James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

You Can Not Redraw the Line

Greg sends this story of a couple of Australian law profs who've written an article on when torture, even of innocent people, is "acceptable."

Yes, there is indeed the question of "but what if thousands of lives are at stake?" But there's also the question of theft: "But what if you have to steal food to feed your family?" The distinction can not and must not ever be enshrined in law, for that would make theft legal. The "extenuating circumstances" would become "evidence" for innocence, rather than as part of a plea for some degree of leniency. The line must be firm; one may feel it "necesary" to cross it, but that is what would be done: crossing the line, not redrawing it.

The international ban on torture is but an extension of the "rights of the accused." You are presumed innocent - i.e., not deserving of punishment - unless proven otherwise. A moral argument to permit torture is the same as a moral argument for throwing people in prison without trial. Which, I suppose, is the entire point. If Guantanamo Bay is justified, torture is, too. If you accept the one for the purpose of our "security," you will have to accept the other.

The thief stealing in order to feed his family "as a last resort" must have already been incompetent and/or irresponsible to be in that position. Likewise, a government that feels the need to torture in order to "save lives" has already placed the country in great danger because of its own incompetence, irresponsibility, and counter-productive policies. People who "need" to torture are, by definition, unfit to rule.

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