. Though torture no doubt can and does force information from victims, this movie example actually happened and there are many other examples in real life like this.

I'm against torture for the reasons I listed and because it is simply Wrong, it's against Humanity and what we should be - that's my belief, I can't "prove" it. And about the "effectiveness" Vietnam-era torturers, I recall reading about a South Vietnamese intel officer *and* a CIA officer taking up 2 Vietnamese in a helicopter, way high up. One of the bound prisoners was suddenly pushed out of the helicopter, falling a long was to his death. The executioner/tortures looked at the other victim and he immediately started talking. So is this a "success"? Not to me, it's an utter failure of Humanity. Sure they got the info they wanted but at a cost over the executed man and the torture victim. This is why I'm so impressed with our WWII interrogators, they got results *and* maintained their Humanity.

Also, torture wasn't just part of Roman military operations, it was enshrined in their legal system and *required* for the lower classes, even if they willingly told all they knew up front. Pretty horrible and something that should be left in our shameful past. But no, torture continues in the world and is very much reborn in the U.S. under Bush.

I really love history, including Roman history, particularly Byzantine since it's in between the ancient and medieval in time and later between Islam and Europe in space. I would agree that the Roman Empire was the "greatest" as in having the most resources and being the most feared in Western history up until 1989 when the U.S. because easily the greatest. In old times, The Persian Empire was great as was Alexander's short lived kingdom, China had periods of incredible power and great resources, plus the Mongols were really other worldly when they exploded on the world between 1206 and 1294. I think, normalizing any slight technology differences, the Mongols would have rolled the Romans in say 125-175, about the apex of Roman might. The Mongols were almost an alien invasion they were so fearsome and successful. I mean they attacked North into Russian forests and won ... in the winter! Also, Pax Romana was 207 years (27 BC to 180 AD) and wasn't so great for non-Roman citizens, women, slaves, conquered peoples, etc. And Rome raided northerners relentlessly taking materials, slaves, killing, exiling, etc. This wasn't mainly a response to northern aggression, Rome started a massive expansion while it was a Republic. It's estimated that in pacifying Gaul, Gaius Julius Caesar and his armies killed about a million natives and displaced another million. From Wikipedia "His ambition was to conquer and plunder some territories to get himself out of debt, and it is likely Gaul was not his initial target." How nice that Gaul wasn't his initial target but he did get there eventually and wrecked murder and terror until Rome ruled all of modern day France. And does this make the Roman Empire "greatest"?

Ashoka the Great is my idea of an ancient emperor getting it right and leading his people in a better direction. He and his huge kingdom converted to Buddhism which almost stuck if not for a lot of Hindu reforms. From Wikipedia:
As the legend goes, one day after the war was over, Ashoka ventured out to roam the city and all he could see were burnt houses and scattered corpses. This sight made him sick and he cried the famous monologue ...
"What have I done? If this is a victory, what's a defeat then? Is this a victory or a defeat? Is this justice or injustice? Is it gallantry or a rout? Is it valor to kill innocent children and women? Do I do it to widen the empire and for prosperity or to destroy the other's kingdom and splendor? One has lost her husband, someone else a father, someone a child, someone an unborn infant.... What's this debris of the corpses? Are these marks of victory or defeat? Are these vultures, crows, eagles the messengers of death or evil?"

I'm a little struck by the derisiveness that "bleeding heart" or [some negative adjective] liberal is used so much here and elsewhere. If being anti-torture, anti-war are these things then fine, that's me! And I'll explain why and try to get others to go that way. When did wanting less suffering and more peace become something to be denigrated? Both as an ideal and something to strive for in practice, there's no shame in wanting these things even if it means actually being a bleeding heart liberal. While I'm pragmatic and realistic, no doubt Humanity should have high ideals and work towards them. Bleeding heart and all!
Nathaniel - Thu, Jun 28, 2012 - 10:46pm (USA Central)
There is ample reason to not use torture. Its immoral, and it doesn't work.

