Friday, March 16, 2007

Hang on here ...

In a post alternating between criticizing Cheney and raising the question of whether or not we can believe KSM's own confession of his deeds (and don't just raise hypotheticals here Mark, tell us whether or not you believe what he says), Mark makes this claim:
...threatening to murder a man's children is a legitimate tool of war that does not lower us to the level of Bin Laden...

I have a lot of problems with this statement. There is a huge moral difference between threatening to do harm to suspect's associates or family and actually doing so. Variations of the former are a tried and true method that are routinely used by police interrogators on a regular basis: threatening a perpetrator that if he doesn't confess or give up information that some type of harm will come to either an associate or an individual he cares about who is unconnected to the crime. Often this is accompanied by a bluff that there is some kind of evidence connecting the unconnected individual to the crime. While threatening murder rather than some kind of legal penalty like arrest or prison certainly raises the ante, I think that the claim that it puts on the same moral level as Osama bin Laden who has either directly or through his acolytes murdered thousands of men, women, and children on three continents strikes me as more than a little out of proportion. I would also be very interested to see whether or not Mark plans to take this to the next logical step and argue that using this means is no longer licit in police interrogation sessions.

My guess would be no because I don't think that he has thought it through that far, but if he going to argue that this is covered by the mental torment section of Gaudium et Spes I think that shows to demonstrate even further why I think his interpretation of that encyclical is so far off-base.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Er, I don't think police investigators are allowed to threaten to murder a suspects family. That's bad. Not flying planes into buildings bad, I'll grant you, but still pretty bad, and certainly not something police investigators do all the time.

torquemada05 said...

I didn't say that they were. What I said was:

"Variations of the former are a tried and true method that are routinely used by police interrogators on a regular basis: threatening a perpetrator that if he doesn't confess or give up information that some type of harm will come to either an associate or an individual he cares about who is unconnected to the crime. Often this is accompanied by a bluff that there is some kind of evidence connecting the unconnected individual to the crime. While threatening murder rather than some kind of legal penalty like arrest or prison certainly raises the ante, I think that the claim that it puts on the same moral level as Osama bin Laden who has either directly or through his acolytes murdered thousands of men, women, and children on three continents strikes me as more than a little out of proportion."

I don't think that it is an unqualified good, but bluffing to a suspect that if they don't talk that something bad is going to happen to either an associate or an unconnected family member ("You say you aren't involved. We found evidence connecting your wife to the crime. So either you explain what's going on here or she is going to jail.") is routinely used in police interrogation. I will freely acknowledge that threatening to kill someone's children ups the ante in that regard, but the basic principle is commonly used. And to argue that making a claim about killing children reduces us to the level of someone who actually does it is to render the argument absurd.

Diane said...

Hey, did y'all see the latest?

Rod Dreher doesn't like y'all.

That imemdiately makes me favorably inclined toward y'all.

Anyone whom Rod "Abortion-Is-Negotiable" Dreher disses can't be all bad. :)

OK, over and out till next Sunday.

Donald R. McClarey said...

Threatening to kill someone's child in order to make him talk should not be allowed. I have no problem with threatening harm to a terrorist where there is no intention to carry it out, but threatening family members with no intention of carrying it out, does strike me as beyond the pale, even with terrorists. Of course it also gives a propaganda windfall to those opposed to the war against terror.

Having said that, comparing making such a threat, with no intention of carrying it out, with the actions of our adversaries, does betray a moral blindness of staggering proportions.

Victor said...

Actually, Rod has never mentioned us, for good or ill. It was only the fantasist Mark Shea who imagined he has, and I wouldn't consider him a reliable source for the sky's blueness.

torquemada05 said...

Victor is correct.

Rod never mentioned us one way or another, but was instead criticizing the popularity of "24" among conservatives. Mark took that to be referring to us, which is odd since I don't watch the show myself and have never used it as a serious example here. Jimmy Akin has, but Mark always seems to let that slide whenever he blasts the show.