Aside from the photographically well-documented abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, there are allegations of abuse at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan as well as reports of other nations carrying out torture with U.S. knowledge. This BBC News article is typical of the reports.
Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney has taken flak for seeking a provision in a defense spending bill which would leave torture open as an option for CIA operatives.
It is possible to posit cases in which many would feel torture is justified. These cases revolve around a ticking bomb scenario in which a suspect is caught who police or soldiers feel has knowledge of an imminent threat posing the risk of great loss of life. In that scenario wouldn't authorities be justified in using any means at their disposal to gain information that could save lives?
Then beyond the worse case scenario, others will argue that as those detained would have not shrank back from horrific acts, why are we not justified in using torture as a tool to gain information which will save lives?
While worst case scenario cases of a ticking bomb are tempting, I don't feel that Christians can justify the use of torture in any case. Jesus faced up to an unjust system through non-violent means and he never taught his followers that evil could be a path to accomplishing the good. In fact, he taught that one must be willing to suffer unjustly rather than to lash out at those who wrongly oppress you. I believe that our nation is only great to the degree we continue to live up to the principals which formed us.
While some Americans may have committed attrocities in the past, we as a nation have never condoned this. The actions of the few were not committed with the knowledge or consent of the many. But if the Defense Spending Bill goes through with the O.K. for the CIA to use torture, this past practice will be changed with a diametrically opposed policy.
Rather than giving us crucial information to save lives, when Americans use torture to obtain information, we only justify those who would torture our own soldiers and other citizens. When another nation uses torture against our citizens, on what basis will we take a moral stand against their actions if we have already stooped to their level. Using torture could cause Psalm 7, verse 16 to become true of our nation:
They make trouble, but it backfires on them.
They plan violence for others,
but it falls on their own heads.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church
But if you are willing to listen,
I say, love your enemies.
Do good to those who hate you.
Pray for the happiness of those who curse you.
Pray for those who hurt you.
If someone slaps you on one cheek,
turn the other cheek.
If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.
Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it;
and when things are taken away from you,
don't try to get them back.
Do for others as you
would like them to do for you.
—Jesus Christ (Luke 6:27-31)