BEFORE GETTING TO TORTURE, ALLOW ME TO MAKE a quick digression into abortion. I’m pro-life. I strongly feel that every abortion is the taking of an innocent life [bold mine-DL]. But please note what I didn’t call it â€“ murder.
Murder requires what those in the law refer to as a specific mens rea. That little Latin phrase in this context means you need a precise and knowing intent to kill someone in order to qualify as a murderer. The typical mother who has an abortion and the doctor who provides it have no such intent. They don’t feel they’re taking a life. I feel they’re wrong, and most of the readers of this site probably feel they’re wrong. But because they lack that specific and knowing intent, they’re not murderers. ~Dean Barnett
Notice anything wrong with all of this? Barnett “feels” that abortion is the taking of an innocent life; he cares and sympathises; he wants to know how the doctor “feels” about the abortion he’s performing. That’s nice. We wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, after all, over something so trivial as the snuffing out of human life. Apparently the “taking of an innocent life” is just a minor infraction. Besides, we wouldn’t want to use inflammatory language to talk about infanticide. That would be strident and uncouth.
You might be able to argue, or at least you might have done once upon a time when pre-natal development was not as well and widely understood, that the mother doesn’t realise what she’s doing and isn’t doing it with “malice of forethought” (let’s throw that in since we’re going to be speaking in the language of weasel lawyers), but the doctor surely knows exactly what he is doing, especially now. That he may not be particularly troubled by what he does or believes that he is actually doing a good thing does not excuse him from the responsibility to the life he is ending. But, wait, Barnett isn’t done:
THE TORTURE DEBATE brings out a similar absolutism from torture opponents. They tend to casually assume that people who support “coercive interrogation techniques” do so because they’re congenital sadists who have just been waiting for this moment in history so they could begin water-boarding Muslims with impunity.
That’s not the case. The people who support coercive interrogation techniques, and I am one of them, do so sadly. Unfortunately, given the nature of the war we’re in, certain moral compromises are a necessity. Using coercive interrogation techniques is one of them.
Oh, Barnett is sad about torturing people–so at least there’s some hope for him yet! Why not just tattoo “the banality of evil” across his forehead and be done with it? This is amazing stuff. Doesn’t Barnett realise that it is far worse to be a relatively sane person who nonetheless rationally and knowingly justifies the use of torture and insists upon using the propagandistic euphemism “coercive interrogation techniques”? If Barnett were actually a sadist, the moral corruption he advocates would be much easier to contain and avoid. It is the attempt to make moral corruption reasonable, justifiable, normal that is the far greater perversion of the moral order–and yet he thinks he is showing how reasonable and decent the friends of torture are!
But Barnett hasn’t stopped digging himself into a hole:
What’s most infuriating about the anti-torture people is their tacit assumption that you can fight a war without making moral compromises. War is all about moral compromise. It’s not in the normal order of things to kill others. The very aim of war is to do just that. In World War II, we did terrible things like the fire-bombing of Dresden, the massive bombing of Tokyo, and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While all these actions were terrible, they were also necessary. And justifiable.
Except that it is never justifiable to slaughter indiscriminately hundreds of thousands of people, not even when it is done in the name of “strategic bombing” and “necessity.” There is such a thing as ius in bello. Granted, if you believe incinerating entire cities as a demonstration of power and vengeance is legitimate, what’s a little waterboarding or electrocution going to matter? Once mass murder of civilians, noncombatants, has been normalised, there are no limits. We should thank Mr. Barnett for revealing once again the horrifying moral abyss into which at least some war supporters have fallen.
Update: Mark Shea writes:
There’s just one problem: It is not a “moral compromise” to shoot an enemy combatant in wartime. It is just, assuming a just war. However, the mass slaughter of civilians that Barnett cites aboves is *not* “justifiable”. It too is not a moral compromise. It is simply and solely evil: a “crime against man and God” according to the Church. Barnett is calling a largely religious and prolife readership to enthusiastically accept grave evil. He is, in short, a false prophet.
That’s the name of the game for “new fusionism.”