Choose an ethical, philosophical, moral, or religious issue that you feel humanity must confront and resolve in the foreseeable or distant future. Torture

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ENGLISH 2010 – 080

Professor Gary Howard

May 2, 2013

Choose an ethical, philosophical, moral, or religious issue that you feel humanity must confront and resolve in the foreseeable or distant future.


According to Human Rights Watch in the following countries: China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Malaysia, Morocco, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Turkey, Uganda, and Uzbekistan have documented the use of torture in two thousand and four and two thousand and five. In a recent poll Fifty Three Americans believe that all torture should be abolished, with thirty one of those polled believing it should be allowed but with limits, and seven of those polled believing it should be allowed without limits. That is in contrast to India in which twenty eight of those polled say that torture should be abolished entirely, forty seven believe it should be allowed with limits and, twelve believing it should be allowed in general. The average of all the country's polled: fifty seven for, twenty six for with limitations, and nine for without limitations.

While torture itself is bad, due to the physical as well as physiological effects it has on people, the information retrieved could be vital to saving human life. June Nineteen seventy nine Jean Leon along with an accomplice kid-napped Louis Gachelin, a cab driver in Miami Florida, demanding a several thousand dollar ransom. Leon was captured by police officers but was not with Gachelin. Concerned that Gachelin would be murdered if it was known that Leon had been captured, seven police officers made a radical decision. To find where the accomplice was holding Gachelin they beat the information out of him. The abuse sustained by Leon was twisting his arm behind his back as well as choking him until he revealed the location of Gachelin. Leon eventually succumbed to the torture and revealed the location. Gachelin life was arguably saved by torture.

Through in this scenario torture was vital to saving someone's life, it is often used in less humanitarian ways. From nineteen sixty one to nineteen seventy three many US servicemen shot down over Vietnam would end up in what was called the Hanoi Hilton. Here they were subjected to beatings, rope bindings, solitary confinement, starvation, as well as diseases such as dysentery. Despite signing the third Geneva convention of 1984 which demanded humane treatment of prisoners of war, the North Vietnamese viewed the bombing attacks carried out by the United States as crimes against humanity. So in response to the bombings severe torture methods were employed by the North Vietnamese. While torture is a horrible institution which, if there is an alternative, should never be used, it is sometimes a necessity. "The suffering caused by the terrorists is the real torture," said Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Usually you are dealing with group of people who harm innocent civilians to further there own personal ideals, or a kid-napper committing a crime for greed, or just because they hate anyone associated with a particular group or nationality that they just happen to disagree with. To help possibly prevent further loss of life torture is sometimes justified. As in the first example above if someone is going to die, and another person has the information that will prevent that, it is justified. The problem arises when torture to obtain information becomes sadism or torture for the sake of torture, as shown in the second example. A further example of which will be mentioned in detail, further in this monograph. United Nations Definition of torture.

The United Nations definition of torture is the act of using severe pain or suffering ether physical, mental or the instigation there of to, obtain information, obtain a confession, or as punishment for an act, suspected act, o ran act committed by a third party in which the accused is affiliated with in someway as well as discrimination of any kind but does not include: "pain or suffering arising only from inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions." United States Definition “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

There are several reasons that torture must be confronted and resolved in the foreseeable: Torture violates the dignity of the human being. Every inch of the human body and every aspect of the human spirit comes from God and bears witness to his handiwork. We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). Human dignity, value, and worth come as a permanent and ineradicable endowment of the Creator to every person.

Christians, at least, should be trained to see in every person the imprint of God's grandeur. This should create in us a sense of reverence. Here, we say—and we say it even of detainees in the war on terror—is a human being sacred in God's sight, made in God's image, someone for whom Christ died. No one is ever "subhuman" or "human debris," as Rush Limbaugh has described some of our adversaries in Iraq. Because they are human, people have rights to many things, including the right not to be tortured. Christians sometimes question the legitimacy of "rights talk," correctly so. Just because someone claims a right does not mean that it really is a right. But among the most widely recognized rights in both legal and moral theory is the right to bodily integrity; that is, the right not to have intentional physical and psychological harm inflicted upon oneself by others. The ban on torture is one expression of this right.

Is this right absolute? Using Catholic moral reasoning, Robert G. Kennedy, professor of Catholic studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, has argued that even the most widely recognized human rights, such as the right to life or the right not to be tortured, can theoretically be qualified by other rights and by the requirements of justice. Kennedy argues that "defensive interrogatory torture" (and only this kind of torture) may be morally legitimate under carefully qualified conditions. Yet he goes on to argue that "it is quite likely that most instances in which interrogatory torture is employed would not conform to these principles and so would be immoral." Whether we open the door to torture just a crack, as Kennedy suggests, or keep it firmly shut as an absolute ban, as I advocate, the principle of human dignity and correlated rights remains a transcendently important reason to resist the turn toward torture.

