Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Once again moving beyond parody ...

Realizing that Akin's argument seems to be more or less diametrically at odds with his own, Papa Mark attempts to engage in some real-time revisionism:
Some background: My involvement in the whole torture discussion began with my being disturbed over two thoroughly dishonest apologias for murder and torture in the mainstream right wing press. The apologia for murder was written by Michael Ledeen and constituted a literally Machiavellian appeal to shoot unarmed wounded combatants (because you never know, one of them might grow up to be Hitler). The apologia for torture was an equally slick piece of rhetoric by Linda Chavez which began by saying we needed to define torture and ended by saying we needed to accept torture. My response to their snake oil is here. I found this phenomenon disturbing and was further disturbed as the right wing media continued (and still continues) to urge, excuse, justify, plead for, and satirize opponents of, torture.

For one thing, the fact that he once again labels (and mischaracterizes) Ledeen as a torture apologist for writing a column that has nothing to do with the torture is probably once again an indication that he doesn't know what he's talking about.
In short, my involvement in the torture question (and the involvement of my interlocutors in my comboxes) has been in the context of a real world situation: the use of torture by our government and the extraordinary lengths some of my readers have gone to in order to urge, excuse, justify, plead for, and satirize opponents of, torture. What bothered me from the outset of the conversation has been the spirit of... what? "resistance", I suppose might be a good word, to the simple proposition "Torture is wrong and you shouldn't do it. Our government is doing it now and it's wrong." Virtually ever word of that proposition has been resisted, explained away, and fought, often by multiple people at once, in my comboxes over the past year. Masochists can read over the archives if they don't believe me.

In the course of these discussions I have, more than once, lost my temper and, more than once, apologized. But a sort of urban legend has arisen (which some torture apologists have happily encouraged) that I cannot bear even to discuss the abstract question "What is torture?" This is somewhat ironic because, in fact, it is those who are making the case for fog who have been the most insistent that torture is essentially undefinable and therefore cannot, in any practical sense, be prohibited or condemned. Endless electrons perished in my repeated attempts to answer the question for people who were strangely uninterested in answering the question themselves. I suggested dictionaries. I suggested Army and police regs for interrogation. I suggested the Interrogator's Golden Rule. All these were summarily dismissed by people who truly did not want an answer to the question "What is torture?" because, if accepted, they would immediately show that "aggressive methods" which the Bushies had approved were, in fact, torture. And the goal, for many (though not all) of my interlocutors was to keep that shrouded in fog.

Here again, Mark ignores a number of points that were raised by his critics, namely that his entire response to the question of torture has been to appeal first the Catechism and when he discovered that this was not to his liking, the Gaudium et Spes citation contained in Veritas Splendor. That was his entire argument and any disagreement or questioning of it led to him attempting to establish a false equivalence between those who question his interpretation of the relevant papal documents and abortion supporters. Note that as he writes this, Mark believes, as he has routinely alleged, that the only reason that anyone could possibly argue with him on this is because of an all-subordinating political allegiance to the Bush administration.

He then writes:
However, I will add this: while there may be, in some other world, a way to get to something that looks an awful lot like torture but is not intrinsically immoral and therefore not necessarily condemned by Veritatis Splendor, I can't help but think that this is mighty far removed from reality. Moreover, in *this* world where torture is being conducted by the State and its apologists and advocates in the real world are not much troubled by such fine-tuned arguments and typically operate on the basis of pure consequentialism, I can't help but wonder if "What is torture" is still a profoundly wrong-headed question.

To which one might counter that by the definition Mark has just supplied above that Akin should now be counted as an apologist and advocate of torture for writing the following:
Take waterboarding as an example. I would say that waterboarding is torture if it is being used to get a person to confess to a crime (it is not proportionate to that end since it will promote false confessions). I would also say that it is torture if it is being used to get information out of a terrorist that could be gotten through traditional, less painful interrogation means (it is not proportionate to the end since there are better means available). I would not say that it is torture if it is being used in a ticking time bomb scenario and there is no other, less painful way to save lives (it is proportionate since there is not a better solution). And I would not say that it is torture if it is being used to train our own people how to resist waterboarding if it is used on them (this is apparently something we do, and it is proportionate on the understanding that there is no better way to help people learn to resist waterboarding).

I find it hard to think of particular physical acts that automatically count as torture irregardless of the circumstances. Even cutting off parts of a person's body is not torture if you're doing it to prevent them from dying of gangrene and there is no anesthetic available. But if the pain involved in that physical act is not automatically torture then I don't know what would be. Indeed, I don't know how to establish a maximum amount of pain that can be inflicted, even if it is for purposes of saving someone's life.

Recognizing that he will need to find some way to refrain from condemning Akin here while simultaneously holding all of us over at the Coalition completely beyond the pale and on par with dissenters of Humanae Vitae. He does so through the following rhetorical trick:
If Jimmy had been writing for a year, making every conceivable excuse for torture, starting up blogs devoted almost exclusively to attacking those who oppose torture, and endlessly expressing hopeless confusion over what is torture (while resolutely refusing to acknowledge any positive definition of torture) it would be a different story. I think he's making a first stab at trying to respond to a question he has not addressed a lot of thought to. He's welcome to give it a whack. I wish more people were trying to do it. It certainly beats pondering the meaning of the works of Eminem. And by the same token, I think Zippy has done a pretty good job of pointing out the weakenesses in the comboxes.

I'm sorry, but given that Akin's view is more or less identical to our own, I would be very interested in hearing why Mark regards him holding to it as acceptable and all of us here holding to the same damned thing as being so sick and depraved. Is it through the same telepathy that allows him to peer into our minds and learn that our only motivation for writing this is to shill for the Bush administration?


Actually it's even worse than that. "Others have been pulling this crap for a year," by definition, cannot be the reason for anything he said or did a year ago. Or two years ago. Like ... um, his libels against Ledeen.

Do understand, I have no desire to start a conflict between Akin and Mark, no more than I did to be in conflict with Mark to begin with. I do, however, have an obligation to call attention to what I view as moral hypocrisy (let alone fundamentalist readings of Church documents) on the part of a fellow Catholic. So my challenge to Papa Mark is this: if you are going to continue heaping scorn our way, please explain where Akin's position (or Dave Armstrong's for that matter) differs from our own beyond your telepathic insight into our true intentions.

Completing his rhetorical dance, Mark goes to the following:
Our task as Catholics is not to probe the bare minimum of what is ethically necessary and hug it like a limpet. Our task is not to try to get as close to torture as possible without crossing a line. Jimmy himself recognizes this, I think, in his Big Red Disclaimer. But I think the tidal pull of the "What is torture?" question in the context of current events makes it hard for a lot of people to make the paradigm shift.

The paradigm shift is this: "Do not torture and abuse prisoners" is not the only thing the Church says about our obligation in wartime. There is a positive command as well: Treat prisoners humanely and with respect for their human dignity. If we are seriously obeying that, we will not be asking whether there are things we can do to them that look like torture but are not intrinsically immoral. That, at the end of the day, is not the real issue. Therefore, the question "What is torture?" while interesting in an abstract way, is a question that has, for far too long, derailed the real discussion. For the real question is, "How do we conduct interrogations while being sure to treat prisoners humanely?" Until we start asking that, we are barking up the wrong tree.

This is possibly the beginning of a realization by Mark that he is losing the argument on torture among fellow apologists and hence needs to shift his strategy if he is going to continue to claim Magisterial fiat for his stated views on the evils of the administration. The fact that Akin, like a number of others, explicitly rejected Mark's fundamentalist view of Veritas Splendor is IMO a pretty definitive smackdown even if he didn't single Mark out directly for rebuke. I'll be interested in seeing where Mark goes from here, but I don't plan on holding my breath waiting for an apology for all the abuse he has hurled at myself, Victor, and others these last several years.

