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Torture - Essay Example

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License to Torture: Dershowitz vs Scarry Introduction As a rule, torture is presumably one of those issues liberal societies are most averse to. However, in the light of several major acts of terror that have occurred a relatively short time ago and claimed thousands of lives in America and Europe alone, the use of torture as a means to obtain vital information, which would prevent destruction on a massive scale and save human life, became more or less a standard practice of the respective security services…
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Download file to see previous pages This paper examines the pivotal differences between Alan Dershowitz and Elaine Scarry on the question of physical torture in order to determine whether the arguments of the former are adequately tackled by the latter as well as the actual possibility of establishment of public accountability standards for extraordinary measures such as the use of physical torture to prevent terrorism. The Ticking Bomb Argument The controversy surrounding the use of torture to prevent terrorism is explicitly demonstrated via the “ticking bomb scenario”, where a captured terrorist refuses to divulge information concerning the imminent use of weapon – whether nuclear, biological or chemical device – capable of killing and injuring a huge number of civilians (Dershowitz 259). The grave moral dilemma here is whether the captured terrorist should be subjected to torture in order to disclose the location of the device or the bomb to be allowed to explode and kill perhaps thousands of people because of legal and moral considerations. In other words, the safety and security of a nation’s citizens must be weighed against the preservation of human rights, which engenders a choice between one evil or another (Dershowitz 266, 272). While both Dershowitz and Scarry agree that the ‘ticking bomb’ scenario is a rather hypothetical situation, they consider its implications for the individuals and institutions involved, as well as for the society as a whole, from vastly different points of view. According to Dershowitz, in nations such as Israel, for example, where both terrorism and the use of torture to prevent terrorism are anything but hypothetical, the ticking bomb case in fact provides a moral, legal and intellectual justification for applying the system of coercive interrogation (258-9). On the other hand, although being generally deemed unproductive, those methods – euphemistically called by the Israeli Security Services (GSS or Shin Bet) themselves “moderate physical pressure” – sometimes proved successful and led to prevention of terrorist acts that otherwise might have killed many civilians (Dershowitz 258). The latter observation, however, implies that the possibility of an actual ‘ticking bomb’ case shouldn’t be readily ruled out. Similarly, following September 11, 2001, it has become not so rare practice in the US security and intelligence services to employ rough interrogation technique ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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