On principle everyone is against it, it is immoral, illegal and inhumane.
And here comes the dilemma. When there is a but. The but here is: are there circumstances where torture should be used? Is there ever a situation where there is moral justification for the use of torture? Are there certain people on whom torture would be justified?
In Judaism : An eye for an eye principle gives religious sanction if not for torture per se, but for revenge.
In Islam it is more specific with certain conditions and specific rules, revenge from those who committed a wrong.
The problem is in Christianity where, love thine enemy, bless them that curse you and turn the other cheek are the basics. These are totally against the basic nature of human beings, where anger and a need for revenge are paramount. And it is from this premise that the moral dilemma arises.
We are currently, in Egypt, under attack by local terrorists, backed by an international power. These have absolutely no scruples whatsoever in their dealings with the people, the police and the army. The most atrocious acts of murder, torture, body mutilation, kidnapping, blackmail, bombing and every kind of betrayal one human being can perpetrate against another. How do you deal with this? Would you use torture on those captured to elicit information about the rest of the gang, or potential terrorist attacks? Wouldn’t there be a moral high ground that would justify such use of torture with the aim of saving innocent lives? Is this justified?
I have been always been for the rule of law, but on delving deeper into myself have discovered that this is a cop-out, a way to hide behind an apparently moral facade so as not to face the problem squarely. Laws are man-made so can be tailored to suite the general mood that prevails in certain societies. I do not know if such laws have ever taken into consideration a moral principle, pure and simple. The irony is that quite often there is a discrepancy between our human concept of justice, and the moral thing to do. And hence the moral dilemma.
I am no philosopher, have never studied philosophy, have never studied religions either. What I think is the end result of the life I have lived, an ordinary, average life, which has brought me to this dilemma, due to the circumstances though which my beloved country is going. I have no position of authority where my opinion, one way or another, would influence anything or anyone. I just have a problem which might be one that others, in my same circumstances have.
I think this boils down to a very personal decision. But you must have the imagination to see all the possible situations which you could be put into that might induce you to use torture on another human being to save a loved one, or another innocent human being. Again I think that unless you are under such pressure, and only then, can you find out what you are capable of doing. Will your ingrained principles hold then? Or will what you would call pragmatism, and the need of the moment prevail? And let the future guilt take care of itself? Or will you convince yourself that you have no choice? All this would depend on the circumstances of the moment, and only then, and after you make the decision on the spot, will you be able to find out what that was.
On the other side of the argument, those who advocate the use of torture have some very strong and apparently irrefutable reasons on their side. They argue that first torture could be used as a deterrent either to those tortured – if they survive – or to those who get to hear about it, or worse still, see it. The fear of pain could sometimes be just as effective, and in some cases even more so.
Another argument used is that sometimes with fanatics, those who wholly believe in what they are doing, there is no reasoning with them, and if they possess essential information that could be time sensitive, then one method would be torture. When I talk about torture, it does not necessarily mean just physical pain. There are numerous methods of psychological and mental torture that could be just as effective. Sometimes, though, torture does not work, and it is these cases, and the ones that would simply say anything, even made up information, just to stop the pain, these cases which are a very strong argument about the futility of the use of torture.
I have not resolved my moral dilemma, and hope to God am never placed in a position where I would have to decide. God give guidance and help to those who are in such a position, and give them the ability to accept, and forgive themselves.
14 February 2014