Test Case

Jimmy Akin has started trying to define torture over at his blog. I'm still reading through all of it but there doesn't seem to be anything I've come across so far that I disagree with. The differences between this and the views articulated by Dave Armstrong (which I also agreed with) strike me as being mainly stylistic and semantical rather than substantive.

However, as one astute reader notes in Mark's comments box, if Mark has any intellectual consistency remaining he should have issues with Jimmy's approach:
I HOPE Mark Shea and friends will take careful note of this from Jimmy:

"In Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II quoted a list of social evils--including torture--from Gaudium et Spes and seemed to apply the label "intrinsically evil" to this list. This does not strike me as sufficient to settle the question, though, for as His Awesomeness Cardinal Dulles has pointed out, John Paul II's use of this passage from Gaudium et Spes appears to have important unstated qualifiers and thus some of the items on the list (e.g., deportations) do not on their face appear to be intrinsically evil without further qualification. The possibility is thus raised (and I view Dulles's article as turning the possibility into a probability) that the pope was speaking in a general rather than a technical way and without further qualification we cannot simply say that every item on the list is intrinsically immoral.

So I don't think Veritatis Splendor is decisive on this question. Instead, I think that the evolution of the word "torture" will unfold in such a way in the future that the Magisterium will want it used of intrinsic evil."

This is the essential point, if not in the argument, then at least in how to conduct it.

Those of us who doubt that torture has been defined as an intrinsic evil in the technical sense have been derided not just as wrong, but as unfaithful Catholics who are using an OBVIOUSLY WRONG and dishonest method of textual analysis. That's what needs to stop.

Mark says that because of Veritatis Splendor, torture as intrinsic evil is WHAT. THE. CHURCH. TEACHES.

Jimmy Akin says, "without further qualification we cannot say that every item on the list is intrinsically evil."

I have no argument with Mark's position as a POSITION. I have tremendous problems with being told that any alternative view is a dissenting one.

So whaddaya say, Mark? Is Jimmy a dissenter? Or are we talking about a legitimate disagreement among Catholics?

Now none of this matters terribly much to me and Victor, who have been arguing this for some time. It does, howver, pose problems for the fundamentalist methodology being employed by Mark because it poses a direct challenge to his core proof text. When we tried to point this out, we were denounced and equated with abortion supporters and those sought to dissent from Humanae Vitae. Well Mark called the tune and now I think it's time for him to pay the piper.

I would also note that Jimmy says the following:
Just because something can be justified in at least some circumstances DOES NOT MEAN THAT WE ARE IN THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES and thus DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU CAN GO AHEAD AND DO IT. There may be many things that, while not intrinsically evil, are extrinsically evil in the vast majority of circumstances and cannot be done as part of the War on Terror.

Which is basically restating something I have tried to note here again and again. Even if torture is not intrisically evil, Mark is still quite able to oppose its application within the context of the war on terrorism. He can even continue to rant with glee against the evils of the Bush administration. But what he cannot do is use the type of rhetoric and shoddy argumentation that he has employed to date against those who dare to disagree with him on this issue.

Monday, November 27, 2006

KGB Kennedy

In running down the Iraq War, Ted Kennedy says it dishonors "the alliances that won ... the Cold War." And it is a common meme among liberals to say that the U.S. was "united" on foreign policy during the Cold War.

This is, of course, rubbish, as everyone my age or older knows or should know.¹ In the post-Vietnam era, liberals opposed doing everything specific, while pledging fealty in the abstract of course, to contain Soviet Communism and (as with the Islamist enemy today) made every manner of excuse, relativization, tu-quoque, trivialization, explanation, perspectivigitation, etc., for everything Communists did.

Kennedy has more to answer for than most (and I'm not referring to the fact that his 1980 presidential run was motivated in large part by the fear among liberal Dems that Jimmy Carter was too hawkish. Yes. Really.) But no, it's far worse ... Kennedy was an objective ally of the Soviet Union: as this article from former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, based on KGB files, makes perfectly explicit. A sitting member of the US Senate, according to the files, offered to help the Kremlin counter and undermine the foreign policy of the US president (the mad bomber Ronald Reagan and all the illiterate "egoist" hayseeds Jesusland). Kennedy's sanctimony (liberals' generally, too) about "the alliances that won ... the Cold War" might grate a little less on the ears if he himself (they themselves) hadn't been working to undermine those alliances at the time.

Dare we to hope, as someone wrote to me earlier this evening ... that Miss Ann Coulter will find this a suitable topic for Wednesday's column? I think we speak for many of Ann's admirers in saying that her writing seldom inspires so much joy as when she writes about the Chappaquiddick swim champ.
¹ Lest I be accused of partisanship, I will also note that the conservatives and Republicans of the late 40s, as the inheritors of the isolationist tradition in the US, were not generally crazy about containment or the then-just-brewing "Cold War." The "bipartisan unity" of an anti-Communist foreign policy, in other words, was a feature of merely 15-20 years or so (1950-65/70, more or less), less than half the period of the Cold War (45 years ... 1946-91).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I agree that Larison has a point of view worth discussing, Victor

Regarding the role of institutions in societies, the exportability of democracy in the absence of these institutions, etc, etc.

My reference to him as Mark's "paleocon patron saint" has to do with the fact that Mark has been relying on him of late to make his polemics for him without actually understanding the issues that are now in contention. Your own post provides a pretty good illustration of this so I'm not going to add to it, but let me just make this point: I do not, at a fundamental level, believe that Mark understands the issues that he is so cavalier to make pronouncements on at this point, whether it be torture or the war in Iraq.

And given that the lady doth protest too much at the insinuation that I consider him a paleocon, I gave my explanation for using the term here and would ask him to explain why he doesn't consider it a valid criteria for placing him, however creepingly (because, again, he doesn't understand the issues) in that particular slot.

As for Mark labeling me as an ideologue, I expect that it has to do with his contention that the only reason that those of us not in the "accepted" category to disagree with him on issues of torture and the like could possibly due so have to do with the fact that we are currently in the tank for the Bush administration. Even ignoring the issue of torture, one would think that my contention that Rumsfeld must go and that the US needs more, not less troops, would be disagreement enough with the stated views of the administration and most of its loyalists to establish my independent credentials. Failing that, I am going to go out on a limb and say that my endorsement of John McCain as my preferred presidential candidate in 2008 isn't exactly the mark of a hard-core Bush supporter. Unlike, you might say, someone who bought into the conservative conspiracy theory that bin Laden was dead from 2002-2004.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What's really amusing, Torq

... is that the Larison post Shea favorably cites flatly contradicts the point he seems to be fumbling to try to make.

I'm not even going to touch on Shea's complete inability to read Krauthammer for his actual content before immediately rushing to the straw-man caricatures -- "ingrates" -- that is the crack he apparently is addicted to. One reader says he misreads or mischaracterizes Krauthammer, and I believe him without looking at the column. To which Shea's only response is "read Larison," blissfully oblivious to its incompatability with his point.

Larison says upfront:

Observing the Iraqis’ lack of any history or habits suitable to the kind of government they were being called on to run is not condescension or chauvinism. It seems to me to be a blunt assessment of the unequal states of different cultures around the world with respect to having the necessary habits and history to cultivate a functioning representative government under a rule of law. There is nothing inherent in any particular people that makes them eternally incapable of such a political regime, should they for some reason actually want to create it, but there are a great many things in various peoples’ cultures or religions that will always take precedence (and, in some sense, absolutely should take precedence) over the question of how legislative bodies shall be selected or what kind of protections against the state will be enshrined in law. Sometimes this culture or religion will proscribe the attempt at having a representative government as we understand it all together, which would be rather normal and in keeping with most of human history. Perhaps it is regrettable, and perhaps it would be better in certain ways if that were not the case, but conservatives, at least, are supposed to be good at facing up to things as they are. Many have either become very bad at doing this, or they are revealing their lack of a conservative mind every day they continue to run away from a clear assessment of things as they are.

