07 November 2005

Torture terrorists? So what if we did?

So, President Bush is assuring us all that we, the US, do not torture terrorists. It's long past time to ask why we don't, assuming that he's telling the truth.

I no longer care what problem anyone has with not treating terrorists like criminals. I see no problem with holding them in covert prisons or in places like Gitmo. The people who object to this do so because the people we are holding have been convicted of no crime. So, what? I don't think they belong to the class, 'criminal.' So let's not treat them like crminals.

On the other hand, I don't think it serves much purpose to treat terrorists as prisoners of war. Terrorists just do not fit the definition of enemy combatant. They are not soldiers.

So, I do not believe that terrorists ought to be treated like criminals. And I do not believe that they ought to be treated like prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. So, what do I believe about them?

I believe that terrorists belong to a class all their own. And just as we have separate rules governing criminals and prisoners of war, I believe that we are justified in formulating separate rules for terrorists.

They are not merely criminals. And they certainly are not soldiers. They are terrorists. Holding them in a manner in which we would not hold either convicted criminals or enemy soldiers is perfectly consistent with the fact that terrorists are neither. They are sui generis; and the rules for dealing with them must also be sui generis. And I see no difficulty in holding them in covert prisons or torturing them for information which can be used to prevent further terrorist acts--or to find Osama bin Ladin (as if that matters for anything).

Of course, we have a lot of pansies in this country who just think that holding terrorists, whether we torture them or not, just reduces "us" to "their" level. Here's a thought experiment: Let's say you are walking through the woods. As luck would have it you (a liberal) happen to be armed. Suddenly you hear a loud growl; it's a bear. He sees you, and charges. You know (never mind how; you just know) when he gets to where you are he is going to kill you. Do you (a) shoot and kill him before he kills you or (b) let him kill you because killing him would reduce you to the bear's level (i.e., the level of an ignorant, wild animal)? Now, some self-styled intellectual type liberal will quibble me here. "After all, Phil," he'll say, "a bear is an animal. A terrorist--no matter what he's done--is still a human being." If that is what someone would say, I don't know what else we can conclude but that, as far as the liberal is concerned I can (maybe) kill the bear, but I must let the human kill me. Well, I don't see why this is so. And I don't see why I should not get information from a terrorist about other terrorists in any way possible.

Of course, some well-intentioned Christian will say that as a Christian I am constrained to fight differently from my enemy, more ethically, or justly. I agree. I just don't think that torturing terrorists--people who don't mind slicing off a few heads--is unethical, or unjust. The aggressors, as far as I'm concerned, just don't get to complain about how they are comabatted, especially considering the way they "fight". They use our very sense of ethics and justice against us. No one in his right mind gives to his enemy the very means which his enemy needs in order to defeat him. As we used to say when I was in the army, "@#$& that!" Why don't we just give them tanks, and jets and machine guns too.


About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
View my complete profile

Blog Archive