December 20, 2014
The torture “debate” comes down to this: Most or many what to frame the debate around the question, “Do we have the right to torture?” and then answer emphatically, “Yes,” because among other things we have a right of self-defense. But another way to frame this debate would be around the question, “Is torture necessary?” Or, put differently, to ask, “Is there any way to avoid torturing?”
It seems to me the latter framework is better. Why? To put it briefly, because the question of our rights, what we have a right to do, reduces or displaces questions of justice to/with questions of self-interest. This is the logic of rights as we understand them.
For example, to say, “I have a right to say ‘Fuck you,’” is far different that saying “It is just for me to say ‘Fuck you’.” And what is called the “freedom of expression” is defended most often because of the interests of the “expresser” and not the justice of the expression. As Madonna put it: “Express Yourself!”
And if we have a right to something, we need to assert that right vigorously, forcefully, and unapologetically. To facilitate doing so, we can pretend to be “realists,” pretend that we are acting “prudentially,” when in fact we are acting vigorously, forcefully, and unapologetically on behalf of nothing more than our own self-interests. And we don’t even see the need or the desirability of looking for alternatives to torture.