Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Misplaced Moral Outrage

I'm watching the news, and I'm reading the papers, and I'm listening to NPR, but I just can't seem to get worked up about American soldiers using torture tactics on prisoners of war. Isn't that what's expected?

I've never deeply contemplated my own capture by an enemy nation but, at some basic level, I think I have always understood that if it came to that, I would not be treated very gently by my captors. I am 100% in favor of kindness, but when the well-being of entire nations hangs on the timely conclusion of a military operation, I can understand the need to get information out of a prisoner.

Before all you imaginary readers go off on me, I get the fact that our recent Iraqi operations were conceived on falsehoods and bungled at every step. I also hear (and agree with) the argument that mistreating prisoners out of meanness or hatred can never be tolerated. If Americans used torture tactics for any reason other than to gain strategic information and conclude the ongoing atrocities as quickly as possible, then I agree that they behaved immorally and should be punished. But if you are paying attention, you know that is not the center of the current public debate.

The most difficult part for me to comprehend is that everyone seems to accept the soldier's mandate to kill. Isn't that an order of magnitude more reprehensible than torture? No moral problem there?

You don't have to accept "kill" but if you do, then you must also accept "torture" as a far less grievous assault. The current public attitude that accepts killing but not torturing doesn't add up and seems to have prevented me from conjuring any moral outrage about this issue.


  1. Anonymous4/23/2009

    Nice to see us in agreement for once.....JD

  2. Anonymous4/23/2009

    When you figure all that out maybe you can explain to me the purpose of the Geneva Conventions. I haven't studied it in depth but it sounds like "kill and be killed at will, but be sure to play nicely". RF

  3. Jeff Ryer4/23/2009

    Bruins sweep Montreal ! Montreal fans booed the National Anthem Monday night and then their own team last night. What a class act those fans are.

    As for torture, I highly doubt this issue can be bantered about among the American people, more than 99% have no clue (me included) as to the concept and implications.

  4. Hey Jeff Ryer - I think the evidence is in on this one...the American people CAN and ARE bantering. They (we) may be clueless but the banter-bucket is full.

  5. Anonymous4/24/2009

    99%? At least 3% of us watch "24" and this whole season has been trying to frame the debate----torture or no torture. We get to see politicians battle it out, while the terrorists devise their next plan and Jack Bauer tries to stop them-- and possibly the only way information can be had is through torture. Ok, I know its a TV show, and I DO see the point that "we" should be 'better' than that and seek a higher moral plain; I just don't know if its possible. I struggle because I know deep in my heart that the next 9-11 is being planned. If torture stops it or even mitigates it, I can accept it. And WE will all accept it too-- for a while after the next attack-- until we start to forget and think it can't happen to us anymore...JD