Religion, Politics, and Torture


robert-M.-Scott – By Robert Scott –

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.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Edgefield Advertiser.
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16 Responses to "Religion, Politics, and Torture"

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  3. Linda Brown   December 20, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Dear Carolyn Acheson,
    Torture has left lasting damage on me. Because my government does it, I have become an accomplice.
    Linda Brown

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  5. Carolyn Acheson   December 20, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Torture has to leave lasting damage. The means agreed to by the top brass do not fit the definition of torture. The news doesn’t report that many military operatives and even news reporters have willingly agreed to waterboarding. They have no ill effects or regrets. If such techniques produce information leading to capture of an evildoer, such as in the Trade Tower bombing, go for it. There is no moral equivalence in a woman deciding to leap from a top window to avoid being burned to a crisp and someone who has no qualms about beheading people,

  6. CONSCIOUSNESS IS1   December 20, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Meanwhile tens of thousands of innocent civilians are being beheaded or shot and thrown into ditches while some would rather focus on a few harsh interrogations that occurred ten years ago following the 9 11 attacks.
    Failure to grasp perspective will allow the atrocities to continue.

  7. OLIVE SOUP   December 20, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Dear Mr Scott,

    Thank for writing this opinion. I respond in support of your thesis. I hope to offer some suggestions for those of us who wish to continue writing in this genre.

    We need to adhere to the principles and the legality of the offences described in the CIA Torture Report. I would hope that your delegation and mine would seek to demonstrate that the actions described in the report are illegal, both within our national legal system and in the international treaty alliances that this nation has forged for our own citizens and the world.
    We need not involve our varied religions in this discussion as motivations to pursue this process. We do discuss politics in church. Discussions and debates based on the great books and their interpretations are not relevant to this discussion of legality. I think that they are a distraction that is not helpful to either side. At the risk of repeating myself, I think that the nexus is legality and torture and not “religion, politics, and torture.”
    The reported torture sickens me and a large number of our fellow citizens. To my surprise there are many among us who are not troubled by this report. Several are even proud of the crimes that have been perpetrated against individuals captured by our armed forces or secretive agencies. It also sickens and inspires our national enemies. The lack of effective response to the evidence presented in the report is counter productive to our future national interests at home and abroad. I agree with you that the approval of torture (by simply failing to act) will put “our own soldiers, sailors, and marines at risk if they are captured in a future war.” This tacit approval is proving equally dangerous for news reporters and private citizens travelling the world.
    Our challenge will be the task of finding a politician with the courage to risk sharing this pursuit and standing up for our national principals. This is a politician who will put our principles ahead of his or her potential future in office.

    Your conclusions are words upon which I cannot improve. I am grateful to you for your comments. I hope that others will be equally impressed.

  8. Scott   December 20, 2014 at 10:08 am

    As an atheist I could not agree more with Mr. Scott. Where are the churches? The pulpit was instrumental in ending slavery. A reverend led the march for civil rights. Are today’s Christians too pre-occupied by their dislike for gays and love for Wall Street bankers?

    If we discard our moral integrity to fight the bad guys, have we not simply joined them in darkness?

    Washington State

  9. Linda Brown   December 20, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Thank you for writing this column.

    It is not enough to have a good intention.

    The torture of a human being cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation.

    If we abandon the importance of the individual, we have become a godless totalitarian state.

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