Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mark's latest response ...

Continues to be underwhelming:
My mistake. I took the Coalition's latest farrago of insults and torture justification to mean "since our troops have committed torture in the past, that means it's okay now." Evidently, I was mistaken. When they declared I would call Professor Bainbridge a torture apologist for noting that our troops have tortured in the past, I assumed they were saying something. It turns out they were saying nothing--nothing at all. Because, of course, I've always been aware that our troops tortured people in the past, just as the good Professor notes. These things used to be called "war crimes". As far as I could see, Professor Bainbridge did not say "prisoner abuse by our troops in the past was good". So I don't see why he would be taken by the Coalition as an ally in the campaign for Greater Fog, nor by me as somehow justifying what he documents as a fact of history. But they did seem to think that I would think he was somehow justifying torture. In reality, it has only been they who have tried so hard to justify it that I foolishly assumed they were doing so here. Apparently, they were not trying to justify torture. Instead they were simply forming a schoolgirl pack of jeerers and sneering at me for not knowing history, even though I know it perfectly well, in this case. My apologies for mistaking an adolescent jeer for a substantive attempt to make the case for torture. It was entirely my fault. I thought they were saying something. They were, to be clear, saying nothing at all. Simply making fun of fantasy named "Mark Shea".

Which once again demonstrates that he completely misses the point.

Here again, was Victor in the post:

Shea constantly insists that the moral world didn't change on September 11 (true) and that the military already regulated interrogation techniques and "torture" was illegal then under US law (true) and so therefore the only reason to want to have new rules post-September-11 would be to gain the right to torture (false ... but that's not really my point). Shea will claim, in support of this position about the how the desire to torture is being pushed by Bush, that the US was able to win World War Two and the Cold War without "torture" ... in that specific context and as a rebuttal argument, not a prima-facie argument (that we be "we tortured during World War 2, therefore we should now"), what sort of practices the US actually did engage in during World War II become relevant (to me at least) for that purpose.

In other words, he was noting the disconnect between the rhetoric and claims that you enlisted and what actually happened regarding history. When people have brought this up in the past, you have usually argued that the only reason that anyone would want to note this was to justify contemporary torture, which does not flow logically in any case. In this particular instance, my understanding was that Victor was pointing out the disconnect between Mark's rhetoric and what actually happened. In other words, if saying X ("the US tortured during WW2") is proof we are Torture Apologists™ worthy of every kind of slander, why isn't Professor Bainbridge, who says the same X?

He also continues to conflate torture and prisoner abuse while arguing that we advocate both, one of which strikes me as a category mistake. Of course, if Mark really wanted to know what we think on this subject, he could refrain from using his charism of telepathy and instead read our answers to Dave Armstrong. But that would be asking him to actually understand our positions, which is probably too much to hope for.

Moderate (sic) Muslim alert

This was actually intended to be a response to a thread on Rod Dreher's blog at Beliefnet. There were too many links in my (also kinda lengthy response) so Beliefnet refused to put it up. So I'm putting it here. The overall thread is here but I'm putting the entire exchange between myself and Abu Hamaid so everyone can get the "flow." (Here's a sample of his style in his first comment in that combox.)
First me (responding to broader post my Abu Hamaid)

Ironically Americans also remember [Khomeini] for his Salman Rushdi death fatwa, but they conveniently forget that 100% of Sunni scholars worldwide condemned his fatwa.

100%? worldwide? Given what a poster named Mohamed said about Islam's diversity of opinion yesterday in another combox here I rather doubt that. He also gave me reason to doubt this factoid's relevance ... Islam, especially its Sunni forms, has no binding magisterium and imams have no formal power. Certainly, I find it hard to believe that all the rioting and book-burning and death threats throughout the west and Pakistan and India came from Shi'ites.

