Once upon a time three nice people wrote an op-ed for the Jewish Week. By nice, I don't at all mean that they're nice people. In fact as people go, they're pretty much the opposite of nice. These three people tend to put 'Rabbi' in front of their name, not because they are, but because it's also the fashionable thing to do these days.
They are of course outraged. What are they outraged by? The refugees of Gush Katif? The thousands dead on 9/11? The millions murdered and tortured to death by Saddam and the Ayatollahs? Don't be silly. It's not fashionable to be outraged by such things. That is the resort of extremists, patriots and such awful people who are responsible for everything that's wrong with the world. No they're outraged because terrorists are being waterboarded in Guantanamo Bay in order to obtain information from them to stop future attacks.
Are you outraged yet? Well they are and they (they being Jeremy Kalmanofsky, David Rosenn and Melissa Weintraub) wrote an op-ed about it too in the Jewish Week. Thus the North American branch of Rabbis for Human Rights or Rabbis for Terrorism or Imams for Terrorism has been very agitated about Guantanamo Bay. Their Op Ed was meant to prove that black was white, dogs are cats and that the Torah is steadfastly opposed to torture. That was a challenging task you could only admire, especially from three phony Rabbis who can quote you chapter and verse of the works of Noam Chomsky and keep a copy of Howard Zinn in the breast pocket to stop any rubber bullets, but who still think Torah is an Indian Food dish.
Let the mild amusement begin.
"The Torah and its leading interpreters agree that war might sometimes be a necessary evil, but is not less evil for being necessary. Authoritative teachings have tightened — not relaxed — ethical limits on damage to life and property during battle, and have sought to cultivate our compassion and minimize our cruelty."
Whatever and whoever its leading 'interpreters' are, it seems they missed the fact that war itself can be a Milchemet Mitzvah. They also don't seem to grasp the fact that in the Torah G-d commands Israel to engage in war. If war is an evil and G-d commands it, is G-d commanding people to do evil? (this is a position that makes perfect sense to a liberal theologian who doesn't believe in G-d anyway but makes no sense to anyone who does believe in G-d)
Nowhere does G-d say that war is a necessary evil. War is not a necessary evil, it is those who make it necessary who are evil. Against evil, war is a necessary good. Furthermore the Torah is realistic about combat and the stresses of war and while avoidance of sin is highlighted in order to be worthy of G-d's aid, the Torah does not propound delusional doctrines that wars are fought while being Miss Manners and in wartime, plenty of peacetime prohibitions are relaxed.
"Instead of suspending our moral compass during war we must be twice as vigilant to keep from losing our best selves amid war’s inherent brutality. Accordingly, we believe that Jewish sources would favor a near total ban on torture"
What the gentleman and lady fail to grasp though is that wartime measures are not a suspension of our moral compass. They are an integral part of our moral compass. A society that cannot do what it takes to defend its citizens against the enemy is immoral. A society run by Carters and Clintons who allow terrorists to murder Americans and shrug their shoulders has no moral compass. It is a government that has failed in the most basic duty of a government towards its citizens, that of defending them, as such it has no right to exist.
Our best selves are found at home when we build up our society and aid the weak and promote great works and it is found abroad when we slay those who mean to destroy us. Excessive cruelty on the battlefield is just one evil extreme, the other evil extreme is cowardice and hiding behind false moral doctrines while the enemy wins.
Torture for the sake of sadism is evil. Torture for the sake of saving lives and defeating the enemy is a noble good. Just as murder with no cause is evil while murder in self-defense is a noble good. It is not the act that counts in these cases but the purpose of it. We are not waterboarding terrorists because it's fun but because they have vital information we need to save the lives of our citizens. It's that simple.
"The principal Jewish justifications for violent force are self-defense and pre-emption — forestalling an impending attack. The central formulation of pre-emptive self-defense is articulated in the law of the rodef, or “pursuer.” ...But Jewish law unambiguously restricts this license to preventing an impending crime. The rodef argument can never license retaliation after damage has already been done or after the threat of further violence has passed. "
The complete stupidity of this is truly awe-inspiring. The law of Rodef does not apply to entire nations. Nor does it apply to a governmental legal system. It's like claiming that the police should be governed by the same laws as govern a homeowner dealing with a burglary. The 'Rabbis' are conflating wartime laws and civil laws and picking and choosing what they like from either category and kneading that into one big pile and ignoring context and the balances of the laws. They really should stick to what they know, Zinn and Chomsky.
On top of all that, interrogating prisoners is not retaliation, it's meant to extract information.
