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Henry, Lucy, and Mark engage in a lively debate

Dsicuss about the Ticking Time Bomb Scenario And Torture.

Henry, a 28 years old teacher of English Literature at a college

Lucy, Henry’s sister, 26 years old

Mark, Henry’s friend, 29 years old

All three are in the sitting room of Henry. Henry is reading the novel “Crime and Punishment” of Fyodor Dostoyevsky while Mark is reading the newspaper. Lucy is reading the “Cosmopolitan” magazine. Henry closes the book and is brooding over something.

Henry (talking to Mark): Which one do you think is more gruesome spiritual punishment or physical punishment?

Mark: Me? Well I know nothing about the spiritual punishment but I would certainly say that physical punishment is truly painful. You know what last week I accidently cut my finger and it is still paining. Can you suggest me someone good?

Henry: I am being serious here….

Mark: Do I sound like my joking here?

Henry: Leave it. It is no good talking to you. Go back to reading your sports news.

Mark: I am sorry. Tell me. What is it?

Henry: I am reading this particular text by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and this particular novel the protagonist Rodion Raskolnikov undergoes a severe spiritual punishment o account of his act of murdering an old lady[1]. So I was thinking which one is worse-physical or emotional?

Mark: Well as you know I am not much of a spiritual person so I would say it is physical punishment.

Lucy (looking up from her magazine): I do not agree with you Mr. Atheist.

Henry: Well, I also agree with Mark on the score that physical punishment is indeed more painful than spiritual punishment.

Lucy: Well I do not agree with you on this particular brother.

Mark: You have no idea what physical punishment and torture can do to you.

Lucy: And you have no idea what spiritual punishment can do to you.

Henry: Well I have a fair bit of idea what physical punishment can do to you. Yesterday I came across a newspaper article which was talking about the “ticking time bomb scenario”. Do you guys know what actually is a “ticking time bomb” scenario?

Lucy: No

Mark: Please enlighten us about this particular scenario.

Henry (with a superior air): Well “ticking time bomb” scenario is the scenario wherein the various nations of the world torture a terrorist of other kind of suspects who are likely to cause a significant damage to the society in a bid to get information from them to avert the disaster[2].

The merits of physical and spiritual punishment are discussed

Mark: Sounds quiet logical to me.

Lucy: But is that not illegal.

Henry: Yes that is. But the information that can be extracted from them can save the lives of millions of people.


Mark: Yes at times you “need to cut a finger to save the hand”[3].

Henry: Yes and even Immanuel Kant said the same thing when he said that “the end justifies the means”. The rightness or the wrongness of a particular action depends on the end result and the means which is used to achieve the end.

Lucy: Yes true. But is that not ethically incorrect. I mean that even the people who are detained in the cells possesses some basic fundamental rights and don’t you think that it is a gross violation of the fundamental as well as the basic rights of the individuals concerned in the process.

Henry: Then what about the “right to live” and the other fundamental rights of the people who die every year because of the mass destruction and the other terrorist activities caused by these terrorists and other malevolent forces in the society[4].

Lucy: Well I guess I must agree with you to disagree with you.

Henry: Disagree? Even when you see this particular phenomenon under the lens of the precepts of the philosophies of Unitarianism it becomes justified[5]. As per the precepts of the philosophies of Unitarianism a particular action which causes good or utility to the greatest number of people is totally justified and must be sought for[6].

Lucy: Why do you always try to interpret everything on the basis of the concepts which you teach to your students in the college?

Henry: I am not trying to interpret anything Lucy. On the contrary I am just stating the facts and what do you thing that the nation or the government or the police authorities should do when they find that some people are trying to destroy the peace and the harmony of the nation? Just sit back and request the culprits involved in the process to provide them with the necessary information so that they can avert the danger? I think that it is much more preferable to take the aid of torture to extract the required from them which would save the lives of thousands of people[7].

Lucy: I know what you are trying to say is totally correct but what about the danger or the threat which entails with the process?

The use of torture to extract information is debated

Henry: What danger? What threat?


Lucy: The danger of the misuse of the power which the law and the government is putting in the hands of the police authorities by granting them the permission to inflict torture on the people to extract information from them[8].

Mark: I remember a few days back I was watching the movie “In the name of the Father” which had Daniel Day Lewis in the lead role and it portrayed the brutal torture as well as the punishment which was inflicted on the common innocent people during the time of the terrorist blasts in London[9].

Henry: Mark even I had seen the movie. But that is not the point. Tell me don’t you think that it is better to cause pain and torture to a handful of people in order to save the lives of thousands of other innocent people[10].

Mark (sarcastically): Well let us just say that even if I agree with you then to what extent are these torture sessions allowed to go? Till the culprit gives out the desired information or till he or she is dead?

Henry: Why are you being so sarcastic?