Now, there are several things to be said for and against this view. But Larison is at least speaking from a POV that I take seriously and cannot entirely dismiss -- that institutions build on cultures, which are unchangeable givens (at least within the time frames of pragmatic policy, compounded by the shortness of the American attention span and the perfidy of the Democrats).

But nevertheless, Mr. Larison is still cited in support of this point:

A few days ago, a cloud no bigger than a man's hand appeared in the punditocracy. Charles Krauthammer informed us that the problem with Iraq was not that we attacked the country, smashed it to pieces, and then didn't bother to give any thought to what happened to it after that. Nope. The problem is that the *Iraqis* are insufficiently grateful for the opportunity for democracy we generously bestowed on them. So, you see, at the end of the day, the fault lies not with generous us, who prosecuted a war whose tenuous relationship with Just War teaching grows more tenuous by the day. No, the fault lies with the Iraqis. They were a people who sadly proved themselves unworthy of the war we gave them.

I frankly doubt that Shea is even capable of seeing how incompatible Mr. Larison's point is with his. If culture conditions politics to the extent that the Iraq invasion was a fool's errand (which is Mr. Larison's point), then it's a doubleplus-fool's argument to claim that Iraq is screwed up because "we attacked the country, smashed it to pieces, and then didn't bother to give any thought to what happened to it after that," as Shea sarcastically implies. Further, if you wish to argue this POV, then you would never have been interested in 2002 in the narrowly-operational and contemporary questions of what WMDs may have existed or what ties to terrorism may have existed. The postwar status quo we have, regardless of Saddam Hussein's order of battle, would have been the same because nobody disagreed about the particulars of Arab-Muslim-Iraqi political culture. Or if they did, WMDs and terrorism wouldn't have been relvant to those disagreements over political culture.

Further, the difference between what Larison calls "bizarre" ...

that many Americans assume that what we were offering to the Iraqis ... was what all normal societies should want and which their societies failed to create because their societies were dysfunctional. (They may be dysfunctional in many important respects, but if so they are dysfunctional by our lights in ways that many societies have been dysfunctional.)

... and the sarcasm-boiled-away space from which Shea ridicules the claim in his inimitable style ...

The problem is that the *Iraqis* are insufficiently grateful for the opportunity for democracy we generously bestowed on them. So, you see, at the end of the day, the fault lies not with generous us, who prosecuted a war whose tenuous relationship with Just War teaching grows more tenuous by the day. No, the fault lies with the Iraqis. They were a people who sadly proved themselves unworthy of the war we gave them.

... is effectively nil. If Mr. Larison is right, and the Iraq war was just America's bid to impose an eccentrically liberal vision of the good that few societies, and certainly not Iraq, either should have taken to or could have been expected to take to ... then it isn't wrong to "blame the Iraqis" (set aside the negative connotations of the word "blame"). Mr. Larison's view is that Iraqis, did, should have and could have been expected to, refuse to or been unable to adopt liberal Western ways. In other words, it IS their "fault" (ditto last parenthesis). But Shea can't see that, rushing for the negative descriptors like a crack whore to the pipe she can't give up.

Aside: This is a rarely-remarked-on tension between (1) paleocon views of foreign policy, with its emphasis on the particular and the historical as defining politics, and (2) the Vatican's recent pronouncements and the Church's post-V2 teachings, which partake freely of talk of universal rights and a universal human nature. Either there is a politically-relevant human nature (the Vatican) or there is not (the paleocons). There really is no finessing this matter.

Or to put the same point another way: When Shea struttingly proclaims that "I have this bizarre notion that human rights are for humans" and proclaims his interlocutors to be the equivalent of abortionists (or at least, this is what he says when the subject is the Geneva Conventions and the claim to universal human rights can be cited against the US, the Bush regime and the End to Evil Neocons) ... I doubt that Shea even realizes that what he is saying is incompatible with a Larison-like claims that culture (not "human nature") sets the boundaries of politics. (There is one way out of this contradiction: Shea could be saying that free elections, free speech, equality of the sexes, the rule of law, etc., are not among the things meant by "human rights.")

Et tu, Shea?

This strikes me as having a remarkable amount of chutzpah for someone who has repeatedly argued that Islam posits a master-slave morality between God and Man and that Muslims are simply unable to restrain themselves from slaughtering Christians if given any degree of freedom from an oppressive police state. This, combined with Mark's argument that the West has failed to live up to his Platonic ideal of Christian morality and is therefore unable or unworthy to export democracy (one wonders what he would have said about doing so in 1940s, when the evil of racism that is intrisically opposed to the Christian view of the human person was quite well-entrenched in American society) has been a major reason as to why he has heaped so much scorn on the administration's campaign to bring democracy to Iraq. One would think that he would be happy that the neocons (according to him and his new prophet of foreign policy) are finally starting to come around to his point of view.

As for the rationale for why the US likely to fail in Iraq, here's an answer to his new patron paleocon saint Daniel Larison: Iraq is likely to fail because of the rank political opportunism of its opponents (i.e. people like himself and Mark Shea) combined with the administration's singularly inept inability to maintain political support for the war. As John J. Reilly recently noted, Bush has tried to have Churchill's foreign policy and Calvin Coolidge's domestic policy and the result has not been pretty. There is also his singular inability to defend himself from his enemies within government that should also be mentioned in any discussion of his ineptitude, among them the fact that he let the Valerie Plame matter simmer for the last 3 years without any pushback or that he was politically out-maneuvered for over a month (and pretty much remains so to this day) by a woman whose views on foreign policy appear to correspond to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion when she isn't busy sucking up to Hugo Chavez.

People want to talk about the mistakes that were made in Iraq. There are quite a few of them, a number of them still-uncorrected (see for instance recent questions in the New York Times about whether or not sending more troops to Baghdad would encourage dependency at a time when the city has degenerated to Haiti-level conditions outside the Green Zone) that you can read about in Cobra II, Fiasco, and all the other relevant literature on the subject. However, can one seriously say that worse errors weren't made in World War 2, the Civil War, or the Cold War? I certainly don't see how that would be possible, but the difference between those conflicts and the one we are facing today is that in the others we had the will to fight. Near as I can determine, the administration is now planning to make one last push in Iraq before surrendering its foreign policy to the Bush 41 "realists" who are more than happy to sell the Iraqi people down river.

And oh yes, about Mark Shea. If he really cared so much about the Iraqi people as a collective body rather than merely as individuals perhaps he might have wanted to note his opposition to US withdrawl from Iraq as anything other than a half-hearted addendum. But that might mean acknowledging that perhaps there's something to the effort of salvaging Iraq, which I don't think Mark has any inclination of doing for fear that it might be possibly interpreted as justifying the current neocon position, a view that I don't think his creeping paleocon ideology will let him do.

Friday, November 17, 2006

There is Christian and there is Catholic, Mark

And there is a considerable difference between them.

I refer to this passage:
Conservative Christians have been the exploited stooges of the Right long past their sell-by date (just look at the fantastic amount of excuse-making for torture from Christian administration supporters that we've seen).

Would that include Pat Buchanan, Mark's preferred foreign policy guru, who if memory serves from the earlier torture debates at CAEI also supports torture? After all, we know that the only reason that anyone could ever have to disagree with Mark on this issue would be that they're some kind of shill for the administration.

Coming from an individual who (rightly) gets mad whenever he is accused of shilling for the Democrats because his Bush Derangement Syndrome, it seems that double standards are alive and well at Chez Shea.

Perhaps at some point he'll realize the irony of all this ...

Mark makes the rather odd argument that the GOP has become the Great Society in terms of its domestic policy, not realizing (because he has absolutely no idea what neoconservatism actually is) that neocons formed primarily in reaction aganst the Great Society.

Also, once again demonstrating his complete ignorance of Ledeen, he speaks of creative destruction as though it was something that occurred in foreign rather than domestic policy. This is explicitly spelled out in both Freedom Betrayed and The War Against the Terror Masters that I would advise Mark to actually sit down and read if he is going to continue criticizing Ledeen. For somebody who has repeatedly written about how Protestants who think that Catholics worship Mary are wildly misinterpreting Catholic doctrine, Mark seems to have no problem with exercising the same principles regarding those he disagrees with politically.

