Mailvox: Two soldiers on torture

JR seems to think my caution with regards to the authorities is misplaced:

I found your last equivocation of torture very interesting. I suppose; since I am a soldier having had to deal with the reality of the fact that I will be tortured far worse than any detainee of the U.S., should I be captured, that I am somehow calloused to your remarks. I get this feeling that I was supposed to be uncomfortable after reading your words. I get this empty feeling that somehow I should get a feeling of remorse; however small, for the direction that the current administration is taking this torture argument. But I am having difficulty understanding your line of reasoning.

When I made the commitment as a soldier to defend The US Constitution, I understood that there were some things I would have to face in times of war, especially in dealing with being a POW. I accepted this willingly. Call me masochist, but I would expect that all soldiers who make such a commitment would expect the same, regardless of who they give their allegiance. While the Geneva Convention has reformed, and is constantly reforming the term “all is fair in love and war”, I have to say that omitting torture as a means of extracting information out of prisoners seems to be prattle of the barmy fool, and frivolously unrealistic.

I admit that giving the ability to the police to use torture is disturbing. While I don’t agree with Rusty Humphries about the police using torture to extract information, am I being unrealistic in thinking that this excerpt has almost no bearing on the argument you are presenting? Am I being short-sighted in thinking that this argument over torture will never come to the table over domestic policies, or when discussing police brutality?

You saw the fear in Mr. Smith’s hands as he expended his overview of the war onto paper. Am I delusional in seeing the fear and trembling in your hands, over the visions of a smarmy acceptance of torture, reminiscient of a fascist, brutal police state? If it is fear by the general populace that dictates acceptance of torture of POW’s and detainees in times of war, how am I to believe that this fear will transcend into subjugation of criminal suspects; something driven by a much more individual, and unctuous motivation? Are you telling me that Americans are now irrationally fearful of every common criminal on the street?

I think that most Americans are irrational in their fear of crime, mostly due to how the danger of criminals is constantly beaten into their heads with every news show and drama series. I also think that Americans harbor insufficient rational fear of their government, after all, the Founders included the Second Amendment for a reason, an amendment which American governments at all levels have been warring against for decades.

Furthermore, as I’ve demonstrated previously, the average human’s chance of being murdered by a representative of his own government was significantly greater than his chance of being murdered by a common criminal acting on his own. I do think JR is being shortsighted, as Humphries’ column indicates that once the principle of acceptable torture is embraced by the American authorities, it merely becomes a question of who may be tortured. As with the original income tax, this list will inevitably expand with time.

RO, on the other hand, tends to see it my way:

An excellent column today. I myself was a trained prisoner interrogator in Vietnam for two tours there. In a e-mail response to one of his columns, I told Mr. Craig [Smith], whom you mentioned in your column, that we, the AF, never used torture and did neither the Army and the Marines. I mentioned that aside from it being absolutely forbidden by military regulations, I personally found torture incompatible with being a Christian (my faith, Catholicism considers it a mortal sin), as well as incompatible with the moral authority that the US had.

He was unsympathetic with the regulations and with my personal belief, and rued that we didn’t use torture because we might have been able to find where US POWs were being held. That alone would supposedly have justified any techniques we had to use. I did not, nor could have responded to such a callous means-justifies-the-ends attitude from a man who is purportedly a Christian.

I find the notion that torture is permissible because terrorists are not covered by the Geneva Convention to be as specious as the idea that abortion is permissible because unborn children are not covered by the U.S. Constitution. There is no moral requirement to capture terrorists or accept their surrenders, they have declared No Quarter after all. But once surrendered, the American forces do have a moral duty to treat them in a civilized manner.