Thursday, December 06, 2007

Torture and Positions of Responsibility.

US Judge Richard Posner has been quoted for saying:
"only the most doctrinaire civil libertarians (not that there aren't plenty of them) deny [that] if the stakes are high enough, torture is permissible. No one who doubts that this is the case should be in a position of responsibility."*
While I find it discouraging that Posner, and other legal scholars such as Alan Dershowitz, embrace this view of the legal and moral permissibility of torture, its actually the second part of the quote that I find most interesting. What is expressed here, in the context of torture, is essentially a McCarthyan idea, i.e. that individuals holding convictions deemed to be dangerous should be prevented from holding positions of responsibility.

While Posner may only consider positions of high public office as 'positions of responsibility', it's not clear that he is not also speaking of other positions of public office, such as military officers, police officers, school teachers or even postal workers. This later position was, after all, the one adopted in Germany under the 'Anti-Radical Decree' of 1972 and the issuing of berufsverbot orders.

It would become apologists for the use of torture not to make such sweeping statements as the one qouted above.
*Quoted in Levinson, Sandford, 'The Debate on Torture: War Against Virtual States,' 50 Dissent (Summer 2003).


At 07 December, 2007 16:19, Anonymous Charles said...

Hey Torsten,

I don't advocate the user of torture. I think that it is abhorrent and puts us in the same league as terrorists. However, I do disagree with the whole idea of McCarthyism being an entirely negative principle. Personally, McCarthy has gotten a bad rap over the years (justifiably in some instances), specifically by the left, but I feel history has exonerated a true American Patriot. Communism, as inspired by the Soviets, was a clear and present danger, especially as their were so very many who sympathized with the communistic ideals.

Personally, I would not want those with dangerous affiliations that go entirely against the fabric of American society and the constitution, to be elected to office. But that is another argument. :-)

By the way, I took down my website. Just couldn't keep up with it. I have created some stuff in blogspot, but not sure if I will do anything with it.

One last thought, what did you think of Mitt Romney's Faith in America speech - a speech on religious liberty? You can watch it at I would be curious as to your thoughts.

Merry Christmas!

At 08 December, 2007 21:38, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Hi Charles, yes I've seen that you've discontinued 'a common journey', which I'm sorry for but completely understand. A blog requires time, energy and purpose (although the later has always been missing from my blog ;-)... )

Your right, communism was, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, an ideology that posed a real threat to the West. A fact often overlooked when evaluating McCarthy and his era.

I used the word McCarthyan (if that is even a word) because McCarthyism has taken on a meaning that covers more than merely the conduct of McCarthy. For me McCarthyism can refer to any attempt to destroy a perceived 5th column, by denying individuals holding certain convictions, from working in public positions.

McCarthy, whatever his other merits or demerits, may be, will always be associated with such policies.

At 09 December, 2007 14:20, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Charles, concerning Romney's speech. I have written a comment on his speech as a separate blog post, as you undoubtedly have noticed.

Since it took me the most of 5 hours to write I decided to elevate it to separate post ;-).


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