Browsing by Subject "torture"

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  • Cantell, Mikko (2007)
    The weight of neoconservative ideology in world politics is generally identified and acknowledged. In spite of this more profound studies are found wanting. I attempt to make the ideology more understandable and approach it from a distinct point of view, examining neoconservatism's attitude to torture in the United States' 'Global War on Terror'. In so doing, my aim is also to clarify the thus far somewhat vague distinction between the current U.S. administration and neoconservatism in political and academic writing. I have utilized the theory of cognitive dissonance created by Leon Festinger to study the mechanisms in play concerning the different attitudes toward the use of torture. The theory has so far found very few applications in the study of international relations, but I believe there to be significant potential in its future use. On a more concrete level, I undertake to examine whether the core values of neoconservatism (human rights, liberal democracy, 'American values' and 'moral use of power') on the one hand, and condoning attitudes toward the use of torture on the other, give rise to an intolerable inner conflict that could be called cognitive dissonance. The use of torture is absolutely prohibited in international law, standards and norms. The most central internationally binding legal obligation prohibiting the use of torture is the Convention against Torture from 1984. The convention prohibits the use of torture in all cases and without exception. My study examines the question of torture in the context of the 'War on Terror' and the relation of torture to the individual. The individual rises in fact to be one of the most salient levels of analysis in the paper: each of neoconservatism's core values can be said to be based on defending the rights of the individual while torture can simultaneously be defined as being the ultimate denial of the individual worth and dignity. I conclude my study by asserting that neoconservatism's attitude toward torture has led to severe conflicts with its own core values. Although accurate definitions of the mechanisms used in alleviating the dissonance are impossible to find, the study gives evidence indicating that denial of responsibility and a rearranging of the hierarchy of internal values can have been included in the reduction of dissonance. I consider the notion that attempts to reduce dissonance typically 'spill over' to other seemingly unattached areas of decision-making very important. This means that in addition to core values or the fundamental level of ideology, past decisions also influence future decisions.
  • Nieminen, Kati (2019)
    This article takes violence in the law seriously, scrutinizing three sites engaged in violent subject production and resistance: the Guantanamo Bay detention center, supermax prisons in the US, and European refugee camps. The concepts of martyring and torturing serve help to untangle the dynamics of the law’s violence. The violent subject production techniques used in these sites are discussed as torture practices that aim to reproduce the dominant subjectivity. As the law has often proved unable to fully address the situation of the detainee, the prisoner, and the refugee, hunger striking as martyring is discussed as a way to deconstruct hegemonic subjectivity and to force the law to face its own violence.
  • Olafsdottir, Sigrun (2007)
    The goal of this thesis was to get a deeper understanding of current debate about torture. Recently there has been a political and academic trend suggesting a possible reintroduction of torture in cases of terrorism. That position is so radical it prompted me to research it further. The first half of this thesis was to look at different academic texts on this subject, both recent and older. I started off with the writings of the legal professor Alan Dershowitz. His ideas about a torture warrant are maybe the most radical in today’s torture debate. Then I looked at two older philosophical texts about torture, written by Michael Walzer and Henry Shue. What I found was that in most discussions about torture, both academic and political, the noted ticking bomb hypothesis seems to dominate. I criticized both the logics of that hypothesis and its excessive use in today’s debate. Then I examined the philosopher Elaine Scarry and her phenomenological analysis of pain which, in my opinion, provides a different and powerful point of view in the debate. For a different perspective I then looked at the history of torture, which I believe to be a useful tool in understanding today’s debate. Without a historic perspective, a topic like torture is almost unfathomable. It was shocking to find that in fact the discourse about torture today has a lot in common with the sophisticated torture jurisprudence of earlier times. I used Foucault and his book On Crimes and Punishment to get a clearer, albeit subjective, picture of the bizarre social and psychological dynamics of torture. Finally I used history to revisit Dershowitz’s argument for a torture warrant. The last chapter was about the semantics of torture. It struck me as interesting how much semantic confusion and disagreement there seems to be about the word itself. Some of this confusion can be traced back to history, which I examined. Furthermore I noticed that because of the sentimental impact the word has today, it often is subjected to political and ideological manipulations. It is therefore very important to understand the roots and structures of the torture practice. In my conclusions I realized that torture is a much more complex phenomenon than I initially thought. And it is precisely because of that complexity and the unthinkable outcomes that I believe that not under any circumstances should it be reintroduced.