Human Torture Should Be Legal Essay

1930 words - 8 pages

Despite the unconstitutionality of the practice, torture has had a presence throughout our nation’s history. From the Salem witch trials of 1692, in which Giles Corey was pressed to death, to the twenty-first century waterboarding of terrorist suspects, the United States has not always lived up to the ideal that torture should never be used for any purpose. The popular culture image of a man being beaten by police officers in a locked room away from public view is not just fiction but a semi-officially accepted means of ‘getting the job done.’ Alan Dershowitz refers to the specific example of “… a case decided in 1984, [in which] the Court of Appeals for the 11th circuit commended police officers who tortured a kidnapper into disclosing the location of his victim (554).” While I agree that torture was not an acceptable method for extracting a confession from Mr. Corey, or discovering terrorist information from the detainees at Guantanamo, I believe that legitimizing the use of torture in certain circumstances would lead to an improvement of our current state of affairs.
Accepting torture as a tool to save lives is not the same as accepting torture as a good thing. Instead, accepting torture is a last resort to prevent the loss of innocent life when no other options remain. Barbaric and cruel as it may be to intentionally cause pain to another human being, how much more barbaric and cruel would it be to sacrifice the lives of a city’s population? I cannot imagine that even the most outspoken critic of torture would allow their family to burn for the sake of preventing a temporary amount of pain to the person threatening to trigger the explosion. Fortunately, these scenarios largely remain the province of Hollywood films but the potential threats to our nation remain very real. If torture could have procured information that led to the prevention of the September 11th attacks upon the World Trade Center, how many people would still decry the practice? Once you agree that, however distasteful it may be, torture may be an acceptable option under certain circumstances, you must then concern yourself with the practicality of its application.
First, it must be determined when it would be acceptable to use torture in an official capacity. It should not be used as a deterrent towards future heinous acts, although this may be a beneficial side effect. To torture someone simply to send a message to our nation’s enemies would not only be counterproductive but also an act of evil. While torture itself may be seen as evil by many, there are situations where it would potentially be more evil to do nothing at all. Creating a set of guidelines also mitigates the possibilities of greater harm done in the heat of the moment. Torture is already being employed by authority figures but without a clearly defined set of official guidelines. Michael Levin states that “[he] is advocating torture as an acceptable measure for preventing...

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