Tuesday, December 13, 2005

No to torture

[I have to confess I am surprised by otherwise thoughtful Christians who would countenance the use of torture. I agree, one needs to define clearly what torture is. I must be missing something, for sure. Maybe I'm not pragmatic enough? Surely it cannot be simply a Machiavellian case of the ends justifying the means? I might even agree that sometimes these (the anti torture voices) are just idealistic posturing. But still. Don't have time right now to respond to Corey G's comments below. Maybe I'll get around to that at some point.]

Torture not ethical as an anti-terrorism tool: Cardinal Renato Martino (Via Zenit)

Torture is not an ethical means for fighting terrorism, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Cardinal Renato Martino made that assertion today at a press conference where he presented Benedict XVI's message for World Day of Peace, to be held Jan. 1. "Torture is the humiliation of a person, whoever that person is. For this reason, the Church does not accept it as valid this means to extract the truth," the cardinal said.
[I have to say though, while not really a development of doctrine, it is indeed a welcome development of practice that the Church denounces torture. Torquemada might have been surprised!]

[Oh, it should also be noted that Renato Cardinal Martino is understood to be quite anti-American. He, like the rest of the Holy See I hasten to add, was most vociferous in denouncing the Iraq War. Here's John Allen's analysis of some of his more controversial remarks.]

[More disclaimers: rereading that, I seem to imply that opposition to the Iraq war and anti-Americanism are the same thing. They're not. However, Cardinal Martino is known for both.]

And here's the immensely articulate intelligent (if often belligerently pugnacious and hysterical, especially when it comes to matters Catholic) Andrew Sullivan writing in the New Republic.

In this inevitably emotional debate, perhaps the greatest failing of those of us who have been arguing against all torture and "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" of detainees is that we have assumed the reasons why torture is always a moral evil, rather than explicating them. But, when you fully ponder them, I think it becomes clearer why, contrary to Krauthammer's argument, torture, in any form and under any circumstances, is both antithetical to the most basic principles for which the United States stands and a profound impediment to winning a wider war that we cannot afford to lose.

Torture is the polar opposite of freedom. It is the banishment of all freedom from a human body and soul, insofar as that is possible. As human beings, we all inhabit bodies and have minds, souls, and reflexes that are designed in part to protect those bodies: to resist or flinch from pain, to protect the psyche from disintegration, and to maintain a sense of selfhood that is the basis for the concept of personal liberty. What torture does is use these involuntary, self-protective, self-defining resources of human beings against the integrity of the human being himself. It takes what is most involuntary in a person and uses it to break that person's will. It takes what is animal in us and deploys it against what makes us human. As an American commander wrote in an August 2003 e-mail about his instructions to torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib, "The gloves are coming off gentlemen regarding these detainees, Col. Boltz has made it clear that we want these individuals broken."

1 comment:

assiniboine said...

Do check out Chris Patten's latest (and quite splendid) tome on this and related subjects: Not Quite the Diplomat: Home Truths About World Affairs, Allen Lane. ISBN 0713998555. Doubless readily available at Crosswords.

Not keen on Condoleeza Rice; quite likes George W. Bush and finds it problemmatic to be in constant disagreement with him, whereas it is easy to disagree with Cheney and Rumsfeld, whom he finds abhorrent.