Armed Hostilities

Torture Debate in America’s War on Terror


Torture is a process by which severe mental or physical pain is intentionally inflicted on an individual. Torture has mainly been used as a way to extract information from crime suspects for example who are intent on withholding it. as individual could confess of having committed or involved in an inhuman act. It could also be carried out with the intention of punishing an individual who has committed a wrong act or is suspected of having committed such an act. Another reason why an individual is tortured is for purposes of intimidating him or her into revealing crucial information. Throughout history, torture has found use in the different states to fulfill various reasons.

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The United States has used torture on terrorists in different situations for various reasons. There has been a great debate regarding torture in the United States. On this case, there is the group of Americans who regard torture as a vital tool of investigation. On the other hand, there are the torture opponents who argue that the act is a gross abuse to an individual’s human rights. Each of these two groups has its reasons for supporting or opposing torture. The use of torture for purposes of interrogating terrorists was largely supported in the United States especially after bombing of the September 11 bombing of the twin towers in New York. The combination of torture and interrogation is meant to assist in the extraction of important information from a suspect. It is used to punish an individual for committing an unlawful act. If for example the authorities are aware of a bombing plot and are suspecting a certain individual, arresting the torturing such an individual could help reveal important details regarding such a bombing plot. As a result, there is the likelihood that this heinous act may be arrested before it occurs and the loss of the lives of innocent citizens and property worth millions of shillings saved.

Torture helps in reducing acts of terrorism and the formation of certain illegal groups like the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Torture is one of the methods that the United States government has used in its quest to win war on terrorism. This has led to a reduction in the number of terrorist attacks all over the world. Many terrorists went into hiding after fearing that they could be faced with torture. Even as torture has proved quite valuable in revealing crucial information regarding planned or already committed acts of crime, nonetheless, the severity of the interrogation and torture session has been questioned.

The Torture Debate

The issue of torture has elicited a heated debate from its opponents and proponents alike. Government leaders led by the former president of the United States George W. Bush publicly declared war against terrorism and those who fund it. The fact that President Bush was committed to fight against terrorism is not in doubt. During his first term in office, he managed to bring to book diehard self-proclaimed terrorists. However, church leaders and social groups have been against torture saying that it is illegal and inhuman. They criticize the activities that the state has carried out on some communities saying that it is against the law. The argument behind this is that in most cases, the desired result is not achieved. A victim could give wrong information so that the torture comes to an end. In fact, there is an argument that victims give the information that interrogators want to hear. On the other hand, the debate has supporters who argue that the need for information that could help save lives outweighs the ethical arguments presented by those who oppose torture. They argue that an individual that has some information that can be used to prevent tragedy and is not willing to release it peacefully should be tortured regardless of whether he or she was involved in the plans. The fact that such a person has the information makes her guilty if he or she does not release the information. They also argue that it is fair for one person to lose his or her life and help save the lives of many innocent individuals. Torturing individuals may also protect future attacks since it instills fear in individuals who could be planning future attacks. Also, those who have been tortured might avoid future plans if they are tortured for having participated in terrorism acts. Torture is illegal in many countries but leaders in different countries have always used it in extreme cases. Torture has been used to obtain relevant information in some cases. Since the attack on the al Qaeda after the tickling bomb scenario, there have not been other attacks in the United States meaning that the torture that was carried out played a major role.

Terrorism, Torture, and Different Communities

Most terrorist attacks in the United States are carried out by Islamic communities as a result of conflicts between Islamic nations and the United States. Terrorists are always determined to carry out their plans and cause as much destruction as possible. Most of the conflicts that cause terrorist attacks originate from the religious and cultural identities of the conflicting countries. They believe that if they die in the process of doing the right thing, they definitely go to heaven. A terrorist attack against a country that is against their practices regardless of the harm it has to innocent citizens is right. The government of America has been against the production of destructive weapons by some communities. This has led to crashes between the government and such communities. The communities have attacked the United States and its allies to reduce power that the country has over the world. Instead of getting engaged in a war that affects the innocent, it is logical to punish those that are directly involved in terrorist attacks. Terrorists have been arrested before and interrogated with no important information obtained. Other terrorist attacks have been planned and executed. This has resulted to torture so that individuals can release important information.

