January 10, 2005

Defining Torture

A major problem in any discussion on the use of torture is the problem of definition. The idea and practice of a zero tolerance policy is all well and good in theory but the problem of discouraging our enemies' explicit policies of military perfidy and other war crimes such as body desecration. A zero tolerance policy eliminates any grey area and colors it black. The practical effect is to enshrine in our laws a "perfidy bonus" in combat operations undertaken by our enemies. It will end up with our own and allied troops and civilians dying in greater numbers due to inexistent fear of retribution. Why not attack civilians when there is no penalty? You might as well legalize murder and seek to disclaim any responsibility for the increased traffic at the coroner's office. .

That being said, there is good reason to color the grey areas grey. Negotiating the slippery slope is difficult but if we're to stay entirely out of that sort of transaction, we have to come up with modern responses to eliminate the perfidy bonus unless we prefer the unjust blood on our hands to be that of us and our allies rather than our enemies. That sort of preference is something that I simply do not understand.

When speaking of torture, there is an obligation on both sides to responsibly pair the moral problems of torture and perfidy. Unfortunately neither side seems to be strongly raising the connection.

Posted by TMLutas at January 10, 2005 09:37 AM