Sunday, April 26, 2009

Would you punch a baby?

If I held a baby up to you and asked you to punch him, would you? Of course you wouldn't. (And if you would, please find a cliff and keep walking.) What if I told you that by punching that baby, you'd save lives?

Quite the conundrum, isn't it? Of course, I'm thinking of this whole torture issue that's making the rounds right now. I'm honestly not too sure if I have anything all that original to say about it, but let's give it a go anyway.

I would hope that it's obvious as to why we shouldn't employ the use of torture. After all, if we are to claim any sort of moral highground in the world, we have to hold ourselves to the highest standards. After all, and I realize this isn't an original observation, we held all sorts of enemies accountable for THEIR use of torture. And if we want our people to not be tortured, it's a lot harder to make the case when we have no such problem doing it ourselves.

Of course, the conservative hive-mind is rushing to defend the former President's administration's use of torture. They're quick to point out the vague wording that states that supposedly some of the information we received that prevented further attacks was the result of some of these torture tactics. Now, you can have an intelligent debate about this. After all, we're definitely stepping into a morally ambiguous area here. Still, what bothers me so much is just how QUICK these conservatives are to defend the use of torture. After all, this is hardly conclusive evidence that torture was the only way that this evidence could have been procured. Are there other methods that could have worked just as well? Do these conservatives even want to ask this question?

To me, the bottom line is we need to wonder where we draw the line. I mean, if waterboarding works, then what about thumb screws? A hill of fire ants? An iron maiden? The rack? A Michael Bolton video marathon? After all, if we're willing to do whatever we can, then why not those things? What if the guy has a baby boy, and we get a hold of that baby and the psychological evaluations show that the only thing that will get him to talk is if we punch his baby right in front of him? Do we punch the baby?

Yeah, that scenario is absurd, but if we don't have a line, then we'll stop at nothing, and then there will be little to distinguish us from our enemies. For me, I think that torture is exactly what the line should be. The fact of the matter is that we'll never be able to stop every single act of terrorism, and we shouldn't allow ourselves to become terrorists while trying.


Ingrid said...

There was a case in Germany not too long ago where a young man had kidnapped a 11 year old boy, and wouldn't say where he had hidden the boy. Hoping that they would find the victim alive, the police commissioner threatened the young man with torture, and thus got the location of the boy. There were severe repercussions for the commissioner and his department. As a parent, I would agree with the treat of torture, as a citizen, I don't.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Exactly. This isn't the sort of issue where we should judge it based on pure emotion.

Matthew said...

It should also be noted that torture as a policy doesn't work. There may be some circumstances where torture may be justified and even effective, but as a general rule torture does not produce reliable information. That, together with all of the ethical issues you've raised, I don't understand how any administration can condone torture of any kind. Consider that in WWII we used to take captives and feed them a nice meal, give them a good night rest, smoke a cigar, give them some liquor and persuade them to give information. Doesn't it seem weird that intel in the 1940's was better than intel in to 2000's?

In my opinion the people who ordered and carried out the torture surrounding 911, Afghanistan and Iraq should be prosecuted. I believe that people should be held responsible for the ethical consequences for their actions, even if they were just, "doing their job." Some things are wrong even if they are legal and we should all know the difference, especially if a person is employed in a position to make those decisions.

Ingrid said...

Of course I meant "threat", and, when they found the boy, he was already dead.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Matt, why must you always confuse the issue with facts?