And because this is a grab bag, we will just rummage through it for now. Maybe later we can unpack it. If you would like to read more, a couple of good articles from opposing corners can be found here and here.
That said, here are some thoughts of my very own.
1. You can be morally serious without being morally grounded. The fact that you feel the pressure and the weight of the responsibility you have to protect American lives does not mean you have an ethical system able to bear the weight that situations like this will place on you. Morally serious is not the same thing as moral. Relativists can be anguished, and frequently are.
2. Consequentialism is not a biblical ethical system. There are times when it seems to turn up a no-brainer answer to your question — if we could prevent a nuclear bomb from going off in Baltimore by slapping Khalid Sheikh Muhammed a couple of times, why wouldn’t you do that? That seems reasonable. But without an ultimate anchor, the little dingy of secular smart people can drift a long way out to sea. Now suppose you can prevent the Baltimore nuke by having a dark ops team rape KSM’s mother, sisters, and daughters. Suppose the threat of that prospect would break him sooner than waterboarding would? At some point, pretty soon in the process, you will need more ethical light than horrendous consequences of not doing “something” can ever give you.
3. Conservative schizophrenia about federal intelligence agencies is going to have to resolve sometime soon. The programs we are deeply suspicious of and the programs that make us want to cheer are all run by the same people, who belong to the same clubs, and who all think the same way. I vote for a resolution in the direction of suspicion. But because Islamist terror really remains a true threat, this requires a complete overhaul of how we do business. Given the current presuppositions about our public life together, there are no good answers.
4. For some reason, I saw some people erupting on Facebook against the “Fox News” take on this, when on this point, they really have been fair and balanced. I have heard some really cogent arguments against the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and I have heard them from the Fox News conservatives. I have also heard reasonable points raised by those defending the program. In my thinking, Fox has done an admirable job in getting me the kind of information that has helped me think it through.
5. The Senate report was a $40 million joke. You don’t write a report on a program of this size, scope and importance, and have that report not contain any interviews with the people responsible for what you are investigating. This report was nothing more than a signal for us to all start talking about this particular topic. It did not settle anything with regard the nature and extent of what actually happened. “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Prov. 18:17). Come on, people.
6. But the CIA whiz kids who broke into Sen. Feinstein’s computers and made her so hopping mad were no doubt ISIS double agents who saw a golden opportunity. There is no other compelling explanation as to why the CIA would have done something so STOOOOPID. If Islamo-terror is such an existential threat, then why are people with the IQ of half a pound of wet liver in charge of fighting it? We have CIA operatives who can get caught by Senate staffers?
7. The Senate report said that Bush and others at the senior levels had not been informed about the techniques that were being used. But in the interview with Dick Cheney that aired last night, he flatly denied it, refusing to take the exit offered. He said, forthrightly, “we knew all about it, we were responsible for everything, and would do it again in a minute.” In a town renowned for CYA maneuvers, this was entirely admirable. He was plain, he was clear, and he took responsibility. My hat is off to him.
8. Before we have an international debate on the definition of torture, I suggest that we exclude people who clearly have no idea. If “enhanced interrogation” — an Orwellian dodge, by the way — can include the “attention grab” on one end and water boarding on the other, then we need to work on our definitions. The attention grab is where “the interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.” He shakes the widdle tewwowist and makes him cwy.
9. The whole debate has been politicized, which means we need to labor to get some apolitical perspective — and we need to recognize that these programs are overseen by Republicans and Democrats both. We need to set Bush’s preferred methods (capture and interrogate) with Obama’s (blow up with a Hellfire missile). Obama takes them out this way — blowing them to smithereens at a wedding — so that he won’t be guilty of the outrage of sending them to Guantanamo. And this sets the stage for some Golden Rule questions. Climb into your terrorist brain and answer this — what would you rather? To be blown into bird feed at a special family event? or to be waterboarded three times and sent off to Gitmo?
But remember, this is not a consequentialist world. What we do is going to be judged by Jesus Christ on the Last Day, and He is going to make His judgments in accordance with His Word. The best way to depoliticize this, therefore, is to return to the law and to the testimony.
10. If a real investigation is ever done, and the reported abuses and outrages are confirmed as having happened, then the people responsible should be punished in accordance with the seriousness of their crimes.