Torture: Laws of War and High Level- Terrorist BY Lenv0G580 Torture “To torture or not to torture” – the main topic in debate between Charles Krauthammer and Andrew Sullivan is whether torture should be permissible under certain circumstances or never at all. The debate of torture between Krauthammer and Sullivan began three years after the Bush administration defined “torture” in the narrowest terms – the permitted coercive, physical abuse of enemy combatants if the military necessity demands it. 317) Krauthammer discusses extreme situations that make the use of torture seem less morally unethical and almost acceptable; however, is examples are Just hypothetical situations. When I weigh his scenarios against reality and think about how much torture can really affect a person’s life, Krauthammer’s make-believe stories have no weight and do not sway my opinion one bit. On the other hand, Sullivan makes a strong point that I completely agree with.
We are all humans, but allowing torture to be permissible would only lead to people treating others in a manner less than any human would ever deserve. In The Truth About Torture, Charles Krauthammer writes, “Torture is not always impermissible. However rare the cases, there are circumstances in which, by any rational moral calculus, torture not only would be permissible but would be required (to acquire life-saving information). ” (309) Krauthammer discusses two scenarios where he believes torture should be permitted: “the ticking time bomb and the slower-fuse high level- terrorist”. 313) The ticking time bomb is a situation where hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent lives are at stake, with little to no time, all dependent on a crucial piece of information that can help mitigate the situation. The slower-fuse igh level terrorist is when a person who is second-in-command of a terrorist cell is captured and has vital information that can bring down an entire enemy’s organization with one swift blow. In both of these scenarios, Krauthammer displays one common ethical principle of utilitarianism – risk the few to save the many and to protect the greater good of society.
I am not persuaded by Krauthammer’s article because his entire argument is based on hypothetical scenarios, something you would typically find in a Hollywood screen play. “A terrorist has planted a nuclear bomb in New York City. It will go off in one hour. A million people will die. You captured the terrorist. He knows where it is. He’s not talking. ” (309) If we are going to legalize torture, I am going to need a little more than Just hypothetical scenarios. In my opinion, there needs to be more concrete facts that torture really does in deed work for gathering useful information.
My fear is that torture would only lead to false information given by the tortured, in order to temporarily stop the torment and pain. Not once did Krauthammer provide any useful statistic to support torture. Instead, he chooses to focus on Senator John McCain’s position against torture. He attempts to make his argument sound stronger simply by claiming McCain’s position is weak. Just because, in a ticking time bomb scenario, McCain would tell the President, mfou make the act of torture any more right.
People might resort to torture in those kinds of scenarios, but there is never a guarantee that it would even work. As much as Krauthammer tries to weaken opposing views, he can never provide statistics or promise that useful and reliable information results from torture. Although I disagree with Krauthammer’s overall theory, there was one idea I found interesting. He defines three kinds of enemy combatants: the ordinary solider caught on the field of battle, the captured terrorist and the terrorist with important information. 307-309) According to Krauthammer, the first kind of enemy combatant, the captured solider, is entitled to humane treatment because his detention serves a single purpose. That purpose is to keep him off the battlefield. The terrorist, however, both captured terrorist and terrorist with important information, is an unlawful combatant. He hides among civilians, does not wear a uniform, and he deliberately targets innocents. Therefore, he is entitled to no protection. (308) This captured my attention because he classifies three different types of enemies.
I have always thought of enemies as Just one group. In The Abolition of Torture, Andrew Sullivan counters Krauthammer’s arguments and addresses torture as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees… Torture is the polar opposite of freedom. It is the banishment of all freedom from human body and soul. ” (318) Sullivan’s basic principle is that enemy combatants are not required every privileges granted by prisoners of war, but they still must be treated as human beings.
This means no physical torture and no abuse of their religious faith. One of his arguments is based on a report from the Pentagon which states that since the war on terrorism, 90 percent of prisoners at Abu Ghraib have been found to be innocent, and many of whom were abused, tortured, and even murdered. (322) I agree with Sullivan article more because he looks back on the history of the United States and defines the morals that this country was built on. He discusses how important it is to learn from the past by understanding it. In World War II, American soldiers were often tortured by the Japanese when captured. But FDR refused to reciprocate. Why? Because he knew that the goal of the war was not Just Japan’s defeat but Japan’s transformation into democracy. He knew that, if the beacon of democracy – the United States of America – had succumbed to the hallmark of totalitarianism, then the chance for democratization would be deeply compromised in the wake of victory. ” (325) Roosevelt’s quote sounds exactly like the war on terrorism that we are currently fighting.
How can we, as a nation, promote freedom and liberalization to an entire country when we are torturing and murdering ur enemies? To me, this Just sounds like trading one evil for the next. Our country should be the role model to developing nations. We must be better than our past because if not, our nation fails to move forward and we cannot say we are the leaders of the free world. Another reason why torture cannot be legalized is because it could have a detrimental snowball effect.
Sullivan explains this perfectly: “Once you have declared that some enemies are subhuman, you have told every solider that every potential detainee he comes across might be exactly that kind of prisoner – and hat anything can therefore be done to him. ” (323) The key point here is that once Categorizing a group of enemies can be interpreted in a hundred different ways and then the discretion of torture will be at the hands of millions of American citizens, most of who would not care to understand the consequences and affects such torture could result.
Not only will the solider perceive the enemy differently, but so will the people that soldier protects. If this happened today, there will no longer be Middle Eastern terrorists with radical religious belief controlled by an insane ictator; rather people would perceive them as the subhuman enemy combatants that deserve no humane protection but every bit of American retaliation.
I believe we can defeat terrorism without endorsing torture by not letting the idea of totalitarian impulse infect the rights created by the Constitution. Legalizing torture would Just cause us to backtrack on our beliefs. “If we abandon our ideas in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideas were never really in our possession. If we legalize torture, even under constrained conditions, we will have given up a large part of the idea that is America. ” (327)