Against Torture

I. Introduction

In the years following the attacks of September 11th, the American public engaged a controversy that seemed anachronistic: do we as a society condone torture techniques if they are deployed in the War on Terror? With the advent of the Geneva Conventions and United Nations charter, most had assumed this question was a settled dispute. One the other hand, many others decried the term “torture” as partisan word-play and insisted the techniques used were legitimate, if enhanced, interrogation tools. This controversy over terminology obscures the debate to this day, while also suggesting a public ignorant of the use of these techniques during the Bush administration. Demonstrably false claims, such as the administration’s repeated assertion that only three detainees had ever been waterboarded, were reported by the media as a legitimate point of view. Additionally, the military and CIA sections responsible for detainee prisons and black sites have kept a close guard on information. In 2004, news broke of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and the American public was confronted with abuses that went far beyond the waterboarding of a handful of suspects. Rape and other forms of sexual abuse, humiliation, and electrocution were now a reality of American’s treatment of detainees.

According to reports from former officers and material produced by Wikileaks, abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have included waterboarding, dry-boarding (slamming prisoner against walls), burning, stress-positions, sleep-deprivation, blasting high-decibel audio, and possible cases of homicide.[1] Eventually, the Bush administration officially endorsed twenty-four methods of enhanced interrogation, and numerous unendorsed methods have been used as well. That much of the public continues to support enhanced interrogation and that the media continues to refer primarily to waterboarding is a demonstration of our (perhaps intentional) ignorance of abuses. The Bush administration characterized all of these abuses as the result of rogue officers, but one must wonder if the interrogators and guards at these sites were not taking precisely the logical end to a road that began with an administrative memo in support of waterboarding. With a doctrine of sin, Evangelicals should have been the least surprised that a tacit approval of waterboarding lead to these horrific practices, but this has not proved to be the case.

Just after the height of the controversy, a 2009 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life polled American opinions on torture by religious group. It found the highest support for torture (the term “torture” being explicitly used rather than “enhanced interrogation”) among white Evangelical Protestants, with more than six in ten affirming torture is sometimes or often justified. Only one in eight Evangelicals answered it is never justified. This contrasted with a national mean of 49% answering torture is often or sometimes justified.[2] These numbers are significant for those of us who are part of the Evangelical Protestant church: as a whole, we are the greatest supporters of torture, and we seem to feel no dissonance between torture and the teachings of Christ. The election of Barack Obama was hoped to signal an end to nearly a decade of abuse, and while official policy has been drawn against torture, Guantanamo Bay has yet to be closed, black sites are still open, and we have little way of knowing whether the practices have been ended in total. With a large segment of the American population still in favor of torture, we should not presume this matter has been settled.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the issue of torture from a theological perspective. My objective is to provide context under which the current debate developed in the early years of the War on Terror, describe techniques used in order to 1) describe the horrific nature of interrogation techniques and 2) justify the use of the term “torture,”[3] and argue that these actions constitute morally reprehensible behavior that a Christian is prohibited from engaging in or supporting.

II. Context: Early Years of the War and the Rise of Torture

Our modern conventions against torture emerged in the shadow of Auschwitz. After the end of the Second World War; the Geneva Conventions were ratified by participating countries to establish international standards for war, including prohibitions on torture. Torture is now a war crime and a crime against humanity, first at the Nuremburg trials and today at the Hague (that no United States official has been indicted by the Hague presents another example of our perceived exception to law). “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,”[4] states the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). In 1949, the Third Geneva Convention proclaimed, “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war.”[5] United Nations article 2.2 prohibits torture, and the United Nations Convention Against Torture (1985) clarifies the definition of the term: “Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person.”[6]

A claim I will develop is that America’s perception of exceptionalism, her power, and her distance from a truly threatening war created an environment were torture was not only policy de jure but also created de facto. Closer to home, the United States Army Field Manual advises, “…U.S. policy expressly prohibit acts of violence acts of violence or intimidation, including physical or mental torture, threats [or] insults… as a means of or aid to interrogation.” The irony of Army’s manual is that interrogation techniques deployed at Guantanamo were adapted from the Army’s school for (resistance to) torture, SERE. What was explicitly called torture if done by a foreign entity was rephrased as enhanced interrogation if done in Guantanamo. Beyond being a strictly military or governmental issue, our media has tended to label waterboarding as torture if done by a foreign entity but enhanced interrogation if done by the U.S. This represents a culture-wide ambiguity of the term. We disavow our responsibility.