ADDENDUM: It occurs to me that Mark's fair weather isolationism that now serves as his foreign policy is more or less an attempt to carry the "root causes" argument for how to deal with crime into the arena of foreign affairs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Just to see how much gunfire I can receive in the comments box for this

Let me take issue with Papa Shea's characterization of John McCain:
With the exception of Brownback, the leadership seems to be crowded with people like McCain and Schwarzenegger, all saying "Don't stand so close to me" to the God First types. I have a feeling David Kuo won't be the last disappointed conservative Christian.

After that little interlude of 20 years or so of giving Christians conservatives a place at the table, the GOP seems to be now getting in touch with its inner Rockefeller again.

I wonder how long it will be before the divorce proceedings begin. I suspect if Bush tries another Harriet Miers, or picks a judge who betrays prolifers, conservative Christians will finally give it up. We'll see.

First of all, the idea that McCain has anything remotely identical with regard to the social views of Guiliani or Schwarzenegger is nothing short of slander. He had problem with the fact that Falwell and Robertson are nuts (though they seem to have reconciled of late), though that criticism like his continued arguments that we needed more troops in Iraq look a lot better in 2006 than they did in 2000. I have always been mystified as to why so many conservatives who care about issues rather than personalities are so eager to support Guiliani over McCain on the grounds that he is more loyal to the Republican Party. For me, the GOP is a means rather than an end to get certain policies enacted and as long as an individual is going to enact those policies I don't care if it's George Bush, John McCain, or Mr. Potatoe Head. All of Guiliani's supporters keep insisting that he'll triangulate, go for federalism, etc. Well, that's all well and good but he hasn't yet and until he does I'll support a candidate who holds my actual beliefs rather than one who might potentially do so in the future. At least the Corner has enough good sense to recognize this with the NRO web editor's crush on Mitt Romney.

I am also more than happy to defend my preferred presidential pick in the comments below.

Papa Mark and Iraq

AnonymousIV (does that mean that there are 3 previous generations of Anonymous?) writes:
I don't consistently keep up with Mark (like Mark, I skim things), so I'd actually be interested in seeing the citations, if it's not too much trouble.

I do know that in the past, he has heaped scorn on the "to hell with them hawks" and quoted the Vatican's point that America going into Iraq has assumed a great responsibility.

I remember that post. Of course, in it he also conflated Derbyshire's positions with those of neoconservatives, as Dan Darling noted so eloquently in the comments:
Conflating Derbyshire with neocons who supported the Iraq war for the purposes of democratization is at best a category mistake and at worst a deliberate caricature. Derbyshire, like many of those on the right who were either extremely lukewarm with regard to democratization or basically believe that bin Laden is essentially correct in his view and interpretation of Islam (neither of which are "neoconservative" positions) never had much invested in the Iraq venture to begin with so it makes perfect sense that he would be more willing than those who did to give up on it.

Anonymous agreed, noting:
Derbyshire is/was a war supporter in only the most literal sense - he thought we should go in and kill a bunch of bad guys, mostly for the deterrent effect. If freedom/democracy came about... well cake meet icing.

So to conflate his semi-agnostic "realist" views with those of us who supported the war in more than the literals sense is unfair.

Derb fits under the Conservative umbrella, but social-, neo-, crunchy- etc. he is not.

I know it's much easier to make your point about conservatives if we are all one big mammon/torture/war worshipping bunch - but we ain't.

Now at the time, Mark stated in response:
This is the sort of cheap lie that gets people booted. I've never claimed any such thing about Cons.

But what a difference time makes, as in his latest anathema sit against American conservatism (supported, all-too-predictably, by a citation from The American Conservative) Mark writes:
That, in essence, is why the Right and I have moved apart. I stayed with Catholic teaching. The right, of its own free will, declared itself an "ideology" and then proceeded to be guided by that ideology instead of paying attention to common sense and prudence. (Not to mention, justice, fortitude, and temperance).

Hopefully, they will get over their infatuation with the crazies who have decided that Big Government Conservatism--a sort of Great Society with Guns--can bring about an End to Evil via Endless War for Endless Peace. Till then, I will criticize them as I criticise the equally crazy statists of the Left for their various assaults on human dignity and common sense.

It is also worth comparing the praise of himself as the one true voice of Catholic obedience and fidelity in contrast to the corrupted right to a historical parallel found in Luke 18:9-4:
"Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this:

"God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get."

But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

It is exactly this type of attitude that led to Victor coining the term "torture Pharisee" to describe Mark, if memory serves. And if his endorsement of the American Conservative article that basically holds that we cannot beat our enemy in Iraq or anywhere else is any indication, the shoe fits on both counts.

Anonymous has a question ...

In one of the previous comments:
Mark said on his blog today that he doesn't know whether or not we should try and win the war or get out. Torquemada05 has continuously said that Mark believes that we should get out.

I believe that Torquemada has continuously ascribed to Mark the opinion that we should get out. Should he (Torq) apologize?

I saw that post and was fairly puzzled by it. Mark has previously stated (and I can dig up the proper citations if you desire) that the US can do no more good in Iraq, that our presence in the country has made us less safe, and all the other standard tropes for cutting and running in the manner of Brave Sir Robin. I suspect that the answer here is either that his views on the subject are not terribly well-developed or that this is something of a red herring. The entire post is tailored to Mark's triangulation uber alles style of writing and attempts to plant him on the "middle ground" based on the fact that he doesn't have a set position on whether we should send in overwhelming force or cut and run. I call BS here because he has previously used this same type of argumentation tactic to cite himself as being more reasonable that supporters or opponents of the war ... while simultaneously embracing any and every anti-war argument that he can possibly find.

If Mark has indeed changed his position on Iraq back to agnosticism I will be extremely pleased since it indicates (among other things) that all of his stated concern for the future of the Chaldean community was more than just a rhetorical club. I'm not holding my breath though, since I believe that he is too ideologically committed to his creeping paleoconservatism at this point to accept anything less. His all-embracing hatred of Michael Ledeen and all his works as expressed here would seem to require nothing less, IMO. But it would certainly be a welcome development.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Any more "lies"?

Chris Fotos gave me a great idea for an open thread:
By the way, Victor, we might be able to add the End to Evil meme itself to your list. Recall that was based, not on Mark's mis-reading, but Mark's non-reading of the Perle/Frum book End To Evil: How To Win The War On Terror. Mark never made it past the colon, and used the book, which he has not read, as part of his attack on a supposed neocon call for secular messianism. Which they did not call for.
OK ... so, I'll open this Combox to document Favorite Shea Lies. Also welcome, "Shea falsely ascribed View X to Person Y." One word of warning. I want people to be as specific and precise as possible. Meaning at least two things:

(1) Only "documented" statements. That is, always provide a precise link and, if feasible, cite the quotation.

(2) Only straight-up fact claims or points of interpretation that are utterly indefensible or based on risibly thin reeds (I will add an example of the latter below). But opinions are out. Saying "Victor is an asshole" might be any number of bad things, but not a lie.

(3) Preferably, cite things that Shea has repeated after having had their falsity or indefensability pointed out to him, especially if his only response was a non-sequitur like "I knew I could count on The Makers Of Fine Distinctions to defend Cheney's lies."

I reserve the right to delete items if I judge them inadequate. I'm all for ridiculing liars, but only with plain facts.

As Chris suggested, I hereby add the "End to Evil" lie:

(ITEM) David Frum and Richard Perle are secular messianists, based on a reading of the book that didn't even reaching its post-colon subtitle

This was pointed out to him here and subsequent, with the only response being his usual "missing the point and dancing past it" act.

Not even a specific explanation from Frum himself about the title means matters. But Karnak Shea, with his infallible charism of reading other people's minds based on four carefully-snipped words, simply flicked his wrist: "Not buying it." As Chris rightly pointed out in the combox, That's Shea's problem.

