A nationally-known Christian author whom I respect a whole bunch commented recently that he was disappointed in a particular presidential candidate because the candidate spoke in favor of waterboarding. He said it shouldn’t be a tough call for Christians to oppose torture. The responses were… well, disheartening to say the least. Several people agreed with him, but more said stuff like, Well they’re stoning and beheading people, why shouldn’t we waterboard them, and If it saves lives, I’m all for it. You know what that is? It’s anti-gospel, man. It’s tit-for tat retribution, and it’s pragmatism.
This was my response:
Y’all, you know where the best pieces of actionable intelligence have come from? Not from waterboarding, but from cups of tea, a place to sleep, decent food and human conversation. (Note: read that brief article and listen to the story if you’re not convinced — “enhanced interrogation techniques” didn’t work where rapport-building DID, time and again.)
Terrorists prepare themselves psychologically for all kinds of real torture if they’re captured — electrocution, having their fingernails pulled out, having bones broken and body parts cut off, being raped. They’re told that Americans are monsters. The best way to get them to cooperate is to destroy that preconception of us. In other words, we win when we treat them with dignity, not because their actions deserve it, but because it’s what dignified, civilized people do. We don’t avoid torture because we’re “soft” — we refuse inhumanity because it reflects Truth about our common humanity and OUR commitment to what’s right.
A last thought: even if torture worked (which it doesn’t, as a whole), it’s the way we treat our enemies that tells us who we really are.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” — Jesus