Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reflections: With Regard to Torture

I haven’t posted any political opinion for quite some time. The national debate over the use of torture by Americans, however, now prompts me to do so. More accurately, that such a debate is even necessary prompts me to do so. In effect, then, this post is more centered on questions of morality than it is on politics per se.

I originally posted the hypothetical that is presented below in the comments thread of an excellent post by Kyle Cupp at his blog Journeys in Alterity, one of my daily reads. This post is entitled “Torturing Christ”. In my opinion, that title already answers every question that Kyle’s post raises—or at least it should— especially for professed “pro-life” Christians. But it seems that this is not the case. I therefore offered the hypothetical scenario below, in order to see if it would provoke any rethinking on the justification of use of torture in order to save lives. Keep in mind that in the real world those “saved lives” are every bit as hypothetical as is my scenario:

The pro-torture argument seems to be that torture which is effective in producing positive results for the conduct of the “War on Terror,” especially insofar as its use can plausibly be said to have saved lives, is morally justifiable. Let me test that with a hypothetical:

Supposing an Afghani or Pakistani woman came secretly to a member of the American military with this story:

“I am a modern woman and long to be free. But my father is a member of the Taliban—very high up—and I cannot live as I want to live. I have had undetected access to certain of my father’s communications, including those from the inner circle of bin Laden himself. These disclose that al-Qaeda has obtained a nuclear “suitcase” bomb from rogue elements in the former U.S.S.R. I can tell you in detail the route by which this bomb will be smuggled into the United States and where they plan to detonate it.

“But my immediate problem is that I have become pregnant by a man that my father will not allow me to marry. If my pregnancy is discovered, my father will kill me. Because of our obligations to others, it is impossible for either my lover or myself to leave the country. If you will secretly provide me with a safe abortion in a U.S. medical facility, I will make all of this information available to you.”

What do you do? Do you, a) provide the woman with the abortion in order to possibly save hundreds of thousands of lives? Or, b) do you torture the woman to get the information from her without providing the abortion? Or, c) do you take her into custody and make her disappear into a secret prison in an undisclosed country, despite her personal innocence?

It’s not somebody else's decision—it’s yours: what do you do?