He has since repeatedly made the claim, one based on 99.9999% ignorance of Frum and Perle's book. In just that single month he used the phrase more than a dozen times just on his main page (who knows how often he may have used it in his comboxes) -- ascribing it to conservatism generally, Front Page Magazine, Dennis Prager, and President Bush; making loopy analogies on space colonization and cloning; and even in reference to a couple of humorous items.

NOTE: One phrase replaced by VJM upon notice that someone whose opinion I care about thought it blasphemous.


I think Christopher Blosser is now officially a member of Team Evil™

We get "It's really only complicated if you want it to be," which I think is roughly Shavian English for "Anathema sit." But I could be wrong.

More textbook-perfect declensions of the "why do you think it's no big deal to heap contempt on Evangelium Vitae" question:
If you want to waste your time trying to dynamite McKenna out of his entrenched hostility to and dishonesty about Evangelium Vitae, be my guest.
I simply made clear the game he was playing. You preferred (again) to major in minors
my ghastly plain speech about people who attack me.
Knock yourself out for the rest of the weekend with the "fair and balanced" act ... I'll be back on Monday. (VJM: I think this is Shavian English for "Mihi irruma et te pedicabo." But again, I could be wrong.)
Anyway, to explain the title of my post. Shea apparently doesn't like name-calling (whooda thunk it). He singles out four. They're not exhaustive, but he has repeated them, so one assumes they're what get his goat:
"Torture Pharisees", "complete jerkwads", "liars" and "Papa Shea"
I'm the originator of three of those terms (the last one being the exception), so clearly this is largely aimed at me.

"Complete jerkwads" is, of course, intellectually indefensible and completely meaningless beyond "I don't like this person." I'll note though that I only used it once, and long after I'd given up on Shea as interested in discussion or interesting as anything other than a foil or a case study. The well had long been poisoned, in other words.

"Torture Pharisee" was coined by me in quite specific response (I distinctly remember doing it) to Shea's coinage "Torture Apologists" to describe me and others in the early days of this topic, in the summer of 2004. I'm not privy to Shea's thoughts, so I have no idea what motivates him on this subject. But he has neither technical nor moral problems with reading other people's minds and ascribing ill motive therein and stating them as factual givens. He does it incessantly, habitually and contrary to repeated warnings. So, to the extent anyone is competent to ascribe motive, I am morally satisfied that his is all about public posturing about how moral he is, how he hasn't drunk the Bushite Kool-Aid, how he hasn't put ideology before country and all the rest of that litany. Pharisaism, in other words. Still, I'll make the Shea an offer: I'll quit calling him a Torture Pharisee or similar terms if he stops calling others Torture Apologists or similar terms. I doubt he'll accept and I REALLY doubt he'd keep to it, but there it is.

The last term, "liar," apparently REALLY gets under his skin. Last week, he wrote:
You know, I try *very very* hard to give the best I have on this blog. ... But I *never* try to deceive and I take it as the greatest affront to be called a liar. This, and much else I have had to put up with routinely in the discussion about torture, has made my fuse rather short.
I freely admit, I have called Shea a liar repeatedly on this subject. But unlike "complete jerkwad," the term "lie" actually has a specific meaning, determinable in cases: "to deliberately tell an untruth," a liar being someone who does so habitually. So it's something that can be determined objectively -- X said Y is Y false; did X know (or should he have known) that Y is false. These are all questions that can be answered. I should note also that Shea is not above calling others liars; this single post from yesterday uses the word in one form or another 15 times (and I'm not counting near-synonyms like "mendacity"). He even draws a moral about "liars" and making inferences about other things they say:
the problem this raises is the one you always face when you are confronted with a liar: how many other lies has he told? I have no answer to that question. ... [but] if they [the Bushies] can lie this brazenly and imagine nobody will notice...
So Shea clearly doesn't think the term itself is inherently out-of-bounds, like "bastard" or "mother-fucker" might be. So the only question worth asking is "did I call Shea a 'liar' falsely or unjustifiably?"

Earlier this week, I searched through this blog and found every time I used the word "lie," "liar," or "lying" with respect to Shea. My conscience is clear. I used the term in eight different posts. In every one of those eight (unlike Shea, I am careful about what I say, which is why I get so angry at people who ascribe ideas or motives to me), I say quite clearly what the falsehood is. I provide the links and/or quotes ("quotes" ... not the "at the end, what you really mean is" Karnakisms that Shea is so addicted to) to where Shea said it. And I explain what is wrong with it. Almost all are straight factual matters ("so-and-so said X" being the commonest), and none is totally a matter of opinion or interpretation. In most, Shea repeated the lie after it had been pointed out to him, and in a couple of cases after providing a piss-poor non-response like calling others' pointing out the lie "excuse-making" or "gnats and camels," etc. For the disinterested, here are Shea's lies (seven distinct ones) and the posts I detailed them:

(1) That Michael Ledeen has advocated shooting unarmed combatants

(2) That Torture Apologists cite 24 as the real world, in the labeled "insert by VJM" (actually, the only person I'm definitely aware of about whom this is true is Jimmy Akin, who somehow manages to cite 24 without being an "alleged Catholic" or doing Satan's bidding)

(3) That "the pictures" at Abu Ghraib are relevant at all to whatever "torture" the Bush administration can be culpably blamed for

(4) That Dick Cheney blamed September 11 on Saddam Hussein

(5) That "aggressive information gathering" is just a euphemism for torture

(6) That the US did not torture (by Shea's apparent understanding) during WW2 and the Cold War

(7) That torture categorically doesn't work in reality

It's very simple (or "only complicated if you want it to be"). If you don't want me to call you a liar, don't lie. It's not an excuse to say "I blog informally" or "I just skim stuff." Those are valid reasons for an initial misinterpretation. Not for the repetition of a falsehood once called on it (1 and 4 above are the most egregious cases; morally-speaking, Shea committed libel on both points). And "time constraints" isn't an excuse either. If someone else's post is important enough to respond to *at all* and/or one's own opinion is important enough to post *at all* (and I'm not saying there is any obligation per se to do either *at all*; there clearly isn't), then they're important enough to be accurate about. Haste, even justified haste, doesn't excuse falsehood. It's really that simple.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Irony is dead

Papa Mark writes:
I mentioned *my* views, which were grossly falsified by McKenna.
In a combox off this post, which includes the following choice tidbits:
[McKenna says] I demonstrate an insufficiently insatiable hunger and thirst for death, death, death, and more death
[McKenna's] blog is more or less devoted to obsessing over how to execute as many people as humanly possible
[McKenna] is naturally orgasmic [where ARE the semen stains? VJM] at the idea of hanging Saddam. Failure to be thrilled at the death of a human being and a general agreement with Pope John Paul that it's better to forego executing people unless you really need to is, for McKenna the ultimate crime and the source of numberless [can't count that high? VJM] entries on his vengeful blog.
Comment superfluous.

ANOTHER THOUGHT: Later in the same Combox note, we get yet another classic moment of Shea's "intellectual" style. To that well-known John-Paul-hater Christopher Blosser:
What puzzles me even more is why you think it's no big deal to heap contempt on Evangelium Vitae.
This is so precisely in the form of a "have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife-yet" question that it's beyond parody. It's a pitch-perfect example of it. In fact, I will now recategorize that "assuming your own conclusion"-style of self-righteous posturing. It's now a "why do you think it's no big deal to heap contempt on Evangelium Vitae"-type question.

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING: Noting Shea's intellectual crimes is like playing whack-a-mole. There's just too many to keep up. I mean -- does one laugh or cry at this note with that classically Shavian cocktail of clueless self-righteousness. Is he even capable any more of framing a disagreement in terms that don't always already presuppose that he is in the right (which is a very different thing from thinking one is in the right, which everybody does of course) or that don't do the intellectual equivalent of steal all four bases? Here is a Shavian Combox in 10-second form:
Shea: McKenna is spitting on the Church, and I am upholding Church teaching
Others: Don't be a jerk; McKenna is not spitting on the Church, and the teaching is more open than you say it is
Shea: Why is everyone concerned more about me being a jerk for upholding church teaching than about McKenna spitting on the Church
You can play this game for hours (or years) on end. I'm hereby trade-marking it as Shavian Combox™ -- Fun for the whole family. Recommended for those 12 or under (mentally).

