Torture is one punishment that is generally agreed to be wrong, even by countries which institute the death penalty. However there has recently been talk of allowing interrogators in America to apply for a permit to use torture in certain cases. (Source). Of course there would have to be very restrictive criteria for using it, one of which would of course have to be that you are certain beyond all possible doubt that the person has the information and will disclose it under torture. This raises a question:
"Is it right to torture someone in certain circumstances, i.e. you know they have the information and you need it desperately?"
The pro-torture case is presented within the question, basically it runs that if you need information badly enough you should be allowed to use any means to get it. For this reason I will present and anti-torture argument.
The first argument is of course that you can never know for certain that someone has the information you need. This is probably the most powerful argument since you would have to literally torture them to death to find this out. Humans can withstand huge amounts of pain and so simply giving the appearance of knowing nothing is unlikely to be taken as proof by the torturers. The pro-torture argument would be along the lines of “you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs,” but I suspect that their view would change if it was them being tortured endlessly. There is often a view of “it will never happen to me, so I won’t worry about it,” unfortunately the “it will never happen to me” clause can be disproved by it happening to you. It is very easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The second argument is that even if they do have the information you need, they may be capable of withstanding torture to death. Is it worth torturing someone to death on the grounds that you might get the information you desire? You would have to be prepared to torture them to death, which does have the additional problem of martyrdom, which from a political and fairly cold point of view is not good.
The third argument is someone has to do the torturing. This means that you need to train someone in the “art” of torture. Torture instruments would have to be built so that it is as efficient as possible, with the intention of inflicting maximum pain. People would have to be employed to build and maintain them. Training people to torture and build torture instruments would have to remove some of their humanity, to be able to torture someone you need to be able to take the same view of the victim as the Nazis did of the Jews. You need to be able to objectify the person, training someone to do that would be dangerous should they change jobs or retire. Is it a good idea to have people who enjoy torturing people (which they would have to, to do it efficiently) in society?
The final argument is that the reasons for torturing someone would have to allow for a little interpretation. This would mean that they could be manipulated so that more people could be tortured. Many people act on revenge. Torture should obviously not be used as punishments on the grounds of getting the wrong person. Revenge leads to punishment. Torture would be used under the guise of getting information. For instance you can claim that terrorist X who killed the president’s daughter defiantly knows where the leaders are and use torture on him. But what if he doesn’t know, it’s fairly clear he might not and so torture would be being used as punishment and revenge. If you believe this is right that’s your view, but I would have thought that the fact that you might end up torturing an innocent would be case enough not to allow it’s use.
mr100percent says re torture: good topic. You forgot to mention that even innocent people will say anything to end the pain.