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Argument: Torture dehumanizes the torturer

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  • David P. Gushee. "5 Reasons Torture is Always Wrong". Christianity Today. February 01, 2006 - "Torture dehumanizes the torturer. Mark Bowden, a military scholar and author of Black Hawk Down, believes that sometimes torture is the right choice. Even so, he worries, "How does one allow it, yet still control it? Sadism is deeply rooted in the human psyche. Every army has its share of soldiers who delight in kicking and beating bound captives. Men in authority tend to abuse it—not all men, but many. As a mass, they should be assumed to lean toward abuse.
Loosening longstanding restrictions on physical and mental cruelty risks the dehumanization not just of the tortured, but also of the torturers. What may be intended as carefully calibrated interrogation techniques could easily tempt implementers toward sadism—the infliction of pain for the sheer fun of it, especially in the heat of military conflict, in a climate of fear and loathing of the enemy, and in the context of an endless war on terror. How many of us could be trusted to draw the line consistently between the permitted 'grabbing, poking, and pushing' and the banned 'punching, slapping, and kicking'? How much self-control can we reasonably expect people to exercise? Once the line has been crossed to torture, as Michael Ignatieff claims, it "inflicts irremediable harm on both the torturer and the prisoner.
Frederick Douglass commented famously on how holding a slave slowly ruined the character of the woman who owned him. Martin Luther King Jr. frequently said that the greatest victims of segregation were the white people whose souls were deformed by their own hatred. And Alexander Solzhenitsyn, reflecting on the Soviet gulag, said, 'Our torturers have been punished most horribly of all: They are turning into swine; they are departing downward from humanity.'"


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