But that aside, I have no doubt that many Sunni scholars denounced the Ayatollah's fatwa. What I'd be interested in knowing is WHY they say what you say they did? I remember from the time that quite a few condemned it only on the grounds that Khomeini didn't have the authority to issue such a fatwa; that a death sentence could only be imposed after a trial; or that basically since Khomeini was a Shi'ite, he wasn't a Muslim at all. You'll forgive me if I don't find these reasons for not executing or assassinating Rushdie to be reassuring. Certainly the Danish cartoons (whatever the merits, the genocidal threats were Islam-wide) and Theo Van Gogh (killed by a Sunni) are not reassuring.
Victor Morton | Homepage | 12.19.06 - 8:18 pm | #
He responded here:


Obviously with a population in the billion range, I didn’t chronicle every single Imam and most of them aren’t qualified muftis anyways. So let me clarify. When my friends and I have a casual conversation as we’re doing now and I said what I said, it referred to the established highest levels of authority in the Sunni world. So at the time of that fatwa there would have been sheikh Bin Baz in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Qaradawi in Qatar, Sheikh Albani in Syria, Sheikh Sharawi and Sheikh Tantawi in Cairo, and so on and so forth. All of those authorities to my recollection opposed the Khomeini fatwa. Now what legal maneuverings each used, I don’t remember because I was a fairly young teenager back then. Do you know of any major Sunni Scholars who called for the death of the Danish Cartoonist or Theo Van Gogh? Because I don’t and I think you recognize that you’re mixing cultural and economic alienation in Amsterdam and its violent blowback at a society that rejects one with Islamic Jurisprudence. When African Americans burned stuff in the 60s it wasn’t because they were Christian and you seem like a smart enough guy to recognize that human beings are bit more complex even if they are Muslims. Just something I picked up in Sociology 1301 many years ago…
Abu-Hamaid | 12.19.06 - 9:17 pm | #
And this would have been my response had Beliefnet let me:

Abu-Hamaid wrote:
Obviously with a population in the billion range, I didn’t chronicle every single Imam and most of them aren’t qualified muftis anyways.

Then why O why did you say, in your note of above of 601pm that ...

Ironically Americans also remember [Khomeini] for his Salman Rushdi death fatwa, but they conveniently forget that 100% of Sunni scholars worldwide condemned his fatwa.

In that note above, you didn't simply say that most Sunni scholars disagreed with the fatwa (something I already knew and would not have called you on), but you (1) used emphatics "100% ... worldwide" and (2) chastised Americans for their bad-faith ignorance ("conveniently forget") in the very same breath that you made a claim that was so obviously indefensible that you instantly went back on it.

it referred to the established highest levels of authority in the Sunni world.

But as has been pointed out repeatedly by other Muslims in other contexts like trying to wash their hands of "Dingbat Imam's" statements (such as was made by Mohamed here yesterday) the very concept of "authority" in Islam, particularly the Sunnis, is tenuous. There is no ordained priesthood, no magisterium, no binding power, nothing between man and God but the Koran. This has good and bad points for a religion obviously (speaking as a Christian of the kind that has developed quite well these structures Islam has not). But keep in mind that one of the bad points of it, whether speaking of Sunni Islam or Calvinist Christianity, is that it is better defined by what the mob thinks, not what the scholars think.

As for Theo Van Gogh, the killer Mohammed Bouyeri was a Moroccan-descended Sunni radicalised at a Sunni mosque (Al-Tawheed) with ties to Al Qaeda (a Sunni organization).

As for the Danish cartoons, I am more than satisfied from the news accounts at the time that the reaction, for better or worse, was Islam-wide. (Here's Sheikh Qaradawi's response, a chemically-pure case of passive-aggressive blackmail).

"The nation must rage in anger. It is told that Imam Al-Shafi' said: "Whoever was angered and did not rage is a jackass." We are not a nation of jackasses. We are not jackasses for riding, but lions that roar. ... We must rage, and show our rage to the world... The second warning I direct at the Westerners, the Americans, and the Europeans who follow them ... "I say to them: Your silence over such crimes, which offend the Prophet of Islam and insult his great nation, is what begets violence, generates terrorism, and makes the terrorists say: Our governments are doing nothing, and we must avenge our Prophet ourselves. This is what creates terrorism and begets violence..."