Mark: I am not I just want to know about this “ticking time bomb” scenario of yours and to be very frank I do not quite like the idea very much.

Henry: I totally agree with you that the idea might seem a bit crude to a few people but it is a necessary one. In fact the majority of the nations of the world have already adopted this particular policy. However, there are other countries of the world like the United States of America which is yet to decide whether they should allow this particular process in their nation or not[11].

Mark: Well recently I was reading an article and in that the particular said “Authorizing torture is bad and dangerous idea that can easily be made to sound plausible. There is subtle fallacy embedded in the traditional 'ticking bomb' argument for torture to save lives”[12]. Now how do you feel about that?

Lucy: Well what an irony! I thought that Henry was the one who was the literature professor out here!

Henry: Well Mark there you are getting me wrong. I am totally against the concept of violence and torture for that matter but there are some scenarios where you don’t have a choice and need to do the things which are right even if your ethics does not allow them[13]. And Lucy you don’t have to use sarcasm all the time.

The dangers of authorizing torture are explored

Lucy: I was not trying to be sarcastic.

Henry: Why don’t you go back to your Cosmopolitan?

Lucy: I think that I will because I don’t think that I agree with you.

Henry: Well you don’t necessarily have to agree with me because this is a fact.

Mark: Even I don’t totally agree with you.

Henry: Then what are you trying to suggest? We should leave the people to do just because we are unwilling to use the mechanism of torture to extract information from the terrorists?


Mark: I am not against the concept of extracting information from the terrorists which could save the lives of millions of innocent people on a yearly basis. I am just saying that I am against the concept of the use of violence for the extraction of the information from the concerned people.

Henry: Even I am not supporting the use of violence but you need to take this one as special case. Do you know that the concept was first articulated in the novel “Les Centurions” in the 1960s by Jean Lartéguy in the particular context of the Algerian War. Even Alan Dershowitz, a defense attorney of the American nation states that “it would be better if there were a regulated procedure through which an interrogator could request a "torture warrant" and that requiring a warrant would establish a paper trail of accountability”[14]. Furthermore, he goes on to say that “Torturers, and those who authorize torture, could be held to account for excesses”[15]. Therefore, you see that we are not asking for the random use of violence but the use of violence on the terrorist and other anti-social elements of the society in a legalized manner.

Mark: Well violence is violence no matter in which context it is being used. See the thing is that if you allow these people to use violence and torture in the present times then who knows that a time might come when these same state and police authorities might start using the same elements of violence and torture on the common civilians[16].

Lucy: I am with you on this particular score Mark. Well does anyone wants to have coffee I am going to get some for me…

Henry: No thank you.

Mark: I think that I will pass. But thank you anyways.

Lucy: Okay.

(Lucy leaves the room)

Henry: I totally understand you concern but you see that the state authorities need to provide a certain amount of evidence that the person whom they are about to use the violence as well as torture are dangerous to the society and in addition to that they also need to get torture warrants from the higher authorities to inflict torture. In addition to that, the only restrained amount of torture is inflicted on the suspects and that depends on the amount of danger or the kind of danger which the suspect poses to the society or the nation.

The group discusses the potential abuse of torture by government authorities

Mark: But what about the ethical factor.

Henry: Mark, tell me what about the ethical factor of the people who die every year due to the criminal activities of these people.

Mark: I recall a particular article of Bruce Anderson published in the “The Independent” in the year 2010 where he stated about this particular argument that “It came, in the form of a devilish intellectual challenge. Let's take your hypothesis a bit further. We have captured a terrorist, but he is a hardened character. We cannot be certain that he will crack in time. We have also captured his wife and children…… Torture the wife and children”.

Henry: There you are getting me wrong again. I am not for the torture or the violence committed on the innocent people. I am just for the support of the right amount of torture as well as violence which is necessary to crack down the suspected criminals. I do not support the concept of torturing the wives or the children of the suspected persons.

Mark: You see that this is what I am concerned about. Once you give them an inch of space they want to get the entire plot.

Henry: Mark, it is nothing like that. Even there are some people in the state authorities who are in the support of a limited amount of violence and torture on the suspects. Thus, in the opinion of Joe Navarro, an FBI agent said to the “The New Yorker”, “Only a psychopath can torture and be unaffected. You don’t want people like that in your organization. They are untrustworthy, and tend to have grotesque other problems”.

Mark: See this is what I am telling you. Power can change the people in a significant manner. Abraham Lincoln himself said “If you want to see the true character of a man give him power”. Therefore, if the state authorities are given unreasonable amount of power they will start misusing it in a significant manner. And this particular factor is my major concern[17].