The political system in many countries today rests on compromise. The actions of the terrorists endanger the lives of the individuals in the United States and also the future of the country. Carrying out mass destruction to property is inhuman and leads to more expenses that can be avoided if the terrorist attacks were stopped. Carrying out safe politics may lead to destruction of the state. An enemy is an enemy and can do anything to eliminate the enemy. Terrorists are not friends to the government of the United States and if allowed, they can bring down the entire state. To protect the interests of the country, such terrorists should be dealt with severely.

Necessity of Torture

The law of necessity is efficient in some instances. Moderate physical pressure is necessary because there are chances that it will lead to acquisition of some information. Government officials may determine those instances that torture is necessary so that a desired end is reached. The legal, political, and foreign policy may be excessive in most of these cases. If the authorities are sure that a terrorist has planted a bomb that likely to kill dozens of innocent civilians, they can torture the terrorist in search for the location of the bomb. The two conditions that are available for interrogational torture are: the authorities are aware that the individual has the information that can be used to save lives and the provision of the information will be efficient in saving the lives. This is especially in a case where the bomb has not exploded. Some specific torture techniques can be redefined so that the practices are within some limits. Waterboarding is one of these alternative interrogation procedures.

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President Bush and Torture

After the September 14 2001 attack, the president of the United States came up with a military order that stipulated the way that non-citizens to the United States should be dealt with in the war against terrorism. His reason for the policy was that terrorists who had previously attacked possessed not only the capability but also the intention to carry out attacks against the country. If such acts were not prevented, they were likely to cause more destruction to the citizens and property. The normal operations had failed to protect terrorist attacks and a better means was necessary. The government of the United States has the capacity to protect its citizens and allies to protect future attacks by terrorists. It is important to note that the September 14, 2001 attack came a few years after the attack on the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The government decided to use its armed forces to identify terrorists and other individuals who support their activities. The plan was to disrupt the activities of the terrorists and eliminate their ability to perform future attacks. The ability of the supporters to give support was also targeted. The treatment that many followers of al Qaeda received was criticized and the government of bush was also criticized but it is important to note that since then, there has not been a single terrorist attack in the United States. This can only be attributed to the plans by the president and the torture that the terrorists received. Nobody knows the loss we could have suffered if the step was not taken. In general, the plan by the president played a major role in preventing other attacks.

Why Torture

Terrorist attacks pose great danger to the future of United States and it is therefore important for the government to come up with a way of dealing with terrorists. They pose many dangers not only to the individuals in a country but also to the economy. Torture has proved to play an important role in reducing cases of terrorism. Previous terrorist attacks have killed many innocent individuals. Other than the lives lost, terrorists attack resources such as buildings where many individuals operate. Such buildings are in most cases precious and a lot of resources are used in their construction. Repair to such building is expensive. Preventing terrorist attacks helps prevent such losses. Torture can be used to prevent future tragedy. As stated earlier, if the authorities are aware of the existence of a planned bomb attack and they have a suspect, the suspect can be tortured so as to release the information that will help save lives. The courts in the United States can give permission on certain types of torture that will force the individual to release the information. Use of needle under the nails is fair for an individual who has such immoral plans.

Terrorist attacks pose danger to the lives of many individuals. To protect such lives, any form of torture can be inflicted to an individual who is known to possess information that can help save them6. As a matter of fact, it is unethical to sit down and watch as many citizens are in the risk of losing their lives when there is a chance of saving these lives. An individual could be innocent but have some information that can save lives. It is better for one person to die and many lives of innocent people be saved. If the authorities are aware of an innocent individual that has useful information, they would eventually go for information from the individual. If the individual is not ready to release the information through interrogation, the only method that can be effective is torture. It is true that such an individual is innocent and has not been involved in creating the threat but the fact that they have the information that can be used to save lives subjects them to torture. Infliction of pain may force the individual to release the information and get out of the pain. If the individual reveals the information at last, many lives are saved.

