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On Dec. 15, President Bush finally agreed to support the McCain's call for a ban on torture. He did so very reluctantly, and only after both the Senate and the House endorsed it overwhelmingly. If I might put words in President Bush's mouth: "Hey, it wasn't MY idea!"
Bush's position, of course, follows a two-fold track. First, any mistreatment is legal as long as it is done outside our national borders. For this reason they sent prisoners to Guantanamo and more recently to Poland and only God knows where else. Secondly, it's not torture unless it causes organ failure; and if it does, it was not intentional because we meant to keep them alive so that they could continue to feel the pain.
During the Middle Ages, torture was a Christian virtue according to the religious establishment. They believed that heretics were going to hell if they refused to submit to the authority of the church hierarchy, so torturing them into submission was actually doing them a favor. Why? Because through a temporary torture, they could save a person from never-ending torture in hell. Wasn't that nice of them? They were probably saying, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you!"
There is always a way to justify torture and even make it into a Christian virtue. It took an alliance of Protestants and Freemasons to outlaw torture in our Constitution ("cruel and unusual punishment"). The Roman Church burned their last Protestant at the stake in Italy in 1869. That's just 136 years ago. The Roman Church has finally come around to seeing that such behavior only gives it a black eye, so it has changed its tactics.
So how should we treat our enemies? Well, if we mistreat them, we only succeed in making them and others hate us all the more. In fact, we create monsters through torture, and that makes it impossible to ever let them out of custody. At least the Church was setting out to "reform" the heretics. But our political policy has no such agenda. By the time the torturers are done with them, we have no choice but to execute them or keep them prisoners for life. To release them would be like releasing a rabid dog in a residential neighborhood.
Leave it to a Christian president to allow such torture. If President Clinton had done this, the Christians would have been up in arms, demanding a pound of flesh. And I suppose the Democrats would have defended him a la Rumsfeld. That's the political way these days. Our party, right or wrong.
My point is this: Christians should not have waited for Congress to force the President's hand. They should have been up in arms with disgust and indignation. Bush's "core constituency" should have demanded immediate change of such policies.
For myself, I advocate Jesus' policy. First off, we need some humility in national government, rather than always "defending our honor" and never admitting we did wrong. Instead of responding to 9-11 with "righteous indignation," and instead of assuming that we are the ones being wronged here, we ought to have realized that we are reaping what we have sown over the past 60 years in our support for Israeli theft and occupation of Palestinian land. Instead of justifying theft as "God's will," we should have known that Jesus would never have taken someone else's land on the grounds that "It belonged to my ancestors a thousand years ago."
Our response to the 9-11 disaster should not have been REVENGE. It should have been REPENTANCE. But if we were to go to war anyway, we should not have treated our enemies badly. We should have treated them kindly, as Jesus advocated. Then they could have seen true Christianity in action and realized that perhaps their impression of Christians was wrong after all. But instead, we reinforced their opinion a thousand times over.
Forget the enemies; God save us from the Christians.