Since September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the issue of terrorism and the most effective means of fighting it have dominated the world. One of the relevant debates in this concern is the validity of using torture in interrogation with suspects of terrorism. While some analysts and researchers advocate the use of torture with suspects in order to get information that may save the lives of people, others are completely against torture, describing it as an unethical and inhumane approach. In his article which is entitled “Case for Torture,” Michael E. Levin attempts to make a case for torture as a valid and effective means to deal with suspects and fight terrorism. He argues that the use of torture is necessary in some instances, when the information that is kept by the suspect can help police authorities stop a probable attack that may kill a great number of people. However, Levin's article contains many unsupported claims and logical fallacies that can be easily refuted.
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Levin's argument that torture "is justified in extreme cases" is untrue and invalid. The problem in this argument is that the definition of "extreme cases" is relative, depending on one's own conception of the situation. What may be considered an extreme case for a certain investigator may not be considered so by another. This looseness of the term "extreme cases" destroys the core of Levin's argument. For example, an investigator in an authoritarian regime may consider joining an opposition group "an extreme case," which necessitates the use of torture with suspects to get the names of the members of that group. In such a case, torture will be misused and its scope will vary from a country to another and from an interrogator to another. Thus, it is invalid to build a whole argument on a term that is defined on a broad scope. Actually, the notion of justifying torture in 'extreme cases' is refuted by many social analysts. For example, Tom Gorton, in "Torture and the 'Bomber' Scenario," points out that "once torture is justified in an extreme case, it can be more easily justified for less serious cases" (Gorton). Therefore, the broad scope of an "extreme case" weakens Levin's argument about the validity of torture as a technique for interrogators.
In addition, Levin's claim that torture is effective in limiting future cases of terrorism and violence is untrue and unrealistic. Actually, Levin introduces torture as a necessary means through which a future terrorist attack may be prevented or a would-be terrorist may be deterred. This is evident when Levin says, "I am advocating torture as an acceptable measure for preventing future evils." However, this claim contains a logical fallacy since there is no support or evidence for any relation between torture and violence prevention. That is, torture may not be effective in instances when suspects hold sincere devotions for their beliefs or ideologies. For example, many Islamists are so devoted to their religious beliefs that they may prefer death rather than revealing any information about their terrorist plans or colleagues. In such cases, torture is ineffective in saving the lives of people or preventing future terrorist attacks. As noted by James Dunnigan, in his article which is entitled "Does Torture Work?" "there are many people who resist torture unto death." Dunnigan even adds that "true believers tend to resist physical pressure well" (Dunnigan). Therefore, Levin's claim that torture can be effective in preventing cases of violence and deterring would-be terrorists is invalid and refutable. On the contrary, the excessive use of torture with suspects may induce others to revenge by escalating terrorist attacks.
On the other hand, Levin's argument about the acceptance of torture as an approach to get important information from suspects entails a clear violation of human rights. Respecting one's body safety is one of the basic human rights that should be strongly observed. Thus, it is completely unethical to use measures that hurt someone's body in order to get important information from him, especially when there are no exact charges against the suspect. For example, Guantanamo Camp is full of cases where terrorist suspects are tortured without actual charges against them. Such cases involve clear violation of the rights of those suspects (Randall). According to the official statistics made by some international human rights organizations, "3,000 people being held outside the US by US military and intelligence agencies … and the overwhelming majority of these prisoners have not been charged with any crime" (Randall). Consequently, most of these human rights organizations have accused the measures of torture as being unethical and inhumane. That's because these measures violate the basic rights of the suspects. Consequently, Levin's argument in favor of torture is completely against the highly evaluated principles of democratic countries like the US. That is, it seems contradictory that a country that highly respects the human rights of all individuals to violate these rights by using torture. Therefore, Levin's argument about the validity of torture is refuted because it clashes with the principle of human rights respect, which is highly valued by the United States and many other democratic countries.
In conclusion, Michael E. Levin's "Case for Torture" makes a weak argument because it is built on refutable claims, unsupported assumptions, and logical fallacies. In essence, Levin's claim that torture is an effective approach is untrue because experience tells us that there are many terrorists, whose religious devotions make them bear torture without revealing any information. Thus, torture cannot prevent future evil, as claimed by Levin. Even if torture is allowed only in severe cases, it can soon turn to an approach that is practiced regularly due to the broad definition of "extreme cases" by individuals, organizations, and governments. Lastly, practicing torture against suspects involves clear violation of human rights, contradicting the principles of democratic countries. Accordingly, most of Levin's claims about torture are refutable, and if these claims are taken too far, the image of democratic countries as strong protectors of human rights will be seriously hurt.
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