As for the other point -- Shea not appreciating Jimmy Akin being cited at him. I'll say the rationale bluntly because, well ... I'm not that much of a diplomat. The reason others are citing Mr. Akin is not because he's some blogospheric magisterium. Nor is it to goad a war or pit the two -- "let's you and him fight" and all that. And it doesn't speak to the rights and wrongs of the issue at all.

No, Mr. Akin is being cited to demonstrate a very particular hypothesis, one that Torquemada and I developed months ago -- that Shea's behaves very differently toward different people, proving that he is a posturing bully without a shred of intellectual integrity. He will hurl every manner of rhetorical ugliness and personal nastiness against people who disagree with him vigorously but *who hold no power over him.* (No citations necessary on this point, I assume.) But when someone who does hold power over him, or at the very least has influence where it matters to Shea (like Mr. Akin does, citations adequately provided by Mr. Blosser -- and I have saved the Combox to guard against The Osheania Ministry of Truth's Delete-O-Meter™) -- well ... now ... that's a completely different matter. He can hold ideas. To be fair, the post by Mr. Akin that Mr. Blosser cites is more measured and less rhetorical than that of Mr. McKenna. But that slight gap in style in expressing essentially the same ideas does not spell the difference between a "good guy" and someone "orgasmic at the thought of death, death, death and more death."

Or as someone wrote to me earlier this evening:
At this point I'm going to dispense with charity and say that Mark is only willing to target people with opinions he doesn't like ... so long as they don't have clout within his little social circle. That isn't non-contradiction, it's both tribalism and hypocrisy, neither of which are particularly admiring traits for someone who is supposed to help evangelize and defend the Church to the general population. The fact that he demonizes McKenna while ignoring Akin despite the identical nature of their actual positions is nothing short of contemptible and further highlights Mark's sad decline.

Can I finally call him a paleocon now?

In his latest conflation of the torture issue and opposition to the war in Iraq, Mark links approvingly to a list of alleged GOP failings, some of which I agree with, others of which I do not, which claims that the neocons tried to turn the GOP into "a Trotskyite party." If Mark is going to start flinging around these charges seriously, he needs to start putting up or shutting up. When last I checked, slander is still a sin, though maybe he considers it necessary to "enter into evil" so that good can result on this one.

Now assuming he is interested in actually knowing the facts of the situation as they relate to the Iraq war, he can consult the Butler Report, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report, the Robb-Silberman Commission, or the Duelfer report. In keeping with his tradition of adhering to the worst forms of demagoguery, Mark is attempting to argue that because Bush was lying when it came to Rumsfeld's future either last week or this week that he was lying when it came to WMDs. Well, one of the things you do when you think that somebody might be lying about an issue of fact is that you try to get a second opinion and in this case we happen to have not one, but four. So if Mark is actually interested in discerning the actual truth here rather than wallowing in his ignorance, he can get off his ass and start reading through the relevant documents that millions of dollars of our tax money was used to research and produce. But I suspect he won't, either because he considers it too difficult for him to understand (in which case maybe he might want to tone down the volume of his sweeping denunciations) or because he was never interested in the truth on this one, just another rhetorical club from which to bash the war. When he starts endorsing these kinds of absurd slippery slope arguments, one wonders how soon Mark will start buying into all the charts that purport to show how the whole Iraq war was really nothing more than a neocon plot staged solely to benefit Israel.

Finally, I mentioned my thoughts yesterday on the removal of Rumsfeld. As I said then, I have little liking for the man's policies and am glad that he is gone but his successor looks to be even worse. Not surprisingly, our enemies see this as well and are likely correct in their assessment, not that it'll matter that much to people like Mark as eager as they are to sell the Iraqi people that they profess to care so much about as individuals (at least, in Mark's case, if they're Chaldeans) down river.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I would never blame Mark Shea for the GOP losses ...

They would have come whether or not he turned into an utter demagogue on the subject of torture as it relates to Catholic morality or adopted a creeping paleoconservative ideology. Judging from his increasing embrace of all things paleocon, I think it's fair to speculate that had Rush Limbaugh announced his addiction issue today he would be greeted with far less sympathy and far more scorn over at CAEI now that it's been determined by Shea that he's "sold out," an ironic charge indeed coming from someone who now appears ready to embrace just about any and all criticism of the Iraq war and its supporters as just another rhetorical club in his arsenal regardless of its factual accuracy or internal consistency with his positions. And before readers state that I am being uncharitable, I would note that I am speculating here, not describing Mark's actual behavior. If only the same were returned whenever he rails against CoF and all our works because we dare to question his fundamentalist reading of Magisterial documents.

The Republican defeat yesterday has a thousand fathers and anyone attempting to ascribe a silver bullet to the situation is hopelessly naive. Now that the debacle has come and gone, all of the predictable ideologues are coming out of the woodwork claiming that if only people had listened to their pet issues that things would have turned out differently.

I think that an honest assessment of the situation would involve acknowledging that Republicans got roundedly trouced whatever their views on Iraq, immigration, social conservatism, corruption, et al. And from a domestic political perspective, I'm not as concerned about this as some since you can always recoup domestic political losses in a democracy. While it is true that the GOP losses have ended any realistic chance of appointing a constitutional constructionist to the Supreme Court for the next 2 years, rumors to the contrary it is not altogether clear that such a vacancy will in fact occur. As the Washington Times notes, McCain came out of the Tuesday Night Massacre looking pretty well and that's fine by me given my preference for him as a presidential candidate for 2008. It is not immediately apparent to me why many conservatives who deride McCain as though he were Satan incarnate do not have similar reservations about "fantasy candidates" such as Guiliani or Rice, but that's probably a post for another time.

What I will continue to hold Mark accountable for, however, is the contradiction of his stated view that the current violence in Iraq and the horror he claims to feel over the fate of the Iraqi Christian community (Mark's position, near as I can determine, is that Saddam could kill all the Kurds and Shi'ite he liked so long as he kept a few Chaldeans around as museum fixtures) while simultaneously arguing that the US needs to depart from the country as quickly as possible. Such a view, as I have repeatedly noted, goes quite against the stated positions of the Vatican that he claims to care so much about when it comes to discerning whether or not the Iraq war was justified (if the Vatican said "no" when Mark claims everyone was insisting the US should go to war and dismissed it, how exactly does he get off with ignoring or dismissing it now that it is equally opposed to everyone in the US pulling out?), but I expect that this is just another example of him using inconsistent or ill-thought arguments and then holding them up as though they were shouted down from Mount Sinai. But more than Mark's contradictory views on when to listen to the Vatican is the fact that to abandon Iraq is to turn all those Iraqi people whose fate he claimed to be so damned concerned about over to the tender mercies of al-Qaeda and Sadr. Maybe he thinks they'll be nicer to the Chaldean community, who are the only Iraqis whose lives I guess he thinks we should care about, but if so I sure as hell haven't seen any sign of it. Or maybe he intends to personify that famous adage that the single death or torture of an Iraqi is a tragedy, whereas the deaths of thousands at the hands of the insurgency is a statistic. If the latter, then I would at the very least expect him to adopt the Derbyshire view that Muslims and Arabs are just too stupid to have a democracy (a view that excuses the failures of entirely too many people here in the US for me to accept it) rather than still pretend to care about the dumb brown people. That doesn't even begin to get into the broader strategic implications of leaving al-Qaeda with a strategic safe haven at the center of the Middle East and no, the argument that we should not have gone in to begin with has nothing to do with what to do now that we are there. I'd be very interested to see if Mark is going to argue that Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terrorism given who exactly the Coalition is currently fighting in Iraq. Bottom line, the Iraqi people should not have to be sacrificed on a funeral pyre so that the US anti-war movement can feel vindicated but they probably will be. Just like last time around.