The second reason that torture must be stopped is torture mistreats the vulnerable and violates the demands of justice. In the Scriptures, God's understanding of justice tilts toward the vulnerable. "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry" (Ex. 22:21-23). Primary forms of injustice include violent abuse and domination of the powerless. One reason our legal system has so many layers of protection for the accused and imprisoned is their powerlessness. This is important in any legal system that has the power to deprive people of their liberty and even their lives. The 83,000 people who have been detained by our government and military in the last four years are, as prisoners, vulnerable to injustice. Those who have been tortured are victims of injustice.

The third reason shows that why torture is always wrong is torture dehumanizes the torturer. Mark Bowden, a military scholar and author of Black Hawk Down, believes that sometimes torture is the right choice. Even so, he worries, "How does one allow it, yet still control it? Sadism is deeply rooted in the human psyche. Every army has its share of soldiers who delight in kicking and beating bound captives. Men in authority tend to abuse it—not all men, but many. As a mass, they should be assumed to lean toward abuse."

Loosening longstanding restrictions on physical and mental cruelty risks the dehumanization not just of the tortured, but also of the torturers. What may be intended as carefully calibrated interrogation techniques could easily tempt implementers toward sadism—the infliction of pain for the sheer fun of it, especially in the heat of military conflict, in a climate of fear and loathing of the enemy, and in the context of an endless war on terror. How many of us could be trusted to draw the line consistently between the permitted "grabbing, poking, and pushing" and the banned "punching, slapping, and kicking"? How much self-control can we reasonably expect people to exercise? Once the line has been crossed to torture, as Michael Ignatieff claims, it "inflicts irremediable harm on both the torturer and the prisoner."

Frederick Douglass commented famously on how holding a slave slowly ruined the character of the woman who owned him. Martin Luther King Jr. frequently said that the greatest victims of segregation were the white people whose souls were deformed by their own hatred. And Alexander Solzhenitsyn, reflecting on the Soviet gulag, said, "Our torturers have been punished most horribly of all: They are turning into swine; they are departing downward from humanity."

The last reason is torture erodes the character of the nation that tortures. A nation is a collective moral entity with a character, an identity that carries across time. Causes come and go, threats come and go, but the enduring question for any social entity is who we are as a people. This is true of a family, a church, a school, a civic club, or a town. It is certainly true of a nation. Sen. John McCain, who has led the Republican charge against torture, recently said, "This isn't about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies." In a November Newsweek article, he put it this way: "What I … mourn is what we lose when … we allow, confuse, or encourage our soldiers to forget that best sense of ourselves, that which is our greatest strength—that we are different and better than our enemies, that we fight for an idea, not a tribe, not a land, not a king … but for an idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights."

All of the above reasons show that why torture is always wrong and no exception for this violation continues remain in our community. Long ago, German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote about the perennial human tendency to find exceptions to moral rules when the rules bind a bit too tightly on us: "Hence there arises a natural … disposition to argue against these strict laws of duty and to question their validity, or at least their purity and strictness, and, if possible, to make them more accordant with our wishes and inclinations, that is to say, to corrupt them at their very source, and to entirely destroy their worth." I believe this is the best explanation for what is happening with the issue of torture in our nation. We are tempted to follow the logic of a July 11, 2005, Time magazine cover story that said, "In the war on terrorism, the personal dignity of a fanatic trained for mass murder may be an inevitable casualty."

Yet we are queasy enough about this "inevitable casualty" that we do not want to call torture what it is. We do not want to expose our policies, our prisons, or our prisoners to public view. We deny that we are torturing, or we deny that our prisoners are really prisoners. When pushed against the wall, we remind one another how evil the enemy is. We give every evidence of the kind of self-deception that is characteristic of a descent into sin.

It is past time for evangelical Christians to remind our government and our society of perennial moral values, which also happen to be international and domestic laws. As Christians, we care about moral values, and we vote on the basis of such values. We care deeply about human-rights violations around the world. Now it is time to raise our voice and say an unequivocal no to torture, a practice that has no place in our society and violates our most cherished moral convictions.

Works Cited

Megans Law, Registered Sex Offenders And Background Checks. 11 Apr. 2009


Stanley, Karnow. Vietnam: A History. New York, NY: Viking Adult, 1983.

Torture Statistics Rise, Attitudes Lax." Kamil Pasha. 11 Apr.2009


The Evil In Us | Prisoner torture in Iraq exposes the ordinary face of human depravity. A

Christinanity Today editorial (June 10, 2004)
Berean, Beacon. "YouTube - Catholic Inquisition and The Torture Tools." YouTube -Broadcast

Yourself. 11 Apr. 2009

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