Saturday, November 04, 2006

A FoxNews Video on Waterboarding--Is It Torture? You Decide

FOX News Correspondent Gets Waterboarded

We've all heard about "waterboarding" and whether it constitutes torture or not. This video account of Fox News Correspondent Steve Harrigan voluntarily undergoing the procedure is chilling but useful in coming to an informed conclusion. The correspondent, by the way, does not hesitate to call it "torture" but . . . well, view it yourself and make up your own mind. WARNING: Disturbing Situation Graphically depicted in this Video.

Note: This is clearly just one form of "waterboarding." Each of the three phases depicted in this video can be extended almost indefinitely without proceeding to the next phase. As indicated in the video there are other phases, apparently even more intense, that can be administered.


I am strongly opposed to torture that causes physical damage (broken bones, pierced or burned skin), injurious pain (such as electrical shock) lasting emotional or mental trauma (such as the administration of certain drugs, faked execution) or gross moral degradation (rape, sexual abuse) and the like.

Emotional manipulation such as sleep deprivation, verbal abuse, disorientation of time and place, "reward and punishment" such as being moved from isolation or receiving desired food would, to me, fall within the realm of reasonable treatment when conducted in circumstances that are controlled, monitored and accountable .

Waterboarding, to me, is a grey area that clearly has the potential to cause lasting damage of both a mental or physical kind.

In another video on waterboarding it is suggested that interrogation techniques that enter that grey area or beyond should be used only on a case by case basis and only when the reasons for the procedure are clearly articulated, endorsed by someone authorized to do so (designated CIA, Military or other government personnel) with the justification presented to an "objective judicial review" for approval prior to action being taken.

Exceptions could be identified and some sort of "code of action" would need to be drawn up with clearly-delineated disciplines and punishments enacted for various abuses of the process.

The key issue for me is that the current Bush Administration has declared that the restraints of the Geneva Convention do not apply to those being held for their participation in terrorist activities but that no legal or moral restraints or constraints have been articulated or adopted to cover their particular situation.
It is wrong, wrong, wrong for our government to permit, authorize or tolerate any behavior or action that falls outside the bounds of any legal accountability for those engaged in it.

Torture of any kind, of course, constitutes participation in sinful behavior, just as war is always a participation in sin. We live in a sinful world where we are not always "delivered from evil."

As individual followers of Jesus we are commanded to nurture hearts seek to restore and redeem our enemies rather than to cultivate the desire to hate and destroy them. We are to "love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us."

It is my moral and biblical sense, however, that those whom God has empowered and entrusted with the civil authority and responsibility to
"...establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity..."
are not expected to simply "turn the other cheek" and submit those entrusted to their care to evil when threatened by evil.

Governments are commanded by God to protect the widows and orphans and defend the defenseless, the weak and those otherwise unable to protect themselves. It is inexcusable that any government would permit acts of injustice to be perpetrated against its citizens when it has in its hands the means to prevent it.

Both the use of military force and interrogatory "torture," each inhumane in their own way, may be used as means to a good and just end. But such means must be measured and limited to prevent their use for ends that, in themselves, are evil.

I am confident that the United States, at this moment in its history, is acting within one of the greatest systems of legal and moral constraint that has ever existed in the history of the world.

Is it perfect? No.

Is the system being manipulated by those who would abuse it? Yes.

Must we continually enact new limits and measures of law to prevent new opportunities for abuse in the context of new situations never previously envisioned? Yes, of course.

The use of torture as a technique in the interrogation of international terrorists is one of these "new situations" that demands new limits and measures of law to constrain it's misuse and abuse.

In his great hymn, "Once To Every Man and Nation," James Russell Lowell (writing in 1845) we find words that still ring true today, particularly in the context of this post:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by for ever
'Twixt that darkness and that light

Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And 'tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses,
While the coward stands aside
Till the multitude make virtue
Of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs
Jesus' bleeding feet I track,
Toiling up new Calvaries ever
With the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still andonward
Who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause ofevil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.