God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen - Jars of Clay - listen now

Saturday, November 12, 2005


"Whenever a position seems so obvious that you don't even have to stop and think — stop and think."

That's the advice David Gelernter gives us regarding John McCain's proposed legislation incorporating into U.S. law the Geneva Convention ban on mistreating prisoners. The bill, which bans cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, passed the Senate 90 to 9.

Gelernter goes on to say:
But of course you don't have to be "pro-torture" to oppose the McCain amendment. That naive misunderstanding summarizes the threat posed by this good-hearted, wrong-headed legislation. Those who oppose the amendment don't think the CIA should be permitted to use torture or other rough interrogation techniques. What they think is that sometimes the CIA should be required to squeeze the truth out of prisoners. Not because the CIA wants to torture people, but because it may be the only option we've got.
In a war we quite often have no other choice. Remember, in a dictatorship torture is used as punishment. It is used to keep the populace in a state of perpetual fear and under control. But Gelernter reminds us that:
Americans will never be permitted to use torture as punishment or vengeance. A criminal might deserve to be tortured; we refuse to torture him nonetheless, because to do so degrades us. But if torturing a terrorist (or carrying out some other form of rough interrogation) is the only way to save innocent lives, we have no right to refuse.
He also quotes the prophetic philosopher Michael Levin, who in 1982 said: "Someday soon," he concluded, "a terrorist will threaten tens of thousands of lives, and torture will be the only way to save them."

Gelernter closes with the following:
In the end, this column is indeed about willful, cheerful torture — committed not by the CIA but by terrorists whose bombs leave bewildered innocents maimed, blinded or wracked with pain for the rest of their lives, or ripped to pieces. Why? The torturers (or their friends) only smirk and tell us that "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Great").

We do not torture such terrorists to punish them. God forbid we should do as they do. But if torture (used with repugnance) can stop even one such atrocity, our duty is hideously plain.
Indeed. Hideous and necessary.


Anonymous 4/28/2006 09:30:00 AM  

this article was so stupid. it had no point. whoever wrote this should be in a mental instition.

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