Hell, its more than just not working. It actively ruins intelligence gathering. It is a well established fact that if you put most people in enough pain they will talk. They will say anything, tell anything to make the torture stop. So the torturer cannot ever know whether what the victim says has any relation to the truth. It is far more likely in fact to be related to what the victim believes the torturer wants to hear.

I find it bitterly ironic that we are having this discussion on a site that has just reviewed the Chain of Command. It boggles my mind that there are people that can call themselves Star Trek fans who so completely ignore the message of such a lauded episode.

People who like to talk about "toughness" or "facing reality" about torture do nothing but reveal their own ignorance and thirst for suffering of people they consider villains. The very show you claim to love belies your claims.
Elliott - Sat, Jun 30, 2012 - 9:17pm (USA Central)
Michael.

You frequently write mean-spirited, hateful, racist and borderline evil things in your comments. I'm a lover of freedom of speech, but if what you have to say goes against basic morality and human decency, I would say you absolute have a responsibility to defend yourself, if not a legal one then an intellectual one. If you're unwilling or unable to defend yourself intellectually (I doubt the latter is true), then your comments deserve exactly the kind of derision they get.

It may behove you to consider that the reactions people have to your posts are not the result of some left-wing dogmatic agenda which sticks its arrogant new-age nose up at anything Burkean or Machiavellian, but to the the indefensibility of the posts themselves and the spite you seem to shamelessly dole out against those who disagree with you.

Your comments tend to stick out like a turd on the sidewalk. When someone asks you to clean it up, or at the very least, defend its being there, you tend instead to make them stick their nose in it.
Michael - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 3:49am (USA Central)
Thank you for a less hot-headed response than the preceding.

I don't know about turd on a sidewalk. Many of the issues we purport to disagree on, including torture, are not clear-cut in real life and invite vigorous discussion in many circles. Nor would I say that the B.S.G. forum here is an exclusively liberal haunt.

My comments are "racist"!?! Hmm... We have two races here: Human and Cylon. The former is fighting an existential war against the latter. Being human, I am pro-human and anti-cylon.

That makes my anti-cylon comments racist??!

o_O

No comment.

At any rate, I expect you'd find we actually agree on far more things than you reckon. I am certainly opposed to gratuitous torture. I recoil at the notion of putting a defenseless creature in a position where they are inflicted physical or mental pain.

However, and this is where we apparently diverge, there is a fundamental difference between what, say, the government of Bahrain does (sadistically torture people because it hates them and their views/activism) and a ticking-bomb torture scenario. I won't rehearse the arguments, because it's been done ad nauseam. See the movie Unthinkable (2010) with S. L. Jackson for an excellent portrayal of the issues involved.

Basically, we can come up with all manner of legal niceties and ethical precepts. We can all agree, for example, that cops should not stop shoplifters by firing an R.P.G. at them, i.e. the principle of proportionate use of force. But if you find yourself in a situation where a maniacal nutjob is stampeding toward you wielding a knife, you're not going to run to your kitchen drawer and conduct a critical assessment and analysis which of the knives you have most closely matches your attacker's in order to ensure a fair and proportionate fight, are ya. Nor will you say: "What's wrong, buddy; what's with all the misplaced aggression? Let's talk about it and solve the problem calmly." Unless you have special training, you'll grab the very first thing that comes to hand -- a toothpick, a chair, a chainsaw -- and go to town on the attacker, and to hell with the principle of proportionate use of force.

And that's my point re torture, genocide, and some other issues raised here. Things work differently in the theater of war, particularly an existential war. While we should strive to adhere to moral, ethical and legal principles, even under the toughest of circumstances, survival comes first. In a battle for survival, it definitely is a matter of shoot first, debate later.

If that makes me hateful, mean, evil and whatnot, so be it.
Elliott - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 11:02am (USA Central)
Michael ;

"BTW, great to see enhanced interrogation techniques in action. It's a good thing the lily-livered "madam president" wasn't there to witness it because she'd for sure have put a stop to it and instead given the Cylon a cup of coffee and a blanket. I must say though, her ruthlessness toward the end did--pleasantly--surprise me."

