Debating on the internet is a pretty stupid thing to do, especially on message boards. But, I do it anyway. I've met many political comrades on these boards and have been inspired to write many a posts from the conversations, debates and outright flame wars on said boards. There are so many different kinds of people out there and the ones that have intrigued me the most are the ones who are willing to die so peace can prevail. I'm not talking about idealist soldiers fighting to preserve the peace of democracies or stabilize a region. I'm talking about those so deeply moralistic that they'd allow themselves, and in the case of a terrorist attack everyone else around them, die if it meant keeping to their subjective moral code.
I've come across this absolutist suicide pact several times in the debate over waterboarding. Many of my friends, along with myself, support the use of harsh interrogation against captured terrorists. While the morality of waterboarding is in question, the other exposed methods used by our intelligence services are not really in question. We believe, for the most part, that it would be morally reprehensible to not do as much as one legally can to stop these enemies, even if it means going near the edge of civilized conduct. From the evidence we've seen, America has yet to endorse stepping over the line.
The absolutists, though, deem it reprehensible that we have committed any kind of harsh interrogation. Temperature fluctuations and forced nudity is considered as evil as pulling nails and lucid amputation, two things our enemies do to soldiers and civilians alike. The moralists cite treaties that very few nations abide by. Those who are well-read in legality pronounce that crimes have been committed, that those who wrote that harsh interrogation, no matter what the method was, did it because they are power hungry or corrupt. They say they called them legal to please their masters, not because these war-time lawyers may have actually believed harsh interrogation was not torture and it was allowed because the terrorists are not legally soldiers nor partisans. The former and latter are protected under the rules of war. Flying planes into buildings and blowing up bombs near children aren't.
These people seem to want to be able to live morally satisfied in a reality where morality is subjective. They believe they can prove with anecdote and ideal that we can stop monsters without becoming monstrous in their eyes. In the paraphrased words of a rival debater, “I'll be willing to let myself and my children die in a terrorist attack if it meant America did not have to torture.”
As stated, I am defiantly not of this philosophy. I am married. I love my wife dearly. I love my family, both of blood and by marriage, dearly. I also love my country of birth and the country that raised me for fifteen years. The one thing I do not love as much as all that is my personal principles. My subjective views are not above my wife, my family, my neighbors or my nation. While I get to vote, I do not have a right to my way. While I can speak, I do not have a right to be heard. While I get to think and believe, I do not have a right to condemn anyone to death because I don't think my version of torture should be done to people I think are protected under my interpretation of the Constitution.
There's a reason I believe in original intent. There's a reason I don't think “an evolving standard of decency” is a good legal standing. There's a reason I believe, for the most part, in traditional moral codes (minus the religion). Its because if morality is no longer something that is stable and standardized, if morality is up to the individual and the individual can deem whatever he or she wishes as moral, and that person ends up gaining the presidency or any other chair of leadership, it could turn what used to be simple answers to simple questions into a quagmire of contradicting absolutes in which the good are bad, the bad are neutral, the obvious is obscured, the smart are dumb and, most disturbingly, the natural unnatural. In this case, the natural instinct to survive.
Eugen Joseph Weber, The Hollow Years - At Amazon, Eugen Joseph Weber, *The Hollow Years: France in the 1930s*.
5 hours ago