Thursday, May 28, 2009
Listen to this Man
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A forum for discussing matters of moment, from a curmudgeonly perspective. (The ideas posted here do not necessarily represent those of any organization with which I am a part). Rude and insulting remarks will not be published, but civil disagreement is welcome.
Before I begin I must say that I have learned much from you and greatly appreciate the time you devote to your blog and your willingness to say hard truths that we all need to hear.
I haven’t spent much time reading what other evangelicals have said regarding waterboarding, but I am very curious how you are able to morally justify it. I have changed my position on the matter recently after interacting with men such as Ron Paul, and his libertarian cohorts. It seems to me that their arguments are very persuasive.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of waterboarding in my opinion is the effect it has upon the individual or individuals performing the waterboarding. Is it not a dehumanizing act? Is it something that you yourself could participate in with a clear conscience?
To justify it in my own mind in years past, I was grateful that some were willing to perform such a morally difficult act to protect the nation against such villains. In fact I wrote,
“We [the United States] have the right to use torture because the nation-state is an institution invested with unique powers and responsibilities that cannot and should be imputed to the individual. It is wrong for any individual acting on authority outside of a nation to torture another human being. Yet if that person is invested with the authority of a sovereign nation (as most countries are) then torture should be an available resource in some instances.”
I now believe this to be very mistaken. I believe capital punishment falls in this category. But it seems to me that torture is morally suspect because it dehumanizes a living person—a person that will still be human when the torture is complete.
Could a Christian waterboard someone without sinning? If not, then how can we grant anyone, even the government, the moral right to torture anyone for any reason?
To say that we can waterboard a terrorist to save lives, sounds like the kind of situational ethics that is used to justify all sorts of otherwise unethical behaviors.
This is a bit anecdotal to be sure, but a radio personality in Chicago was recently waterboarded during his show, and concluded in his own mind that waterboarding is torture. Despite this, he believes it to be morally defensible. You can watch it on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUkj9pjx3H0
I recently finished reading Ron Paul’s book “A Foreign Policy of Freedom” that I found very compelling. In it, he argues that because of our numerous interventions around the world we find ourselves in situations where we must intervene more. These interventions lead to unintentional consequences such as the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, the attack on our barracks in Lebanon in the ‘80’s, and 9/11. Ron Paul, does not, as he is popularly construed to be doing, does not “blame America,” for the attacks and subsequently condone the violent aggression, but instead tries to put us in their shoes, and show us how hostile we would be to the same kind of foreign intervention that we ourselves subject other nations to in the name of democracy.
Maybe if we withdrew militarily from hotzones like Korea and the Middle East we wouldn’t find ourselves in positions where we had to waterboard terrorists in an attempt to “save lives.”
These are important questions that have been going through my mind for a while now, and I would appreciate your perspective on these matters.
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