Torture Why Our Nation Cannot Essay

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These logistical problems are only one source of error in Levin's argument, however. The idea of establishing guilt with certainty before using torture fits the utilitarian ethic; it ensures that any reduction in happiness or good to the terrorist is more than compensated for by the increased happiness in the terrorist's would-be victims. The other part of Levin's argument, that torture should only be used as a preventative and not a punitive measure, also fits into utilitarianism. Punishment and confession to past acts does not create nearly enough happiness or good to make up for the pain caused by torture. But these two conditions for the use of torture -- that it is practiced with complete certainty of guilt and that it is solely preventative -- cannot logically coexist. In order for guilt of a terrorist to be certain, the act of evil has to have already been committed, which means any actions against the terrorist can no longer be preventative. Even if a terrorist known to have committed previous acts of terrorism were captured, it could not be shown with any certainty that they knew of imminent future attacks until they had already occurred, and even then the terrorist's foreknowledge could not actually be known. Prevention and guilt are simply not able to exist at the same time.

The argument for the justification of torture in the "ticking bomb" situation is put somewhat more compellingly by Seamus Miller: "the terrorist is forcing the police to choose between two evils, namely, torturing the terrorist or allowing thousands of lives to be lost. Were the terrorist to do what he ought to do, namely, disclose the location of the ticking bomb, the police could refrain from torturing him" (Miller, sec. 3.2). This seems to suggest that others can be responsible for the actions we choose to commit. Such logic presents a dangerous path that opens the door for other abuses. By this logic, torture could be used to extract confessions, because letting a crime go unpunished is also an evil that the criminal could prevent.

The breakdown of any system that endorses or utilizes torture is well noted by Jean Maria Arrigo. Basically, she points out that human society is not built on perfect rules of behavior, but rather that all human beings act out of desire and impulse at times, despite what logic or moral reasoning tells them is the right thing to do (Arrigo). This will lead, Arrigo contends, to the use of torture at times that aren't clearly permissible by law. Furthermore, the reliability of information obtained through torture has been shown to be unreliable, casting doubt on its effectiveness as an interrogation method at all (Arrigo). This adds up to no case at all for torture.

If there were any practical benefits to torture, the issue might more complicated. It questionable effectiveness alone makes it unethical to use in any scenario; the pain it creates cannot necessarily by any good that might follow as a result. Furthermore, opening the door to the use of torture will allow for much more egregious abuses. Even if the circumstances in which torture was permissible were completely rigidly defined, there would be abuses in the gray areas of the law. The detriment that this would cause to the justice of our society, and to others' perception of our nation, is enormous, and the greater good is served by refraining from torture in…

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