Torture is an act where a person inflicts pain upon the other without the latter’s consent. Torture can be done in a multitude of ways such as burning a part of the person’s body, inflicting wounds through the use of sharp objects and crushing an important body part. There are people who enjoy inflicting pain upon themselves or to others because it gives them happiness. Some would say it is part of their devotion to their religions. Many laws and policies have been enacted around the globe in prohibiting torture to others and to one’s self but not many realize that the government use this particular tactic to gain information from spies and rebels. Activists, religious leaders and citizens see torture as an act against human rights and must be eliminated permanently in any form. This paper will discuss the writer’s position on this argument wherein torture should not be tolerated in any form.
One of the main reason torture should not be tolerated is because people who administer torture causes severe and sometimes deadly pain to the person being tortured. Administering such act even if it is for legal means would still kill a person in some extent. This reason itself is enough bounds that it should not be permitted. Schulz (2007) notes that torture is a form of killing, however, compared to killing, torture would only destroy a part of a person or even render him permanently unstable. He notes that even though torture can be relatively accepted, it is still an activity done by those who have no morals. One of the most basic rules in the act of war is the difference between the fighters and the civilians but there have been cases that this particular rule is not followed due to the instances of doubt. Most of the time, torture is used when doubt persists regarding the identification of civilians from terrorists which is against the concept of “fair combat”. Once torture has been done and once the victim has already conceded defeat, the victim may experience a worst case of beating and destruction from his captors. For a person to continue torturing someone who has already withdrawn all of his defences because of the intense pain from the experience is crueller than those who kill in battle. Schulz concludes that torture is below slaughter in a legally accepted war.
Schulz’ argument is supported by Davis (2005) as he argues that torture is incomparable in terms on how evil it is. He cites “Both torture and premature death are very great evils, but torture is more evil than premature death.” It is true that torture is somewhat similar to killing a person however torture is not destroying someone permanently. In its own extent, he cites that while the victim is being tortured, the pain he suffers can be equated to the death of his soul and mental capacity. Victims who are tortured with extreme measures would even point out that he is better off dead than alive as the pain is unbearable. Davis offers a counterargument to this claim as well and notes that although the victim is not killed in some way by the torture he has experienced, he may still prefer living as he can still continue moving forward. Should there be any case that the torture method is causes less pain, and then the process itself is acceptable. This may then mean that torture is not worse than death, it is just an experience similar to it.
Davis also points out the extent on the victim’s defence as he or she is being tortured. If killing a person is against their right to continue living on, for victims of torture; it is against their right to decide. In torture, the victim is physically powerless against their torturer. This can mean that the victim can either be defenceless and cannot prevent the torture for taking place or the victim is resisting mentally. Victims may be able to influence the process to be done and may cause harm in some form without even touching the torturer. Davis uses an example through the study on terrorist bombers. Normally the terrorist will not reveal the location of the bomb if he is captured and tortured, but, they may also decide to reveal the location to escape the fear of getting tortured. This kind of tactic is normally used today as the victim can justify and resist the effects of torture despite its life-changing tactic. Davis ends his argument by stating that torture itself destroys someone’s will to resist, decide and argue.
Torture is also an act where victims are stripped of all their rights, will and freedom and they can no longer stand up because of it. According to Roth (2005), torture turns a victim into a material thing and not as a person who can think, decide and resist for himself. Most torturers treat their victims like they are the worst type of people that stepped this earth and would lash out comments and degrading statements that can hit their victims straight on even if the statement has no basis. Once the victim feels uncertain of himself and if the comments have lowered his defences to resist and fight back, the torturer would use this chance to squeeze the details they would require out of their victim. Some torturers concentrate in defacing the victim’s confidence over their body as it is connected to the person’s will. In some instances, there are torturers who torture their victims so that they can be manipulated to do what they desire. Not only does it violate the victim’s right to be treated as a person, it also violates the right of each victim or suspected culprit to be allowed to be silent when being questioned.
For consequentialists, they believe that torture, if legalized, would just inspire others to do the act and allow people to accept it as a legal form of getting information. This argument is indeed correct considering how the laws and mass media depict the cruel nature of torture. In an analysis made by the British Broadcasting Company (2008), despite the commentary that torture is legal in gaining information from a suspected criminal or individual, the individual may say almost anything which can stretch out the truth or some random testaments just to stop the torture. Officials may see these statements true but they may not be able to prove that the statement is indeed the evidence they need. The torturers may also not be able to determine where exactly to stop the torture even if the victim is already in the verge of dying and has already stated what he knows. There are cases that victims are killed because of torture methods on interrogations. If there is a need to interrogate a person, they may just use other methods to gain the information they would need. Today, most countries have laws that can allow victims to file cases against those who tortured them as it is against their rights to be put into that kind of pain.