Henry: I totally agree with you in this particular context. Thus, I also want the state authorities to have just the right amount of power so that they can get the desired results and do not misuse the power which have been provided to them. Therefore, with this particular view in mind the various state authorities have introduced some regulatory measures regarding the use of violence and torture for the extraction of the information necessary to avert the danger which their activities pose to the society. A typical example of this is the procurement of the “torture warrants” before the infliction of the torture or violence or the persons concerned[18].

Alan Dershowitz's suggestion for a regulated procedure for torture is mentioned

Mark: Well I will support you in this particular aspect. It is true that torture is necessary for getting the desired kind of information from the various suspects however the violence needs to inflicted in a restrained manner.

Henry: See now you are getting my point. This was what I was trying to tell you from the beginning.

Mark: Well do you want to grab a quick bite before you go the college?

Henry: I don’t mind.

Mark: Where shall we go?

Henry: How about McDonald’s? It is just down the lane.

Mark: Okay.

Both of them leave the room and head towards the McDonald’s outlet.

References

Allhoff, Fritz. Terrorism, ticking time-bombs, and torture: A philosophical analysis. University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Barnes, Katherine. "Europe's ticking time bomb." Nature 473, no. 7346 (2011): 140.

Dershowitz, Alan M."Tortured Reasoning," in Sanford Levinson (ed.), Torture: A Collection, Oxford University Press (2004) pp. 257-280.

Dershowitz, Alan. "Tortured reasoning." Torture: A collection257 (2004): 257-80.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and punishment. Penguin UK, 2014.

Hosseini, Khaled. And the mountains echoed. A&C Black, 2013.

Ighobor, Kingsley. "Africa’s youth: ticking time bomb or an opportunity?." Africa Renewal 27, no. 1 (2013): 10-12.

Luban, David. "Liberalism, torture, and the ticking bomb." In Intervention, Terrorism, and Torture, pp. 249-262. Springer, Dordrecht, 2007.

Luban, David. "Unthinking the Ticking Bomb," in Charles R. Beitz and Robert E. Goodin (eds.), Global Basic Rights, Oxford University Press, (2009) pp. 181-206.

Luban, David. Torture, power, and law. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Shue, Henry. Fighting hurt: rule and exception in torture and war. Oxford University Press, 2016.

Webber, J. "Ticking time bomb." British dental journal 214, no. 6 (2013): 274

[1] Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and punishment. Penguin UK, 2014.

[2] Luban, David. "Unthinking the Ticking Bomb," in Charles R. Beitz and Robert E. Goodin (eds.), Global Basic Rights, Oxford University Press, (2009) pp. 181-206.

[3] Hosseini, Khaled. And the mountains echoed. A&C Black, 2013.

[4] Shue, Henry. Fighting hurt: rule and exception in torture and war. Oxford University Press, 2016

[5] Ighobor, Kingsley. "Africa’s youth: ticking time bomb or an opportunity?." Africa Renewal 27, no. 1 (2013): 10-12.

[6] Ighobor, Kingsley. "Africa’s youth: ticking time bomb or an opportunity?." Africa Renewal 27, no. 1 (2013): 10-12.

[7] Dershowitz, Alan M."Tortured Reasoning," in Sanford Levinson (ed.), Torture: A Collection, Oxford University Press (2004) pp. 257-280.

[8] Luban, David. "Liberalism, torture, and the ticking bomb." In Intervention, Terrorism, and Torture, pp. 249-262. Springer, Dordrecht, 2007

[9] Barnes, Katherine. "Europe's ticking time bomb." Nature 473, no. 7346 (2011): 140.

[10] Dershowitz, Alan. "Tortured reasoning." Torture: A collection257 (2004): 257-80.

[11] Luban, David. "Unthinking the Ticking Bomb," in Charles R. Beitz and Robert E. Goodin (eds.), Global Basic Rights, Oxford University Press, (2009) pp. 181-206.

[12] Shue, Henry. Fighting hurt: rule and exception in torture and war. Oxford University Press, 2016.

[13] Allhoff, Fritz. Terrorism, ticking time-bombs, and torture: A philosophical analysis. University of Chicago Press, 2012

[14] Dershowitz, Alan M."Tortured Reasoning," in Sanford Levinson (ed.), Torture: A Collection, Oxford University Press (2004) pp. 257-280.

[15] Dershowitz, Alan M."Tortured Reasoning," in Sanford Levinson (ed.), Torture: A Collection, Oxford University Press (2004) pp. 257-280.

[16] Shue, Henry. Fighting hurt: rule and exception in torture and war. Oxford University Press, 2016.

[17] Barnes, Katherine. "Europe's ticking time bomb." Nature 473, no. 7346 (2011): 140.

[18] Luban, David. "Unthinking the Ticking Bomb," in Charles R. Beitz and Robert E. Goodin (eds.), Global Basic Rights, Oxford University Press, (2009) pp. 181-206.

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