Thursday, January 04, 2007


24 is a brilliant TV show. I’ve always wondered, ever since watching a movie by the name of ‘Nick of Time’ why they don’t shoot some movies in real time where events can be seen as they happen. Well almost a decade later they did it with 24. The best thing about 24 is that it’s (almost) in real time. Each episode is just one hour and we can see what happens in that hour. It’s a real thriller too; you get entangled in its mesh provided you watch something like 3 episodes in a row.

Anyway the other night it was showing, Jack Bauer was hot on the terrorist’s trail and CTU (counter terrorist unit) had arrested someone who was their only lead to reach a terrorist who was trying to acquire a nuclear missile. Apart from the fact that it seems so easy now for individuals to acquire weapons of mass destruction, there was something else I found intriguing.

The man they arrested was a retired US marine who they suspected to have been a mercenary. He had no priors. So in order to hinder his interrogation, the terrorist (whose name is Marwan.. surprise surprise) calls ‘Amesty Global’ and asks for a lawyer so that CTU don’t torture that man into divulging the information that can lead to the capture of Marwan. That got me thinking of how far advanced Human Rights are to be able to have one lawyer easily obtain a court order so as not to violate this citizen’s rights. Are human rights organizations so powerful everywhere in the world? In Egypt it would take a phone call from the president to stop an act of torture, not just a simple phone call to any Amnesty. Human rights mean nothing in Egypt unless stated otherwise, totally unlike other places in the world. I’m not saying that this is the way it is in America, but I’m saying that it’s highly plausible that an American with no priors is saved from torture just by a phone call no matter how important he is to a case and how unimportant he is as a human being.

So anyway, after the lawyer had been sent, they call up the president since it is a matter of National Security asking him to intervene and let them do their job. The president fears to sanction such torture (yeah right!!) and asks them not to. At this point, with this only lead and their conviction that this man can provide them with information to save lives they had to reluctantly let him go, but good old Jack resigns and takes him on as a citizen.

Now the question here is: Can we sanctify torture if we’re sure that we can get positive results from those being tortured? There is no question that our rights (constantly violated over here) are important and that no man should be subjected to torture, but the situation described puts us in a dilemma nevertheless. In cases like these there seems to be a reason for torture, extracting answers that will save lives. After all, it’s not fair that terrorist should use these means on people and that when caught they get a five star treatment. Where’s the justice in that?

The trouble is that sometimes we should not be too rigid about our standards. I mean it’s great that we accept the right not to be tortured for everybody, but if breaking that rule meant saving thousands of lives, I would suppose that it should be acceptable. In any case it’s very hypothetical really, since we can never know what people actually know and what they don’t. In general it’s better to let the guilty walk free than torture the innocent and that’s why laws of human rights are there in general, so that we do not risk hurting the innocent. It’s just a very hypothetical question and I suppose it remains a matter of opinion if it is really worth it…


Anonymous said...

i liked 24 S1, but then i missed the first 6 hours in S2 and totally lost interest.. now i think they're airing S4 or S5 and i am clueless regretting my lack of persistence

Wael Eskandar said...

Season 1 was great, it was so engaging.. missing a few hours of it can really makes it uninteresting.. I missed some in S2 and I didn't really get excited till about 3 forced viewings.. Right now they're airing S3 on satellite (I think) and on cable they're showing S5 (I think).

soreal said...

am now watching S6 (the current season)... and I can confirm... torture is being practices liberally all over this season

btw, 24 is the biggest psychological propaganda I came across so far

Wael Eskandar said...

You're right aout 24 being a psychological propaganda, the aim is to give the illusion there's a ticking bomb scenario constantly all over the USA and that they're only doing what is needed.