Early in the war, a 2002 memo written by White House council Alberto Gonzales redefined torture: “Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying sever physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”[7] When the memo became public two years later, it was pointed our that, in practice, this memo could be used to justify any horrific treatment so long as the detainee was not killed in the process. In fact, by this time detainees had begun to die during interrogations, but if this came to light it could be labeled an accident (or framed as a suicide, as may have been the case in Guantanamo). At the same time, the Bush administration and Congress fought the Supreme Court to curtain habeas corpus as well as redefine detainees as “unlawful enemy combatants” and therefore unprotected by the Geneva Conventions that prohibited torture of “lawful enemy combatants.”[8] When Tim Russert interviewed Dick Cheney in 2001, the Vice President feely admitted, “We also have to work, through, sort of the dark side, if you will… A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies… it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal.”[9] As the scandal came to light, President Bush defensively claimed, “We do not torture.”[10] In effect, the U.S. had proclaimed that 1) its interrogation techniques were not illegal, 2) even if they were illegal, the Geneva conventions did not apply to the detainees, and 3) the ticking time bomb argument made law de facto irrelevant in what amounted to an on-going special case of exception.

This is the argument from exceptionalism; no matter what the legal or moral objection, the United States is doing what it must do for the sake of national security. Senator John McCain (R) has been among the most outspoken opponents of torture and astutely observed, “This isn’t about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies.”[11] But his Newsweek editorial, while expressing a profoundly moral sentiment, reveals a trace of logic that has lead to the same practices he opposes. He opined, “We allow, confuse, or encourage our soldiers to forget that best sense of ourselves, that which is our greatest strength- that we are different and better than our enemies, that we fight for… that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights,” [emphasis added].[12] I claim that it is this species of exceptionalism, when taken to its conclusion, that led the Vice President to comfortably admit that certain dark measures are warranted. It is the belief that different people have different values, and that American interests supersede the human rights of others.

III. The Definition of Torture

Understandably, the United States has a vested interest in concealing public knowledge of torture. Some of these interests are arguably quite legitimate—it is intuitive that abuse of this sort will generate propaganda for the recruitment of insurgents. Beyond the intuitive, studies have know concluded that Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are key reasons Muslim youth have joined insurgent forces, and an untold number of Coalition forces have been killed as a result.[13] But aside from legitimate concerns, a public awakening to abuses would curtail the abilities of the executive branch to execute the war as it sees fit. Since news of interrogation practices has been released, public outcry has been stilted by a definition of terms. What we have is a distraction from the issue in the form of an argument over what is and is not legal. Thus, it is important that we clarify what we mean with the word torture.

Waterboarding has been described as “splashing water in a detainee’s face” on the one hand, and as “controlled drowning” by another. In past history, it has been called one method of water torture and is still called this even within US media when referring to waterboarding by foreign entity. The war over terminology legitimizes or delegitimizes the method. The size and scope of the methods are vested with significance as well, hence the Vice President’s claim that we have only waterboarded three men and the President’s claim that this limited practice yielded life-saving intelligence.