Also, I see Mark is still holding on to his view that no one in the Republican leadership is actually pro-life. Unlike him, I don't possess the charism of telepathy (the same one that lets him know the inner thoughts and intentions of people quite beyond whatever their actual positions are) and quite frankly I don't care. I don't vote for them because of their inner thoughts (which I do not know) about rather because of their public positions (which I do) and so long as they appoint constitutional constructionists to the bench (where abortion is really going to be decided nationally one way or another) and pass pro-life legislation I'm not going lose any sleep over what they really think on the issue. The events of Tuesday quite likely made it politically impossible to get any decent constitutional constructionist through the Senate Judiciary Committee and I expect the president will take that into account.

One last point to be made about Rumsfeld. I'm not terribly sad to see him go, but it was done in the worst political manner possible. Rumsfeld out 3 months ago would have almost certainly helped the GOP among conservatives and independents who were (correctly) concerned about Iraq and probably won them the elections by highlighting Republican national security with the confirmation hearings. Instead, he was thrown out in the (stupid) hope of appeasing the Democrats by depriving them of a punching bag and taking away some of their post-election gloating. Instead, he has basically dumped a sack of blood in a shark tank and his successor is apparently part of the same Baker commission led by a member of the Bush 41 crew (the same ones who stood by and let the Iraqis get slaughtered back in 1991) that plans on selling the Iraqi people down river. Just like South Vietnam or Cambodia, whose victims we never seem to hear that much about in all the nostalgia over the 1960s anti-war movement. I doubt we'll hear much of them this time around either, until we, once again content in our own self-righteousness, look back over at Iraq and see how al-Qaeda slaughters the populace and think of what a tragedy that is.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

When last I checked ...

Contrary to the statements of some, issues of war and peace are issues of prudential judgement. And while Mark may believe that the US invasion of Iraq was unjust on the basis of the Vatican and frequently castigates supporters of the war for ignoring its views, he seems to maintain something of a cognitive dissonance regarding other Vatican statements like this one when they happen to conflict with his view that the US should flee from Iraq and the sooner the better. Now as I said, war and peace are prudential judgements and I'm not so much criticizing him for exercising his in this case (though I would criticize his decision on other grounds) so much as I would note it in contrast concerning all of the self-righteous outrage that he continues to hurl against those who he claims dismiss and ridicule the Vatican for exercising their prudential judgement on the initial invasion.

Torture has, of course, been dealt with at nauseam both here and by others.

Now that said, what are you all standing around for? Go vote!

Monday, November 06, 2006

My offer still stands, Mark

Free copies of Neoconservatism, Universal Hunger, and An End to Evil so you actually understand what neoconservatism is before you go off your meds again. I'll even throw in a free copy of War Against the Terror Masters (provided you are not still fearful of his evil emanations) to boot.

I have a feeling that this is going to be one of those days over at CAEI.

God only knows what'll happen over there if the GOP by some miracle (that's about what it'll take at this point IMO) retains both the House and the Senate on Tuesday. Now near as I can determine, Mark is mad at the neocons because some of them dared to question the implementation of the policies they advocated with regard to the Iraq war. He then links approvingly to Daniel Larison (another trend I will put down towards his creeping paleoconservatism), who is mad because nowhere in their criticisms of the Iraq war do they perform what he and apparently Mark feel is a fitting act of self-flagellation for their own role in advocating the conflict. While no doubt the desire for flagellation, self-inflicted or otherwise, runs strong among the neocons' many enemies these days (with the exception of those among Mark's fellow travelers who would just as soon see them hung or shot as undeclared Israeli agents), what both Mark and Larison fail to grasp here is that the reason that the neocons granted that interview to Vanity Fair, the same reason they are now mad that these comments were used as pre-election fodder, is that they still believe in the policies that they advocated and want them to succeed. They are attempting to offer constructive criticism, just like the generals like Eaton or Batiste who want Rumsfeld to step down, because they actually give enough of a damn about Iraq and all the blood and treasure that we spent there that they don't want to see it all lost for naught. Unfortunately, most of their enemies have already decided that Iraq and its inhabitants need to burnt on a sacrificial pyre for America's perceived sins so that we can feel more secure in our own self-righteousness again. It's that exact trend that leads Mark to blame supporters of the war for the damage done to Chaldean Catholics by the insurgency while simultaneously arguing that we should abandon all those who remain to the tender mercies of that same insurgency.

One other point I think needs to be made here is that Mark himself reluctantly supported the war and then changed his mind. Why does he have this perogative and not others?

Mark's other (rather disjointed) points in that post involve the calls for Rumsfeld to resign, but if he actually bothered to read the editorials in question he would see that these calls (like those by Eaton, Batiste, and others) are primarily based around the arguments that we need new leadership, new policies, and a new strategy to win in Iraq, an end that near as I can determine he now at least tacitly opposes. After all, an actual success in Iraq might inspire some to use military force against other state sponsors of terrorism (Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan) and the desire of many opponents of the war to preserve the current Iranian regime at all costs appears to be of paramount importance, so success in Iraq is not a desireable outcome as long as the current administration or the neocons might somehow get credit for it. In my own opinion, Rumsfeld needed to resign as soon as it became clear that the benefits of transformation and lack of dependency were not worth the price we're having to pay in Iraq. The problem is that it is individuals like Mark whose desire

His other blogs today are of a similar bent to the point of caricature: he holds the Bush administration responsible for a suicide (All of them?), blaming Israel for civilian casualties in Lebanon and Gaza, and arguing that the American political class has no ideas except for the bad neocon ones (again, all of them?). Apparently he's missed all of the debate that has occurred over Iraq over the last 3 years as well as that his own idea of taking flight from Iraq as quickly as possible in the manner of Brave Sir Robin is in of itself an idea that came from the political class. I'm also still waiting to hear how he jives this with his apparent absolutist view of Vatican foreign policy, or does he only apply that particular club when it comes to defending his current opposition to the war?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

And I have answers too

Wow ... someone wonders what somebody else thinks, and that person *asks* him in a direct but non-accusatory and non-loaded way? Who knew that was possible?

Dave Armstrong asks for "agree" or "disagree":
[1] torture is intrinsically immoral yet [do you] grant loopholes according to circumstance and relative ethics

If any act, once properly defined and understood, is intrinsically immoral, then there are no loopholes of circumstance or moral relativity.

This isn't to say though that:

(a) Properly defining and understanding the act might not be very difficult and might not itself require considering circumstances. Theft is intrinsically immoral but sometimes the same action can be made not-theft by circumstances; or
(b) An act's intrinsic immorality ends (or even gets us very far on) questions of what the secular law ought to say or do about them. Abortion, contraception and masturbation are all intrinsically immoral, but I think the law ought to take very different strances on all three -- a distinction I don't think very controversial or un-Catholic.

[2] do you deliberately intend to dissent against what you know to be JPII's teaching.


This isn't to say though that:

(a) I think VS80 (you can toss in GS27 and EV3) can be read as a free-standing proof-text; or
(b) I think some hermeneutic strategies, perhaps even the "common-sense" ones, might not be indefensible

To use one widely-discussed concrete example, what do you think, e.g., about waterboarding? Is it intrinsically immoral? If so, you agree with Mark (and myself). If not, why?

It certainly is "torture" in the colloquial sense that it's some bad shit that I wouldn't want to undergo myself (but I wouldn't want to be imprisoned either, which proves that the Golden Rule is not very relevant on this sort of issue).

Frankly, I'm not sure whether waterboarding is torture. My inclination is to say that it isn't because it doesn't threaten life or limb or do serious physical damage. It clearly does intend to change the person's mind in short order, so it may depend on what the definition of torture is. But I'm very wary of defining "changing a person's mind" apart from "doing serious physical damage" as the essence of torture, for reasons relating to other matters. I'm open to persuasion on this, but I'm totally not-persuadable ("anti-persuadable" might be more like it) by using pictures, piling on adjectives or bald assertions, which is all certain other people do.

