Once again, I find myself tackling a major political issue. One that has weighed heavily on me for several years. It’s the issue of torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners by the United States.
Under the Patriot Act, anyone suspected of terrorist involvement can be arrested and imprisoned without the bother of due process. They can be held indefinitely, and no charges need ever be filed, no trial conducted. They can simply be locked away for the rest of their lives, with no chance of appeal, because they have not actually been charged with a crime. That violates in so many ways the judicial process carefully laid out in our Constitution.
And if that was not bad enough, we now face the issue of Americans torturing people classified as “enemy combatants”. Individuals classified as such may be tortured, mistreated, and even murdered without any regard to their rights.
The justification I hear for this is, “Well, it’s better to torture and kill a few of them if it will save American lives.” Really? It’s OK to abandon our principles if we think it might win a war?
Consider the words of George Washington with regard to the treatment of prisoners during the Revolutionary War:
“Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injur[e] any [of them]… I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause.” Any officer who failed to heed this direction, he said, would bring “shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.”
Trust me, the Americans captured by the British received NO such consideration. Yet, we still chose the moral high road, realizing that inhumane treatment of prisoners would only foster more enmity.
Quite honestly, information gained through torture has been historically proven to be unreliable at best. Pushed to the breaking point, most of us would say anything that our captors wanted us to. Clearly, this is not the way to gain accurate information.
There are plenty of solid reasons why torture should never be allowed, but the last one I’ll mention is the most important of all.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”
That line is from our Declaration of Independence. Note that it does not read, “Americans are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” but makes it clear that all men are recipients of these rights. Exactly where do our rights come from? Our founders believed that the answer to that was self-evident. Our rights come from God. We are all made in His image, and as such, we are all equally entitled to certain rights. If we claim “human rights” for ourselves, how can we deny them to others? Who are we to decide who is deserving of basic God-given rights?
One of the foundational principles of real Christianity is an inherent respect for all human life. Sadly, this has been ignored and twisted throughout history to allow for the justification of wars and atrocities. But one thing has remained constant; those who truly follow Christ must surely feel horrified and sickened by the mistreatment and murder of other humans. Is it really possible for Christians to ever condone the torture of another human? How does God judge our actions in this matter?
I’ll leave you with one final quote from Thomas Jefferson, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”