Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 50, 2008

Social and Political Philosophy

Simon Glynn
Pages 195-203

Liberal Democracy and Torture

Of the many ideological blind spots that have afflicted US and, to a lesser extent, European, perceptions and analysis of the economic, political and social milieu, none have been more debilitating than the equation of democracy with political liberalism. Thus those who attempt to derive propaganda value from such an equation are vulnerable, as the US government has found, to the rhetorical counter attack that in opposing democratically elected governments, such as that of Hamas or Hugo Chavez, they are not merely being anti-democratic, but are in illiberally opposition to human rights and civil liberties also; an argument quite independent of the same charges, emanating more legitimately, from their support of, for example, the Masharraf regime and the Saud dictatorship. Furthermore no less an august body than the Council of Europe has drawn attention to the US government’s inhumane, humiliating, degrading and cruel treatment, including torture, of prisoners, at Guantanamo, and, seemingly even more extreme treatment of prisoners in the supposedly secret or “black” prisons operated both by the CIA, and other countries, where the torture of prisoners, often illegally or extra judicially rendered to them, has been outsourced. In light of this the paper takes up a discussion of the nature of the relationship between Liberalism, Democracy and Torture as it is germane to the current legitimation crisis facing liberal democracies.