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An Issue of Torture in The Movie Unthinkable

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Torture, as defined by Dr. Maureen Ramsay, is described as act by which severe pain or suffering whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third party information or confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed, or is suspected of committing, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for an reason based on discrimination of any kind, whether such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In this essay I will argue for an absolute ban on torture, and that torture should not be allowed in any circumstances, including the ticking time bomb scenario. To do this I will compare arguments and information found in the following articles: Why understanding the threat Terrorism responding to the challenge Works written by Alan M. Dershowitz, Can the torture of terrorist suspects be justified written by Dr. Maureen Ramsay, Revenge Versus Rapport; Interrogation, Terrorism, and Torture written by Laurence Alison and Emily Alison and The Unending Torture of Omar Khadr written by Jeff Tietz to the movie Unthinkable.

The plot of the movie unthinkable is basically the ticking time bomb scenario. Steven Younger is an ex-military man with expertise in bombmaking, assault-rifle marksmanship, combat tactics, and training in case he became a prisoner of war. He arrested for the suspected murder of a police officer, detained in an unknown location, and then tortured for information on nuclear bombs that he had supposedly hidden in three locations around the United States. The bombs are set to go off in three days, so the interrogation methods increasingly intensify until the man hired to do the torturing/ interrogating needs to do the unthinkable in order to receive the information that will save thousands of innocent people. Right away while watching this movie I noticed similarities of a suspected torture case that was fairly recently in the news in Canada. Omar Khadr was a Canadian citizen born in Toronto. Khadr’s father trained him in bombmaking, assault-rifle marksmanship, combat tactics, then at the age of fifteen Khadr was arrested for the suspected killing of a U. S Sargent, detained in Guantanamo Bay and tortured for information on Osama Bin Laden and the suspected terrorist attacks. The case of Omar Khadr is eerily similar, and yet the current prime minister deemed his situation a violation of human right and Khadr was given a 10. 5-million-dollar settlement.

In the movie unthinkable you see Agent Brody come in and tell Military General Paulsen, the man seemingly in charge, that the military has no authority on home soil and they are un lawfully detaining an American citizen. General Paulsen replies that under the defense authorization act and as an enemy combatant under the military commission act as well as the Geneva convention laws, Younger is stripped of his American citizenship and because he is not an American citizen he can be put through what he called enhanced interrogation under the presidents orders. Then “H” comes in to do the enhanced interrogation or torturing and almost immediately General Paulsen passes charge to Colonel Kermeniann showing that he did not want to take responsibility for what was about to happen, you also then see a officer remove his name tag to keep his identity hiden. Omar Khadr was also stripped of his citizenship due to him being in violation of the Geneva convention also allowing the United States military to interrogate him as an adult/ terrorist, using “enhanced interrogation methods.

These rules allowing basically anything to happen under the rule of the president is exactly why Alan Dershowitz argues the need for some sort of legal policies to be set in, in situations similar to these. Dershowitz states there are three ways to look at the issue of torture. The first is “ to allow the security service to continue to fight its war against terrorism in “`a twilight zone’ which is outside the realm of law” he thinks that people are getting tortured despite it being against human rights already. The second is “the way of the hypocrites: they declare that they abide by the rule of law, but turn a blind eye to what goes on beneath the surface “ they pretend like nothing is happening with no accountability, records, standards or limits; and the third “the truthful road of the rule of law, ” namely, that the “law itself must ensure a proper framework for the activity of the security agency responsible for counterterrorism. Dershowitz suggests a formal warrant for non-lethal torture obtained only by a judge for torture such as a sterilized needle under the persons fingernails where there is no serious lasting damage. He then goes on to say that there is also, of course, a fourth option: namely to forgo any torture let the terrorist acts to occur. Dr. Maureen Ramsay counters his ideas by stating all three of his original arguments are flawed, and that making a judge make the final rulings just offloads the moral reasonability to someone else again. Ramsay argues that “History shows that torture is never limited. . . As soon as its use is permitted once, as for example, in one of the extreme circumstances like a bomb, it is logical to use it on people who might place bombs, or on people who might think of placing bombs, or on people who defend the kind of person who might think of placing bombs” it is a very slippery slope and she argues that it is a very un-reliable method of obtaining truthful information. An example of false information from the movie is when Younger needs a break from being tortured he gives a fake location of a bomb or when he breaks down in tears states there is no bombs, I lied and to please stop hurting me. This is similar to the Khadr case as he was tortured until confessed to killing the Sargent even when there was witnesses that say that he couldn’t have possibly been the one who did that.

Another point against making torture part of our legal frameworks is what happens to the tortured inmate after you get information true or false out of the person. Dershowitz argues there is no lasting physical trauma, but what about psychological or emotional trauma? Emily and Laurence Alison explain that when the brain is under that much stress it impairs the ability to recall information damaging the reliability of even so called truthful recollections and with impaired recollection it impairs all communication and creates significant lasting trauma in form of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, psychosis and learned helplessness, along with a blood lust for revenge and a lasting us vs them mentality. Do we just set free a vengeful, psychosis ridden person into a society that they feel they don’t belong to? In the movie, Younger is released because they can’t prosecute someone without fingernails, he then proceeds to shoot his self in the head showing depression, psychosis and learned helplessness, in real life Omar received a settlement of just about eleven million dollars is living in Edmonton and has had Dr. Eric Trupin, a mental health specialist report “he has significant risk for future psychiatric deterioration, which may include irreversible psychiatric symptoms and disorders, such as a psychosis with treatment-resistant hallucinations, paranoid delusions and persistent self-harming attempts. ”

Alisons’ argue that “knowing that torture does not work is not enough to stop the notion that it is better than nothing. To do that, you must present an alternative that works”. So then what works? Neuroscience and psychology have proven time and time again that when interrogators “placed high value on the capacity to relate, social and religious tolerance, flexibility, empathy, situational awareness, and cultural knowledge” the interrogee was more likely to talk, it enhances cooperation and elicits more accurate information.

In conclusion, torture of the ticking time bomb terrorist, of Omar Khadr, and many other citizens have been un necessarily tortured into false confessions. If any legal framework on torture is to take place, it should be a total ban. The question is not of two evils as Dershowitz argues but one of humanity and torture.

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