Wickedness in Ambivalence

April 25, 2009 § 9 Comments

I have called the blog Vox Nova “debate club at Auschwitz” because the contributors generally take an airy academic inclusive approach to publicly discussing abortion, in this day and age with the mass scale horror all around us, on a blog which specifically advertises itself as Catholic perspectives. One of the contributors publicly stated that subsidiarity justifies the pro-choice position, for example, and other contributors have defended him. The point to the “Debate Club at Auschwitz” label is precisely that ambivalent public airy academic discussion in the presence of an actual moral horror which should be unequivocally rejected is inappropriate, like a debate club airily and academically discussing the Jewish Question at Auschwitz.

It isn’t an accusation that the Debate Club is gassing the Jews, or is in favor of gassing the Jews. Rather, it is an observation that there are times and places where it is simply wicked to engage in airy, public, ambivalent academic discussion of certain kinds of moral horror. One of those times and places is here and now; one of those subjects is abortion. Deliberate engagement in airy ambivalent inclusive public academic discussion is perfectly capable of itself – the discussion – being a form of wickedness, in certain circumstances.

The same thing applies to the Right’s public airy academic ambivalence on torture in the face of the fact that we have tortured prisoners, at least one and probably more of them to death, in the GWOT.

The unwinding of the pro-life movement from the inside by strongly associating it with despicable moral wrongs that appeal to the political Right, the home of the genuine pro-life movement, is Satan’s plan. We get to choose whether we will cooperate with that plan, or not.

That includes not waffling over the supposedly puzzling question of whether waterboarding is torture. Waterboarding prisoners as we have done is torture, without any question or ambiguity. You are either with the torturers, or against them.



§ 9 Responses to Wickedness in Ambivalence

  • william luse says:

    <>The same thing applies to the Right's public airy academic ambivalence on torture...<>I've been witness to a lot of this on the news lately, a fair amount of it coming from Catholics. But you don't have the terminology quite right. They refer to it as "harsh interrogation techniques."

    <>...we have tortured prisoners, at least one and probably more of them to death...<>This I hadn't heard. Not that it makes any difference.

  • Hmyer says:

    Over at WWWTW (under this same post) there was a comment discussing whether the death penalty was worse than torture. That got me to thinking about plea bargains. We sometimes hear about DA’s taking the death penalty “off the table” if the accused person agrees to plead guilty and accept a jail sentence of a given duration. It would seem that this situation comes up from time to time.
    Is this torture? I.e. The accused has not been convicted of anything, and we are using the threat of death to get him to confess. Seems like it might be torture, but I was just curious what your thoughts might be.

    Feel free to ignore, if this doesn’t fit the thread.

  • zippy says:

    Plea bargains are an interesting wrinkle we’ve discussed before. I wish I had a link to the conversation handy; kind of busy today but I’ll post the link if I find it. Bottom line is I don’t think there is any <>intrinsic<> problem with plea bargains, though as always just because it isn’t intrinsically wrong that doesn’t mean it can’t be wrong because of intentions, circumstances, etc. In this kind of case I’m not sure it is OK, because the point <>just is<> to force a confession in a context where we know that sometimes wrongful convictions and executions occur.

  • Hmyer says:

    Thanks. Here’s a similar scenario:
    US forces capture a POW (terrorist?).
    Interrogators promise not to execute him if he will give up actionable intelligence. Is that torture?

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I’m a little disturbed by the “and probably more of them to death” phrase, Zippy. Are you inferring the “and probably more” just from the fact that one terrorist _did_ die under torture, concluding that where there was one there were probably more? Or do you have more specific evidence to that effect?

  • zippy says:

    It isn’t just the Jamadi case. See for example < HREF="http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1322866" REL="nofollow">here<>:

    <>Two sources also told ABC that the techniques -- authorized for use by only a handful of trained CIA officers -- have been misapplied in at least one instance.

    The sources said that in that case a young, untrained junior officer caused the death of one detainee at a mud fort dubbed the “salt pit” that is used as a prison. They say the death occurred when the prisoner was left to stand naked throughout the harsh Afghanistan night after being doused with cold water. He died, they say, of hypothermia.

    According to the sources, a second CIA detainee died in Iraq and a third detainee died following harsh interrogation by Department of Defense personnel and contractors in Iraq. CIA sources said that in the DOD case, the interrogation was harsh, but did not involve the CIA.<>

  • wl says:

    I made a mistake above. I saw some more news tonight and the correct word is “enhanced” interrogation techniques. Cosmetic surgery for torture.

  • Anonymous says:

    “We sometimes hear about DA’s taking the death penalty “off the table” if the accused person agrees to plead guilty and accept a jail sentence of a given duration. It would seem that this situation comes up from time to time.
    Is this torture? “


    I have friends who are public defenders in a major city. They have told me stories of innocent people pleading guilty either to avoid the death penalty or to avoid losing their children. I’m not sure if that is torture but it does lead me to question the morality of these plea arrangements.


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