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Torture and Ethics

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Joined: 07 Mar 1999
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2014 11:28 pm    Post subject: Torture and Ethics Reply with quote

Mrgybe seems to be ignoring the spiritual guidance of his Pope. Here's a similar perspective from another expert in religion:


By Robert A. Rees, guest commentary 2014 Bay Area News Group
POSTED: 12/19/2014 04:00:00 PM PST0 COMMENTS
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

-- Jesus (Matt 7:12)

"There is nothing that one man will not do to another."

-- Carolyn Forche, "The Country Between Us"

The Golden Rule is held in common by all of the world's major religions. In its various formulations it calls for us to imaginatively and empathetically place ourselves in the minds and hearts of others, to see what they see and feel what they feel and to wish for them what we would wish for ourselves were we in their place.

Whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Buddhist, the principle ultimately calls us to a higher standard of moral behavior, one that runs counter to our natural self-serving inclinations.

While the Golden Rule has its detractors, including those who feel it is simply impractical in the modern world, rightly understood, it has universal appeal as a standard for right behavior and may be even more so in a world of both colossal evil and increasing moral relativity.

Since the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released its report on the United States' practice of torture, I have considered how the Golden Rule might apply to our treatment of those captured in the war on terror.

A number of those involved in the CIA program after 9/11 have been particularly eager to defend the policies and practices of prisoner interrogation, but one questions whether, if they tried to put themselves in the place of the tortured, they would defend activities that offend the nation's highest standards of decency, that run counter to our accepted principles of human ethics.

I came of age during Word War II. Even as a boy, I knew details of the barbaric treatment our soldiers suffered at the hands the Germans and Japanese. Such treatment was horrifying for a child to contemplate.

Scarcely less horrifying for an adult to contemplate are the following examples of CIA torture:

The waterboarding of one prisoner 183 times. The fear and horror of just one such episode of simulated drowning is difficult to imagine. And, 183 is so far beyond the pale as to be nearly impossible to comprehend. At a certain point such treatment seems motivated more by sadism than any attempt to elicit information.
Rectal feeding and hydration of at least five detainees. What kind of madness even invents such torture?
Threats to harm the families of detainees, including threatening to cut the throat of one detainee's mother.
The confinement of Abu Zubaida inside a coffin-like container for 266 hours. That's more than 11 days! As someone who suffers from claustrophobia, I have difficulty imagining such confinement for even one hour. We are told that Zubaida "cried, begged, pleaded and whimpered" during his ordeal.
Abu Hudhaifa, was forced to stand for 66 hours (nearly three days) while given periodic "ice water baths."
The defense of such tactics by CIA directors, lawyers, psychologists, former attorneys general, and former Vice President Dick Cheney all strike me as having a stark disregard for or indifference to the Golden Rule.

This is particularly true of Cheney, whose responses to Chuck Todd's questions and challenges on "Meet the Press" were not just callous and chilling but deeply disturbing. Cheney defended the rectal feeding as "done for medical reasons," which is absolutely untrue (and what about the Hippocratic oath of the physicians who ostensibly approved and oversaw such tactics?).

When told that 25 percent of those subject to harsh CIA interrogation techniques turned out to have been innocent and misidentified as terrorists, Cheney responded, "I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective." When challenged, he said he would "do it again in a minute."

What the Golden Rule demands is stark honesty as to how we would feel were we or a loved one placed in the position of the other, in this case not only those subjected to depraved types of torture but the large number of innocents tortured without cause.

Ultimately, the Golden Rule comes down this: "Treat others as if you were the others." Could Cheney imagine himself or his wife or daughter waterboarded 183 times, subjected to forced rectal feeding and hydration, or confined to a coffin-like box for eleven days?

Would his imagination allow him to contemplate how he would have felt suffering such torture if he or a family member had been innocent? Would he truly feel that his torturers would be justified in repeating such torture "in a minute?"

That ability -- to imaginatively put ourselves in the physical and emotional experience of a fellow human being is the ultimate challenge of our humanity, that which should separate us from barbarians -- and torturers.

Robert A. Rees, Ph.D, teaches religious studies at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley


Make no more claims to have any spiritual path that I would ever be interested in following. Just cop to being revengeful sadists.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2014 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A quote on mac's post:
Ultimately, the Golden Rule comes down this: "Treat others as if you were the others."

After 911, I think we came up well short of treating others as they had treated us.
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