Does Jewish Law Permit Torture?

In the wake of the Senate report on the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation procedures, some Jewish organizations rushed to declare that torture always and in all forms conflicts with Jewish values. A handful of Orthodox rabbis and legal scholars have produced more nuanced views, as Shlomo Brody writes:

[Michael] Broyde, for example, has claimed that the “wholesale suspension of the sanctity of life that occurs in wartime also entails the suspension of such secondary human-rights issues as the notion of human dignity, the fear of the ethical decline of our soldiers, or even the historical fear of our ongoing victimhood.” This logic would justify water boarding and similar interrogative tactics. But Broyde is quick to note that just because some actions might be allowed under Jewish war ethics, that doesn’t make them strategically prudent or legal under national law or international accords. . .

Yet even if Broyde is correct regarding his broader claim about Jewish war ethics (a disputed argument), the particular implications of his “war-necessity” thesis for torture make many uneasy.

Read more at Tablet

More about: CIA, Halakhah, Jewish ethics, Torture, War on Terror

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy