On August 1, 2002, Justice Jay Bybee submitted the “Bybee Memo” or the ‘Torture Memo”, which describes the behavior that U.S. officials must exercise when interrogating outside of the continental U.S. as governed by the UN Convention Against Torture. Although this memo was rendered inoperable by the Bush Administration in 2004; for years, it gave license to American troops to inflict cruel amounts of pain, effectively “torture” upon their prisoners under the label of “coercive interrogation”. Michael Hatfield, a Professor at Texas Tech School of Law published his rebuttal to the Bybee Memo indicating that from a natural law perspective that torture, even disguised as “coercive interrogation” was fundamentally a moral wrong and should be illegal. Was his argument fair however?
In the opinion of this author, his argument is fair and includes the following strengths: that although torture is prohibited by a number of world declarations, it is so fundamental to international order that it does not need to be embodied in written credos; that simply masking “torture” as other words, does not render it legally justifiable and that by claiming necessity of the lesser of two evils, that torture does not necessarily lead to a betterment in the world; rather a deterioration. Possible pitfalls of his argument include a ignorance of the realist point of view by understanding the political and social needs of the nation at the time the memo was drafted as well as ...
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...made acceptable by the guise of euphemisms and the defense of necessity claims that torture was a lesser of two evils, however we know that it does not prevent violence; it only spawns it. This is contrary to the fundamental need for the law; which is to organize threats and create a greater good. In our “civilized society”, torture is morally so distasteful, that we would not own such practices as our own and we have various written documents that state it is not acceptable. However, when we think of Nazi Germany, Vietnam or countries in South America; we snub their military practices as being repugnant, and vile.
The Bybee Memo: Memorandum for Alberta R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President; Office of the Assistant Attorney General, US Department of Justice, August 1, 2002
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