In his book The Future of Faith in American Politics, David Gushee cites a number of practices that have been leaked in recent years. In addition to a now-famous photo of a hooded detainee attached to electrodes at Abu Ghraib, marines in Mahmudiya forced a detainee to dance on an electric transformer. Another detainee at Abu Ghraib was beaten and had a chemical agent poured on his skin while being sodomized with a baton as officers threw a ball as his groin (these two cases are described in Defense Department reports). While there have been no reports of releasing dogs on detainees, dogs have been used at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib to scare detainees into thinking they would be attacked. Another was beaten with a chair and choked. The International Committee of the Red Cross describes a detainee who was handcuffed and made to kneel on a surface hot enough to cause severe burns. The Washington Post reports a detainee was chained naked to the floor and left in cold temperatures (the subject died). In Al Asad, another was trapped in a sealed sleeping bag and died of asphyxiation at an American base.[14]

The Guantanamo cases of alleged suicide are a point of ongoing controversy. Prisoners at Guantanamo are checked every three to ten minutes, twenty-four hours a day, specifically to guard against suicide. Objects in their possession are controlled so as to prevent the possibility of suicide, an action that has been made so difficult that even detainees’ water intake is monitored to prevent death by water intoxication (the only avenue of suicide available).[15] On June 9, 2006, three inmates reportedly hanged themselves simultaneously. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) classified its report, but claimed the prisoners had hanged themselves. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the report was made public and found to detail an unlikely scenario. The inmates were said to have hanged themselves from the ceiling with hands and feet bound. Each prisoner had a rag shoved down his throat. The medical examiner arrived immediately and noted rigor mortis had set in (indicating death by as much as two hours earlier- when policy requires prisoners to be checked every three minutes. The report states that the teeth of one man were broken due to attempted resuscitation by the examiner. Sergeant Joseph Hickman, the guard on duty that night, came forward with a different story. He reported the deaths occurred at a previously secret facility on the base, and he recounted a series of trips made that night by a vehicle he had been ordered not to search. By morning, he recalls, everyone knew the detainees had died by suffocating on cloth rags shoved down their throats and that the camp’s commander, Colonel Michael Bumgarner, acknowledged this before informing the soldiers that the media would be reporting a story of hanging instead. Furthermore, a medical examiner listed the official cause of death as hanging but removed the neck organs which would allow follow-up investigation to determine whether death occurred from hanging, choking, or strangulation. One of the men had been determined innocent and was on a waiting list to be sent home, lending further suspicion against the suicide narrative. At least two other soldiers on-site (Army Specialist Christopher Penvose and Specialist Tony Davila) support Hickman’s narrative. The subsequent NCIS and FBI investigations neglected to view closed-circuit monitors, conduct proper interviews, or view pertinent documents in order to reconstruct the night’s events, and further requests for investigations have gone unanswered. Hickman infers the nature of the investigations amounted to tacit threats against would-be informants and demonstrate a culture of secrecy in the Bush administration as well as further cover-up by the Obama administration.[16]

The International Committee of the Red Cross released a 2007 report on its findings at Guantanamo. It focuses on fourteen detainees and describes methods used against them. It includes 1) suffocation by water, 2) prolonged stress positions, 3) use of a collar to slam detainees into a wall, 4) kicking and beating, 5) confinement inside of boxes, 6) prolonged nudity, 7) sleep deprivation with beating and loud audio equipment, 8 ) exposure to extremely cold temperatures, 9) prolonged shackling, 10) threats against the person and family of detainee, 11) forced shaving, and 12) deprivation of food.[17] The report repeatedly refers to lack of access to proper restroom facilities during waterboarding, travel, and shackling. In some cases, detainees are allowed to defecate into a bucket, but often they are required to defecate and urinate on themselves (if naked) or into a diaper. During waterboarding, a subject is strapped to a bed, tilted head-down, and has a cloth inserted into his mouth onto which water is poured, often for nearly a minute at a time.[18] Stress positions vary from standing to kneeling but, in any case, do not allow a subject to sit. These positions are maintained one to ten days. Similarly, differently shaped boxes are constructed to force detainees into uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time. Air holes are frequently covered so as to begin asphyxiation.[19] Nudity is used as a psychological technique and may last from hours to several months.[20] Sleep deprivation is among the oldest of torture techniques, and most of the interviewed detainees reported this practice would be inflected for days before a break was given. One reported loud music being played on a loop for twenty-four hours a day during his first year of detainment in Afghanistan.[21] Detainees, while naked, were placed in tarps and had cold water poured in for fifteen to thirty minutes at a time.[22] Most reported extensive periods of being handcuffed and shackled, and two reported being restrained in this way for half a year without interruption. In addition to threats of beating and rape against detainees and their family members, they report guards frequently explaining that Geneva Convention rules did not apply, “So no rules applied” and they would be brought to “the verge of death and back again.”[23] Food deprivation was frequently carried on for weeks at a time, during which vitamin supplements were used to keep the detainee alive.[24]