There is a difference between solemnly accepting or arguing that perhaps hateful and abhorrent tactics may be necessary for the greater good and revelling in their implementation. I know that if I were ever in the position of, say, someone in the military who was ordered to torture someone, even if the result ended up saving lives (we all know the evidence does not suggest this would usually be the case), I would have a hard time living with myself. And I should. It is for that reason I hold honourable soldiers in high regard (my WWII vet grandfather, for example). He had to destroy a piece of his soul to kill Nazis and he knew it. It ruined him. If he retold those awful stories with a grin on his face, *revelling* in the awful things he had to do, he would horrify me.

Ruthlessness should never "please" anyone. We, as human beings, have to abhor and be nauseated at the idea of atrocities. Leaders, like Roslin, don't have that luxury all the time. It's the emotional reaction I have a problem with.

Your analogy about the "maniacal nutjob" is irrelevant here. Torture and genocide don't just happen in the heat of the moment; they require premeditated and controlled action. Your right that when a threat is immanent, we may resort to baser instincts, but no matter the stakes, when we're at liberty to reason, there is no way to justify something like this.

I'm glad this scene is in here. Starbuck is a ruined human being and her character arc benefits from these kinds of situations where those of us with a hope of a real future would be destroyed. It's tragic--in some ways, more for the torturer than the victim. it is NOT something to be proud of simply because it' may be necessary.
Nathaniel - Mon, Jul 2, 2012 - 11:58am (USA Central)
@Michael,

You keep on talking about a ticking time bomb scenario. Do me a favor. Point out to me what one looks like.

But here's the catch. Take an example from real life. Not a police procedural, 24, or Mission Impossible. Real life.

You won't find it. Because the so called "ticking bomb" scenario doesn't happen outside of fiction.

By the the bomb is "ticking" so to speak, you've already lost. Hollywood notwithstanding, intelligence operators prevent such things from happening in the first place, because stopping something already in progress is nigh impossible.

If 9/11 were written by Hollywood, Vin Diesel would have punched out the vaguely middle eastern terrorist and steered away the plane just time to avoid hitting the tower.

After torturing the information about the plot out of someone else appropriately brown skinned first of course. Because people like you get their cinematic jollies that way apparently.
Michael - Mon, Jul 2, 2012 - 12:58pm (USA Central)
@Elliott:
Yes, I reveled in the torture because, well, I'm human. I saw my race have the living shit kicked out of it, to the point of nigh utter destruction. Now we got our own back. For once. Against all odds. OORAH!! Yes, revenge may be a primal and basest instinct (it is not; it is a distinctly human characteristic), but screw it, it felt good.

Au contraire, the "maniacal nutjob" analogy is VERY pertinent here. Torture and genocide ARE premeditated... - UNDER REGULAR CIRCUMSTANCES. It's not as if we got attacked, went away for five years to snooze by a tropical beach, and then returned with an intent to torture and exterminate. From the moment we were attacked, it has been constant war and pressure. The very few scenes of respite and stable, mundane goings-on belie the fact that the human crew didn't really sleep or relax for weeks/months. In such circumstances I hardly think ANY act could be deemed premeditated.


@Nathaniel:
First of all, argumentum ad ignorantiam -- not impressive.

Secondly, the "ticking bomb" scenario is often taken too literally. There does not have to be an actual bomb with a timer counting down. There can be an attack being planned, a shipment due to be made, a terrorist attack already committed, etc. I'm not saying torture should be the first item in an interrogator's arsenal, but enhanced interrogation techniques should not be discounted out of hand. The exact effectiveness of torture may be debatable, but it is total nonsense that it NEVER worked.

Lastly, the "ticking bomb" simile may be theoretical (in that in never happened in that precise form), but, then, isn't B.S.G. itself theoretical?!

With that in mind, isn't everybody taking all this a tad too seriously?
Nathaniel - Tue, Jul 3, 2012 - 9:22am (USA Central)
@Michael

No, you reveal in torture because of who you are, not your "humanity." I am human too, and I certainly don't lick my chops at the thought people being tortured.

