Torture: Revenge? Or Justice? Essay Sample

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In Torture: Is It Ever Justifiable, both Phillip B. Heymann and Alan M. Dershowitz believe that torture is morally wrong and in a utopian society it would be absent. While they both somewhat agree, they both differ from each other as well. Where as Heymann takes a strong case outlining possible corruptions that would arise from legalized torture, Dershowitz takes a stance in defending on the books torture as opposed to off the books torture. In Phillip Heymann’s argument, “Torture Should Not Be Authorized”, he believes that if torture is legalized that people in society will accept it more and it could be handled by corrupt officers. In addition, he claims that the means, by which judges and intelligence agents determine warrant worthy tortures, would be kept secret from the public, further shadowing the paradigm. Contrary to Heyman, Dershowitz argued that if torture was legalized that it would, in a way, scare people and keep things in check. He believes it would stop things from turning into a corrupt tyranny.

This is a primary contrasting point between the two authors; whether or not legalizing torture would increase or decrease its affectivity and the surrounding net causalities. Dershowitz states, “This is truly a choice of evils, with no perfect resolution”. He agrees with Heymann on the fact that torture should be eliminated, but that it close to impossible to do so. Dershowitz brings realism and takes a more pragmatic approach on the matter. “Torture is a prescription for losing a war for support of our beliefs in the hope of reducing casualties from relatively small battles” (Heymann). Here Heymann says that torturing someone is morally against our American beiliefs, which in the long run would not be worth it. Comparing it to war it is a very small and bitter accomplishment. In effect, sacrificing our beliefs could be doing greater harm than using torture as a vigilant action. Heymann suggests that if torture were legal than judges would pursue torture after being told that it’s only a matter of time to reassure another American life.

In this case, he says sixty percent of the time they are likely false positives, an amount he believes is not worth risking by allowing even on the books torture. Heymann has another strong point that if we legalize torture then we break the Geneva Convention, which was signed by several countries in part agreeing that torture was prohibited. If we break that pact we are willingly saying to the other countries that signed it, that they are “allowed” to use torture on American soldiers if they were to be taken as a prisoner of war. Heymann presents the fact that if we are using torture to our own corrupt criminals that we further expose our own soldiers to that very same risk, usually at a lot more dangerous level.

I personally do not side exclusively with either viewpoint. I believe that Heymann is too cynical regarding how on the books torture would occur, particularly on his estimates regarding false positives. However, Dershowitz makes a compelling case that should torture occur in any fashion, having it on the books would lead to better checks and balances and better regulatory oversight. I believe that if torture was legalized that it would cause a lot more problems and would lead to corruption in the legal system, and breaking the Geneva Convention pact can be dangerous.

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