But if doctors can cut off limbs and open up hearts to save lives, and cops may shoot criminals to save lives, and the state may execute criminals, why cannot we commit a lesser evil -- squeezing the truth out of Muhammad -- for a far greater good: preventing the murder of innocents.
Before America had its vast prison system, petty criminals were locked in stocks in the town square as humiliation. Others were flogged. Barbaric, we now say. But was flogging immoral?
Today, many believe that public caning of young criminals, and their return to society for a second chance, would be far better for them and us. It might be a superior deterrent to crime than dumping them into the animal cages that are too many of American prisons, where young offenders face sexual abuse and are exposed to the daily example of how incorrigible criminals succeed and fail.
Who would not prefer a thrashing that might even put one in a hospital for a week to spending years in such a prison?
In short, while the instant recoiling that decent people exhibit to the idea of torturing Muhammad may mark them as progressive, it may also be a sign of fuzzy liberal thinking.
Many of these same folks are all for war on Iraq. Why? To rid the Middle East of a tyrant and his weapons of mass destruction. When John Paul II argues that, with inspections underway, such a war does not seem necessary, or thus moral, Ari Fleischer instructed the Holy Father that this war has to be fought to keep Saddam from giving horrible weapons to terrorists.
But if it is moral to go to war and kill thousands to prevent potential acts of terror on U.S. soil, why cannot we inflict pain on one man, if that would stop imminent acts of terror on U.S. soil? There is no evidence Saddam has murdered Americans, but there is a computer full that Muhammad has and has hatched plots to slaughter more.
What will history say about people who hold Harry Truman to be a moral hero for dropping atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but recoil in horror from painfully extracting the truth out of one mass murderer to stop the almost certain slaughter of their own people?