No torture please, we’re Australian

There is little more I can add to the current torture debate. My personal view is clear. Torture cannot be justified and those supporting opening the door just a little are playing with fire. Surely history teaches us that figures in authority cannot be trusted on matters of such grave importance? Abu Ghraib stands as a living testament to out of control power. Giving such power to a government or unregulated, secretive body to harm people is not something a democracy should be granting. Besides, because many countries currently practice torture (so-called democracies and despots alike) is hardly reason to condone placing electrodes on a person’s genitals. Where would it stop? To prevent a terrorist act? A murder? Bank heist?

The best explanation of “why not” is Tim Dunlop at Road to Surfdom.

Let’s not forget that we’ve had this debate before. Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz argued in 2003 that Western democracies “should never under any circumstances allow low-level people to administer torture. If torture is going to be administered as a last resort in the ticking-bomb case, to save enormous numbers of lives, it ought to be done openly, with accountability, with approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice.”

Dershowitz may argue that the process would not lead down a slippery slope, but this is a man who believes Israel to be a prime example of a country upholding human rights.

As Australians, we should listen to the sane voice of Richard Slade of Quakers Hill, letter writer in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

“Clarke and Bagaric need to study history before they say any more about the reasons torture should be allowed. Our species has a long and terrible history of using torture for “noble reasons”. History is full of stories of victims who will say anything they think the torturers want to hear in the hope that the pain will stop. Of course, the fanatic is the one person least likely to yield to torture, so what good things will torture achieve? And how does the torturer choose appropriate victims with certainty?”

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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