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Executions, Torture and War, (Oh My)

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George Bush set a record for executions in Texas. More importantly, he supported and defended the practice.

Capital punishment is the result of the mind-set that it is okay for governments to kill, unnecessarily, without the presence of imminent threat, because of some theoretical benefit to society.

Utility, cost benefit analysis, efficacy: such are the arguments in favor of state sanctioned killing for cause. It is a straight line from executing a criminal to torture and pre-emptive war. Once killing for cause is accepted as legitimate public policy, it invariably finds its way onto the table of options.

In his final State of the Union address, Bush said this regarding the Iraq war: “We must do the difficult work today, so that years from now people will look back and say that this generation rose to the moment, prevailed in a tough fight, and left behind a more hopeful region and a safer America.”

War has now become just another foreign policy option – the Iraq war an undertaking not to defend our sovereignty, but to instead test a formulary that it will benefit future generations.

Contrast President Bush’s wisdom with that of Mark Twain: “We build a fire in a powder magazine, then double the fire department to put it out. We inflame wild beasts with the smell of blood, and then innocently wonder at the wave of brutal appetite that sweeps the land as a consequence.”

[Fun fact: According to a recent survey, 4 out of 5 Republican presidential candidates recommend executions, torture and war.]

What I find particularly interesting and paradoxical, is the connection between the politically active conservative Christian “base”, and state sponsored violence.

Codifying the Christian values that this country was allegedly founded on is the rallying cry of Christian conservatives throughout the country, especially in the South. Thus regular initiatives to define marriage, teach intelligent design, allow prayer in schools, etc...

After all, absent the authority of the Christian Bible, society would descend into moral anarchy, would it not?

Tolstoy’s Levin, in conversation with himself, pondered: “What would I be and how would I live my life, if I did not have those beliefs, did not know that one should live for God and not for one’s needs? I would rob, lie, kill.”

How ironic that American Christian conservatives succeeded in electing to the office of president, their candidate, George Bush, and in turn were rewarded with robbing, lying, and killing – the very things Levin erroneously associated with the absence of Christian enlightenment. Even more ironic, a good many Christians appear to be okay with the Bush method, even delighted.

President Bush robbed human beings of due process and human dignity. He squeezed the poor and middle class while fabulously enriching the already fabulously wealthy. He robbed our disenfranchised children, unwitting co-signers to trillions of dollars of financed expenses that were rightfully ours, not theirs, to bear. He lied to sell tax policy that favors the rich via further expansion of our national debt; lied about the malicious outing of a CIA agent; lied about the intelligence supporting the reasons (lies in and of themselves) for the Iraq war. Then there is the killing – ah, the killing – hundreds of thousands killed, hundreds more thousands, perhaps millions, maimed and/or displaced.

The problem isn’t religion, it is people who inject their own innate violence and bigotry into their theology.

I heard a Muslim speaker the other day say she “cringes” every time she hears the words “Islamic terrorist”. The phrase wounds her soul. The words are completely “incongruous” – an oxymoron to the billion plus peaceful Muslims in the world. Worse, the phrase promotes bigotry by linking Islam with terrorism, as if the former is responsible for the latter.

The Bible is not responsible for violence perpetrated by Christians. Likewise, the Koran is not to be blamed for violence carried out by Muslims.

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Robert Sargent is co-owner of a Washington State commercial printing company with operations in Seattle and Redmond. He has an Economics degree from the University of Washington and occasionally plays alto sax with the Husky alumni band. An amateur (more...)
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