Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Torture Debate

Posted by Teresa at 10:42 AM
I've been thinking a whole lot of the torture debate since I read this
interview with John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent, who was part of
the team who captured and waterboarded al Qaeda figure, Abu
Zubaydah. I try to thoroughly think through issues before I come
to any conclusion. After much thought I've grown to appreciate both
sides of the debate.

On one side of the debate you have people who rightly believe that
torture is cruel and unusual punishment and thus unconstitutional
and can lead us to a slippery slope. Our society cannot function if we
don't follow our laws. On the other side you have people who say
that techniques like waterboarding have to be an option in extreme
circumstances to get information that can save lives.

The ticking bomb scenario is often given when debating the morality
of using torture. For example, what do you do when authorities have
someone in their custody that has information of an unfolding terrorist
plot that will kill thousands or possibly millions? I find this quote from
the Kiriakou interview most revealing,

"What happens if we don't waterboard a person, and we don't get
that nugget of information, and there's an attack," Kiriakou said.
"I would have trouble forgiving myself."

I find torture morally wrong but I find not taking every possible measure
to save innocent human lives morally indefensible. I love how laws and
rules keep the fabric our society together but I love human life even more.
If you don't uphold human life than what value is you're commitment to the
rule of law? When the balance of life comes into the equation inevitably the
rules of the game change. I believe lying is morally wrong. However, if lying
means an innocent life is rescued from their demise than words of untruth
would float out of my mouth swiftly and without a second thought to it. That's
why I can't say that I'm not absolutely against torture in every circumstance.

I know some will argue that torture is not an effective method of getting
information and there are less harsh techniques that can be used. That
certainly may be true. Also, it's true that terrorists who are so committed
to their cause that they would commit suicide bombings probably won't
relent because they've been waterboarded. However, even if waterboarding
is shown to only have a one percent effectiveness rate that's one percent
more than not waterboarding especially when all other techniques have
been tried and have failed.

The torture debate really bothered me because I like moral clarity and this
issue doesn't really accommodate for that. There's really no perfect solution
here. Sadly, we live in an imperfect world and there are people who inhabit
this place who want to kill and destroy.

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