The Case for Torturing Lt. Chase Nielsen

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Gene Healy brings up the ironically interesting torture case of the American Air Corps Lieutenant Chase Nielsen who testified against his Japanese captors on the horrors of waterboarding. Many of these captors were later hanged, and as such, Healy rightly quips “maybe we owe an apology to the Japanese soldiers we prosecuted.”

Given the current state of American moral bearings, an apology to these Japanese torturers is the least we could do. After all, these soldiers of the Rising Sun were really just trying to defend their homeland, and gather intelligence from bomber crewmen like Lt. Nielsen. Lt. Nielsen was a navigator on a B-25, and as such would have had provided significant intelligence information to the Japanese. Of course, while Japan had no idea that they were a few years away from being nuked by the Americans, their torture of the young navigator could have yielded all sorts of information that might have prevented the obliteration bombing and murder of Japan’s two great Christian cities. Lt. Nielsen was later a part of “the first group to be organized, equipped and trained for atomic warfare” after World War II, therefore, he might have been privy as a young lieutenant to information on the Manhattan Project. Therefore, the soldier who tortured Nielsen was just a Japanese version of Jack Bauer, a patriotic samurai doing the best he could to save Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So, if you’re for interrogation torture, is it a universal ethic of torture? If so, then the Japanese were completely justified, since they were hit with more than one smoking gun mushroom cloud. Or is the torture ethic based solely on some tribal ideal where America can be made the exception? If the torture ethic is this second version, then history has a quaint way of making us look like hypocrites. If it is the first, I say we dig up the relics of the dead Japanese waterboarders, and make an offering to the torture gods, begging forgiveness, and praying for everlasting homeland protection. Nothing shores up a universal ethic quite like sanctification. Ridiculous? What the hell do you think torture is?
Update: M. Manachain sends along this interesting blog by Andrew Sullivan noting that the Gipper signed a bill defining torture and offering no exceptions to it whatsoever.

1. “…torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession…”

2. “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

What say you conservatives now against the Almighty and Infallible Authority of Reagan?

8:15 pm on April 26, 2009