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Is torture ever acceptable? This is a big question that tends to provoke a “yes” and a “no” answer. Over the last few decades, torture has been used to gain information from suspects, but is this a justified means of getting information? This paper will present an argumentative essay on this controversial subject on whether torture should be accepted in our society or not. The paper will seek to argue that the right to deny torture is not alienable due to competing instinct in a stable claim that should be accepted.
Context of the Debate
Continued use of torture provokes a moral question that even capital punishment rarely elicits. But there are equally strong and justified reasons that the use of torture can be used in some extreme situations. Torture came into the fore after the September 11 attacks when the Bush administration began using torture on suspected terrorists as a means of getting vital information. In an ABC News post poll in 2004, 63 percent of respondents said that torture is unacceptable. At the same time, a series 24 portrayed torture as acceptable in some extreme situations without showing a noticeable protest. At Guantanamo, the U.S. military and CIA were said to have gone into extremes in torture including physical damage, sexual humiliation and even death (Head).
History of torture
The history of torture in the U.S. spans several decades back when it was used by the state or federal government. Before the penitentiary system was discovered in the 19th century, torture was used to disseminate information from suspects. The U.S. forces are also known to use torture during wartime to get vital information from suspects. In some cases where the U.S. is not able to torture a suspect but wish to obtain information from the person, the person will be extradited to another country that practices torture and then the U.S. get information from that country (Head).
Reasons for Supporting Torture
Revelations that the U.S. had been engaging in torturing suspects ignited a debate as to whether torture is acceptable (and if acceptable under what circumstances) or not. Dershowitz argues in the article “Is There a Torturous Road to Justice?” that torture can be legalized under special circumstances. He quotes the 5th amendment saying that any form of interrogation (including torture) should not be prohibited (Dershowitz).
I think if used for interrogative purposes, torture is acceptable if it is within legal means. This would include for such people as terrorists. If properly applied, torture can elicit information and given the fact that terrorists are trained to withstand torture, some value must be found in it. Skilled interrogators then can use any information given to find out the truth. We live in hard times when the enemy shows no mercy and will do all he/she can to accomplish their mission. But this is not to suggest that any form of torture is just acceptable. But to win in such a situation, torture, if it is the solution can be used to safeguard the lives and freedom of many more innocent people (Dershowitz).
Reasons for Arguing Against Torture
Contrary to Dershowitz arguments, the U.S. is a country founded on principles of freedom and liberty and holds the two cardinal rules. To argue for legalization of torture, then it could negate the principles the great land was founded upon. The issue raised by others that torture is necessary to combat terrorism is not true. Contrary to what most of us believe, the goal of terrorism is not to kill but bring change that the terrorists desire by use of terror. The reason why terrorists kill is because by causing fear, it will have caused an irrational behavior that they want to achieve. Terrorism alone cannot destroy a country but the country alone can do that. By accepting to torture terrorists, then the country has accepted to destroy part of it. A country with high moral standing like the U.S. should never allow itself to be compromised even if they feel justified to do so. Being above approach is never easy. Legalizing torture in the U.S. will show that the country is willing to compromise its principles when it feels threatened. This will justify claims by terrorists that they can cause the United States to compromise its principles and legalizing torture will be done not on rational thought but out of fear (Finkelstein, 2010).
Dershowitz presents an extreme case to illustrate a time when torture can be justified. He poses a situation where a child has been kidnapped and buried in a box with two hours of oxygen. He asks that if the kidnapper refuses to disclose the child’s location “Should we not consider torture in that situation?” that kind of question can make a person opposed to torture to think twice but on considering the scenario we find that such extreme cases are very rare. Making decisions on such rare cases is absurd and laws are based on facts and rational cases. Again, how can we be certain that the person being tortured is the one with the right information? The country should never compromise its principles even if it feels justified to do so (Finkelstein, 2010).
The use of torture is a controversial topic that elitists mixed reactions from different quarters. Although not adequately justified, use of torture could be excused in some extreme cases as shown by torture proponents. The Department of Justice should investigate police departments for alleged use of torture and find evidence if they may have violated any civil rights. The U.S. congress should swiftly move to enact a meaningful ban on all torture techniques.