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Ethical Models

Monday, Dec. 05, 2005 2:06 PM

In remarks prior to her departure for a week-long trip to European countries, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice affirmed that the United States does not practice torture or knowingly transport a prisoner to a place, 'where he or she will be tortured.'

Perhaps now, more than ever, we see the ethical model that drives the Bush Administration:

That which is not explicitly forbidden in law is not illegal.

Perfectly sensible, right? Except it's not an ethical model in any sense of the word. It's the equivalent of children playing word games with their parents.

We expect our children to discern the intent of a parent's guidance, to develop a model of behavior that can then be applied to new situations.

We do not expect them to say, "You didn't say that, so it's not illegal," and help themselves to a cookie on Wednesday, because we said no on Tuesday.

And, yet, the Bush Administration and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw don't seem to be mindful of the ethical failings of a policy to do whatever it takes, as long as it is legal.

Rice suggests that this is an improvement, that, "... the captured terrorists of the 21st century do not fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or military justice," and goes on to counsel us that now, "... before the next attack, we should all face the hard choices that democratic governments face."

What choice? To degrade another human being on the basis of their beliefs? To use (again) the bland defense of, 'it's not against the law,' as a salve on our conscience?

The Bush Administration prides itself on its faith, and on the support of evangelical Christians.

How can we, as a nation, emulate what the Pharisees did to Christ Jesus (a combination of torture and public humiliation) and consider ourselves ethical, or spirtually fit to meet the challenges of a violent ideology?

If we ever reach a point where we can consider ourselves victorious against terrorism, will we be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and be happy with what we did to achieve that victory? Have we honestly defended the Constitution and the ideals for which America stands?


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