Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The High Road

I don't usually post about politics. Not that I don't care, and not that I don't have opinions. I'm an English professor, not a political scientist, and to be honest, sometimes I just don't feel qualified to add my voice to the (sometimes confusing and often overwhelming, at least to me) debate.

However, in the October 2009 issue of The Atlantic (which I read mostly for the poetry and book reviews), Andrew Sullivan has written an article on torture that I think is a must-read, whatever your political leanings. One reason that this open letter to President Bush is so effective is that Sullivan is a self-professed conservative, an early supporter of the president. Furthermore, he bases his argument on ethical and moral principles, not political ones. Because he has no political ax to grind, his petition to the former president is especially hard to dismiss or ignore.

Here's an excerpt:
"But torture has no defense whatsoever in Christian morality. There are no circumstances in which it can be justified, let alone integrated as a formal program within a democratic government. The Catholic catechism states, 'Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions . . . is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.' Dignity is the critical word here. Even evil men are human and redeemable. Our faith demands that, even in legitimate punishment or interrogation, the dignity of prisoners must be respected. Our faith teaches that each of us--even Khalis Sheikh Mohammed--is made in the image of God. To violate that imago Dei by stripping and freezing him, by slamming him against a wall, or strapping him to a board to nearly drown him again and again and again, to bombard him with noise and light until he loses his mind, to reduce a human being to a mental and spiritual shell--nothing can justify this for a Christian. Nothing. To wield that power is to wield evil. And such evil is almost always committed by those who believe they are pursuing good.

[ . . . ] Because torture can coerce truth, break a human being's dignity, treat him as an expendable means rather than as a fragile end, it has a terrible power to corrupt. Torture is the ultimate expression of the absolute power of one individual over another; it destroys the souls of those who torture just as surely as it eviscerates the dignity of those who are its victims."


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