Re: Christians, Waterboarding, and Who is Joe Carter?
By Jeff Emanuel
I've been informed by my higher-quality-TheoCon/SoCon contributorial brethren here that I should know who Joe Carter is; however, I don't. Regardless, though, his self-immolating call for Christendom to belatedly reject and condemn information-gathering practices used on murderers and terrorists, which are in place for the sole purpose of saving the lives of the innocent (those whom TheoCons like, I assume, Joe Carter would seek most to protect), belies either ignorance or an intellectual laziness, both of which have come to be hallmarks of the conservative population that so strongly disavows waterboarding and its kindred practices on the grounds that they are torture, and thus that carrying them out erodes America's moral fibre.
The problem here is the starting premise -- that "torture" is a word which still holds meaning, and that a practice like waterboarding, when executed by trained professionals who have learned how best (and most safely) to do so, falls under that word's meaning. Unfortunately, given the wide expanse of activities which are now described by the overused and no-longer-meaningful word "torture," there is no way to differentiate between an act like waterboarding, which causes no physical harm and no lasting trauma of any kind, and acts like eyeball removal and the strategic use of power drills on living subjects, which are carried out by groups like al Qaeda in Iraq and elsewhere. Without bothering to define terms -- and, therefore, beginning with the default premise that these actions are equal in scope and in moral deravity -- advocates like Carter are relying much more on "moral scare tactics" than on any type of intellectual, rational, or moral argument to sway the opinions of their followers or readers on the issue. Indeed, Carter's post on the subject reveals a person who clearly feels that the act of waterboarding is wrong, but has no intellectual basis for it being so
The fact that the word “torture” itself has been dumbed down so much that it is being used day in and day out to describe acts by the US which simply make those who would slaughter us slightly uncomfortable has, as Don Surber of The Belmont Club wrote in May (after an al Qaeda torture manual was discovered in Iraq), left us utterly impotent to describe the acts of al Qaeda and others, which until the word lost its meaning and power were known as torture themselves. Surber writes:
The problem with the word "torture" is that it has been so artfully corrupted by some commentators that we now find ourselves at a loss to describe the kinds of activities that the al-Qaeda interrogation manual graphically recommends. Now that the term "torture" has been put in one-to-one correspondence with such admittedly unpleasant activities as punching, sleep deprivation, a handkerchief pulled over one's face and loaded with water, searches by women upon sensitive Islamic men or the disrespectful handling of Korans – what on earth do we call gouging people's eyes out?There are two answers to that question. The first is that we call that “torture,” as well, and equate such acts as gouging out a person’s eye, or drilling a hole in their arm with a power drill, with pouring water on a captured terrorist's face to encourage him to reveal the location of his comrades, or the details of a plot to kill innocent people.
These acts may, in isolation, be viewed by some as being morally equivalent; while (in my opinion) a strikingly naive position to take (and one which shows very little experience with the real world), detached individuals do have the right to take that view. However, when taken in its larger context -- as an act which causes no physical harm and no permanent mental anguish, and which is carried out for the sole purpose of preventing a car bomb, a suicide attack, or some other act against the life and well-being of innocent people -- the decision to equate a practice like waterboarding with real "torture" (as exemplified, if not defined, by the acts carried out by al Qaeda and its purely evil ilk) is one which is not only incorrect, but inexcusable.
One would think that the self-professed leaders of the fight to save the unborn would have at least some regard for innocent adult life, as well, and would give the moral hand-wringing a rest long enough to actually think about what they are arguing for.
In true liberal fashion (see “Silent Spring” for example, among others), is Mr. Carter content to allow innocents elsewhere (let alone at home) to die needlessly, as long as he can sleep at night knowing that, whatever may happen to others as a result of the decision not to engage in actual information-gathering, the U.S. is shortsightedly keeping its moral slate clean by refusing to allow anybody to do anything that he might, with no regard for context, feel the slightest bit of compunction about.
Having, and paying attention to, a moral compass is an extremely admirable attribute. However, in doing so, one must make certain that they have not paid so much attention to a single act or situation, irregardless of context, that, in their attempt to keep their short-term moral slate clean, they have, through their own lack of attention to the greater context around them, mortgaged the entirety of their soul.
People like Mr. Carter, in my opinion, need to think much harder about whether they are really so afraid of having mere water on their hands that they would willingly trade it for blood.