A few quick Internet searches will reveal that Qaradawi is a piece of work -- he's blessed suicide bombings, attacks on US civilians in Iraq, and executing homosexuals and converts from Islam. Oh ... and the death of all Jews

But to the Danish cartoons ... if in fact the complaint was a violation of a religious prohibition on representation of Mohammed, then the Sunnis certainly would have been complaining much more since iconoclasm is a far stronger tradition in their branch of Islam (Ayatollah Khomeini had a portrait of Mohammed in his office or bedroom most of his life).

Then we get to the what the Sunnis said about Rushdie in 1989, which is hardly reassuring.

So at the time of that fatwa there would have been sheikh Bin Baz in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Qaradawi in Qatar, Sheikh Albani in Syria, Sheikh Sharawi and Sheikh Tantawi in Cairo, and so on and so forth. All of those authorities to my recollection opposed the Khomeini fatwa. Now what legal maneuverings each used, I don’t remember because I was a fairly young teenager back then.

In 1989, I was only 23, but I do remember. And this sort of answer is exactly what makes many Americans and Christians suspicious of the answers we get from Muslim officials and spokesman. It is easily documentable via the Internet what the reaction of Sunni religious "authorities" to the Rushdie fatwa was -- and it was what I said. Not that Rushdie shouldn't be executed, but that Ayatollah Khomeini was overstepping his bounds and that Rushdie should only be executed after a trial.

Here is the reaction of Sheikh Bin Baz and the Al Azhar Mosque.
Sheik Abdelaziz Bin Abdallah Bin Baz, the most senior religious figure in Saudi Arabia, recently declared that Rushdie should be tried in absentia in an Islamic country for heretical behavior.[14] Sheik Muhammad Hussam al Din, an Islamic theologian in Egypt, asserts that "blood must not be shed except after a trial, [in which the accused has been] given a chance to defend himself and repent."[15] A senior scholar (who declined to be identified by name) at Al Azhar Mosque in Egypt, the Sunni Muslim world's leading center of Islamic thought and teaching, concurred: "In Islam there is no tradition of killing people without trying them."[16]

14 Youssef M. Ibrahim, "Saudi Muslim Weighs Rushdie Trial," New York Times , 23 Feb. 1989, A15.
15 Russell Watson, et al., "A Satanic Fury," Newsweek, 27 Feb. 1989, 36.
16 Alan Cowell, "Clerics Challenge Rushdie Sentence," New York Times, 18 Feb. 1989, A6.

You're not lying, sir. But you ARE telling a very selective truth with the intent to leaving the impression of a lie. If Americans are "conveniently forget[ting]" about Sunni scholars who condemned the Rushdie fatwa, Muslim apologists are conveniently forgetting the reason (even saying "I don't remember") for said condemnation. But here in Christendom, sir, we don't think people should be executed for heresy or blasphemy *at all.* One of the reasons we're suspicious of Muslims is that they seem to have ... an enthusiasm for said executions, i.e., for executions of us polytheists who want neither to be Muslims nor live in dhimmitude. And so, for you to say "Sunnis condemned the fatwa" (i.e., relieving people's concerns) while leaving out or "conveniently forgetting" the basis for the condemnation (i.e., not on moral-substantive grounds but on procedural grounds) ... my father called it "telling the truth and making believe a lie."

