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Argument: Torture is not punishment, but a measure to protect innocent civilians from the assailant

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Some have accused torture of taking on a retributive function at times. That it is used for the purposes of inflicting maximum pain to level the score for some past wrong. Abu Graib is often cited as a retributive environment in which US troops were taking out their anger on Iraqi prisoners. While this might happen, and should be stopped, a legitimate function for torture exists as a protective tool for innocent civilians. If torture is used solely for the purpose of extracting information that could save lives, than it can be justified, particularly in the ticking time-bomb scenario.

It is reasonable to think of torture as analogous to a policeman shooting a man that is threatening to shoot an innocent civilian. The purpose of both is to harm the assailant in order to protect innocent civilians. Particularly in the "ticking time bomb" scenario where the threat is imminent, a suspect that withholds information can be viewed as analogous to the assailant threatening to "pull the trigger". Physically harming, torturing, or even killing the assailant, in both instances, is justified as a means to protecting the innocent civilian.


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