September 8, 2006

This whole torture thing

I had an interesting exchange with yet another SBC pastor over the issue of torture and our President. Though, our exchange started out rather bumpy, the dialogue was, for the most part, civil and enlightening. But not, let me add, terribly comforting.

My critic surprised me by invoking the "those who hate us will use your words as encouragement" tactic, which I vehemently rejected. I am always amazed when that is trotted out, while Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham or others can demonize Islam (clearly helping the cause of the terrorists, btw) and escape conservative criticism.

He seemed quite insistent that the Abu Ghraib stuff--while awful--was really mostly a problem because Bush haters had used it against him. He seemed to also repeat the conservative line that Bush has not endorsed torture and that much of what has been called torture is not actually torture. I pointed out that the Pres and Veep both subverted the Senate's effort to ban torture, and then used signing statements to ignore them. My critic seemingly ignored those issues, or maybe he just thought they were relics of Les' so-called "liberal media."

When I looked back over my blog, I saw just how much I have been writing about torture over the last several years. And much of that has been asking why conservative evangelicals have been so silent on this issue. Sure, they admit it is wrong to torture others, but that seems to always be followed with a caveat about the nature of our enemies.

Well, this morning, I saw this LA Times story:
"The Army, morally and culturally averse to using unorthodox interrogation methods, will get out of the business of using tough tactics against detainees under the compromise. The new Army field manual authorizes only 19 interrogation techniques and bans the most controversial tactics that critics said amounted to torture -- hooding prisoners, conducting mock executions, and strapping detainees to boards and using water to simulate drowning.

But the CIA will reserve the right to use the tougher tactics. Bush said such methods had been effective in getting some of the 14 top Al Qaeda suspects held by the agency to talk. Administration officials said the CIA tactics would be legal and fall well short of torture and abuse. But the president and others have pointedly refused to say what those tougher methods might be."

Add to that fake burials and you see what our people have been doing to other human beings. And I can actually accept (though not endorse) that this kind of thing happens in war. Intelligence gathering can be a horrible undertaking and ugly to see. But what bothers me the most is that these people want to legitimize it and are getting support from the clergy. I am still amazingly bothered by the image of Jesus in the interrogation room, sitting outside the limited light, watching stoically while humans are tortured. It has no place in my view of God, but seems somehow possible to others.

Since we are talking about our President and torture, I saw this exchange over at Sully's blog, between readers and reporter Dana Priest:
"Foxboro, Mass: I'm confused.Bush made this bold statement that the US doesn't torture that I thought should have already happened. Yet water boarding of prisoners has been documented. Did he miss the memo?

Dana Priest: Okay, under the rules in which the CIA was operating--rules judged by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to be legal--waterboarding was not considered torture. If you read the so-called Torture Memo of August 2002, you'll see that torture, as defined by the OLC there mean only techniques that cause severe mental or physical damage, organ failure or death. Water boarding does not cause such damage, does not result in organ failure or death. that's what the interpretation would be. Note: The DOJ repudiated the memo once it became public."

See, that is the problem of the Orwellian President. Change the definitions of torture and then you can say you aren't torturing.

Let me say once again (mostly for my own sanity) that the fact that evangelicals bend over backwards to excuse Bush on this issue is one of the most shameful moments in evangelical history since the last time they excused immoral behavior and endorsed segregation.

No comments: