Torture

Here’s a “what-if.” What if an Al-Qaeda member is captured in, say New York City. And what if there is very good reason to believe that he knows when and where a bomb is scheduled to go off in the city. He refuses to respond to interrogation on the matter. What should be done? Should the terrorist be allowed to hold his tongue?

Let’s keep in mind that we’re talking about foreign terrorists here, not United States citizens, and that terrorists are not army troops of some country. They cannot claim protection of our Constitution. They are not signatories of the Geneva Convention nor any other agreement about how prisoners are to be treated.

Talk shows and editorials in the MSM are making a great deal of fuss lately over the use of torture in the interrogation of terrorist prisoners. There are expressions of horror at the thought that torture might be used. Those with the audacity to defend torture are denounced and called names. Authorities rush to say they abhor its use. Opponents accuse authorities of using torture and denying that they do so. Experts are found to say that torture is not useful and may be counterproductive anyway.

The question that seems never to be addressed: why not? Why not use torture? What is the argument against using torture?

Most commentators take it for granted that torture is just evil, intrinsically. If pressed for a reason, they might scornfully proclaim that it hurts, of course. It is immoral to hurt someone. As children are being taught these days, “people are not for hurting.”

Torture is characterized as dehumanizing, meaning that the tortured prisoner is treated as less than human. It is not made clear just what it is about torture that dehumanizes him. I suspect that those who agonize about this might have some foggy notion that the terrorist’s human rights are violated by torture.

So the answer to “Why not?” comes down to, torture causes pain, which is never to be countenanced. And it is presumed to dehumanize the prisoner through violating his human rights.

It is redundant to claim that pain hurts. Pain is hurt. Pain has the evolutionary value of enabling us to learn that we’re doing something detrimental to our lives which we must stop. The message of pain given to a terrorist prisoner is that he’d better stop withholding vital information.

What about the terrorist’s rights? Terrorists attacked us; not the other way around. They violated our rights; not the other way around. It is contradictory for the terrorist or his advocates to claim a right to withhold information about how his colleagues plan to kill more Americans. There is no right to violate rights.

–Ken

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