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And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats - Matthew 25:32

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November 27, 2005


Torture Is Bad, M'Kay? Still...
Torture is bad, m'kay? It's barbaric and morally repugnant.

Still, I'd rather be regarded as morally repugnant than dead. Charles Krauthammer writes of pacifists and no-torture absolutists:

One should be grateful for the saintly among us. And one should be vigilant that they not get to make the decisions upon which the lives of others depend.

The article details Krauthammer's objections to the recent McCain anti-torture amendment banning "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" treatment of any prisoner by any agent of the United States.

Torture as a policy is very hazardous morally and practically. Yeah, the ticking time bomb scenario omnipresent on 24 is tough to argue against. But it's also a very slippery slope into barbarism. It's real obvious how easily the toughest cases slide into some ugly nonsense at Abu Ghraib.

That doesn't mean that those tough cases aren't there, however, or that they can be wished away by obviously ridiculous, convenient wishful claims that rough tactics never work. Those tough cases DO exist sometimes, and a categorical refusal to deal with that reality would simply mean accepting the deaths of many innocents rather than getting our hands dirty.

Thus, in reality, those "saints" that Krauthammer refers to are nothing of the sort. They are simply irresponsible people valuing their perception of their own moral superiority more than the lives of their countrymen.

"Morality" as best I can understand it as a meaningful concept involves the protection and furtherance of life. Refusing to grapple honestly with the hard choices costs lives. Thus, pacifism is actively immoral.

Morality and ethics get real tricky. They require real, serious thinking- not bumper sticker slogans. It involves anguish and self-doubt, and mistakes- for all have sinned and fell short of the glory of God.

I certainly don't have any pat answers on this early Sunday morning. I don't have a proposed Torture Policy for US intelligence. I don't know if there is any good answer. I know I don't have one.

However, in the practice we have to have realistic policies. Cheap moral preening about being against torture by Congress can only serve to drive the actual necessary practical policy making underground into black ops that are hidden from view. In reality, that's ultimately certain to result in more egregious behavior- and lying about it besides. Lying to the world will hurt US worse than admitting that we're going to play rough under some circumstances.

Harry Truman dropping the bomb took out bunches of Japanese women and children. That was unquestionably far, far worse than putting the screws to a handful of Al Qaeda types. That was ugly.

Arguably, Harry Truman was a horrible, evil mass murderer. Truman was a horrible man owed a debt of gratitude by the millions of family members of American soldiers saved by that awful decision.

MoreThings on God and Country

posted by Al at 11/27/2005 02:59:00 AM

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