Dimarco (2006) points out that for those who enforce torture, especially if it is a procedure of the government to enforce their laws properly, would be bad for their public image. With the public now fully knowledgeable of the moral image of torture and the illegal aspects of the act, they would not tolerate their actions and immediately rally to force these institutions to forgo their actions in using torture. This may also produce conflict inside the institution and separate the government; which then may affect the capacity of the government to make just laws and operations because of these conflicting ideals on the legality of torture. Dimarco also stresses that the effectiveness of torture is not supported by a particular event from the past so it is important to prevent using these techniques unless the government is prepared to face the insurgency around the country. (Dimarco, 2006)
This particular state-approved torture may be used also as propaganda against the government and may be exploited by the enemies of the leading party for them to gain the public’s support. Kepel (2004) uses the result of Hosni Mubarak’s torture interrogation policy in Egypt as a basis for this argument. With the interrogations, tortures and prison changes; most Egyptian men became thirsty for revenge for turning their lives a living hell. For these permanently changed men, they can get their revenge in joining the cause of terrorism and find a way to even out the score against Mubarak and the rest of the world . Another example is raised by Johnson (2005) by pointing how the Muslim revolution has begun. With the use of torture to strengthen their minds, wills and bodies, torture can create a population of anti-American jihadists and terrorists; capable of surviving in any form of torture the US government can dish out. She also points out that once terrorists share their side of the story on why they wish to fight the American cause, it may change the hearts of those who support the cause and understand why the Muslims are so bent in changing the ideals of the most powerful country .
The legalized form of torture may be bad for the state that has approved its use. Strauss (2004) and Der Spiegel (2004) notes that for a state to allow such brutal action against terrorists, spies and citizens is considered a dishonourable act and may degrade the state’s image around the globe. It also corrupts the state in such extent that all other forms of corrupt practices and procedures would seem to be legal in that particular state. Many may also point out that the state that practices this act can no longer prove their actions with the help of justice and morality as in these two fields, they consider this practice to be against their fields. Der Spiegel points out that with the world expected to be following the UN Convention against Torture, countries such as the United States, must re-evaluate its own international laws and understand if these actions would serve their interests properly. At present, the US is seen to utilize an indirect form of torture by using its military in overwhelming the terrorists to surrender. Terrorists also use this same method as a form of reverse psychology, forcing other troops to surrender even without a fight.
The last and final argument is the idea that any form of torture, may it be legally accepted or forcibly done to a person, is against the norms and morality taught to people society. Despite the support of the practice of torture in some religions, it is still against the set rules and morals they have dictated to its believers. This particular support of the different religions to torture is also out-dated and can no longer stand as an important part of worship. For society, it is an act that can bring someone into jail and must be prevented at all costs. One is taught that it is against a person’s right to inflict pain onto them without reason as this is a sin. If a person starts torturing someone, he may no longer go back to normal as they may just go back looking for more. The effect is instantaneous and may destroy a person permanently.
In a personal note, the arguments against torture are valid and have enough grounds to nail the idea of legalizing the concept back to its grave. I believe that torture is an act of those whose common sense no longer determines which is right and which is wrong. Their common sense may just direct them to follow what they are lusting even if it is already affecting their victims in the vilest extent. If it is somehow legalized, it would contradict the idea of what should be considered to be against normal norms and ideals. It will also exploit others to exercise this practice and inflict pain even to those who did not do anything wrong. True that it is a form of satisfying lust and the idea of solving a case but this can also be done with other methods that can satisfy not only the rights of a person but also the public concept of the law. I also believe that torture can destroy someone permanently even if they can recover from the ideal.
British Broadcasting Company. (2008). Why is torture wrong? Retrieved September 26, 2011, from Ethics guide: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/torture/ethics/wrong_1.shtml
Davis, M. (2005). The Moral Justification of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment. International Journal of Applied Philosophy, 19(2), 161-178.
Dimarco, L. (2006). Losing the Moral Compass: Torture and Guerre Revolutionnaire in the Algerian War. Parameters, 36, 63-76.
Johnson, J. (2005). Exploiting Weakness in the Far Enemy Idology. Strategic Insights, 4(6), 1-11.
Kepel, G. (2004). The War for Muslim Minds. Boston: Harvard University Press.
Roth, K. (2005). Getting away with torture. Global Governance, 11, 389-406.
Schulz, W. (2007). The phenomenon of torture; readings and commentary. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Spiegel Online. (2004, May 10). Excesses of Sex and Violence. Retrieved September 26, 2011, from Der Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,299193,00.html
Strauss, M. (2004). Torture. New York Law School Law Review, 201-274.