But to use Shea's two other favorite examples, "Palestinian hanging" and "cold cells" certainly are torture, particularly if (in the latter case) it risks hypothermia. Which is a judgment call, sure, but certainly one that non-doctors are not fit to make.

And since you ask how I would type myself, I would certainly be a post-V2 neocon Catholic (and an adult revert, if that matters) who considers John Paul II the greatest man of my lifetime.

I'm going to lay off for the next couple of days

It seems that Mark is admitting that his rhetoric is getting a tad out of hands on this issue and I accept his apology. While comments like this don't suggest to me that much is going to change (and I'm certainly not holding my breath), I'm content to wait and see what happens for now.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I don't think that's fair, Tom

Writing in the combox:
I would only take issue with the view of Mark being a creeping Paleo. Paleos are ordinarily tradtional Catholics, and Mark is anything but, given his feverish one-mindedness with respect to a single theological source, VS #80.

My characterization of him as a paleoconservative has to do with his political views, not his theological views. While the two tend to flow together among radical traditionalists, it is quite possible to be ideologically consistent and hold one without the other. I've referred to Mark as a creeping paleoconservative because it isn't entirely clear to me at this point that he has a coherent political ideology at this point but merely a vitriolic outrage towards those on the right that he views as continuing to support anything resembling President Bush's foreign policy. I'm sufficiently disenthused with the administration myself these days, but that has more to do with the fact that they haven't done enough, particularly with regard to Iraq, rather than Mark's stated animus towards the fact that they did anything. I find his apparent view that it was perfectly acceptable (or at least not requiring us to do anything other than moral hand-wringing) for Saddam to slaughter his own people in droves so long as he allowed the continued existence of a small remnant of loyal Chaldeans as a museum fixture particularly loathsome. I also find it extremely inconsistent given his stated preference for some kind of military intervention with regard to protecting the inhabitants of Darfur (and more recently Chad) where all of the participants are Muslim. If he has ever explained these apparent contradictions, I have yet to see him do so, which is why I feel quite fine saying that I don't think he has a coherent foreign policy.
I sense he is more akin to the "neo-Catholic" current, which tends to absolutize the post-conciliar revolution, disdainfully discarding whatever in the Church's past that contradicts the conciliar outlook, be it ecumenism, the Mass, the death penalty, or, of course, torture.

It seems converts from Evangelical Protestantism are unusually susceptible to this syndrome, witness Scott Hahn.

I agree that this is a common tendency for Protestant converts as a general rule (of which I am one, thanks in part to the writings of Dave Armstrong, lest I be accused of being uncharitable), but that has more to do with a couple of factors, not the least of which being that Vatican II addressed quite a lot. As a practical matter, I think like John J. Reilly that it would have probably been better to hold it off until the 1980s to ensure that it didn't get caught up in the radical leftist "long march through institutions" in the 1960s and 1970s (maybe by then even the radicals would have been inclined to actually read the concilliar documents), but the Holy Spirit works on His time and not ours. To equate that tendency with the type of irrationality and vitriole that Mark has displayed of late, however, lets him off way to easily. That is why I keep on saying that he is arguing like a fundamentalist: his entire argument consists of an appeal to a text, a claim that his interpretation is the only correct one and that there are no others, followed by a refusal to legitimately engage those who disapprove of his position.
Shea himself has actually begun to sound more like an outright leftist, in his position that the Republicans are somehow morally equivalent to the Democrats and that voting for any of them is an a vote for evil.

No, I completely disagree here. Mark is by no means blind to the flaws of the left, particularly with regard to their support for abortion. He does adopt a view that there is no practical difference between the two parties, but keep in mind that he has never had a great deal of use for either the GOP or Western civilization in general near as I can tell, which is why he refers to the former as "the Stupid Party." His whole model for the war on terrorism is Rome vs. Carthage, which to him seems to mean that both are equally depraved societies with little in the way of redeeming features, which is I still keep expecting him to declare at some point that the US has become so bad that he can no longer grant moral assent to it. This is again fitting with the paleocon MO that the West is doomed no matter what.

If you want to take a look at leftists over at Mark's site, I would really recommend Tony A (Morning's Minion), who to be perfectly honest honest does strike me as little more than a patent shill for the Democrats no matter what and whose primary source for the war on terrorism appears to be Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it is the left-wing equivalent of Laurie Mylroie's conspiracy theories about Saddam Hussein as far as serious literature on terrorism is concerned.

And as long as I am singling out Mark's individual readers for criticism, I should also note Marv Wood, who strikes me as a radical libertarian or paleocon who is honestly rooting for al-Qaeda to win to the point that he has more or less defended (or at least excused) the 9/11 attacks as a necessary reciprocity for the actions of the United States.
His view on that score subordinates a host of issues like homosexual marriage, abortion, and national defense to his one all-domitating issue: the supposed intrinsic evil of torture.

I think it's a good deal more complicated than that.

Mark has already stated his beliefs that:

- the war in Iraq was immoral

- the United States should withdraw from Iraq

- the war in Iraq was waged in order to export social liberalism and the Sexual Revolution to Iraq

- neoconservatives are social liberals who seek to export their philosophy to the rest of the conservative movement

- neoconservatism is a kind of internationalist libertarianism

- neoconservatism is a form of secular messianism

- neoconservatives view democracy as utopia

- Catholic neocons like Michael Novak are at best "court theologians" for the secular messianists

- the GOP has no genuine regard or commitment to social conservatives

- the GOP is secretly contemptuous of social conservatives

- no one in the GOP leadership is actually socially conservative

- the Bush administration and Congress have done nothing to advance the pro-life cause

- Alito and Roberts are ambiguous Supreme Court candidates at best

- Talk radio is basically run by the GOP political machine and has little if any independence from its handlers

- Cheney is the real power in the White House

- the Bush administration exaggerated and sought to deceive the public concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction

- Mark believes that he was personally enlisted to help with this propaganda campaign

- US foreign policy should consist of more or less of Star Trek's Prime Directive ("Do not interfere")

- the Walt-Mearsheimer view of Israeli influence on US foreign policy is at least ambiguous

- Israel should be regarded with suspicion and its actions held under far more rigorous scrutiny than is generally done by the American public

- Anyone who continues to defend the administration in light of the above is a partisan shill or has suspended their judgement in favor of political tribalism

Let me know if I missed anything. Near as I can determine, this all started from his disenchantment with the war in Iraq and has since grown to encompass much of his still-formulating political views. As with most people, Mark's political shift was a process rather than a lightswitch, though I personally think that much of it stems from the failure to find WMDs in Iraq as I think is clear enough on its own right from the list above. I also disagree with him on every substantive point listed above and believe that his disillusionment has now reached the point to where he has seeped so far into the Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) that he is willing to engage in unwitting slander (you can read my post here on one such incident) in order to advance his hatred of the administration. With regard to his criticisms of neoconservatism, I would pay a lot more attention to them if he were actually familiar with their arguments rather than simply relying upon the American Conservative cliff-notes version. My offer still stands to send him a free copy of Irving Kristol's Neoconservatism, Michael Novak's Universal Hunger, and even Richard Perle and David Frum's An End to Evil (the title of which prompted his accusations that neocons were secular messianists in a similar manner to Andrew Sullivan's disgraceful demonization of Ramesh Ponurru's The Party of Death, with the detractors in both cases relying soley on the title) provided that he actually bothered to read them with charity and see whether or not they still strike him as such evil things after all.

One thing I want to make a distinction on, however, is that these are secular political disagreements and I have never disputed his Catholic credentials in the course of them. The reason why torture has taken such a predominant emphasis here is because that is where his rhetoric has gotten so nasty and where he has accused myself and Victor of being "alleged Catholics" and "apologists for Satan.