Torture and Moral Equivalency
Perhaps the most common movie and TV clichés is the following situation: the protagonists are being set upon by the forces of evil, one of them thinks of a brilliant but slightly morally uncertain plan to defeat the villains, the leader of the good guys vetoes it while pointing out that the immorality of the plan would make them no different than those they are fighting against. Then the heroes find another plan that works just as well. This highlights the virtue of the heroes while making the villains seem all the worse.
Liberals believe that we face much the same situation today. The United States captures dozens of prisoners in the fight against Al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorism. Many of them are then rushed to clandestine prisons across the world (Guantanamo Bay is the most notorious), held for months, sometimes years, without trial, and occasionally tortured. (At least if you count waterboarding as torture. And the U.S. has used waterboarding only rarely, and then only on high-profile prisoners). So is the U.S. morally equivalent to its enemies—does the only difference between us and those we fight lie in degree, but not in kind?
No. Even assuming the worst about America—which you can always count on liberals to do—the United States is undoubtedly morally superior to its enemies.
The adversaries we face are evil—wholly, irrationally evil. Radical Islam has been a dangerous threat for decades. After the creation of the state of Israel, the Muslim countries surrounding it wasted little time in attempting to annihilate it, even though Israel was controlled by Great Britain (not by an Islamic country) before becoming a sovereign country and has few natural resources. Then came the overthrow of the Shah in Iran, and the horrible Iran-Iraq War, which pitted the Soviet-backed Iranians against Saddam Hussein’s vicious armies in a war that truly had no good guys.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Islamic terrorists ratcheted up their attacks against the United States. They attacked the World Trade Center with a car bomb, struck U.S. embassies in Africa, attacked American peacekeeping Marines in Somalia, and attempted to sink the U.S.S. Cole.
Finally, Islamic terrorists pulled off the disastrous 9/11 attacks, killing nearly 3,000 people and destroying two the tallest buildings in the world. The sheer damage and unrest caused by Islamic jihadists over the last twenty years is unmatched by any other group in the world during that time. (And I have only mentioned the attacks on Americans; Islamic radicals have killed many more people from other countries).
Making this situation perplexing is the fact that the Islamic world really doesn’t have a legitimate quarrel with us. Okay, they don’t like our support of Israel, but that is a wholly inadequate reason to launch a war. Apart from the U.S.-Israel alliance, the Muslim world has nothing to complain about—during the Cold War, America gave a great deal of aid to the Afghan mujahideen in their fight against their Soviet opponents. In the Gulf War, the U.S. came to the aid of tiny Islamic Kuwait against Saddam Hussein. During the Nineties, America went to war in Kosovo in part to aid Albanian Muslims. The U.S. has treated Muslims well, and they have nothing to complain about. Hitler was more justified in invading Poland than Osama bin Laden was in attacking the U.S. on 9/11.
So, to sum things up: radical Islam slaughters thousands of innocents for absolutely no reason. It kills indiscriminately and without mercy. In addition, it is to blame for a great deal of suffering around the world, and is guilty of untold numbers of human rights abuses. It opposes women’s rights, freedom of religion, and any form of dissent.
On the other hand, the United States waterboards terrorists sometimes.
The two sides are not morally equivalent. America makes mistakes and commits injustices. But its role as a force for good so much outweighs its moral weaknesses that any attempt to suggest that radical Islam and America have anything in common is simply a disgraceful slander. Instead of worrying about possible American torture, perhaps liberals should focus on the numerous crimes committed by radical Islam.