Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some quick linkies

On the whole Marc Thiessen kerfuffle, there are many stories on his sound rebuttal by Matthew Yglesias. Here are a couple that crossed my inbox:
A choice quote from Sullivan:
Thiessen is correct when he says that
Few Americans really believe that the United States employed the same techniques as the Spanish Inquisition, or Nazi Germany, or the Khmer Rouge.
They cannot believe that because it does not square with their whole concept of America. What they don't fully understand is how radically Bush and Cheney and Thiessen assaulted the core idea of America in their period in office.
Sullivan correctly points out that moral truth (to say nothing of historical truth) does not depend at all on the number of people who believe it.

Now, if only he would apply that reasoning consistently... but that's another topic.

Regarding President Obama's rhetoric of abstaining from torture, The Seminal points out yet another Bush-era policy-maker that Obama is appointing to his own administration.

And, on the pop culture front, there seems to be hope that the "Saw" series of torture-as-entertainment flicks may be calling it quits. I can only hope and pray this is true.

Also, apparently someone has written a stage play entitled "Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them." If anyone in St. Louis happens to see this, I'd love to know more about it.


  1. I can see your guy selection now to run our national defense. We could have Big Bird and Cindy Sheehan.

    Barry does something right in bringing in people involved with Bush that kept us safe and you guys bash him. Maybe he is coming to understand that if terror hits, he is toast.

  2. For the record, we are not advocating a pacifist lack of national defense. (Some members might hold a pacifist position, but they do so in their own space. This blog is focused on torture specifically.)

    We are simply stating that it profits us nothing to gain the whole world if it loses us our souls.

    We are neither anti-Bush nor anti-Obama, as such. We are anti-torture. We are against assaults on human dignity.

    We are against torture because we recognize the inherent value of all human persons, even our enemies, and we are trying to answer our Lord's call to love those who hate and persecute us.

    My link was not a "bash" on President Obama, but a note that his statements about putting an end to torture under his administration are open to serious question.

  3. Your position on anti torture when there has been no real torture by the US sure sounds anti US and pacifist and many of the posts are also anti Iraq and some of the anti torture crowd is also anti Afghanistan. There have been some comments by the anti torture crowd condemning US for dropping nukes on Japan in WWII and firebombing while others want to take the position that until Bush we never did anything to prisoners but treat them with total dignity and respect in all our wars.

  4. Greta,

    As Robert points out, this blog is dedicated to the discussion of torture. However, as you point out, other issues of war and defense have been brought into the debate at various times. This has usually been for the purpose of analogy and illustration. I, myself, have done so, particularly in one instance which you cite above, namely the use of atomic bombing in Nagasaki and Hiroshima in World War Two.

    The reason I bring this up again is to illustrate the same point which I made by the reference in the first place. The onus is one the person who would use force, even in defense, to establish just cause and just action. It always has been, for the Catholic Church. The Church's Just War Doctrine has always held that just cause is necessary to go to war, and that the justice of a war is also determined by the quality of the actions of the combatants.

    This has nothing to with pacifism or anything of the sort. This is a matter of principle and a point that needs to be continually reiterated. Supporters of torture are asked to put their arguments in terms of clearly stated principles, and to support their points based on the teaching of the Church. That's all. But the problem is that they don't seem willing to do that, sometimes. They beg the question with arguments that somehow "our troops" or "the government" are infallible sources of morality or right action.

    So it needs to be established that this is not true now, and it has not been true in the past. The fact is that, yes, the US has been guilty of gross malfeasances in defending itself (or in acts of aggression) long before the Bush administration. The easiest example of this is, as a matter of plain fact, the use of the atomic bombs. There is no debate about this. The issue has been authoritatively settled by the highest authority of the Church on numerous occasions. That action is wholly condemned and has no justification whatsoever: "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons -- especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons -- to commit such crimes" (CCC 2314).

    Our government, our military ARE fallible. They were in times past, and they are now. We need to look to the infallible sources of Christian doctrine if we are to ascertain the legitimacy or illegitimacy of torture - just as we look to the same sources for justifying any kind of individual action within war (firebombing, nuclear attack) or for justifying a war in general.

    If this makes us "sound" anti-US or pacifist, well, so be it. It's a matter of proportionate values. The ultimate value, the end of all our actions in the final round-up, is whether we know, love and serve God with our whole being and our neighbors as ourselves. National defense, even the lives or mere health of our loved ones, frankly might not matter as much when push comes to shove. The Christian martyrs of every era knew where to draw the line: when it was nobler to remain in Christ and be defeated with Him than to simply try and beat the other guy even if it meant separating themselves from the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

    I draw the line at torture. If that makes me pacifistic in one instance, so be it. But that needn't be a positive choice FOR pacifism, so much as a firm stance AGAINST torture.

    You choose as you will. But if you choose torture, or another practice which might arguably go by another name, then the onus is on you to justify your choice. You needn't justify it to us if you don't want to - you're free to enter or leave the argument as you wish. But you'll need to justify it to Someone in the end. It's just a point we would all do well to bear in mind...

  5. @Greta:

    I have nothing to add to what @Joey G. has said, except to point out that one duty of patriotism is to defend one's country against ALL enemies - even the enemies within her own soul.

    In other words, I really do consider a policy of torturing prisoners to be a greater threat to the U.S.A. than Al Qaida and Iran and North Korea combined. This is because it destroys the principles of justice and equality, without which our entire society will collapse.

    As Plato reminds us, it is always better to suffer injustice than to commit it.