It not argumentum ad ignorantiam. Its asking you to back up with position with real world facts. Which I note you still failed to do.

If your "imminent threat" scenario was really so easy and common to find in real life, you'd already have cited one.

Incidentally, there has yet to be a single substantiated claim of any useful information obtained by torture in our war against middle eastern terrorists.

But here, let me back up my facts. Torture doesn't work, and here's why: www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/09/21/the-tortured-brain.html

Here, have another: georgewashington2.blogspot.com/2009/04/top-interrogation-experts-say-tortur e.html

How the hell is B.S.G. being fictional relevant. You only start to downplay its significance after being started disagreeing with you, and you engaged in a multiple post long comment war. Funny behavior from someone who thinks this is all being taken too "seriously."

And I am taking it seriously, because this is not a theoretical issue. People were brutally beaten, drowned and even killed. By our government, in our name. And the people responsible never got punished, partly because people like you were cheering from the sidelines, high fiving at the thought of people they dislike getting punished.
Nick P. - Wed, Jul 4, 2012 - 9:07am (USA Central)
@Michael,

I have seen Unthinkable, that is an AWESOME movie, and quite hard to watch.

I agree with you completely. I think the lefties on here are assuming we are saying that we need to torture everywhere, every time, and everybody. But that is insane, it is simply a tool for intelligence gathering. It works, not perfectly, but particularly when time is a factor, it is a valuable tool. I don't deny that there are other, SOMETIMES better methods, I simply argue that when it comes to intellegence gathering, we need to keep all options on the table. And that no matter what the lefties here think, we WILL be doing it. Obama certainly didn't stop it.

Further, I am not sure where the charge of Racism came from, I have never seen a racist post from you.

Zane, torture most certainly was NOT required under the roman republic or the empire. It was never outlawed in any way, and different generals did different things on campain, but it was never required under any bill the senate or the emporer passed.
Nathaniel - Wed, Jul 4, 2012 - 11:42am (USA Central)
@Nick P.

It doesn't work. Not if you want the truth. It works great if you want a confession. Absolutely baller for that.

If you smucks are going to keep repeating that line it "works" kindly back up your claims or bugger off.
Michael - Wed, Jul 4, 2012 - 12:41pm (USA Central)
@Nick P.
Good to hear from you.

Yep, that's it: Torture is merely a tool in an interrogator's arsenal, among the last resorts. Torture has always been around and it will stay around until we produce a truth serum or brain scans.

Anyway, I've all but given up on these assholes. They deliberately misconstrue our argument (straw man, anyone?) because their aim is purely to discredit us as some sadistic gun-toting jerks just aching for a chance to waterboard someone or at least get to pull someone's fingernails out with pliers.


@Nathaniel:
You're way too mad, pal. You really need to chill.

And keep your homophobic statements to yourself, please.
Elliott - Wed, Jul 4, 2012 - 12:57pm (USA Central)
@Michael and Nick P.

wie einfach als möglich...

1) Please present a single article or report which indicates that torture has ever been a reliable source of intel.

2) The attitudes you present here (calm, reasonable, "hey just chill") are at odds with the "yeah, great to see torture used on TV. Get 'er done" attitudes from previous posts. No one has misconstrued your "arguments."

3) This is not a question of left v. right. Having a conscience is not connate to partisanship.
Michael - Wed, Jul 4, 2012 - 1:26pm (USA Central)
@Elliott:
Soll es nicht "SO einfach wie moeglich" sein?

Since intelligence by its very nature is clandestine business, I doubt an article is available that trumpets a situation where a particular interrogation technique was used more or less effectively. I'll concede: The majority of the material denounces torture; however, most of it focuses on torture as the only mode of interrogation deployed.

My point is very simple (and Nick P. would likely concur): If you have a situation where intel is required, you're sure you have the person possessing the intel, the person is simply not talking after copious attempts to cajole, threaten, coax, persuade, etc. them, lives are at stake... - you have two options. (1) You're going to shrug your shoulders, say "Well, there's nothing more we can do here, those people go'a die," or (2) You're going to say "O.K., let's try this one last thing; bring a dishcloth and a pail of water."