More recently, the advent of classified document dumps by Wikileaks has further confirmed abuses. Documents reveal US officers routinely gave custody of prisoners to foreign entities with known practices of abuse. The October 2010 dump details at least six deaths resulting. The cables indicated US investigations into abuse often ended once it was found a prisoner was transferred into Iraqi custody, resulting in no accountability for those involved. A military document from 2005 indicates the use of cigarettes to burn detainees as well as the withholding of common medical treatment resulting in the death of twelve. A 2007 document details a suspect burned with an acid and his fingers cut off: “Victim received extensive medical care at the Mosul General Hospital resulting in amputation of his right leg below the knee[,] several toes on his left foot, as well as amputation of several fingers on both hands. Extensive scars resulted from the chemical/acid burns, which were diagnosed as 3rd degree chemical burns along with skin decay.”[25] A 2009 document details a suspect who, after being beaten, was pushed into a street and shot. Documents detail electrocution, whipping, sodomizing, and forcing detainee to perform oral sex on interrogators and each other. In addition to the torture of detainees, Wikileaks documents recount the homicide of civilians during home raids and at road checkpoints. Hundreds of thousands of documents have now been leaked to and released by Wikileaks, and as further instances of abuse continue, more are expected to come to light. The significance of these documents, aside from further confirmation of abuse, is that they demonstrate torture lasted far longer than the one to two years claimed by the Bush administration. Moreover, the most recent documents suggest abuse has not ended altogether under the Obama administration either.

The question of who is responsible has been the site of blame-shifting. Evidence to-date suggests that torture began in a haphazard way on location but was quickly legitimized and pushed forward by the Bush administration at the highest levels (including the direct involvement Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, and the Joint Chiefs). When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004 shortly after a detainee froze to death (which military pathologists ruled as a homicide) the administration framed this as the responsibility of rogue soldiers acting out of order.[26] But Abu Ghraib can also be seen as the reasonable result of two years of torture policy. In 2003, Rumsfeld ordered a team of former Guantanamo officers to “Gitmoize” Iraq.[27] Rumsfeld approved fourteen enhanced interrogation techniques which the administration soon expanded to twenty-four. The Pentagon deployed the “Copper Green” or “Special Access Program,” an elite unit with legal authorization to use force as it saw fit to interrogate any intelligence resource. The military’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) school had long taught its soldiers how to resist torture (with torture techniques modeled on illegal practices used by foreign states), but SERE Air Force Reserve Colonel Steve Kleinman recounts his group being sent to Iraq in order to teach these same techniques to interrogators for use on detainees. Horrified at the realization that his job was to teach torture, Kleinman recalls, “They wanted to do these things. They were itching to. It was about revenge, not interrogation. And they thought I was coddling terrorists.”[28] By this time, “ghost” prisoners were being transported across borders to black sites (also prohibited by Geneva) and request for base lawyers and translators went unanswered.[29] With all this confusion on top of the war effort, commanders sensed a growing concern over whether prisoner abuses were illegal or protected. In addition to the Gonzales memo, more clarification was requested. Justice Department Legal Council Jack Goldsmith recalls DCI Tenet’s request that maximum “flexibility” be maintained in handling detainees. Though the State Department is tasked with issues relating to foreign treaties, the White House deployed the Justice Department’s John Yoo to draft a series of now infamous memos clarifying that no legal protections existed for the detainees.[30] Without international legal protection, with twenty-four torture techniques explicitly sanctioned by the administration, and with still-unclear rules as to what (if anything) was prohibited, the stage was set for a series of scandalous abuses to surface. Within a year, Abu Ghraib broke the world news.

