Monday, September 18, 2006
To Torture or Not to Torture: I often go back and forth like the proverbial tennis ball when attempting to arrive at the truth, as I perceive it. The latest undemocratic response of the Bush administration in its war against terrorism is the undermining of the Geneva Conventions and the implementation of torture as a means of extracting information from captured alleged terrorists. James Carroll in his article in The Globe entitled "Judge, jury, and torturer" makes a good case for the Bush inspired Kafkaesque metamorphosis of our nation because of the Bush administration's advocacy of using possible torture upon captives in his war against terror.
I think Carroll errs, though, when he does not see both sides of this issue in a contemporary historical sense. The treatment of prisoners as mandated by the Geneva Conventions has been a good thing for our country and the world. Torture not only is morally repulsive but it can, indeed, invite torture upon our own soldiers. However, the question of whether to torture or not to torture has to be asked, I think, from a contemporary point of view. Are the Geneva Conventions, as we have known them, relevant to international events today?
There is no question Carroll is right when he says the right of the accused to know the charges levied against him and to have the evidence presented to him is a basic tenet of our Republic and the Geneva Conventions. This doctrine is and has been fundamental to our system of government. It has, I think, made the US a blueprint from which other democracies have formed their procedures as well.
When, however, I think about maintaining those rights today toward captured possible terrorists I can understand the American public's, as Carroll calls it, "vague unease" [emphasis added] about the abridging of those mandates. We are only vaguely uneasy about their abridgement, I think, because we know that the consequences of terrorists actions in our WMD world are so egregious as to possibly warrant their abridgment. If only one terrorist knows about or succeeds in a biological, chemical or worst of all, a nuclear attack we may not be around to contemplate the joys of the Enlightenment inspired rules of evidence.
This issue, therefore, irrespective of political party, must be thought through with the utmost care. As much as I dislike nearly all Bush policy, I can understand in a subliminal synaptic recess of my brain, his firm advocacy of this position regarding possible terrorist interrogation. It is easy to argue about the rights of the accused when one is talking about conventional war. When talking about the possibility of WMD's in the hands of even possible users of those weapons on this country or elsewhere the tennis ball, as I perceive it, is in a different court.