Can Torture Ever Be Ethical?
Although our U.S. government insists that no torture is used on their prisoners, there are those who wonder whether torture might even be ethical and necessary. An argument is given by those supporting the limited use of torture that if human lives are at risk and there is a chance that they could be saved by information obtained from some person, then torture methods to get that person to provide the information is appropriate and ethical. There are those who say that torture rarely gets any valid information since those tortured would lie to have the torture stopped.
The Harvard University Gazette in their November 2, 2006 issue describes a talk by University of Texas Law Professor Sanford Levinson made at the John F. Kennedy School of Government on October 26, 2006. In the article "Can Torture Ever Be Ethical?", Alvin Powell describes Levinson's example of such rationalization of torture: In 2004, German police captured a man they believed had kidnapped a young boy. They questioned him for two days, and then, fearing for the child's safety, a senior officer authorized an interrogator to use pain, if necessary, to get information.
After being told what was being planned but before any force was used, the suspect confessed and told police he had killed the boy and where they could find the body.
Though they had gotten the desperately needed information without resorting to violence, both the superior and the interrogator were charged with a crime under the German constitution's absolute ban on torture. Rather than going to jail, however, the two were let off with a fine after the court found "massive mitigating circumstances."
In the war on terror, Levinson said, prevention is how to stop terrorist acts, which means it's key to get information on imminent strikes.
German courts, even faced with a constitutional prohibition, found that in this case, torture was "quasi-acceptable," otherwise the two would have gone to jail.
It appears that society though not accepting torture is more accepting of war since according to
the article Levinson said wars, though violent, are distinguished from torture by having willing participants on both sides. That distinction blurs, however, as war increasingly involves civilians.
Do any of my visitors think that torture has merit and is ethical under certain situations? Would one of the current situations be that which apparently faces the United States and other countries and that is the "war on terrorism"? ..Maurice.