Of Torture and Sovereignty

We have so organized affairs on this planet so that by the innocent act of being born, each person unwittingly cedes much personal sovereignty to the nation. In return, a civilized nation affords basic rights and protections to the individual. Minister Vic Toews accepts the poisoned fruit of torture and so he has condoned torture by the state. Minister Toews and the Government of Canada have violated the unwritten contract. In so doing, the present Government of Canada has voided any claim of authority.

Here are some links documenting the intellectual and moral decline of Canadian Government:

Below, I've copied Vic Toews reply to Dan Leger.

Protecting Canadians, by Vic Toews
Appeared in: The Chronicle Herald, Voice of the People, Feb 14

I read with interest Dan Leger's Feb. 13 column, "Is Canada OK with torture? Vic Toews sure is." I would like to clear up some misconceptions. Canada does not condone torture and certainly does not engage in it. This is a fundamentally abhorrent practice that runs diametrically opposed to Canada's reputation as a protector of human rights.

We also do not condone dithering in the face of threats to Canadians' lives. As the minister responsible for Public Safety, I could not live with myself if I failed to take action and an untold number of Canadians lost their lives.

This sort of intelligence would not be used in court and it would not be held against the individual by Canadian authorities. It would simply be used in an operational context in order to protect Canadian life and property.

The NDP would simply ignore the information because the source may have been distasteful. Focusing on some misguided, left-wing ideological purity rather than ensuring that we take action to protect Canadians is reckless and irresponsible, and it shows that the NDP must never be trusted with our national security.

Canadians can always count on our Conservative government to ensure that they are protected from those who wish us harm.

Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety

Brians comment on the bullshit written by Vic Toews

Mostly Toews is just blowing political smoke. Toews argument (for aquiring and using information obtained by torture) is entirely contained in two sentences: To which I would say: In truth, Canada practices torture when it enters into an intelligence gathering venture with another nation that obtains information by torture. Examples of such nations are: Afghanistan and USA.

My Dad always said, "You can tell the man that boozes by the company he chooses." And so it is with nations. When you get that feeling that your allies are compromising your morality, it's time to put your allies at arms length and hold fast to your morality. Vic Toews would have us hug our torturing allies and hide our morality under the rug!

Vic Toews, you are a little twerp!

A Chronicle Herald editorial makes essentially the same argument as Toews, only they are much more long-winded. The editorial reinforces its position based upon a decision by Britain's highest court... Well, I guess us colonials have been told to fall into line! Doubtless, such matters are not to be trusted to a Canadian court? The editorial, and the Pommy court, and arch-Royalist Toews all make the same fundamental error. They pretend that such information conveniently falls into their hands by accident or some devine intervention. It doesn't. It falls into their hands because they do dirty deals with ugly regimes that torture people. "You can tell the man that boozes by the company he chooses."

Look, I can tolerate someone behaving badly. If our government just said, look we find it convenient to use information gathered by torture and we're going to do it even though we know it's wrong --- well, I'd understand that the same way I understand a poor starving guy who robs a bank (or me), just so long as he doesn't try to pretend that he has the moral high ground. The thing that I object to is the hypocrisy. These bastard politicians (and newspaper editors and Pommy judges) who have the gall to say torture is OK so long as it serves their greater purpose! A bunch of Pommy-prick judges can make it legal, but that sure as hell doesn't make it moraly-defensible.

An Epistole to the Chronicle Herald

Believing that the editors at the Chronicle Herald had made an honest error, I sent them the following letter, that they might find reflect upon it and be redeemed...

On 13 Feb Dan Leger pointed out that Vic Toews was OK with torture. On 14 Feb, Vic Toews replied that Canada does not condone torture but that it was OK to use information obtained by torture in order to protect Canadian life and property. On that same day, an editorial made the same argument and referenced a like-minded ruling from the highest British court.

This all begs the question, how do these fine legal minds think that governments come by such information if not by entering into unwholesome arrangements with torturers? A bunch of foreign judges can say it's legal (in Britain) but that does not it morally defensible, anywhere!

The simple fact of the matter is that Canada has allied itself with nations that practice torture. Think of water-boarding and rendition by you-know-who and hell-knows-what by our new best-buddies in Afghanistan.

A wiser man than me once said, "You can tell the man that boozes by the company he chooses." And so it is with nations. When you get that feeling that your allies are compromising your morality, it's time to put your allies at arms length and hold fast to your morality. Vic Toews would have us hug our torturing allies and stomp our morality under the rug!

It appears, however, that the editors at the Chronicle Herald have the same torturer-hugging mindset as Minister Toews. The letter was neither published nor even acknowledged.

