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August 25, 2009

CIA interrogation program highlights lack of moral courage

(looks like me and Ace are on the same page) The release of the CIA report on interrogations of terrorists showing that enhanced interrogation techniques worked highlights one of the core failings of the left, a lack of moral courage. This statement will certainly cause outrage among that class as it runs entirely counter to their self-perception and the moral high ground they claim to stand on, nonetheless it is true. Every member of society is dependent on the shared moral values that allow us to live together. The simplest of these is the idea that none is allowed to do harm to others, the golden rule. John Stuart Mill from On Liberty:

That principle is that the sole end for which mankind are warranted,
individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action
of any of their number is self-protection. That the only purpose for
which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized
community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others

Edmund Burke:

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

We organize and deputize certain members of our society to enforce this against malefactors. We authorize punishments, imprisonment and even execution for those who violate the pact of doing no harm. But this is not simply an admonishment to not actively abuse others. In order for such a code to function it imparts obligations to action. Mill again:

There are also many positive acts for the benefit of others which he
may rightfully be compelled to perform, such as to give evidence in a
court of justice, to bear his fair share in the common defense or in
any other joint work necessary to the interest of the society of which
he enjoys the protection, and to perform certain acts of individual
beneficence, such as saving a fellow creature's life or interposing to
protect the defenseless against ill usage—things which whenever it is
obviously a man's duty to do he may rightfully be made responsible to
society for not doing. A person may cause evil to others not only by
his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly
accountable to them for his injury.

Sins of omission are equally morally wrong as sins of commission. If you have knowledge that a man will kill an innocent and you fail to act you are culpable. The fact that taking action is distasteful to you or counter to your nature does not absolve you from that moral obligation. As a member of society you are bound to support this concept if not by your action then by your acceptance or acquiescence. Certain actions must be taken to safeguard all and those who oppose these necessary functions are by nature parasites, enjoying the blessings of a liberty they have not earned. George Orwell (attributed)

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

Khalid Sheikh Mohamed planned and executed the depraved and deadly attacks on 9/11 killing thousands. When we captured him, it was certain that he had knowledge that could help prevent future attacks. This presented us with a moral obligation to gain that knowledge. To fail to take steps, including waterboarding, that would lead him to tell what he knew would be a harm by omission. As a society we have determined that those who have committed certain evils, such as terrorism, can be executed, either as punishment, a deterrent to others or to ensure that they can never do such evil again. How can we then maintain that we should not pour water on the face of someone who has knowledge that can prevent future acts of mass murder? It is unfathomable. Even if you remove the idea that we sanction killing by the state, the failure to take forceful acts, not even rising to the level of torture, to save lives shows a lack of moral courage. 

Now we have reached a point where we have told our enemies that we are not willing to actively interrogate them if they are captured. We have abdicated our responsibility to prevent evil and when future acts of terror kill innocents we are guilty for that failure.

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posted by Uncle Jimbo at 12:08 PM

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