When African Americans burned stuff in the 60s it wasn’t because they were Christian

But here's the fundamental difference that is simply not appreciated by Muslim apologists (whether Muslim or not themselves): no black rioters at the time claimed they were burning stuff in the name of Christianity. The religious affiliation of someone who does bad may well be an accident ... unless they say their religion motivated them. And to the extent that blacks in the 60s were motivated by Christianity (like say THE REV. King or THE REV. Jackson or THE REV. Abernethy), it was to reject violence. And if there was any black violent/radical group of the period was religiously motivated (the Black Panthers, for example, were secular nationalists) it was the Nation of ... um ... Islam (I recognize that orthodox Muslims, with my sympathy to the extent that that of a Catholic matters, consider NOI to be a heretical cult ... but you brought up the comparison).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Now lying about himself

Shea's left hand says:
Because, of course, I've always been aware that our troops tortured people in the past, just as the good Professor notes.
Shea's right hand says:
By this means, you can even get lots of Christians to plead for "all of our supporters and affiliated churches to contact their elected representatives and let them know we support President Bush's efforts to update our methods of interrogating terrorist detainees."
Yessirree, what worked during our face off with the two greatest totalitarian systems in history no longer works. Treating prisoners humanely and refusing to adopt the methods of the KGB have suddenly been rendered out of date.
The second statement -- one plainly ignorant of history and/or made with the patella reflex -- is why people, including Professor Bainbridge, have mentioned our actual practices in rebuttal. But again, Shea can't hold a thought in his head for five seconds without trying to discern what the person is REALLY saying and what his agenda and what he's trying to justify.

Free word of advice: Read for content first.

"Cornucopia of Hostility"

Since Shea has said yet another flat-out, no-ifs-ands-or-buts lie -- that's L. I. E. ... LIE -- about me today (see Torq's previous post), I decided to make a truth-teller of him for once in his life. He described our site recently as "a cornucopia of hostility!" (scroll down to the paragraph beginning "Now the Coalition guys...").¹

Since Rumsfeld has been hounded out of the Godhead, suffered died and was buried, but without rising again in fulfillment of the Protocols of Zion, our old logo is no longer usable. So here is the new one, so that Mark Shea can say one truthful thing about us beyond spelling our names right. Here is The Cornucopia of Hostility:
¹ That, by the way, is what people call a "citation." It allows others to look up X's claims about what Y has said. And it actually does in fact conform to what Y has said, hence what people call "quote marks." And the quote marks surround words that Y has said. Not X's false characterization of what Y has said, which happens to be something Y has specifically said he's not saying. With most people, this is elementary, but some people are apparently still stuck in intellectual kindergarten.

I believe slander is still a sin ...

So when Mark dismisses the ticking time bomb scenario as absurd, his ever-reliable Democrat shill (who apparently holds reservations about the need to punish Osama bin Laden) notes that Jimmy Akin used the exact same analogy (from 24, no less). Mark's reply is:
I'm not quite sure why you seem to have such a grudge against Jimmy. Of all the participants in this discussion, Jimmy seems to me to be a rather honest one. He has not, for over a year, been arguing relentlessly both in my comboxes and elsewhere to make every conceivable excuse for torture. At most, after long hearing demands from people to answer the question "What is torture?" he ventured an opinion. That's... what he does on his blog. Then he moved on to other questions. I think he did his best to answer what is, at the end of the day, the wrong question. But since that's the question that was put to him, I can hardly blame him, new to the discussion, for having done so. To speak as though he is somehow leading some sort of charge against the Church's teaching instead of coming late to a discussion, taking a stab at the subject and then moving on seems rather unfair.

There are voices in St. Blog's that really are laboring to make excuses for torture (such as the spectacularly lame "Our forces have committed atrocities in the past, so that's a good reason to make torture legal under Bush now". This really is part of a long-standing pattern of trying by almost every means at their command to minimize, explain away, ridicule and laugh off the issue of torture as it is actually practiced and justified by this Administration.

While the individual who started the discussion no doubt regards Akin (and by extension Catholic Answers, though he continues to hope that the latter be salvaged through adoption of his preferred "social gospel" agenda) as yet another cog in the Republican propaganda machine to be refuted, I think that Mark's continued and rather condescending "oh Jimmy doesn't know what he's talking about here, pay him no mind" is running rather thin. Yes, Jimmy blogs about subjects other than torture (so do we!) but arguing that he tried to answer the wrong question is little more than BS at this point. It's another example of Mark shifting the goalposts away from his interpretation of Magisterial documents to a far less controversial position (should we treat prisoners humanely?). I actually welcoming him doing this, since the more he continues to shift the less convincing he is going to be when he issues his next round of anathema sits.

