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The recent wave of indignation over the CIA’s use of torture and illegal arrests within the States is just as disturbing as the lack of outcry at the time it began. All of the current complaints are based on the realization that the use of torture was in fact ineffective. (As if it weren’t already known from psychological studies that torture fails to produce reliable results). What this means is people are still willing to accept the use of torture if it gets them what they want, no matter how small.

The real problem with the use of torture, however, has nothing to do with its effectiveness. Besides being illegal under both US and International law, it is immoral, unethical, and a betrayal of the nation’s supposed values. Torture treats human beings like objects, deliberately dehumanizes them, and in the process dehumanizes the torturers too. Beyond the problem of the suffering it causes for the individuals, it represents a breakdown of common humanity. By doing so, it undermines the very basis of the liberal ideals which under-gird the system the torture is supposed to protect. Even *if* the use of torture were effective in gathering intelligence, its practice would still erode the rights of the torturers and the public. This damage is fundamental, stripping torturers themselves and their supporters of their own humanity, and undermining the basis for the values which promise not to torture them in a similar manner. Such a fundamental attack on humanity and our value as humans is exactly what terrorists seek to do; thanks to the CIA and co-operating US agents, the terrorists have succeeded.

If there is a place at all for outrage over CIA ineffectiveness, it is here: they were ineffective in helping us to transcend an attack on liberal humanitarian values quite simply because they abandoned and betrayed those values themselves, and have been encouraging society at large to accept their abandonment. One or two terrorists make no difference to that failure.

The above all follows merely from a liberal, humanistic point of view. But I’d argue that it is also a deeply Christian point of view. After all, the message of radical love is near the center of Jesus’s ministry. It is the inherent value and worth, even of our enemy, based on G-d’s image within and love for each person.

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