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Should the U.S. ever employ torture?
Brian Roizen

The U.S. should employ torture depending on the circumstances. Walzer calls this the utilitarianism of extremity, which “concedes that in certain very special cases, though never as a matter of course even in just wars, the only restraints upon military action are those of usefulness and proportionality” (Walzer 231). Torture after all, has many different meanings. But the meaning assumed in this paper is that of a violation of human rights in order to gain vital information.

A very current example of when the United States could have used torture is in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui. Moussaoui knew about the terrorist plot of September 11, 2001, yet he did not say anything to the authorities. In hindsight, few would say that torture should not have been used on this man. At the time, however, no Americans suspected the great catastrophe soon to befall America. Watzer proposes to “do justice unless the heavens are (really) about to fall” (Walzer 231). The World Trade Center Towers can easily be seen as symbols of the heavens about to fall. Walzer argues that war convention could be “overridden, but only in the face of an imminent catastrophe” (Walzer 232). The events of September 11 are clearly catastrophes.

The special circumstances that require the United States to use torture really should only happen when catastrophes are imminent. Thus, the United States really should act as the Duke of Sung, until the very last minute. 


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