I’ve been trying, like many Americas, to think this thing through. There is the altogether practical question did torture help us? Did it make America safer? Was the information really good, helpful, in thwarting terrorists? Did it actually in fact spoil pending plots? Frankly, the evidence is mixed.The essay ends in this way:
But I really don’t care. Whether torture “worked” or not as an interrogative tactic is far from the main question. I’m a pastor. I think as a pastor, which is to say as a parish theologian. I don’t care if these guys shrieked like little girls on the playground and blubbered out plots for everything from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to knocking over Bagdad candy stores as juvenile delinquents. Torture is morally wrong. It is morally wrong, theologically speaking, because it is an attack upon the imago Dei, upon the image of God inherent to every human life.
Read the whole thing.
However it was initiated—all the lawyerly vetting that went on, and all the jabber about military necessity and keeping America safe—Khalid’s torture ended up being nothing more than torture, and only that. Somewhere well before the one-hundred eighty-third trip to the waterboard, torture was no longer merely an unproductive means of coaxing information from a suspect. It became an impersonal bureaucratized process that swiped his individuality. It was a form of mental murder.
Along with an account of Khalid’s crimes also must come an account of his humanity. Personhood carries an elementary dignity, even when the person carrying it is one of our cruelest enemies.