Argumentum ad ignorantiam
Today Mr. Bush once again advocated to justify the practice of “waterboarding” — a favored torture tactic that was widely used during the Inquisition. When pressed by the BBC’s Matt Frei regarding Mr. Bush’s desire to use this dubious procedure, Mr. Bush said:
To the critics, I ask them this: when we, within the law, interrogate and get information that protects ourselves and possibly others in other nations to prevent attacks, which attack would they have hoped that we wouldn’t have prevented? (source)
Aside from the serious question-begging of this point (i.e., Bush’s assertion that this is “within the law”), notice the fallacious reasoning evidenced here, similar to the reasoning Mr. Bush employed when he shook down Saddam Hussein regarding supposed weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush asks, “Which possible (though not known by you) attack would you hope that we would not have (though again, not known by you) prevented?” Can we all say in unision: “ARGUMENT FROM IGNORANCE” now?
What a breathtaking use of counterfactual conditionals used to justify the use of torture! What an abuse and manipulation of logic and all cannons of right thinking…. In effect Mr. Bush is arguing: “Do you see any bombs going off in New York City right now? No? Well then, which bombs would you like to have gone off that we prevented? None? Well then, you can thank our use of torture-tactics to keep you, Mr. American, safe from being blown into a thousand bloody pieces.”
Recall when Mr. Bush shook down Saddam Hussein. “Show us your weapons of mass destruction,” he commanded imperiously. When Saddam swore that he had none, Mr. Bush keep insisting that he did — and that Saddam was hiding them away some place. When Saddam allowed UN Inspectors to canvass the area, Mr. Bush kept up his swaggering rhetoric, and finally pulled the trigger on Iraq based on his unthinking and unreasoning prejudice of the situation (a prejudice, I might add, that was proven to be a lie and pure propaganda after the war began and no wmds were ever discovered).
Based on this model of thinking, I might just as well take all the credit for keeping America safe tonight. After all, you don’t see any acts of terror occurring in your neighborhood right now, do you? Well, unknown to you (that is critical), I am secretly working in the background, keeping you safe and secure. And all I ask you, dear American, is for the legal right to torture a few people I consider suspicious….