Certain types of punishment are accepted if it can help reduce terrorism attacks. Deprivation of sleep, psychological intimidation, removal of comfort, and others can be used to acquire vital information. Such methods have been used before and important information has been obtained. Suspects have been put in dingy cells with some smelling sacks over their heads and they are shaken violently so that he or she releases terrorism planned attacks. The method could seem unpleasant but those countries that have applied it have helped prevent terrorist attacks. More incentive psychological methods can be used in more serious cases. Some of these techniques can extend to the level of torture if need be. Many individuals including those who have been against torture said that it was necessary during the tickling bomb scenario. If this be the case, there should be no exceptions to an individual who has plans to devour resources attached to the United States. Exposed to the normal interrogations, terrorists are never willing to release information and this leaves torture as the last solution is such cases. However, if a terrorist is ready to release some information regarding future plans and sponsors of terrorist attacks with the normal interrogation, no one can torture him or her. At the end of the day, the most important aspect is the release of information.

Torture as a Deterrent to crime

Torture has been used as an instrument to deter crime. When the government of the United States started its war on terror, many suspects were tortured. This instills fear in the minds of these victims and others who could have been planning similar events. In fact, many individuals feared being tortured and they went hiding. Since then, there has been no terrorist attack in the United States. If torture was legalized, terrorist attacks would come to an end because law enforcement would even more efficient. Arresting a member of terrorist groups such as the Taliban or the al Qaeda and torturing him would instill some fear in the minds of the followers. The information that the individual can release as a result of torture would be used in bringing the entire group down. Such groups have an evil influence and the harm that they cause to innocent individuals in the society is much greater compared to torture on them. If followers of a certain group are arrested and tortured severely, other people with plans to join such a group will fear and avoid joining for fear of torture.

Torture prevents the formation of dangerous groups such as the Taliban and the al Qaeda. When leaders and followers of terrorist groups are arrested and tortured, individual s with plans to form similar groups retreat for fear of the similar torture. Since some followers of the al Qaeda were arrested and tortured, no other terrorist groups have emerged. If the followers were only arrested and never tortured, others would be willing to form such groups conduct more attacks.

Torture helps in Obtaining True Information

If an effective program is designed and implemented well, individuals with knowledge of terrorist plans can be tortured to release the information. There are certain ways that can be used so that torture interrogations lead the truth. Key social institutions are involved so that the intended input is applied and the intended output is obtained.

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Involvement of Medical Professionals

Torture is an important practice in obtaining true information. There is a particular case where three had planted a bomb in a city. There were a few minutes left for the bomb to explode. The terrorists resisted interrogation and remained silent whenever they were questioned on the location of the bomb. The interrogator took out a pistol and shot one of the terrorists dead. The other two released the information immediately and said that the bomb had been planted in a crowded railway station. It was set to explode during the evening rush hour so that it could kill many people. This information led to the disposal of the bomb and many lives were eventually saved. In such scenarios, terrorists release information on their plans so that they are not killed or do not experience extreme pain. The feelings of these individuals can compel them to release true information and meet the demands of the torturer. This mostly applies to innocent individuals who know that the release of the information will immediately relieve them the pain. This has been applied on slaves and has worked successfully. This is because there are no cases that can be filed against them in the future. The intention of torture in this case is to cause some excruciating intense, immense, and intense pain but with minimum lethality.