A Second Opinion

Being a mere scientist, I thought to consult a more weighty, second opinion.

The whole idea of end-user complicity has become common in recent times through the principles espoused by the fair trade movement. Consumption drives production, so the actions of the consumer are causally implicated in the actions of the producer. And because they are causally implicated, they are morally implicated too.

Even if Canadian authorities use second-hand torture data, I don't see how this causal link gets broken. In fact the link may, alarmingly, even be tightened. A torturer may say, "Well, even if there is no obvious point to getting torture data out of this guy right now, we'll do it anyway, because who knows, somebody down the road may find it helpful." In that case the current Canadian policy would clearly be an inducement to the practice of torture. Can I prove that this will happen? No. But the burden is not mine to prove that it will. The burden is Toews' to prove that it won't.

Valentine's Day and the Valentine Wall

It occurred to me that the Liberal Party of Canada might have something to add to the discussion. So I went to their Blog. Nothing. Just some sort of love-in about a "Valentine Wall". I guess government-sponsored torture is just a little brouhaha that is too inconvenient to mention around Valentine's Day?

I would argue that there is a deeper reason why government-sponsored torture is being politely minimized by all politician's and all newspaper editors and almost all Canadian citizens. The reason is simple. We have become complicit in torture because of choices we have made following 9/11, choices that were enthusiastially embraced: by all politician's, by most of the public, by all media moguls, by all media pundits, and most emphatically by all of the military industrial complex.

Vic Toews is just the dark shadow of a nation that has become snared by a moral-trap set by its own stupidity. Stupidity can cause good people to do great evil. All political parties know, in their hearts, that they at fault. But the greatest fault is with the professional media, the very people who profess to be the platform of public debate --- but have truly profited by deceit!

Left, right, or in the centre, politicial ideology is just an excuse for not thinking. Those who stand for reason will always be the odd (wo)men out.

A Letter from Minister Toews

I have just received a letter in which Minister Toews. This letter deserves a little analysis. Minister Toews has NOT addressed the issue but he has, at least in a word-smithing sense, backed down from one of the two major errors in his original statement --- which was that he would use information obtained from torture... Of course, he does NOT come clean and just admit his error.

The Chronicle Herald is at it again (29 Aug 2012)

In yet another editorial, the Chronicle Herald argues that torture is acceptable if it leads to some greater good.
"In a scenario that's often brought up, let's say a foreign intelligence service in an unsavoury country tips off CSIS a bomb is set to detonate the next day in a crowded Canadian location, such as Toronto's Eaton Centre or the House of Commons.

Critics deride such conjectures as Hollywood thinking, but it wasn't that long ago that Canadian authorities apprehended the participants in just such a scheme."

If this is true then one would have expected the Chronicle Herald to have to have carefully documented how such valuable information was obtained by torture! As far as I can recall, there was a gang-related shooting at Eaton Centre --- not a terrorist bombing --- and it is disingenuous for the Chronicle Herald editor to superpose the fictitious notion that a terrorist bombing was averted thanks to information obtained by torture. In 1966, there was one incident when an incompetent bomber (Paul Joseph Chartier) blew himself to smithereens in what was believed to be an attempt to bomb the House of Commons. Again, if the Chronicle Herald has evidence that information obtained by torture (rather than lady luck) has served to protect the House of Commons, then the Chronicle Herald should stop blowing smoke and inform us.

Hypothetically, let us assume that Vic Toews and the editors of the Chronicle Herald decide to use information obtained by torture because they think it might prevent a bomb from being exploded under the asses of our beloved parliamentarians assembled in the House of Commons. How would I, as a self-described "reasonable citizen", view the matter?

I would reduce the matter to it's fundamental elements before attempting to assemble a practical point of view.

Practically speaking, it is the duty of Canadian citizens to demand that Vic Toews provide empirical evidence to demonstrate that using information obtained by torture will be more likely to lead to good outcomes than bad outcomes.
It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error. US Supreme Court Justice, R.W. Jackson, 1950.

If Vic Toews were to provide evidence that clearly demonstrated the efficacy of torture, then the government might have some basis for granting itself the legal right to use information obtained from torture. In so doing, however, the government can no longer claim that it does not condone torture. Indeed, by using such information the government actually promotes torture. Ultimately, if governments are allowed to go down this path then any of us could become the victim of state-sponsored torture. At an emotional level, I imagine that only those inclined to sadomasochism might follow the government down this despicable path.

I can't help but wonder if the Queen of Canada would be really all that thrilled to lend her "Royal" moniker to the various Canadian forces that might be implicated in the grand vision promoted by Vic Toews and the editors of the Chronicle Herald.