You (supposedly, though I doubt it) belong to the former group. I -- together with, I guess, one in two Americans -- belong to the latter. You can get as mad about it as you like; it changes nothing.

As far as my putative exultation at torture, yeah, I got excited seeing the human in control at long last. I don't get excited about holier-than-thou mooks trolling this forum trying to get a rise out of me.
Nathaniel - Wed, Jul 4, 2012 - 1:44pm (USA Central)
So you admit you have nothing, no evidence to support your arguments, yet argue them anyways.

And oddly enough, for all of intelligence being a clandestine business, I can find plenty of articles on actually useful interrogation methods. And this is despite there being people from the previous administration with every reason to trumpet any sort of useful findings from the barbaric methods they used.

Also, my most sincere apologies. This time I'll tell you to put up or fuck off.
Michael - Wed, Jul 4, 2012 - 2:55pm (USA Central)
Though not obligated to do so, I stated my case. No-one put a gun to your head and forced you to rejoin to my comments. So kiss my ass, buddy, how about that!

And happy 4th of July!
Nathaniel - Wed, Jul 4, 2012 - 5:33pm (USA Central)
So in other words you got jack.

So glad to see your following the second part of my request in absence of providing evidence.

Though I am not foolish enough to expect a reply, something to chew on: in light of today being the 4th of July, how many Americans do you think the British would have justification for torturing? After all, they used many of the same tactics that people in Iraq and other parts of the middle east are using against us now.
Jammer - Wed, Jul 4, 2012 - 5:47pm (USA Central)
Okay, guys. Enough.

I realize people have their opinions on the issue of torture, and that's fine. But this thread has started to outlive its usefulness and is becoming a back-and-forth snipefest of personal attacks. That's not what we do here.

Get it back on track. Discuss the episode or the ideas at hand. Don't carp at each other about what the other said, and stop with the blanket accusations, name calling, and rudeness.

I don't want to have to play referee or shut this thread down.
Nick P. - Thu, Jul 5, 2012 - 10:23am (USA Central)
Jammer, if you will permit me to answer the empirical question raised by Nathaniel.

Is torture right or wrong is a morality question, and there really is no answer, just opinions. However, does torture work, that is empirical, and by making the claim "torture never works", logically I need only one counter-example to prove them wrong.

And right there is the problem with the anti-torture argument. Obviously, torture to give yourself pleasure, or even torture to confess to a crime is wrong, and I would join the crowd to get that banned. HOWEVER, torture to extract intel is a very different animal. To actually look at the mountain of historical data on this topic and say "torture never works", you sound like American Republicans who still doubt evolution. This is why I respect people or publications (such as the economist) who are against torture, but do not deny that you CAN, in fact, get actionable intelligence from it. Plus, for Intel, it is easy to verify. "Hey where did you put the body", simply check the location, and if it is not there, keep going. Simple as that.

Anyways, if Nathaniel really needs some, let me give some.

I will start with probably the most famous in History. John McCain. John McCain was tortured by the North Vietnamese. Hey admits that he gave them actionable intelligence. He started by lying, but inevitably, he gave them actionable intelligence.

Also, Khaleid Sheik Mohamed. Obviously, some controversy surrounds this case, but there is no doubt that we got actionable intelligence. He gave up the name of Osama Bin Ladens' driver, and this eventually led to the killing of Osama.

Nazi Gestapos, do I really have to go into what they did to the Jews and Cheks?

Romans (and Armies throughout history) tortured captured spies and scouts to reveal locations of enemy encampments. Worked more times than you can even count.

Magnus Gäfgen, is a child killer, who gave up the location of the body, not even by torture, but the threat of torture. Many, including myself would argue, that if this guy was tortured when he was first caught, the child may still be alive.

The point here is that if you want to argue that torture works, but is morally wrong, more power to you, but you cannot continue to argue the counter-factual that torture does not work, it does.
Nathaniel - Thu, Jul 5, 2012 - 4:42pm (USA Central)
@Nick P.

