Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Torture Is a Moral Issue

An Episcopal Life Online article, 'Reject practice of torture,' religious leaders tell President-elect Obama, tells of a broad coalition of leaders calling on the new president "to restore our nation's moral standing in the world by rejecting the practice of torture."

The campaign is being spearheaded by a group calling itself the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. The 34 signatories to the statement sent to the President Elect include The Episcopal Church and an array of Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups within the U.S. accounting for the majority of worshippers each week. The NRCAT website includes online resources like the one created by the Roman Catholic Church called Torture is a Moral Issue.

I have watched enough seasons of 24 to know that Jack Bauer can't get through a single day of saving our nation from certain annihilation without torturing at least one person every other hour. But one person's torture is another person's "enhanced interrogation technique." The Catholic booklet linked above compiles the following on how torture is defined internationally:
For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

The International Red Cross defines torture as “existence of a specific purpose plus intentional infliction of severe suffering or pain.”

Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits that prisoners of war be subjected to “violence to life and person, in particular … mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, . . .outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”
There are many intelligence professionals who insist torture doesn't work anyway as a person in extreme stress will say anything to stop the pain. See the officials quoted in the Washington Post Column The Torture Myth or the MSNBC article Does Torture really Work?.

On this issue, I stand by my earlier words. Three years ago I wrote a column for the Tribune & Georgian, Approving torture would kill the soul of U.S. I wrote in response to the flak Senator John Mccain was taking from both sides of the aisle for "an amendment to the bill before the Senate which would make clear policy for all, including foreign held detainees, our current laws banning torture, and ruling out cruel or degrading treatment of prisoners."

In supporting McCain's measure, I wrote,
While some Americans may have committed atrocities 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 McCain Amendment is stripped off the defense bills, or diluted to allow the CIA to be an exception, we will be condoning inhumane treatment, including known torture methods as a viable option.

Even at the strictly practical level, this makes no sense. Rather than giving us crucial information to save lives, when Americans use torture to obtain information, we only justify those who would torture Americans. Our fellow citizens—especially our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines—deserve better.

The state of affairs around the world is bad enough without us creating conditions which could lead to their being further abused by others if captured. 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?
I stand by these words calling for us to reject torture by any name as policy for our nation. We must reclaim the high ground rather than finding new depths to which enhanced techniques are allowed to sink as approved methods used in America's name.

That's my take. What do you think?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

But if you are willing to listen,
I say, love your enemies.
Do good to those who hate you....
Do for others as you would like them to do for you.
—Jesus in Luke 6:27-31 (New Living Translation)

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  • At 1/14/2009 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Leaving the person being interviewed "no effective choice" but to say what you want him to say is torture and it doesn't work. See the Atlantic article:


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