Actually, if Mark had actually read rather than "skimmed" Victor's post he would have found the following:
Shea constantly insists that the moral world didn't change on September 11 (true) and that the military already regulated interrogation techniques and "torture" was illegal then under US law (true) and so therefore the only reason to want to have new rules post-September-11 would be to gain the right to torture (false ... but that's not really my point). Shea will claim, in support of this position about the how the desire to torture is being pushed by Bush, that the US was able to win World War Two and the Cold War without "torture" ... in that specific context and as a rebuttal argument, not a prima-facie argument (that we be "we tortured during World War 2, therefore we should now"), what sort of practices the US actually did engage in during World War II become relevant (to me at least) for that purpose.

So even a cursory reading of Victor's post would have given Mark a direct refutation of the argument that he claims Victor is making. Moreover, nowhere in the post did Victor call, either explicitly or implicitly, for a revival of the interrogation techniques that were used during WW2 (he also hasn't called for a revival of ethnicity-based detention, which we also did during WW2). Unless Mark can demonstrate to the contrary, he should be prepared to retract that particular accusation or not be surprised when we continue to brand him as a liar. I think that we now have a fairly copious body of documentation just in the archives of COF for that purposes.

Also note: Mark continues to believe that the only reason that anyone could ever disagree with him on this issue is partisan desire to defend the Bush administration.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'Intrinsic Evil'

There is a passage in Gaudium et Spes on certain issues, the use of which as a free-standing proof-text we have criticized here. Paragraph 80 lists a bunch of things, "torture" (perhaps) being one, which it calls (varying with the translation) grave infamies or intrinsic evils. It is here (I reprint it for the benefit of all)
"Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator."
Of all the items, the most problematic of them is "deportation," which has been frequently cited here and by those far more eminent (like "some guy named Avery Dulles," as Shea might call him) as proving that this passage cannot be understood fundamentalist-style, as a literalist proof-text. Given that the Church also says that states have a right to control their borders, there has to be some form of deportation, against those who violate that right of the state. Otherwise said right of the state is a dead letter.

To their sort-of credit (for now), the Pharisees™ among us have not resorted to saying that "well, of course 'deportation' (understood as unqualifiedly as 'torture,' with mockery poured on all efforts to distinguish it from other practices as 'deportation-lite') is intrinsically evil."

Well ... at Amy Welborn's site earlier today, a commenter drops the other shoe. It's in response to a news report about some raids on some businesses involved in an illegal-alien false-identity scam. Scroll down to "Posted by: Morning's Minion at Dec 13, 2006 12:10:42 PM." It's the 16th comment as I write this, assuming Amy doesn't delete any of 1-15:
Note the coupling of "instrinsically evil" with "deportation". This should give all Catholics food for thought before jumping on the nativist bandwagon ... (VJM deletes some morally libelous smears not worthy of dignifying by reprinting)
Shavian Fundamentalist Literalism in chemically-pure form. (It should be noted that MM is an ally of Shea's on the matter of "torture," since denouncing it at this moment hampers US security).

Just to be clear about what we are talking about. We are NOT talking about a Mexican walking across the border to do day-labor or yardwork or maid-service or whatever in Douglas or Brownsville, and being paid cash off-the-books so he can feed or house his family in Nogales or Matamoros. In other words, a regional economy working out its particulars with little regard for sovereign borders. (I have no moral problem with that ... or rather, I recognize that the problems with it will be overridden by our obligation to the poor.) Rather, we are talking about people engaging in scams involving thousands (CQ) of miles of travel and falsely assuming the identities of real people. Or as the Rocky Mountain News puts it:
a large number of illegal immigrants may have assumed the identities of U.S citizens or lawful U.S. residents and improperly used their Social Security numbers to gain employment at Swift facilities.
In other words, some illegal working in a meat-packing plant in Minnesota is claiming to be "Mark Shea" (or "Joseph D'Hippolito" ... the particular doesn't matter. It could be anybody's name and that's the point) and using Shea's (Joe's, anybody's) SSN 123-45-6789, with all the potential for skulduggery, both deliberate and inadvertant, that this implies.

