Torture and the Ticking Bomb, Oxford: Blackwell, 2007, Viii + 116 (plus index) ISBN: 978-1-4051-6201-2 (hb); 978-1-4051-6202-9 (pb)
This deliberately short book – of some 45,000 words – arose out of a conference paper I gave on Dershowitz’s argument for the legalisation of interrogational torture, itself initially a response to his press article, an article which shook me profoundly. As I researched the issue, I was shocked by both the widespread acceptance of his premises (even by academic opponents) and the role of his argument in the 'war on terror'. Completed, with the help of 0.175 teaching remission, and seen through to publication in less than two years, it is the first book-length treatment of the topic.
Described by Geoffrey Robertson QC as "relentlessly deconstruct[ing] the most misleading hypothetical of our time and showing that even 'Noble cause' torture is always counterproductive," the book attacks the 'pro-torture' on its own consequentialist grounds, thereby at once offering arguments against both interrogational torture and its legalisation, and clearing the ground for the analysis of other facets of the so-called war on terror as grounded, not in reality, but in fantasy. I have begun to explore these in a number of articles and book chapters (eg 'Dershowitz on legalizing interrogational torture: the fantasy of the "ticking bomb"', Contemporary Journal of International Criminal Law (2007); 'Torture and the "Ticking Bomb": a Case Study of Fantasy in the so-called War on Terror', in a book I am co-editing with Graeme Goldsworthy [title to be decided, The Netherlands: Rodopi, 2008]) and in conference contributions. It has led directly to my editorial board membership of the newly established Critical Studies in Terrorism, and to the current focus of Brighton's Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics & Ethics academic and public engagement programmes.
My work in this area constitutes an example of the sort of public engagement I argue is the responsibility of academics in 'Do intellectuals have a special public responsibility?' W Aiken and J Haldane, eds, Philosophy and its Public Role (Exeter: Imprint Academic, St Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2004), pp25-38.
Torture and the Ticking Bomb has been described by Geoffrey Robertson QC as "relentlessly deconstruct[ing] the most misleading hypothetical of our time and showing that even 'Noble cause' torture is always counterproductive".