The Speech Privilege, Redux
May 13, 2009 § 16 Comments
Lots of diligent effort has gone into an attempt to characterize the water torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as having been done “to extract life-saving information” as opposed to “in order to extract a confession”. The reason this putative distinction is important is because the latter is unequivocally condemned in the Catechism in language which simply cannot be parsed by proposing that “intrinsically immoral” means that water torture is OK when done for one purpose but immoral when done for a different purpose; language which echoes doctrinal (as opposed to juridical) statements by the Magisterium with a long pedigree. (I think the putative distinction between extracting information about the crimes a prisoner is involved in from extracting a confession is bunk; but as we shall see, it is also irrelevant to the particular case at hand).
So for Catholics of a certain persuasion the distinction is crucial: if KSM was subjected to water torture in order to extract a confession, it was unequivocally an evil act which we must condemn, unless one wants to just intransigently dissent from the Catechism. There isn’t any “parsing room” available by positing this or that spin on the moral theology of intrinsically immoral acts.
But the thing is, the water torture of KSM was done in order to extract a confession. In particular, it was done in order to extract a confession to the murder of Daniel Pearl (source); a confession the veracity of which the family of Daniel Pearl doubts (source), not that that matters in the moral evaluation.
Any legitimate public discussion of torture definitions by faithful Catholics ought to acknowledge, as prerequisite to even discussing the matter, that waterboarding KSM was immoral torture. Anything else is scandalous.