Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for April 23rd, 2009|Daily archive page


In halacha, torture, waterboarding on April 23, 2009 at 1:17 am

If there is any doubt regarding the Halacha’s attitude toward the permissibility of the odious practice of torture and its dubious utility, read this. Dov Zackheim, an Orthodox rabbi, and the former comptroller of the Dept. of Defense under the Bush administration might disabuse you of the feeble excuses that the Bush administration has been using, up until now that is. The abstract reads:

The international outcry and the rulings of both the United States Supreme Court and Britain’s Law Lords regarding prisoner abuse have serious implications for Jews in the military, whether that of Israel, America, or elsewhere. The uncertainties relating to the actual information that might be gleaned from prisoners subjected to torture, and the likelihood that such abuses would generate both hillul ha-shem and eivah, the latter resulting in danger to Jews everywhere, militate against the use of torture in all but the most extreme circumstances. Only when it is absolutely clear that a prisoner possesses information that could result in the near-term loss of life, the so-called case of the “ticking bomb,” is it arguable (my emphasis) that prisoner abuse might be tolerated.

By the way, it is by no means clear that even in the case of a “ticking bomb” would torture yield the results necessary, so, therefore there are opinions on both sides of this issue. The article is long and worthwhile and written by a member of Bush’s defense establishment in 2006.