The current debate over the morality of using of torture to secure vital information is hardly new. We had it almost 40 years ago, only in a fictional setting in the 1971 movie Dirty Harry.
Some critics at the time called Clint Eastwood’s signature character the star of a “right wing morality play.” Most movie critics found it “morally ambiguous,” telling you a lot more about the inherent mentality of movie critics than it does about the flick.
The villain, played by Andrew Robinson, is a serial killer who buried a 14-year-old girl alive, demanding ransom. Harry is sent to pay it and ultimately drops the perp with a leg shot. He then steps on the perp’s wounded leg, torturing him into telling where the girl is. Unfortunately, she is already dead.
Stop right there. There is no doubt that Robinson’s character is the person who buried the girl and is the only one who has information that can save her. He will not give that information voluntarily. Harry’s decision contains no moral ambiguity. Harry either uses torture or the girl dies. Pick one. There are no imagined “alternative methods.”
My dear friend the late Murray Rothbard, one of the fathers of modern libertarian thought, was not exactly a Bush-Cheney neocon. Murray’s take on Harry was two-part, legal and moral. You couldn’t, as Harry failed to grasp, use the information derived from whomping on the perp to convict him of a crime, but it would be immoral not to do whatever needed to save an innocent life because the innocent life had a higher value than the discomfort of the perp. I concur.
I’ve had enough of the wailing, moral superiority of the pathologically egalitarian who place equal value on that buried girl and the pervert who buried her. Today, they would not torture or even discomfort a battlefield pick-up 9th Century thug not covered by any rational POW code and eligible for instant dispatch to acquire information he has about danger to the lives of innumerable innocents. Those holding that view are not morally superior, they are as morally bankrupt as the elitists in other countries they wish to impress with their wretched post-modern epistemology.
Many of them would also violate the principle of ex post facto in prosecuting not only those who used what they consider “torture,” but those who gave legal opinions contrary to their own. They have re-defined torture to include that which they believe fits the definition, even though it wasn’t included in the statute simply on the basis that it should have been. In this we see the logical conclusion of the legal theory that the constitution is a “living, breathing document” subject to change at the whim of a judicial panel or even a single judge, or apparently even a single judge in another country. If the constitution is this meaningless, mere statutes and treaties can easily be discarded at will. And with them, the rule of law upon which western civilization is founded.
In their blind hatred for the Bush Administration and their hate-filled desire to punish anyone who worked for it, advocates of prosecuting attorneys for the opinions they gave have yet to recognize the Pandora’s box they just opened. Short of blatant malpractice and incompetence, it is all but impossible to hold an attorney responsible for rendering an opinion given in good faith. They now want this changed to criminally prosecute an attorney for rendering an opinion they dislike. The ramifications of that totally alter the legal structure of this nation. It is wildly radical at its root. It is a concept so foul that it even gets me to rise in defense of lawyers.
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