In what is becoming an depressingly common manifestation of both general populational ignorance and an infuriating tendency by many people to unquestioningly accept as gospel whatever tripe the government spouts I had to listen this morning to a generally well respected morning television show host ask a question to the effect of “But these are terrorist we’re talking about here. What’s so bad about torturing them?”
I can’t understand how people are unable to work through in their heads the following train of thought:
(1) Terrorists are bad (because they seek to deny people life, liberty and freedom without the foundation of laws, or recourse to a legitimately appointed judicial system to argue their case(s).)
(2) We are good (because we base our actions upon universal laws and protection of human rights)
(3) If terrorists do bad things we arrest and imprison them, both to protect ourselves, and to illustrate that we have retained both our moral superiority and the moral justification for our actions by:
a) Allowing the terrorists to defend themselves in open court against defined charges under defined laws
b) Finding them guilty of a those defined crime based on evidence and due process
c) Imprisoning them in a way that punishes them while still protecting their human rights (which, by their nature, every human retains regardless of innocence or guilt).
(4) When we act this way we also protect those who are genuinely innocent, those who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or those who the government may choose to label terrorists simply because it does not like them (eg. Political opponents, common criminals, racial or religious groups).
As such, if we fail to do any of the above (for example by torturing them to confess to a crime, or by torturing them as part of their eventual punishment) then we become no better than the terrorists, and cannot claim that we are justified in our outrage at their “terrorist” acts, or in our reactions to those acts.
We also leave ourselves open to having the terrorists say “such and such a nation summarily kills and tortures us, so we are quite reasonably justified in defending ourselves by summarily killing and torturing them back…”, which is what is happening to America at the moment because they refuse to conduct either their interrogations or their military tribunal trials in an open and fair fashion. They may not actually be doing anything wrong, but their unwillingness to be open makes it look very suspiciously as though they have something to hide.