Torture: Explaining Opposing Opinions

Torture: Explaining Opposing Opinions

Writers can have similar or divergence views on a particular subject. Indeed, this is true on the controversial subject of torture. Several issues arise in day-to-day lives, which touch individuals in different perspectives. Accordingly, people will have the same attitude or they might react differently on a given aspect. This is because people think differently or have different motivating factors on any given subject. The purpose of this essay is to explore this proposition as far as the subject of torture is concerned. In doing so, the paper will focus on two authors. Points of agreements as well as opposing ones will be highlighted. However, a greater emphasis will be placed on finding a common ground on their arguments.

Torture has been prevalent since the earliest civilizations among the Romans and the Greeks. People in these cultures practiced torture to get crucial information from criminals (Lang and Beattie 42). The Romans had a firm conviction that witnesses could not give the truth on their own volition. Therefore, some form of pain was necessary to extract the required information or get the whole truth. On the other hand, the Catholic Church as well as Protestants used torture on nonbelievers and the heretics (Lang and Beattie 41). During the Second World War, Hitler was notorious in the use of torture in the concentration camps (Dickerson 173). In the recent past, American has been on the limelight because of the use of torture in getting information from suspects. Such actions are prohibited under the international law. In addition, the American Constitution, under the Eighth Amendment, prohibits any form of torture. By definition, torture is an act of inflicting pain for the purposes of killing, intimidating or gathering of information from a person (Boczek 198). Indeed, since the history of torture is long and multifaceted, various deliberations have emerged with some people arguing that it is an effective way of obtaining the necessary information. However, others see it as inhuman and a threat to the Constitutional rights of people. The main issues by those who have written on the subject revolve around ethical considerations as well as morality of the practice.

Professor Mirko, a law professor at Deakin Law School in Melbourne, Australia, provides an interesting argument on the use of torture in his essay “A Case for Torture.” Bagaric posits that those who wholly oppose torture are not honest, and to some extent are under illusion (Bagaric par 5). He concludes as invalid arguments that torture cannot save lives. He makes a strong case that torture is effective in saving innocent lives. Accordingly, Bagaric says that torture should be used in limited cases only such as in safeguarding the lives of innocent people (Bagaric par 4). The author observes that torture is justified in cases where the life of an innocent person is in danger. However, he says that it is immoral to use torture as a means of gathering information from a suspect. Bagaric believes people have rights, which must be protected, and that those rights are not absolute. Accordingly, rights must always yield to consequences, which is the criterion on which the soundness of a decision is gauged (Bagaric par 6). It is the authors’ conviction that people should take responsibility for their actions. In essence, Bagaric is opposed to the use of torture for any other purpose, except to safeguard innocent lives.

On the other hand, Major General Kermit D. Johnson essay starts on a rather interesting relationship he sees between torture and religion (Johnson par 1). The religious connection he makes is not surprising given that he is a chaplain. He questions the religious and moral obligation of the people when they fail to question the methods used to extract information from suspects (Johnson par 3). Johnson sees torture as counterproductive and that religious tenets espoused by Americans should not be sacrificed in the altar or a “higher religion” or hypocrisy (Johnson par 3). The bigotry in dealing with suspects in areas like Iraq only return to haunt the American troops once they are in the hands of the enemy (Johnson par 4). In this case, the hunter becomes the hunted, and the Americans can never expect a better treatment even when they try to invoke the Geneva Convention (Johnson par 6). It is in this regard that Johnson advocates for the respect of treaties to guarantee fair treatment of suspects from both fronts. Johnsons’ view seems to carry a lot of weight because he believes it would give the American troops an unparalleled reception and acceptance on the oppressed people they are working hard to liberate (Johnson par 6). Indeed, Johnson sees torture as a commission of two war crimes. One crime is executed against the prisoner, while the other is a self-inflicted harm. In this regard, the author says that when one commits torture, his or her conscience becomes a victim of shame and mental anguish that can stay for a lifetime (Johnson par 8). This gives credence to the authors’ point that torture is harmful both to both parties and should be avoided.

Looking at the two positions, it is paramount to point out the specific areas of disagreement as well as commonality. Indeed, the two authors are looking at torture from different perspectives. Bagaric tries to argue that torture is important in given situations. He believes that torture is justifiable if it is the only way of saving the life of a person. Bagaric says that torture is justified if the choice is to inflict a small level of harm on a wrongdoer to save the life of somebody who is innocent. In addition, he posits that torture is justified and acceptable in scenarios of kidnapping where the rights of the aggressor can be violated to the benefit of others. However, this position does not agree with Johnsons’ who is both an adviser to the commandant and a chaplain. Johnson argues on a different line on his perception about torture. Johnson believes that society should stand up and take a position on the issue of torture in order to safeguard the sanctity of life and human values enshrined in treaties and the Constitution. Johnson argues that people should not allow torture as a means of getting crucial information from suspects. In this, he believes that people will safeguard the Geneva conventions and put the country in a stood standing in the international arena. The common ground among the two is that torture should not be used as a means of extracting information from suspects.

In summary, the two writers outline the moral and ethical approach to torture. Bagaric argues that torture is justifiable in given contexts only. He says it is only where the lives of others are at risk that torture should be used. This is a position that Johnson does not support in any way. Johnson argues that torture is immoral because of psychosocial effects it has on both parties. Johnson does not give a clue as to what should be done is a scenario envisioned by Bagaric. However, both agree that torture, when employed, as a means of getting information from suspects, is unwarranted and a violation of human rights. Overall, the subject seems complex given the opposing points raised by the authors. It is indeed clear from the two articles that the debate cannot be wished away because of the moral issues discussed. Largely, they seem to lean to the tenets championed by the American Constitution as well as the Geneva Connection.


Works Cited

Bagaric, Mirko.  A Case for Torture. 17 May. 2005. Web. 7 March. 2013.<>

Boczek, A. Boleslaw.  International Law: A Dictionary. New York: Scarecrow Press, 2005. Print.

Dickerson, James. Inside America’s Concentration Camps: Two Centuries of Internment and Torture. New York: Chicago Review Press, 2010. Print.

Johnson, D. Kermit.  No Comparison: A Chaplain’s View of Torture. 18 April. 2006. Web. 7 March 2013.<>

Lang, Anthony and Beattie, R. Amanda. War, Torture and Terrorism: Rethinking the Rules of International Security. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.


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