Michael Levin’s essay on torture starts by explaining how the society views torture, an outdated practice that should be forgotten finally. However, the author thinks it is time to use torture to help save many lives lost in cases involving terrorists. The law requires that the police arrest suspects, call their lawyers, take them to court, and then sentence them if guilty. However, if the police follow the law, many innocent lives will have been lost. Levin’s example is that of a terrorist who has planted a bomb on Manhattan Island and will explode any time. The police arrest the culprit, but he declines to tell where he has planted the bomb. Now, since torture is impermissible, the police and other law enforcement agencies have to follow the law by taking the suspect for a trial in the courts. The bomb blows off, and many people lose their lives. In such a scenario, which action is fair: torturing the terrorist to retrieve vital information or to follow the law? In this essay, Levin begs the audience to change their attitude towards the use of torture. In the above scenario, the police would have saved many lives by torturing the terrorist until he gives out information on the location of the bomb. I seek to scrutinize Levin’s essay in detail.
In this essay, the author tries to persuade his audience to rethink about the use of torture. Common knowledge dictates that torture is barbaric and impermissible. It has surpassed its time and should not happen in this century. However, the author tends to think otherwise. According to him, torture might come in handy during several other occasions. He uses facts to explain his point of view and in the end hope to win support. He does not support terrorists to be victimized at all times; he clearly says that there should be a distinction on how it should happen, “nonetheless, a line demarcating the legitimate use of torture can be drawn (Levin 3).” This means that torture applies only to those who are guilty, and should aim at saving lives.
The author’s original audience was the police. He appears to be addressing a whole department of police or an anti-terrorist group of police. In the essay, he says, “If you caught the terrorist, could you sleep nights knowing that millions died because you couldn’t bring yourself to apply the electrodes (Levin 1)?” Well, only law enforcement agencies have the mandate to capture or detain a terrorist. The police are also responsible for promoting the security of the people they serve. The author, in another paragraph states that, “What do we do? If we follow due process, wait for his lawyer…if the only way to save those lives is to subject the terrorist to the most excruciating possible pain (Levin 1).” Clearly, the author must have been explaining to a bunch of law enforcement agencies.
On the other hand, the essay could have been for more than one audience. Besides the law enforcement agencies, the author could have been speaking to a group of lawmakers. Probably, it was his only chance to explain how police can use torture to save lives. In the event that he succeeds to woe them to his side, they will alter the law so that torture becomes legal under outlined circumstances. He states that, “No Allied leader would have flinched at assassinating Hitler, had that been possible (Levin 2).” This statement denotes that, the speaker was, on behalf of the police, giving a speech to the Congress perhaps. He says on the first page, “In the same way, if the police can by torture, save…” He also mentions the Constitution in “Torturing the terrorist is unconstitutional (Levin 1).” It is also possible for the author to be speaking to a community. As a law enforcement officer, the author could have been holding a security meeting with the public to speak about torture being a moral practice in its entirety. Each day, many people risk the danger of terrorism, and the only way to avert that is to torture a terrorist so that he or she can disclose the whereabouts of a bomb.
Since this essay speaks about a crucial issue, the tone used herein is contemplative. The author asks his audience to study and think deeply about the use of torture. It is a technique that will help save many innocent lives, if put to genuine use. The author has done his research very well, thinking about the whole issue, considering torture as an excellent idea so long as it follows laid out regulations. He states that, “There are situations in which torture is not merely permissible but morally mandatory (Levin 1).” Then he seeks to convince the audience to change their mind in the last paragraph, “Some day soon a terrorist will threaten tens of thousands of lives, and torture will be the only way to save them (Levin 3).” Further, he concludes his speech by saying that, “We had better start thinking about this (Levin 3).” The statement adds to the contemplative tone. Notably, the author wants people to juggle between torturing a terrorist suspect for valuable information and living with guilt of a possible death of innocent lives. The information carried by such suspects could be vital in averting such atrocities. “Indeed, letting millions of innocents die in deference to one who flaunts his guilt is cowardice (Levin 1).”
The author has used various words in a repetitive manner to drive his point home. For example, the words terrorist, torture and death feature repetitively throughout the essay. Since the essay has to change the way the audience think, the author has used words that draw a lot of attention. Death is a weighty word and no one would want to die because of a single terrorist. The essay also starts by explaining how torture has become impermissible in the society. The author explains his point of view on how torture can be useful to the police. He gives examples of how terrorists can plan to kill many people at a go and the only way to avert such a tragedy is by squeezing valuable information out of them by use of torture. Towards the end of the essay, he asks the audience to think about the whole issue before taking a stand. In summary, the organization of the essay is excellent and passes the message across to its audience; I would not change anything because any alteration would probably spoil the flow.
In conclusion, the author in the essay puts forward a serious issue that affects the society on a daily basis. Terrorism affects many people both directly and indirectly. There are those who lose their lives, others get injured or maimed, the rest lose dear ones and end up bearing the cost of all these. Torture, despite being a barbaric act, can save such lives. It is a daring moral issue. Is it better not to torture a terrorist or suspect and follow the law and let people die? Alternatively, is it better torturing the individual and save the lives of the many dear ones? The audience has to ask themselves such questions and conclude on whether or not to legalize the use torture by the police.