Steve: I didn't equate morality with legality. I said that if an action is a contravention of international law, then we need strong justification for doing it. It is conceivable, for example, that the right thing to do for me today is to hold up the Bank of America inside Fry's. But I'd need some very strong justification for doing so. You can't say that legality is irrelevant to morality. Romans 13 is sufficient to show that. And yes, the Romans tortured people. Paul wasn't saying that Christians should obey an order to torture. And yes, when the Romans outlawed Christian public worship, Christians had an overriding reason for disobeying the law. What I am saying is that illegality is evidence of illegality that imposes a burden of proof on the lawbreaker to show that lawbreaking is moral. We had that justification in the case of Jim Crow. I don't see anything like it here.
Do you, or do you not, believe that illegality generates a presumption of immorality? I'm not saying a presumption that can't be overridden, I mean a presumption. Or perhaps you don't think international law is real law, that the only "Caesar" that counts is good ole American law.
You know, it might be fun to go smoke a joint right now. There's nothing in the Bible about not smoking pot. But it's against the law, and I don't have a good enough reason to smoke pot to override the moral status the law against pot provides. So I'm going to blog instead.
I don't agree with everything the allies did in WWII, especially the bombing of civilian populations. Neither, by the way, did C. S. Lewis. But we didn't waterboard Nazis when we captured them. So even though we didn't live up to "just war" standards in WWII, we still didn't torture the Nazis or the Japanese. And we convicted someone of war crimes for waterboarding one of us.
MI5 does it, so it must be OK. Two wrongs don't make a right, you need at least three. Is this your argument? Some of us would call this lame.
My focus was on waterboarding, because it seems to me to be a clear case of torture. You want to deny that it is torture? I didn't say all coercive interrogation tactics are torture, I said we had good reason to suppose that we do use tactics like waterboarding that fit within the legal definition of torture.
Does everyone in the Arab world approve of torture, including moderate Arabs? Does the Qu'ran command it? If the Islamic people we are dealing with are total barbarians why in the world are we trying to help set up a democratic government in one of their countries, and spilling all sorts of blood on both sides in doing so?
Does international law count for something? Does the fact that we signed off on the Geneva accords and promised to follow certain rules count for something?
Let's recap my argument:
1. Waterboarding contravenes the Geneva conventions, being thereby defined as torture by international law.
2. Waterboarding also injures our reputation as a civilized nation in the world community.
3. If something is defined as torture by international law, then it should be done only if there is very strong presumptive evidence that much more good than harm, all told, will come from it. For Christians, Romans 13 helps to show this.
4. However, given 2 and other considerations concerning the effectiveness of waterboarding, this seems unlikely in the extreme to be the case.
5. Therefore, our practice of waterboarding is immoral and should be eliminated.
Does this make my reasoning at all clearer?