Supporting and fighting for life is a broad and deep ambition. It necessitates, surely, a love and defence for all life at all stages and for all people. Our opponents claim that we are single-issue obsessives; let us show them that they are totally wrong. Which is how I justify what is I suppose a rather different column.
In the closing weeks of last year the U.S. Senate released its report on the CIA and the use of torture to gain information from jihadists concerning terrorism and planned attacks on Americans. The report was damning, claiming that torture or – God save us from euphemisms – “enhanced interrogation techniques” was widespread and generally unsuccessful. Prisoners were water-boarded, forced to stand on broken limbs, subject to prolonged rectal feeding.
So, what should the pro-life position be? The basic question is one of whether torture of another human being with inalienable rights ever be justified? Those rights, remember, are inalienable in the pro-life worldview not because they were given by a government or by man but precisely because they were not; they are God-given.
First, organized torture eats away at the core of our self-definition and destroys, if you like, our very soul. We are distinguished from the brutes amongst us, and the ogres who would destroy us, by our humanity. Even a jihadist who would behead us, rape our wives, murder our children, deserves a certain dignity; not because he is a jihadist but because he is a person. This, I believe, is important. We need to see through the odious nature of the terrorist and treat him with relative dignity because of his God-given humanity. To ignore this is to give jihadism and terrorism a status above personhood and that is something we must never do. It is quintessentially anti-life.
Second, we play into the hands of our enemies when we torture because they can claim that we are the bullies and crusaders they have long claimed. As societies founded on Christian ideas we are not bullies and certainly not crusaders, yet you can be assured that the torture report is being used to conduct even more persecution of Christians throughout the Islamic world and in particular in the Middle East.
Third, we do sometimes arrest the wrong people. It is impossible to imagine how an innocent person must feel if tortured, abused, and humiliated when there is nothing to say because there is nothing they know. The pro-life position is surely to obsess about justice, to do all that is possible to obtain the fair treatment of all and every. Much as we might admire our police and security agencies and officers, they do sometimes get it wrong. I have, for example, seen aggressive and inaccurate targeting of innocent people at pro-life demonstrations more times than I would like to say.
Fourth, do we really want the state to have so much power; what if it suddenly turns on us? As pro-lifers this should be especially poignant. Home-schooling parents, pro-lifers, critics of same-sex “marriage,” opponents of euthanasia, those who refuse to conform to the new liberal state have all faced an opposition that some would interpret as persecution. In Germany, for example, home-schooling parents have faced arrest; it might not be torture but the forced removal of one’s children comes pretty close.
We are fighting a foe that seems to become stronger and darker all the time and the Islamist killers continue to outdo themselves in their disregard for basic humanity. They hate the west, they hate our freedoms, they hate Christianity and they certainly hate life. Which is all the more reason why we shouldn’t respond in kind. War is sometimes necessary but sadism never so. In spite of the denial and the double-talk, we are in a war and one that is more necessary than most that have been waged. It is a war of civilizations. As such we have to win it and indeed we will. But in the right way, the western way, the pro-life way. God willing. Life, you see, tends to find a way – no matter how great and fierce the opposition
Michael Coren’s latest book is Hatred: Islam’s War on Christianity (Random House). His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org