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BACK-TALK

June 21, 2007

Jack Bauer

Jack Bauer is Not Real

There is only one coherent and valid response to concerns that the tortures which occurred in Abu Ghraib and other US Places of Detention might not have been entirely morally appropriate: the ticking bomb scenario. Because once your opponent admits that in very particular hypothetical situations, torture can be justified, then the argument becomes a simple matter of how much benefit of how much doubt we give our benevolent leaders…

Case in point:

“Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent’s rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

Scalia said, “Are you going to convict Jack Bauer? Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don’t think so.” [phillyBurbs: What would Jack Bauer do?]

Yeah, yeah. Just as President Lincoln acknowledged he might personally face consequences for his decision to suspend habeas corpus rights in the course of doing what he felt was necessary; Jack Bauer, to the extent that he is an actual real thinking person, too must realize that he might very well have some ‘splaining to do after it’s all said and done. Both of these figures also surely realized the old saying, “It’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission,” when weighing their circumstances and the decisions they faced.

Yes. That is all well and good.

I grow weary of this so-called “ticking bomb scenario.” I think we should be asking ourselves rather: “When is it morally acceptable not to torture?” Let us consider instead “The Fully Armed and Operational Death Star Scenario.”

QUESTION: A space alien comes to you and says, “We are going to blow your whole world away. All of it, and every single person on it. Complete and utter destruction. Unless you do the unthinkable… I don’t know… say… torture your own child. (?) Anyway, this is your choice. You have thirty seconds.” Is it immoral to not torture your own child?

What if I say, for example, (hypothetically of course): “I don’t care if it means mine is one of millions of voices crying out in terror before being suddenly silenced. Nobody will torture my child, me included.”

Am I going to hell?

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