The Case for Torture

The case for Torture October 09 Summary of the case for Torture Levine (2009) has argued in his essay that in certain cases, torture is justified. While admitting that torture is barbaric and a practice of the medieval age, the author insists that in cases where the lives of innocents are at stake, torture of terrorists and criminals is justified. Providing examples of where torture is justified, the author speaks of scenarios such as an atomic bomb hidden by a terrorist in Manhattan Island. In this scenario, the bomb would go off unless the terrorist’s demands are met. The reasoning is that by using torture on the captured terrorist and extracting information, it is possible to save countless lives. Similar scenario is drawn about a bomb on a jet with hundreds of passenger’s lives at stake and unless information about the bomb is made available, the bomb will explode and kill thousands. Another scenario asked a few mothers if torture is justified for a person who has kidnapped their baby.
The logic and reasoning used by Levine is that false sense of ethics should be set aside when the lives of innocent people are at stake. His further justification is that in most cases, victims of terrorist’s attacks are innocent people who have done nothing to offend a terrorist. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. On the other hand, the criminal carries out pre mediated terror attacks for profit or to fulfill some religious zeal. In any case, the terrorist is willing to die in his attempt. In such an instance, law enforcers should keep aside their false sense of ethics and torture the criminal to extract a confession that will save lives.
2. Reaction to the Case
On first reading, the essay of Levine seems logical and his arguments sensible. If torture and pain can extract and yield information that helps to save lives, then it should be done. However, one is not sure if torture will work on suicidal terrorists who are ready to blow themselves for a religious cause. Assuming torture is applied and the criminal dies from the pain, then the only lead available is wasted. Modern medicines and truth serums help to obtain the required information without torture. This method is used regularly to extract the deepest hidden information from criminals and terrorists. There is always the fear that an indoctrinated terrorist will continue to tell lies even under torture.
Another very serious point is as to who will decide when torture is justified and if there is any graded procedure that can be used. If police officers and investigating officers decide that they feel torture is justified then it will introduce a whole regime of arrests on suspicion, torture that can lead to disabilities or deaths. It is difficult to draw a line as to when torture is justified and necessary and when it is not. The powers vested with the police would then become very vast and summary torture, executions, rapes and other third degree methods would become the norm. Investigations cross examination of witnesses and detective work will cease and the whole criminal procedures and laws of the land will have to be written. Currently, admissions of guilt given under duress are not accepted by the honorable courts.
Unfortunately, Levin is so carried away with revenge, retribution, lynch mentality that he forgets that a line needs to be drawn between terrorists and civilized society. This line helps to prevent civilized people from degenerating to the level of religious zealots who cannot fathom the difference between rationale behavior and mindless violence. Besides, as mentioned in the opening paragraph, truth serum injections would be much more effective than torture and they also keep the terrorists alive.
Levin, Michael. The Case for Torture. 2009. People Brandels Education. 9. October.