The position of this paper is that this abuse constitutes torture. The opposing position often claims that nothing the US has done could be called torture, but instead is merely legitimate interrogation that has saved lives. While there exists to date no evidence that of the pragmatic latter claim that torture is responsible for life-saving intelligence, the former claim is a more peculiar ethical stance. Put simply, if these actions are not torture, what would constitute torture? I presume the claim that US abuse does not constitute torture comes from one of two sources: 1) ideological loyalty prevents the individual from condemning the abuses committed during the watch of one’s political party, or 2) ignorance of abuses committed misleads the individual to believe no such abuses have occurred. I have only personal anecdote to support this claim, but my experience has been that the vast majority of those defending our abuses are unaware of the techniques used (though ideological loyalty often compels individuals to claim the administration has no direct responsibility after the individual is exposed to reports of torture). For these reasons, it is more important than ever that Christians in the US be informed and tell the truth about this terrible issue.

IV. The Moral Case Against Torture

In Carl Schmitt’s classic treatise on political theory, Political Theology, he opens with the maxim, “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”[31] Schmitt develops the idea that sovereignty is defined by the ability to decide to put the law aside. He argues our post-Enlightenment conceptions of the state are really theological beliefs wherein God has been replaced with the state. In short, just as God is free to do as God pleases, the sovereign state is now defined by the ability to make exceptions and disregard law (this does not mean Schmitt is necessarily in favor of the illegal exception, but merely that this is the reality of modern, sovereign politics). The most sovereign state could make exceptions not only to its own laws, but to all international law as well. Schmitt might have said that to torture is to make ourselves a god (or a devil).

Political theorist Walter Benjamin writes, “The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule.”[32] Giorgio Agamben more recently builds on this saying, “The voluntary creation of a permanent state of emergency (though perhaps not declared in the technical sense) has become one of the essential practices of contemporary states, including so-called democratic ones.”[33] This has come to fruition with the permanent War on Terror, which is given daily in the media as an excuse for rights to be infringed upon. There are no borders, goals are either unattainable or unspecified, and violence by either side serves to replenish ranks and political capital needed to continue an indefinite war. What is more, each side appears to firmly believe the other started the war and is solely in control of when it ends. In this catastrophic situation of perpetual war, the state has declared it must now deploy torture. Exception is made into law via legal memos, habeas corpus is suspended by executive fiat or bureaucratic confusion, and international standards against unlawful treatment of detainees are disregarded entirely. If this is the new mode of operation for America, American Christians must consider more than ever how we are implicated and how to respond.

In his book Torture and Eucharist, William T. Cavanaugh calls torture the “imagination of the state.”[34] He describes the nation-state as performing a drama in which groups are assigned roles to play. Hence the war is framed as one of freedom versus tyranny, liberty versus Islamo-fascism, etc. Cavanaugh’s concept of “inscription” allows us to justify brutal behavior not only toward enemy combatants, but moreover, even civilian noncombatants may be inscribed with the label “expendable.” This is most evident in the number of cases of torture that are only known to us because they are from former detainees—those who were captured and released on lack of evidence after years of abuse. Citing Philip Abrams, Cavanaugh says torture represents not just a physical force but also the people’s belief in the nation-state as it “silences protest, excuses force, and convinces almost all of us that the fate of victims is just and necessary.”[35] Is this not the meaning of Maslow’s saying, “When all you have is hammers, everything looks like a nail,”?[36] This nihilism and misplaced belief is inappropriate for one who professes the lordship of Christ.

