Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Terrible: President Obama's first weeks

President Obama’s first weeks in office have been full of all sorts of announcements and statements from the president. One of the good ones was his presidential memo mandating transparency and openness in government. I hope that the government follows up fully with the kind of disclosure Obama says he favors. Unfortunately, not everything was that good. Something that seems good on its surface but may not really be so was the president’s executive order concerning “ensuring lawful interrogations.” This order limited interrogation techniques used by the military and a number of other government agencies to those listed in the Army Field Manual. The purpose behind this is in some ways noble. It is important that it be completely clear that the American government does not in any way condone the torture of prisoners. Torture is largely ineffective. It makes people tell you whatever you want to hear rather than what is necessarily true. There are also serious moral problems with inflicting torture upon even the most evil of people. However, successful interrogation may not require torture, but often does require innovation, creativity, and surprise. I have to admit that I haven’t read the entire Army Field Manual section on interrogation, so I don’t know everything that it says. But the problem is that people in training to be terrorists can read the Army Field Manual and will know everything that it says. The anticipation that everyone will follow the Field Manual allows them to prepare themselves much more adequately to face future interrogation if captured. It’s probably a good idea to be able to surprise detainees with interrogation techniques that, while not amounting to torture, are not what they expected or were prepared for.

The president’s executive order on ensuring lawful interrogations was not the worst thing that’s come out of the Obama White House in its first week, however. The most terrible thing was the January 23, 2009, presidential memoranda setting aside the Mexico City Policy. In 1985, Ronald Reagan created the Mexico City Policy. This was an announcement that directed the United States’ Agency for International Development to withhold US aid funds from all organizations that used non-US aid funds to support abortion overseas. It was the official government policy between 1985 and 1993 when President Clinton rescinded it. George W. Bush reinstated the Mexico City Policy in 2001, and it remained in force until rescinded by Obama on January 23 of this year. Opponents of the Mexico City Policy call it the “global gag rule.” They feel constrained because they would rather promote abortion than any other kind of family planning. Some organizations have chosen to go without government funding rather than give up the right to perform and promote abortions overseas. I am always shocked by this strange eagerness to kill unborn children in foreign countries. Sadly, the Obama administration has decided to allow the government to provide money to organizations that promote and perform abortions throughout the world with the stroke of a pen in the form of this new memorandum repealing the Mexico City Policy. But this was not a surprise. Obama promised during his campaign to repeal the Mexico City Policy. In his interview with Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren, Obama indicated that he did not know when human rights vest in a human being. This is strange for a constitutional lawyer and a person who wants to be president of the United States. But it is in some way consistent with someone who thinks that it should be legal and reasonable to kill human beings in the womb. For a president who prides himself on his practicality and non-partisanship, the immediate rescission of the Mexico City Policy seems a strangely partisan and ideological act with which to begin a presidency. I and many others have prayed that God would restrain President Obama from taking this step. Let us hope that he is convicted of his error and at some point not only reinstates the Mexico City Policy, but becomes an advocate for the right to life for all living human beings. Let us hope that he comes to recognize what is obvious, that in conception a living sperm joins with a living egg to form a living human being who is alive for legal purposes until natural death. Human beings do not go from a state of being physically unalive to a state of life when they come out of the womb. All the wishes and social construction and linguistic distortion of abortion promoters will not change reality. Let us hope that some day President Obama and the rest of our nation are willing to open their eyes and accept reality rather than seeking to perpetuate a woman’s license to kill her own children.


Dean McConnell said...

Here is a link to a great article and comments on Obama's pro-abortion speech in conjunction with the signing of the memo: http://christiantheology.wordpress.com/2009/01/23/obama-begins-his-war-against-the-unborn/#comments

David Aubrey said...

I found your thought with respect torture to be helpful.