A former top adviser to President Bush in Iraq, Robert Blackwill, who was a national security adviser during Bush’s first term, once said that torture should never be totally ruled out. One of the central pillars of the court process in the common law system of justice is built on the bedrock assumption that coercive interrogation works. All people in common law countries must give evidence in court when subpoenaed to do so.
This is even when they have no connection to the case, apart from having to be a witness to a relevant event. Many people have no desire to get involved in any form of litigation. It is often stressful and nearly always time consuming. Sometimes it puts them at risk of reprisal by a party to the proceeding.
Despite this, they are always forced to give evidence under threat of imprisonment if they do not provide relevant information. It is assumed that this coerced evidence is truthful (Barnet et al. 6)
Therefore, the argument that torture never works is unsupportable. Rather, the most accurate assessment of the efficacy of torture as an information-gathering device is that it will sometimes fail, while, on other occasions, it will succeed. However, torture should not be mistreatment for punitive reasons and the suspect should have the relevant information.
Although most of the philosophers and scientists have speculated that torture’s objective and goals are achievable, it is never justifiable. It transpires that even the most effective torture techniques only elicit the relevant information in a small number of cases.
For the torture to be justified, it would mean that the plus side of the scales would need to be heavier than the negative side. In the case where thousands of lives were at stake, even 20 percent likelihood that torture would be effective would justify its use. Ultimately, one cannot be guaranteed that torture will work in any given instance, but one can be virtually certain that doing nothing will fail when faced with an imminent catastrophe.
According to Hickman (181), he believed that torture is more efficient than other forms of punishments in obtaining the relevant information and enhancing national security. He claimed that society’s most basic response to those who violate the law is imprisonment.
The utilitarian-expediency argument is that one has to be kept in prison for a long time in order to achieve the desired punitive and deterrent goals of the state. However, if torture can achieve these goals in a shorter period, torture is justified regardless of the mental pain of time and the long-term effects associated with being subjected to torture.
Consequently, it is not that faith and values frames do not also apply; it is that torture is inseparable from the national security of the Americans. It is just a fundamental truth that Americans, and American policymakers, perceive torture in this context.
It is not disputing the enormity of the moral implications of torture; rather it is that framing opposition to torture in terms of moral or religious imperatives is vital. However, it does not remove torture from the national security context.
One of the elements of this perspective that has regained favor in the West following the events of the 9/11 is the notion that torture is directed at future actions. As demonstrated by the United State’ War on Terror, torture can arise from a combination of the state’s vast power and its vulnerability to enemies from within and without. In an attempt to combat these real and supposed threats, state may adopt a policy of torture.
In this case, the vital goals of torture are to maintain the authority of those in power by systematically destroying those who are a threat to them and to intimidate all others into conformity. In order to legitimize the use of state torture, the authorities frequently point to a history of violence against the state, real or imagined. This violence takes the form of insurgency, guerilla operations, or terrorist attacks.
As part of the threat assessment approach, people can be subjected to torture, not because of criminal acts that they have performed or are planning to perpetrate. However, as they hold political or religious beliefs that are deemed dangerous to the state, they cannot deliver the stated goals within the stipulated time framework (Rejali 515).
In addition, any possible threat to the state enables the authority to create a purpose and a justification for the implementation of a torture policy. The state sanitizes torture in the eyes of the public. Torture is necessary in protecting the society from internal and external threats. Again, in the post-9/11 era, several Western governments have defended the use of torture as necessary to ensure national security.
The state determines the legitimate targets of torture by successfully applying negative labels to certain groups or individuals.
Torture, therefore, must be seen as an expression of state power and a method of constituting and expressing the domination of the state over its subjects. The institutionalization of the state torture to obtain information or confessions is just of the state’s strategies. For instance, it has been argued that the detainees from the War on Terror held by the Americans at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba possess little valuable, actionable intelligence.
Given this, it appears that deterrence and control are the primary motivations behind continued use of torture. In effect, the use of torture serves to transform an individual into the enemy. The use of torture fabricates the enemy for all to see validating the state’s use of torture. This transformation is perhaps the most vital aspect for torture.
Another central economic factor related to the utility of state torture is the distribution of wealth within the country. Without a minimum level of wealth, redistribution through taxation or other means, vastly unequal lifestyles and opportunities of wealth is based on race or ethnicity. In this circumstance, the political or ruling elite are much more susceptible to violent attacks from the terrorists.
Given this, the regime may use state torture and other terror tactics in order to ensure the status quo and control any disenfranchised groups (Hickman 186). However, in advanced capitalist societies, the distribution of wealth helps to maintain a standard of living among most citizens, which diminishes the potential for internal violent conflict.
In addition to economic factors, the political organization of the state plays a crucial role in the utility of state torture. In addition, political systems face fewer political, social, or economic constraints to the use of torture. Moreover, agrarian and industrial nations have traditionally experienced a significant degree of political instability with military governments that have benefited from policies of torture.
Barnet, Sylvan & Bedau, Hugo. Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing: A Brief Guide to Argument. New York City: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.
Hickman, Gill. Leading Change in Multiple Contexts: Concepts and Practices in Organizational, Community, Political, Social, and Global Change Settings. London: SAGE, 2009. Print.
Rejali, Darius. Torture and Democracy. New York City: Princeton University Press, 2009. Print.