Jim Wallis writes, “Christian theology is uneasy with empire, and the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison reveal why. More than just politics is at stake in this scandal; moral theology is also involved… Truth telling is also central to Christian theology, which teaches that falsehood has consequences.”[37] The Patristic fathers were ardently pacifist, and this position was specifically defended as a consequence of Christ’s teaching that we must love our enemies and put down the sword. After the Constantinian conversion, a pragmatic tradition of Just War Theory developed. But the very fact that such limits had to be placed on warfare should serve to remind us of our nature, which is so quick to devolve into brutality. An Evangelical doctrine of sin should cause a deep skepticism of the power given to individuals in the conducting of enhanced interrogations (even if it were to be considered moral under certain circumstances). In a peculiar twist, we seem the least concerned with how this power might be applied. When Evangelicals show broad support for enhanced interrogation, we see a need for a more robust doctrine of sin.

If a doctrine of sin should make us skeptical of the power placed in the hands of interrogators, a system of ethics based on the teaching of Christ, specifically in the Sermon on the Mount. The meek and the peacemakers are called blessed (Matt. 5:5-9), and disciples are commanded to love their enemies (Matt. 5:43-4). The Torah’s lex talionis is rejected (Matt. 5:38-9), and hearers are told to treat others as they themselves would wish to be treated (Matt. 7:12). Perhaps most importantly, Jesus tells his hearers that the road is broad that leads to destruction (Matt. 7: 13-4); though torture may seem unthinkable, it is a most natural thing for individuals to inflict brutal treatment against those by whom they feel threatened. Put succinctly, torturing what one chooses to see as an inhuman, brutal, Islamo-fascist is as easy as hating ones enemy. That is the broad way. It is far more difficult to treat an enemy with dignity as one would like to be treated.

For all the failings of the church to stand up against torture, there are glimmers of hope. Numerous denominations have continued to make statements against torture, and Evangelicals are beginning to see this as a moral issue as well. Shortly after the news of torture broke from Guantanamo, 2007 saw the broad support of “An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture.”[38] The document frames torture as an issue of basic human rights where detainees are human beings, neighbors, and “the least of these” (Matt. 25:31-46.) Concern is expressed for aligning our nations legal standards for the treatment of detainees in the War on Terror with “the foundational Christian moral norms”[39] as taught by Christ. The document summarily explains the history of Christianity at its best (drawing support from both Protestant and Catholic sources), supporting human rights up to the present day. After affirming support for international and domestic law that prohibits torture, the document closes by asking that we not become like those we vilify, supporting our own brutal methods by pointing to the terrorism of others. The final paragraph strongly states, “Undoubtedly there are occasions where the demands of Christian discipleship and American citizenship conflict. This is not one of them.”[40] To this I would only add that while there are undoubtedly occasions where Christians may disagree on whether a practice is moral or prohibited, the case of torture is not one of them.

V. Conclusion

This paper has discussed the issue of torture from a theological perspective. I described the early years of the War on Terror that brought about the use of torture, described techniques used for the purposes of 1) describing the horrific nature of actions committed and 2) to justify the use of the term “torture,” and I argued that this constitutes morally reprehensible behavior that a Christian is prohibited from engaging in or supporting in any way.

Torture is not a dead issue. Though firmly eschewed by the current administration and officially prohibited, the cables produced by Wikileaks demonstrate that torture has continued among field agents. While we should find the administration’s firm condemnation of torture reassuring, Guantanamo remains open, black sites are still in operation, and perpetrators of war crimes have been left unpunished. Perhaps most horrifying is that only three candidates running in for the 2012 election (Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, and Barack Obama) have publicly condemned torture. All other candidates in the GOP field have voiced support for returning to a policy of torture. That such rhetoric generates enthusiastic support among so many Americans and Christians should give us pause; this issue is not settled among the American public, and should Agamben’s “state of exception” carry on in the War on Terror, we will continually return to this issue. Now more than ever, Christians must be informed and committed to truth telling about what torture is, about the awful things we have done, and that basic human rights and the ethics of Jesus forbid support of this ineffective and brutal practice. The Gospels describe Christ as being falsely accused and executed by torture in order for the state to maintain peace. For followers of that Christ to support state torture—ostensibly for peace and often against falsely accused individuals—is a case of brutally twisted irony.

by Tad Delay


Blank, Justin, & Kolawole, Emi. “A Tortured History.” FactCheck: Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. (accessed December 2, 2011).