For the method to work effectively, it is important to have a medical assistant in the torture site. This is to help in brainwashing the minds of the victim. Torturing may hinder the ability of an individual to withhold or release information. This is because torture affects the range at which the body of an individual functions. The medical assistant will help restore the normal circumstance under which the mind functions effectively. If the terrorist loses consciousness before revealing his terrorist plans, the interrogation fails. The participation of medical personnel has been widely used in state-sponsored torture interrogation.

Punishment to Terrorists

Torture has been widely used as a form of punishment in different places. This helps condemn terrorist attacks. A terrorist who causes death of many innocent people deserves severe punishment. Torture is one of these forms of punishment that can instill pain in a terrorist and warm him or her from performing similar acts if released. Some punishments such as life imprisonment may not teach terrorist any lessons. The individual needs to be exposed to real pain that cannot be experienced under normal circumstances.

Restoration of Peace

Torture helps in restoration of peace in a society. if an individual has some information that regards a planted bomb and interrogations do not reveal any idea, individuals will always be worried of what might happen next. The torture of such an individual may help release the information and this would help in destruction of the bomb before it explodes and eventually restoration of peace. Also, if a terrorist attack takes place and the interrogations that follow do not give any information concerning the attacks or any future attacks, the individuals in the society will always be worried of future attacks. Torture has been used before to help obtain important information. This has helped reduce the possibility of future attacks. It also helps in improving security levels that can detect and help prevent future attacks. This helps restore some peace of mind when individuals are aware the government has done all that is possible to protect them from future attacks.


Infliction of severe mental or physical pain is intentionally on an individual has played a major role in the United States. This torture against terrorists has helped deal with terrorists in a way that protects the interests of the United States. There has been a great debate on the issue of torture where some opponents argue that it is illegal and unethical to torture an individual regardless of his or her actions. Supporters of torture cite incidents when torture has been used in obtaining very important information. Religious and cultural beliefs of different communities have been one cause of conflicts that led to terrorist attack. The Islamic religion has mostly been against the United States especially due to the issue of dangerous firearms that they produce. There are certain incidents when torture is necessary. For example, if the authorities are aware of a bomb that is set but have no knowledge of the location, they could torture individuals who are known to posses such information. This is especially in a case where the individual is not willing to release the information under peaceful interrogation. If they are sure that individual could provide the information that can be used to save lives, it is worth torturing him or her for the other lives. Torture helps save lives of many innocent individuals if the knowledge of the location of a bomb is located in advance. There are certain levels of pressure such as deprivation of sleep, psychological intimidation, removal of comfort and others that can be used on terrorists. Torture has been used before and has helped in obtaining the right information. It has been used as a deterrent where individuals who have been tortured and others who could be planning future attacks are worried of future torture. Medical professionals can be used to determine the level of torture that an individual can endure. Torture has also been used as a punishment to the terrorists.


Minchin, Liz. Make torture legal, say two academics, The Age, 2005.

Samuel, Huntington. P. The Clash of Civilizations. 1993. Web.

Christopher Kutz, “Necessity, Torture and Existential Politics” (2006). bepress Legal Series. Working Paper 959. Web.

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Paola Gaeta, May Necessity be Available as a Defense for Torture in the Interrogation of Suspected Terrorists. Journal of International Criminal Justice 2004 2(3):785-794

The White house. Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War against Terrorism. 2001. Web.

Slackman, Michael (2004), “What’s Wrong With Torturing a Qaeda Higher-Up?”, New York Times, Web.

Hensherg, Philip. Hollywood is helping us learn to love torture, The Independent, 2007, Web.

Dershowitz, Alan. M. Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, responding to the Challenge. 2004

David Luban: “Terrorism, Torture, and the Ticking Time Bomb” (p. 35-83)in The Torture Debate in America, ed. Karen Greenberg

Hinkle, Lawrence. E. The physiological state of the interrogation subject as it affects brain function. In A.D. Biderman & H. Zimmer (Eds.), The manipulation of human behavior, 1961 (pp. 19-49). New York: Wiley. P. 19.

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