The use of torture to extract information from terror suspects and their associates has been headline news for the past few days following an American report on the actions of the CIA. Numerous well-meaning people have supported the premise that "Torture is Wrong".
When I was younger, I would have fully agreed with this statement; However, as I’ve got older I’ve become less
idealistic and less certain that the statement is true. Since the end of World War Two, there hasn't been any time when there hasn't been a significant conflict taking place somewhere in the world often with appalling atrocities being carried out by one side or the other, the most recent being ISIS who are prepared to execute someone simply to produce a propaganda video.
Sayings such as
“fight fire with fire” and the biblical “eye for an eye” seem to have
increasing relevance to me when we are up against such evil organisations. Should we opt out of activities which our enemies are perfectly willing to use? I am
aware of the arguments that if one uses the barbaric methods of such
people that one then forfeits the moral high ground, but retaining the
high ground is no use if you lose the war.
So I now hold the view that there are circumstances under which torture
can be justified and blanket statements such as “Torture is Wrong” are
themselves wrong. I believe that it is justified when lives are at risk
or it can be shown to be for the greater good. There are times when we
simply have to trust those who are in charge of protecting us, and trust them
to do what is appropriate at the time.
Ideally the invention of a so-called “truth drug” would solve the
problem – or would it? Would it be torture to give a captive such a drug
against his wishes?
Such a question in itself shows that there is no clear definition of torture; I
read today that British troops have been told that when interrogating
suspects they must not shout or bang the table! To me this is total
madness! The way we are going, we may be morally correct, but the enemy
is going to win.