Gushee, David P., The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2008.)

Horton, Scott. “The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle.” Harper’s Magazine. (accessed December 3, 2011).

Hunsinger, George, ed., Torture Is a Moral Issue: Christians, Jews, Muslims, and People
of Conscience Speak Out (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008.)

Inside Guantanamo Bay. DVD. Directed by Cohen, Bonni, and Jon Else. National Geographic Explorer, 2009.

International Committee of the Red Cross. “ICRC Report On the Treatment of Fourteen
“High Value Detainees” In CIA Custody.” NY Books. (accessed December 3, 2011).

“Iraq: Wikileaks Documents Describe Torture of Detainees.” Human Rights Watch. (accessed December 5, 2011).

Mayer, Jane, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror turned into a war on American Ideals (New York: The Doubleday Publishing Group, 2008.)

Schmitt, Carl, & George Schwab, trans, Political Theology: Four Chapters On the Concept of Sovereignty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.)

“Survey: Support for terror suspect torture differs among the faithful.” CNN. (accessed December 1, 2011).

Wallis, Jim, God’s Politics: Why the Rights Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (New York: HarperCollins, 2005.)

            [1]. Scott Horton. “The Guantánamo “Suicides” (

            [2]. “Survey: Support for terror suspect torture differs among the faithful” (

            [3]. This paper will use the terms “torture” and “enhanced interrogation” interchangeably as synonyms for the same practices. Examples justifying this conflation are given in Section III.

            [4]. David P. Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2008), 126.

            [5]. Ibid.

            [6]. Ibid.

            [7]. Justin Blank, & Kolawole, Emi. “A Tortured History” (

            [8]. Inside Guantanamo Bay (National Geographic Explorer, 2009).

            [9]. Justin Blank, & Kolawole, Emi. “A Tortured History.”

            [10]. David P. Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, 126.

            [11]. Ibid., 134.

            [12]. Ibid.

            [13]. Inside Guantanamo Bay.

            [14]. David P. Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, 124.

            [15]. Inside Guantanamo Bay.

            [16]. Scott Horton. “The Guantánamo “Suicides” (

            [17]. International Committee of the Red Cross. “ICRC Report On the Treatment of Fourteen “High Value Detainees” In CIA Custody” (, 8-9.

            [18]. Ibid., 10.

            [19]. Ibid., 13-4.

            [20]. Ibid., 14.

            [21]. Ibid., 15.

            [22]. Ibid., 16.

            [23]. Ibid., 17.

            [24]. Ibid., 18.

            [25]. “Iraq: Wikileaks Documents Describe Torture of Detainees.” (

            [26]. Jane Mayer, The Dark Side (New York: The Doubleday Publishing Group, 2008), 238.

            [27]. Ibid., 241.

            [28]. Ibid., 245-7.

            [29]. Ibid., 244.

            [30]. Ibid., 161-81.

            [31]. Carl Schmitt, & George Schwab, trans, Political Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 5.

            [32]. George Hunsinger, ed., Torture Is a Moral Issue (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008), 106.

            [33]. Ibid.

            [34]. Ibid., 93.

            [35]. Ibid., 93-4.

            [36]. Jim Wallis, God’s Politics (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 110.

            [37]. Ibid., 146.

            [38]. David P. Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, 253-70.

            [39]. Ibid., 254

            [40]. Ibid., 268.


One thought on “Against Torture

  1. If you want to do something about torture, please join us at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the organization I founded in 2006. Thank you.

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