The United Nations General Assembly defined “torture” in 1984 as “any act by which severe pain or suffering…is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him…information or a confession” (Davis 163). …
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The problem with this definition is that it failed to add a clause which explains the purpose of such information or confession. This rather unfair definition of “torture” is perhaps where the arguments first arose. Nevertheless, despite the fact that several people criticize acts of torture, I believe that if torture helps to obtain information to save people’s lives, then it is practically good, and that torture is justifiable as long as it fulfills this purpose. Despite the fact that several critics of torture would condemn it by calling it “abhorrent” and by justifying it in a rather simplistic way – that “making people suffer is a horrible thing [and that] pain hurts and bad pain hurts badly,” there is no denying that torture serves a rather good purpose (Luban 1429). Levin was right in saying that compared to torture, “mass murder is far more barbaric,” and that governments that do not resort to torture commit “moral cowardice” and eventually sacrifices innocent lives in favor of one whose life they do not want to be accused of taking (824). In Levin’s essay entitled “The Case for Torture,” he reiterates that in the case of a ticking time bomb incident, where it is only torture that would serve as the final resort for the authorities to obtain information from a captured terrorist about the location of a time bomb about to explode, the idea of using torture is indeed justified (824). This is indeed perfectly logical for there is no other way for anyone to be able to detect the bomb except by torturing the captive and making him admit where it is. Although the chances of the captured terrorist revealing the exact location may not be 100%, at least there was some hope of finding out where the bomb is. Moreover, even if such a procedure has failed, the government would not have to bear the burden of guilt from not having done anything to stop the explosion. People may criticize a government for failing to rescue hostages. However, there must be greater criticism intended for governments that did not do anything to come up with a rescue plan for hostages on the basis of their decision not to torture and violate the human rights of the captured terrorist bomber. The point here is not about the idea of criticism, and it is not that governments have the moral duty to avoid criticism. The point is that governments have the duty to protect its citizens and any negligence of this duty is tantamount to severe criticism and a violation of the human right of the citizens to live. Besides, a government that is bent more on protecting the rights of perpetrators more than the rights of victims must be one which is considered tyrannical, and when people lose their respect for the government – no matter how unjustifiable the basis for such loss of respect is – there is no reason not to expect anarchy. The ultimate end result therefore, although hypothetical, would be the destruction of human society. If people do not feel like the government is doing its best to protect their lives, interests and safety, then there must be no reason for them to continue believing in the integrity of this government. Such resentment and loss of faith would eventually foster dissent and rebellion. Krauthammer may criticize torture as an act which we take when we “descend to the level of our enemy” and one which is against “our nature as a moral and humane people,” but I believe that the words “moral” and “humane” are but ethical labels or at best mere generalizations (829). It is utterly fallacious to label the human race in general terms for what may be good in one place may not exactly be allowed in another, and this includes the fact that in
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