"I came here to drink milk and kick ass. And I've just finished my milk." - Moss, The IT Crowd

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Really, America?

A headline from MSNBC yesterday: "Bin Laden's death rekindles 'enhanced' interrogation debate."

Really, America? Is this who we are as a nation? Do we respond to the death of the guy who was, apparently, the primary architect of the 9/11 plot, by deciding this gives us free rein to go torture some more people? If this is how we behave as a country, what have we become?

When you torture prisoners, you lose all moral authority to tell others not to do likewise. The recognition of that fact was the entire basis of the Third Geneva Convention. You cannot get around this basic fact of human morality by labeling your prisoners "unlawful enemy combatants" or anything else. You can call them "Satan spawn" if you like - that still does not sanctify torture, anymore than it did during the Inquisition.

For an excellent unpacking of the practical reasons why torture was unlikely to have played any role in gathering the information that led to tracking down bin Laden, please see Heather Hurlburt's article today in The New Republic. For the moral case against torture, consult Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, if you consider yourself a Christian. If you are not a Christian, consider this: if your parent, child, sibling, spouse, or other loved one was picked up near a field of battle (for example, because they happened to live there or be traveling through at the time of conflict) or even on it, how would you feel if your loved one was tortured because someone suspected that they *might* have information which would give a small advantage to one side's army? Even in the unlikely event that they happened to possess such information, would you feel any less furious, destroyed, and heartsick? Would you ever, ever under any circumstances feel that your loved one's torment had been somehow justified?

Spawning more fear, pain, and hatred in the world should not be the role to which we aspire as a nation.

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