I suspect the present day witch-hunt against those who “tortured” has more to do with politics than reality. Why? Because I’m old enough to remember the laments of the Church committee hearings back in the 1970’s.

Those hearings resulted in the CIA pulling back from the “hands-on” dirty work of spying, relying more on electronic surveillance and reports from less politicized intelligence sources.

One result, of course, was September 11.

You are going to hear a lot of nonsense in the discussion, which will be of course politicized rather than rational.

A lot of the questions will be if torture really works.

Nonsense, say the guys at Strategy Page.It works, but usually it only gives you one piece of the puzzle: You have to combine the information with lots of other information to figure out what is going on.

Filipinos know that torture works, because it was used to save the Pope’s life in the Bojinka plot.

The police were aware that bomb-makers were around, and so when the terrorist’s hot plate caused a fire, suspicions were raised. One guy escaped to kill another day, but his partner was caught and “interrogated”, revealing the plot to bomb the Pope, who was coming to Manila for World Youth Day, along with about five million people.

The cops, worried about the Pope’s safety, ended up flying him there in a helicopter, and the good news is that no one was killed that day.

The bad news is that a lot of the information about bombing planes and flying planes into buildings was ignored by people who should have known better.

So I ask you: was the “torture” of this terrorist ethical?

If you are a pragmatist, the answer is yes. Selected torture saves lives.

Of course, you might want to worry that using torture might expand to non essential matters (the slippery slope theory). But a limited use of moderate torture that saves civilian lives is ethical.

That is the argument of the Bush administration.

Others say: no, we will take the moral high ground. No torture because we are good guys,.

This is the “Shep Smith” argument.

You see President Obama’s dilemma.Ironically, there is a third argument, but it is not secular, but religious.

There is a God, and he requires one to act ethically in one’s life.

You are not responsible for someone else’s actions, only your own.

It is permissible to kill in self defense or in defense of another (either a personal attack or in a just war).

But it is not permissible to deliberately harm a person who is helpless. Period.

So what if the Philippine police hadn’t found out about the plot to kill the pope?

Well, the Pope, and probably several hundred people watching the motorcade, would have died or been injured.

But perhaps the long term result would have been a more thorough investigation into terrorism, so that those devastating terror attacks would never have occurred.

If you are opposing torture because you hate Bush, or if you oppose torture because you are so naive that you believe in sweetness and light will work. If so, I have nothing to say to you.But if you oppose torture because it is wrong to harm a helpless human being, and because it is ethically wrong to do a bad deed to get a good result, then I hope you believe in God, because that position is only tenable if you believe that in the long run God will make all things work for good for those who love him.

Finally, if you oppose harming a helpless human being to get information about terrorism, to save lives, then I have another question:

Do you also oppose killing an unborn baby so that the mother is not put at risk?

Do you oppose killing a helpless embryo to get stem cells to “save” the lives of the sick?

(Yes, I know, recent advances suggest adult stem cells can do the same thing, but I’m theoretical here).

So, if you aborted your kid so you could finish college, but cry for a murderous terrorist, may I suggest that you need to do an examination of conscience.

As for me, I oppose torture, because I am a Christian. If I die in a terrorist attack, it would be God’s will.

I speak from experience. When we were missionaries, we knew darn well that our hospitals could be attacked and we could be killed, but we took the risk..and some of my friends were indeed killed when their missions were attacked.

But none of us had families.

And unless you take into consideration the ethical dictate to protect the helpless, you can not be so strict.

So, to tell you the truth, I don’t mind dying myself, but if that SOB in front of me had information that would save my kid’s life, I would probably lose my temper and do anything to get it out of him.

But I pray that I would never have to make such a choice. Because it is only when we chose to do what is right in the hard cases that we reveal our own character.

But I do understand those who would chose a small evil to save the lives of the innocent.

Heck, even Jesus kicked A** when he saw the crooks shafting the poor in the Temple….so I figure he’d understand.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines. Her website is Makaipa Blog

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