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Monday, October 12, 2009

In which I claim torture is not allowable

[This post can be found on the new site, here]

From the Associated Press comes the report that the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques likely damaged the brain of terrorist suspects. Generally, the response by professor of neuroscience Shane O'Mara seems to be only that the techniques used were primitive and relied on older understandings of neurology.

In London, a secret agent apparently reported that torture was being used within Britain, prompting William Hague, the foreign affairs spokesman of the opposition Conservative Party, to speak out: "Torture or complicity in torture is unacceptable, immoral, and counterproductive."

And last, the Iraqi reporter who threw his shoes at then-president George Bush, was finally released after being in jail for nine months. The reporter, al-Zeidi, claims to have been tortured during his stay in prison.

Proponents of waterboarding have argued that the information gathered from it makes it an acceptable thing. In fact, torture in general is arguably an effective tool for gathering information. Despite the arguments contrary, torture does actually produce useable results, especially when done carefully by experts who have advanced understanding of neuroscience.

Of course, we can't just say "It's effective, therefore acceptable." In an extreme case, we might argue that burning down an entire village is an acceptable cost, since a terrorist is hiding inside and no one knows where he is. Of course, in any thing we must view the Bible and attempt to apply it, so let us do so with torture:

There are two times, in general, where torture is used: Before and after a trial. In the case of pre-trial, which is where almost all cases of torture occur, the Bible is quite clear on the issue: Physical torture of any kind is simply not allowed. In Deuteronomy 25, the law is being recited regarding what to do in cases of disputes. In verse 1-3 it says:

If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court ... then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him ... to be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows. Forty blows he may give him and no more... lest ... your brother be humiliated in your sight.(Deuteronomy 25:1-3)
From this passage we can understand three principles which should guide our view of torture:
1: Any beating (in this discussion, torture) is to be done after the judge finds the person guilty. In general, torture is carried out on people who are being held under suspicion, but who haven't been convicted of crime. This is not allowed.
2: The beating must occur within the rpesence of the judge. Even if a person were to be condemned by the judge, the beating must be applied on location. Again, general torture is taken place in rooms far seperated from any judge who may have delivered judgement. This also is not allowed.
3: The guilty person can only be beaten according to his guilt, with a maximum set number of blows. The goal of the beatings is punishment, the restriction is that the criminal is not humiliated. This would preclude almost any general form of torture immediately, even if the person was found guilty.

An argument in response might say that this law applied only to Israelites, therefore it isn't applicable to those outside one's nation, however, Leviticus 19:34 says that "The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you", that is, the Jew and Gentile are to be treated the same. Even more direct is Leviticus 24:22 "You shall have the same law for the stranger and for the one from your own country."

Additional arguments can obviously be made by either side, but I think the basic premise of the Law stands: A person cannot be beaten (tortured) unless duly convicted, and even then the beatings cannot be too excessive. This Law stands for citizens or non-citizens both. This alone will remove the legality of most uses of torture.


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