Terrorists and Torture

Give Me Liberty is an underground student newspaper here at Cedarville University designed to give voice to, apparently, the extremely marginalized conservative voice. It’s an outlet for Republicans & Libertarians to join forces and decry the U.S.A.’s obvious devolution into the U.S.S.R. (this was seriously an article). Also in this April edition, there was an article entitled “Terrorists and Torture” by Nathan Dollison, a junior. Here is that essay as printed (ie, unedited by me):

In today’s world, the issue of torture is at the forefront of the struggle against terrorism, and the debate has been only deepened by President Obama’s closure of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center and the uproar surrounding what has gone on behind its doors since the beginning of the Global War on Terror.

On the face of the issue, it would seem that the Christian standing on the debate would be clear, that torture is wrong and that as a Christian, one should not be involved or support such measures. But when one delves deeper into the debate, the lines become much grayer.

Before going on, let’s quickly discuss upon whom exactly the United States has used these controversial metholds. Simply put; the victims are terrorists, spies, hostile againsts, etc. Much of today’s arguments against torture have been based around the Geneva Conventions, which outline how Prisoners of War are to be treated by belligerents during armed conflict.

But what many people don’t realize is that abiding by these guidelines presumes that terrorists are protected by the Geneva Conventions and are therefore members of a legitimate belligerent. This essentially, without actually having to officially say so, gives terrorist organizations the same standing as a legally recognized army of a sovereign state. 

Now back to the topic at hand. Former PResident George W. Bush, during his eight years in office, held that terrorists are not legitimate belligerents and therefore are not protected by international policies. Why is that?

The United States, when it has employed these tactics, has done so for the purpose of saving lives. If a terrorists knows key information about a planned attack and torture is the best means of extracting that info in order to save dozens or maybe hundreds or thousands of lives, can a Christian truly say that torture under these circumstances is not justified? Apparently our former President, who is a professing believer in Jesus Christ, believed it was definitely justified because protecting American lives is part of the fulfillment of the oath he took to defend American from all threats, not just those that could be thwarted with universally accepted methods.

Now consider this. Most of us have family, or know someone who has or is serving in the United States military. If they were to be captured by a terrorist organization, what kind of treatment do you imagine they would endure? It is not a pleasant subject to think about. What the United States does to terrorist captives pales in comparison to what they do to those they capture. Why then do terrorists deserve better treatment than they themselves give our soldiers?

In response, some Christians, and ironically many secularists, would argue that we should still be kind to terrorists, regardless of the evil they do us. It is not an illegitimate viewpoint, but I put this question to them. Is that really what the Bible teaches? Does it really want us to accept the possibility of greater loss of life when those lives could be saved at the expense of a terrorist’s physical “discomfort”? I say no.

This logic is impenetrable, but let me rebut this by telling you an old story in hopes of getting at the truth through imagination instead of logic.

On one occasion some secularists, and ironically many Christians, were standing around debating Just War Theory and what it meant to “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemy.” So they went to Jesus to justify their theories and asked him, “And who is our neighbor?” In reply Jesus said:

“A Sunni insurgent was going down from Mosul to Baghdad on a mission, when he fell into the hands of Shiite terrorists. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and waterboarded him then dumped him by the side of the highway, leaving him half dead. 

A priest and a rabbi happened to be driving down the same road, and when they saw the half-dead terrorist, they passed by on the other side. 

So too, a brigadier and a colonel, when they came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side of the road.

But a Shiite farmer, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on medicines and antibiotics. Then he put the dying terrorist in his own truck, took him to a hospital and took care of him. The next day he withdrew his savings and paid the hospital bill. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have’.”

After this Jesus asked them, “Which of these do you think fulfilled the spirit of the greatest commandment?”

5 thoughts on “Terrorists and Torture

  1. Three thumbs up. Although maybe the farmer should be a Kurd?

    I’m so sick…of how the name of Christ has been dragged through the mud by these so-called Christians. Screwtape would be so very proud, no?

  2. No no. That story’s not fair.

    George W. Bush is a Christian + we’re America damn it = Jesus gives us a pass. Or at least he did until we elected a commie Nazi terrorist Muslim antichrist black guy.

    I mean, we can’t be expected to actually *obey* the stuff in the Bible. That stuff’s hard.

  3. The writing makes me cry. I know why these people never wrote for Cedars, and it’s because the editors would have ripped their articles apart.

  4. “The deep problem of Christian non-violence is: you must be willing to watch innocent people suffer for your convictions. Of course, that’s true. In the hard cases, it means it’s not just your death, it’s watching other people die, whom you might have been able to defend.” — Stanley Hauerwas

    As much as I believe in Christian pacifism, this can be a tough problem when taken at face value. Would I be willing to let a bad person suffer a few minutes of intense pain if it could prevent the deaths of thousands? Maybe. Would Christ? Probably not.

    I like to think that in a life lived in a Christlike manner, this kind of problem doesn’t come up. There are a number of issues regarding power, abuse of power, servanthood, mercy, forgiveness, grace, etc that would get in the way of a Christian even coming into this situation. The government is in this situation because it chooses to wage war… as Christians we don’t have the option of supporting that, so we don’t have the option of supporting torture or interrogation or even incarceration.

    But for people who don’t realize this, I don’t have much trouble giving them a pass on this one. The answer to “hurt bad people to save good people?” is pretty easy to come by when the love of Christ isn’t involved.

  5. Mark Noll gives four characteristics of the Evangelical ethos, and it’s sad that “utilitarian” is one of them — utilitarian logic is very easy to come by without Christ, yet this was a Christian writing for Christians, which is why it’s so baffling. While reading this article I felt like the stumped chaplain in Catch-22: “Immoral logic seemed to be confounding him at every turn.”

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