Friday links

– Chris Hayes: Postcard from Palestine

– Endangered red wolves being hunted to extinction

– Tea partiers fantasize about a “constitutionally pure” government

– Jean Kazez on Sam Harris’s book The Moral Landscape

– On not really believing in heaven

– Corporations gain privacy rights as people lose them

– Soldiers against torture

– A rabbi writes about speaking out against anti-gay prejudice

– A review of Wesley Smith’s anti-animal-rights book

Torture, truth, and the war

Jonathan Schell connects the dots and makes some observations about the use of torture as a characteristic of declining powers.

Catechesis FAIL

Thoreau at Unqualified Offerings brought these depressing opinion poll results to my attention. Essentially, the more of a Bible-believing regular churchgoer you are, the more likely you are to approve of torture:

53% of white mainline protestants said that torture can rarely or never be justified, while 46% said that it could sometimes or often(!) be justified. (1% weren’t sure or refused to answer.)

47% of white non-Hispanic Catholics said rarely/never; 51% said sometimes/often. (2% not sure/no answer.)

33% of white evangelicals said rarely/never; 62% percent said sometimes/often. (5% not sure/no answer.)

The religiously unaffiliated come off best, with 55% saying that torture is rarely or never justified.

And further, the more frequently a respondent attended church, the more likely they were to approve of torture.

Not only does torture cut against the grain of the moral witness of Jesus, but our willingness to support it in an attempt to save our own skins evinces a disturbing lack of trust in God.

The psychology of torture

Marvin made the point in comments here that it’s depressing to even be arguing about the morality of torture. After all, the wrongness of torture is something we should all simply take for granted, and the fact that it’s become a contested topic says something really bad about where we are as a country. Personally, I have a hard time coming up with premises more basic than the wrongness of torture from which I could argue.

All of which makes me wonder: why is this coming up now? During the Cold War, when, by any objective measure, we were facing a much more dire threat, this was not an issue. Indeed, the US under President Reagan signed the UN Convention Against Torture, which prohibits torture or cruel and degrading treatment under all circumstances, including “war, threat of war, internal political instability, public emergency, terrorist acts, violent crime, or any form of armed conflict,” according to Wikipedia.

Which is not to say torture never occurred, whether committed by us or our proxies. But was anyone publicly arguing that torture was the right thing to do? Even though the threat of a nuclear-armed Soviet Union was clearly far more serious when we signed the Convention Against Torture than the threat of radical Islamic terrorism is now, I’m guessing that 9/11 made a lot of people feel more vulnerable than they ever had before. Is that what makes torture seem, to some people, like a viable option?

UPDATE: See Glenn Greenwald, who makes some similar points better and at greater length. See – this is why I don’t blog about this stuff. 🙂

Tortured reading

I haven’t been blogging on the torture issue, mostly because others are doing it far more justice than I even could.

But, in case you aren’t already reading them, Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, John Schwenkler, and Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings have been my regular sources of info and analysis on this.

Also see: this piece by Dahlia Lithwick. And here’s the website for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

UPDATE: First Things–yep, First Things–has a top-flight essay here.

NRCAT statement on the torture memos

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture is calling for a “commission of inquiry” in light of the Office of Legal Counsel memos released this week by the Obama Justice Department:

We must, as a nation, address the fact that high-ranking officials in our government authorized torture and that agents representing our country carried out acts of torture in our name.

Read more here.

Not bad for week one

Obama gives military’s interrogation rules to CIA (More here from NRCAT.)

Obama orders CIA prisons, Gitmo shut

Obama blocks some of Bush’s last-minute environmental decisions

More of this, please.

Paging “values voters”

John offers a timely reminder of the importance of torture as a moral issue and the need for religious voters in particular to hold politicians’ feet to the fire here.

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Conscience of a torturer

I’ve really been enjoying the subscription to Mother Jones my in-laws got me for my birthday. They do exactly what you’d want a monthly magazine to do: run long, in-depth investigative articles that go beyond the surface coverage you tend to get in weeklies or dailies. I used to subcribe to half a dozen or more political magazines, but over the years I’ve whittled it down to two (First Things is the other one).

Anyway, this month’s issue focuses on torture, and I thought this article was particularly powerful. It consists of interviews with several men involved with handling detainees in Iraq.

Huckabee vs. torture

It’s a depressing sign of the times when you feel like you should praise a politician who wants to hold America to a higher standard than, say, the Inquisition or the Khmer Rouge. Still, it’s good to see Mike Huckabee joining John McCain (and Ron Paul) as a Republican against torture:

After the Iowa poll showed that Republican voters like him but found him much less “presidential” and “electable” than Romney, Huckabee sought to build his foreign policy credentials, meeting with a group of retired generals who are in Des Moines to urge the 2008 candidates to commit to opposing torture. After the meeting, Huckabee joined Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in declaring his opposition to the interrogation procedure known as “waterboarding,” and said he would support closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a contrast with the other leading Republicans.