How odd then that words right out of McCain's mouth contradict you: www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/listen-sen-mccain-torture-doesnt-work

"under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear — true or false — if he believes it will relieve his suffering. Often, information provided to stop the torture is deliberately misleading."

"Mistreatment of enemy prisoners endangers our own troops, who might someday be held captive. While some enemies, and al-Qaeda surely, will never be bound by the principle of reciprocity, we should have concern for those Americans captured by more conventional enemies, if not in this war then in the next."

As for your comment about Osama, here's this:

"I think that without a doubt, torture and enhanced interrogation techniques slowed down the hunt for bin Laden," said an Air Force interrogator who goes by the pseudonym Matthew Alexander and located Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006."

Khaleid Mohamed had to tortured over 100 times before he said anything. I thought torture was supposed to be great for its fast, reliable results?

What the Nazi's did was torture, and proves my point. There was no intelligence gathering. It was pure physical punishment for the joy of causing pain.

"Romans (and Armies throughout history) tortured captured spies and scouts to reveal locations of enemy encampments. Worked more times than you can even count."

Citation needed.

Magnus Gäfgen highlights the fallacy of the so called "ticking bomb" scenario. How perfect a scene for a Hollywood movie. The square jawed police officer who don't take no nonsense. The evil child killer alone in the room with him. The threats. The beatings. The bloody lipped confession, leading the brave just in time rescue of the dear child.

Cept the kid was already dead and all the threats did was get the German government sued. Successfully.

As said before. Torture is great for extracting confessions. Its crap for information gathering.



Rosario - Thu, Nov 15, 2012 - 11:47am (USA Central)
Jammer: "...willingly venting a man into space without a trial or hearing. Because he's a Cylon, he has no rights, is guilty and is given an automatic death sentence. End of story. It raises some tough questions, to say the least..."

I think you've lost perspective Jammer. Perhaps you should step forward so that you can't see the "big picture" and you should look at the actual story of the show. Cylons. Unprovoked attack on humanity. There are only ~50k humans left. The Cylons have not left it at destroying our civilization. They are now pursuing our last survivors with no goal in mind except extinction. If humanity is ever in a situation like this I truly hope we have a leader like Roslin is becoming, someone who can make hard decisions, rather than someone of the mindset of you who seems to think that EVERY conflict is just really an invitation to open a dialogue and discuss differences. This is still science fiction, it's still a story. Not everything on television labelled fiction needs to be a metaphor for life.

I won't join the torture yes/no debate since it seems to have fallen into the realm of "give me proof" which is generally a cop-out answer. Frankly I'm pretty sure that if I threatened to cut little bits off you and mail them still fresh to your children, you would tell me anything I wanted to know. Then I'd hand you back the transcript as proof of torture getting me info.
Sarah M - Fri, Jun 14, 2013 - 10:13pm (USA Central)
Wow, lots of torture comments.

If nothing else, I think this episode demonstrates how ultimately unreliable information gained from torture is (which to me is the strongest argument against it). But this isn't a polemic. It raises a lot of morally ambiguous questions through the actions of our "heroes," Starbuck and Roslin, that it doesn't answer. Which is great for discussion of the issue (even if I don't agree with some of the conclusions other viewers drew above).

Katee Sackoff and Callum Keith Renny are amazing. The Starbuck/Leoben dynamic always fascinated me when we got these glimpses of it.

Hail Madame Airlock.
mesa - Sun, Mar 2, 2014 - 3:02pm (USA Central)
The increasing tension and play between Kara and Leoben is great, especially when you notice how each of them are slowly gaining on the other in their own arguments, but ultimately Leoben has the strongest effect on Kara. This episode shows how strong the writers on BSG are, regular shows would just give all of this Cyclon information through expository dialogue, but they carefully crafted it into a debate between two characters. The bookends of the episode between Roslin's dream and the actual airlocking was a great touch that not only clued Laura in on the possibility that a higher force is at play, but that Leoben's threat that Adama is a Cyclon could hold some weight. Excellent television.

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