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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More on torture

I don't like to think about torture, and I don't want anyone torturing me, but I believe that I have a responsibility, as a Christian citizen, to be concerned about the use of torture.

Some people believe that fighting terrorism justifies the use of torture, and that torture is an effective means of obtaining information.

A report from the Senate Armed Services Committee, dated December 12 of this year, disagrees with both of those assertions.

It begins by quoting General Petraeus: “What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight… is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings”

The report includes this statement, too:
Conclusion 3: The use of techniques similar to those used in SERE resistance training – such as stripping students of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, and treating them like animals – was at odds with the commitment to humane treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Using those techniques for interrogating detainees was also inconsistent with the goal of collecting accurate intelligence information, as the purpose of SERE resistance training is to increase the ability of U.S. personnel to resist abusive interrogations and the techniques used were based, in part, on Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to elicit false confessions. (emphasis added. SERE is an acronym for Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape training.)

According to this unanimous bipartisan* report, the US did use torture on prisoners, and this was encouraged by then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and other high government officials. Some techniques used were not done so legally, although there were attempts to justify their use. (And also to deny such use.)
*According to news reports, such as one in the Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 22, 2008, the report was bipartisan and unanimous.

Some of the techniques used by the US military, then, led to:
1) diminution of the moral status of the US in the eyes of the world
2) implicit approval of the use of torture of captured US personnel by other countries
3) no more reliable information than we would have gotten without such use

Unfortunate, and regrettable.

3 comments:

Julana said...

Martin,
I just read the story of your cars, and saw that your daughter is a psychiatrist for the military.
When you wrote that she was in the army, I've read that as being a potential combatant. I wondered how that squared with some of your views.
Being a counselor makes more sense. That must be a tough job, at times.

Martin LaBar said...

Well, I don't believe that it's necessarily wrong for a country to provide for its defense, although individuals who choose not to serve for conscience sake should be allowed to do some alternative service.

But it's wrong to use a country's military to fight an unjust war, and it's wrong to use torture, or attack unarmed civilians, even in a just war.

Paul referred to good soldiers as examples of the Christian life.

Martin LaBar said...

Being a counselor can, indeed, be a tough job.

Thanks for your comments.