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It’s not really clear what Religious Left groups want beyond prosecuting and presumably imprisoning Bush-era officials tied to “torture,” while compelling the Obama administration to abandon its own continuation of Bush policies. Do the anti-torture activists want to release all detainees? Or should they be tried in civil courts and possibly detained in civilian prisons? May the U.S. continue to kill terrorists, as in the Osama bin Laden raid, or through Obama’s increased reliance on drone attacks? Killing terrorists obviously avoids the moral questions surrounding their treatment during detention.
But since so many religious groups that belong to NRCAT are led by functional pacifists who reject not just the U.S. War on Terror but all war, presumably they reject the drone attacks et al. Presumably they envision terrorists apprehended through international law enforcement, Mirandized, tried with proper legal counsel, and PERHAPS detained in commodious facilities.
Is even courteous detention of terrorists, preceded by U.S. and international legal niceties, acceptable to the NRCAT and wider Religious Left? If so, they do not say. They do not strongly condemn terrorism or the underlying radical Islam behind it. They do not particularly express great concern for the victims of terrorism. Nor do they express any significant concern about defending the lawful civilization whose legal niceties they demand for terrorists seeking to destroy it. The underlying assumption of much of the NRCAT coalition is that U.S. resistance to terror is itself somewhat morally suspect.
Some officials within NRCAT member groups have since 9-11 vaguely cited morally understandable “blowback” against the U.S. from its ostensibly unjust overseas adventurism. And it seems not unfair to imagine that many within NRCAT and the Religious Left see the conflict between the U.S. and radical Islamists as a maybe morally ambiguous disagreement between two offending parties. And the morally neutral Religious Left is the appropriate party to adjudicate the dispute.
There are real moral issues involved in detention policies that merit serious ethical and theological reflection. But NRCAT and the Religious Left, as they fixate on U.S. “torture” during their anti-torture week and month, show no evidence of ethical or theological seriousness. Instead, they offer mostly moral vacuity. Perhaps other more ethically reflective religious leaders will rise to fill the void.
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