Although very few of us have actually read through the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogations (and I certainly have not), I’ll bet that every reader of The Edgefield Advertiser has read about it, or heard about it on the news. Most of us have an opinion one way or the other about that report. Was it an exposé of a horrible and illegal practice carried out in secret by a rogue government agency? Or was the report itself a partisan attack on those heroes who were doing what was absolutely needed, in order to protect our country against a terrorist-inspired catastrophe?
Depending on where you get your news, from The New York Times or from Fox News, you probably heard one or the other of those questions asked and answered repeatedly, but the other question seldom if at all. It is likely that one place you did not hear them asked or answered, was in Church. We don’t talk about politics in Church – but in this case, we need to. We should be asking and answering those questions with guidance based on our religious beliefs; in the end, our moral values ought to guide all of our actions, individually as well as politically.
If there is one teaching that pervades all of our mainstream religions in America, it is this: the end does not justify the means. If we violate that teaching and accept the proposition of “whatever it takes,” we violate the basic tenets of our shared values, and in particular of the religious values that most of us espouse. Here are my thoughts, about this particular nexus of religion, politics, and torture.
* The torture report describes acts that sicken me. They are against my morals and against my faith. The CIA’s torture program as described in the report is fundamentally unacceptable.
* Torture violates my personal, fundamental values matured over a 30-year military career. I also believe it violates our nation’s basic values. Having used torture puts our own soldiers, sailors, and marines at risk if they are captured in a future war. I know that our current enemies would use torture whether we ourselves did or not, but by adopting the practices of morally degenerate enemies we lower ourselves to their level. Instead, we must actually work to become the “shining city on the hill” that we aspire to be.
* How we respond as a nation to the fact that we tortured is important. If we are to be a nation that values life and respects human dignity, we must not look away nor remain silent.
* Politically, we will win allies by being the nation their citizens wish they were. We will lose allies by becoming the nation their citizens abhor. Other governments emulate what we do, good or bad. Standing on principle makes us stronger. Abandoning principle only weakens us.
The end does not justify the means. Our South Carolina congressional delegation has a moral responsibility to ensure that our country does not make the same mistake twice. They should pass legislation ensuring that neither the CIA nor any other agency of our government ever uses torture again.