"Given the contours of the rodef principle, we find it bizarre that Rabbi Broyde ignores the distinction between the killing of armed combatants and the treatment of prisoners in interrogation rooms. An enemy soldier holding a gun, or a terrorist strapped with an explosive belt simply cannot be compared to a prisoner who is already disarmed, in custody and at our mercy."
The distinction is quite clear. We shoot the former and interrogate the latter. Obviously we don't interrogate armed terrorists or shoot prisoners. Nor does Rodef apply to prisoners taken in wartime by a government. This is a point liberals never seem to be able to grasp when they demand civil criminal laws apply to enemy insurgents captured on a battlefield. Are Kalmanofsky, Rosenn and Weintraub really this stupid or is it an act?
"But this now-detained prisoner may possess information that would save lives in the future. Shall we put him in an ice-cold shower until he reveals some detail that will give our side a strategic advantage?"
Some 'detail' like, Al-Queda will be flying planes into the towers on September 11th. Just more 'details'.
"The right answer is no, according to Jewish legal and moral reasoning. By all accounts, information obtained under duress is very frequently false, confessed simply to get the torturers to stop. Probably for this reason, Judaism legislates a nearly absolute prohibition on self-incrimination — stronger, indeed, than the American Fifth Amendment."
At no point in time does Jewish legal and moral reasoning say any such thing. Information obtained in any kind of interrogation is often false, information obtained under duress has an improved chance of actually being true when it's applied to otherwise hardened men who would never voluntarily confess. The process of interrogation is meant to be able to dispose of the bad information in favor of the good information. That is what the duress is for.
Finally Judaism's prohibition against self-incrimination is within the setting of civil legal cases managed by the Sanhedrin in the Land of Israel. It DOES NOT apply, in a foreign land, in a military campaign against a foreign enemy. On top of that it's a prohibition against self-incrimination that only applies to confessions gathered for legal cases.
That same law also says that conviction in a capital case requires the testimony of two male witnesses with forewarnings. This is not how our legal system works. I do not believe "Rabbis" Kalmanofsky, Rosenn and Weintraub are so consistent that they want the US legal system to work this way.
"Torturing a shackled prisoner mocks our pious claims about the sacredness of human dignity of the defenseless."
No, feeding that prisoner expensive meals, giving him a Koran, letting him have a comfortable life while his victims are buried in the ground and his associates plan more attacks without forcing him to cough up every single piece of information he has, mocks our pious claims about the sacredness of human dignity of the defenseless.
The defenseless are not terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, they are the victims of the terrorists. A terrorist is not defenseless. He had weapons to defend himself with. He had the courage to kill but not the courage to die. A society that treats him as a sacred object and gives him the dignity he has no right to, is one that treats his victims as dirt and spits on their dignity and their right to live.
"State-sponsored torture is a moral horror and international crime. And religious apologies for such torture warp the Torah. As religious teachers, we are proud to study and teach a tradition that forbids this abhorrent practice"
What tradition is that exactly? If we are to believe these lying idiots, the Torah demands that we comply with ACLU regulations when waging war. The same tradition which had G-d command the extermination of entire peoples, in which King David brought the mutilated parts of the enemy as a dowry, in which Shimson pulled down an entire tower would frown on putting a captured enemy in a cold shower for information that could save lives?
In the Torah captured enemies were routinely killed. Not kept in a resort, fed three meals a day prepared by a chef complete with a menu. Not given exercise and entertainment and a chance to attack prison guards. Killed. That was it. That is our tradition and if we actually kept it, the fake Rabbis in question would be shrieking loudly enough to shatter every window in North America and Canada too.
Melissa Weintraub, belongs to the North American branch of Rabbis for Human Rights, whose head in Israel "Rabbi"Arik Ascherman engages in Rachel Corrie style protests against bulldozing terrorists' homes and has been part of sting operations meant to setup and jail prominent settlers by bringing in Arabs to create a disturbance and then charge the settler with violent assault.
Having someone burst onto your property, vandalize it and when you defend yourself, a third party by prearrangement summons the police who are already waiting, is a tactic typical of totalitarian regimes. This works out well because defending totalitarian regimes is what modern human rights activists do best.
Fight tyranny in North Korea, Iran or Iraq? No way. Go there as human shields to protect tactical installations from American bombings. Where's my ticket? The modern human rights movement exists only as an Orwellian inversion of language. If they were honest, they'd call themselves Defenders of Brutal Tyrannies or Terrorist Axillary Brigade but that might make their shaky moral high ground even shakier.