Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why it isn't politics

There is a very strong partisan battle going on now in the United States. It is a fight between progressives on one side, most notably embodied in the Democratic Party and conservatives on the other, mostly represented by the Republican Party, although Libertarians also seem to fall on that side of the issues also.
The Catholic Church is not totally on either side of this conflict, though many conservative Catholics will tell you that on right-to-life and family issues the Church supports their views.
One area that is highly politically charged is the so called "enhanced" interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects held at GITMO. Supporters of the policy point to the danger existent in the terrorists, and quibble over the legality of the methods used. They appeal to an outcome based standard, supported by the fact that the United States was able to avoid various possible terrorists attacks using information gleaned through the use of these techniques.
As a Catholic Christian the evaluation of the permissibility of these techniques are not based on their legality, but on their morality. Though not a lawyer I have spoken to enough of them on this subject to be convinced that under existing U.S. law the techniques used were indeed legal. This places any talk of prosecution of anyone involved in the process in the area of base political posturing.
But once again, I repeat, legal does not, necessarily translate into moral. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is quite clear:

2297 ...Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.

A detailed examination of the techniques permitted, based on the released documents make it fairly clear that while no permanent physical harm was intended, physical violence was indeed included in the allowed techniques. Moreover, though most of the techniques did not include actual physical violence they constituted a planned program of moral violence with the intent to "extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents."
Professor Christopher O. Tollefsen at MercatoNet explains quite clearly why this is so.
This subject is too important to be addressed with a knee-jerk partisan response. Life long conservatives as well as anti-Bush progressives should be together on this. Our country made a bad mistake. It is not the first mistake in our history. Slavery. Native American dislocation. Japanese- American Internment. Nor is it likely to be our last. But let us not wait half a century to recognize and correct our mistake.
Note this does not mean it is necessary to release men who have sworn to attack us into our streets. It does mean that such tactics should never again be employed by our nation. It might even mean publicly and officially admitting before the world that we were wrong. Not criminally wrong, but morally wrong. For any Catholic involved it is probably time to consult a priest.

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