Moving against THAT is intrinsically evil, we are now being told ... with the same citation of GS80 as the Torture Pharisees™ make. And with equal persuasiveness.

I ♥ Ann Coulter

The Diva of the Right nails the Iraq Surrender Study Group (link likely only good for this week; will update):
The ISG report was about what you'd expect if the ladies from "The View" were asked to come up with a victory plan for Iraq. We need to ask Syria to tell Hamas to stop calling for the destruction of Israel. Duh! "Dear Hamas, Do you like killing Jews, or do you LIKE killing Jews? Check yes or no."
If that's a war Americans think we're "losing," Osama bin Laden was right: We are a paper tiger.
Hey ... great minds and all that, on the second comment. But the first deserves the greater emphasis. The Surrender Group reads like nothing more than a list of desiderata, completely divorced from any sense of how to get them to come about or even whether they are possible. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, you'd have to have a heart of stone to read passages like these ...
RECOMMENDATION 12: The United States and the Support Group should encourage and persuade Syria of the merit of such contributions as the following.

RECOMMENDATION 79: The CIA should provide additional personnel in Iraq to develop and train an effective intelligence service and to build a counterterrorism intelligence center that will facilitate intelligence-led counterterrorism efforts.
... and not laugh. You would think either nobody had ever thought of this stuff or it was as simple as picking apples off trees. I was waiting for ...
RECOMMENDATION 80: The lion should lie down with the lamb. And the baby should play by the cobra's hole and the toddler stick his hand into it.
But it didn't come. Maybe they only had the budget for 79.

Lying liars and the lies they tell

It's a small point, but the case is so clear-cut as to call it a lie. In his attempt not to piss off Mr. Akin's pro-torture pro-aggressive interrogation position, Shea said the following of me:
When asked point blank if they thought torture is legitimate or not, they refused to answer "on principle" (whatever the hell that means).
I don't know why "on principle" is so hard to parse. It's a very common expression without much shading and I was using it in its customary way, and without irony or indirection.

But to the lie ... "if they thought torture is legitimate or not" was not what I was asked. Shea probably assumed people wouldn't follow the link. But it gives the exact question there.
Victor, would you, the only you you have, the you of 2006 AD, torture a man to protect others?
Now ... does anybody notice the difference between these two questions? As Shea inaccurately repeats it, it is an abstract question. (And as an aside, when that question was asked of me, by Dave Armstrong, I answered it. Not that this let Shea tell his story about how awful I am.) But as it was asked of me, it was asked of me in a personal way. Not "what should one do?" but "what would you do?" with intensifiers designed to ramp up the personal angle ("the only you you have, the you of 2006 AD").

Nor is this distinction trivial. I refused to answer that question on principle, it is true. But the reasons I quite explicitly gave related to its personal tone.
One of the reasons I consider Mark et al Torture Pharisees™ is questions like this one (love the "good night" touch at the end. Almost like "End of Subject."). Questions that are not relevant to anything except establishing one's personal bona fides. It's an essentially both a form of ad hominem and a demand to perform a public moral bath on oneself, primarily for the benefit of others' seeing it (the very definition of pharisaism). I do not do that. And this is not unrelated to my already stated distaste for "ick!" and moralistic poesy as arguments.
So on those grounds, I refuse to answer. On principle.
Thus, misphrasing the question as Shea did is not an innocent mistake, like a misspelling. Let me make an analogy. "Is birth control immoral?" is simply not the same question as "Do you and your wife use birth control?" Or my asking Torq "Is fornication legitimate?" is a very different beast from asking whether he's gotten any from his fiancee.

Leaving out the personal nature of the question leaves out the very heart of why I refused to answer the question. Makes the citation misleading, and Shea even links to the very post that makes all of this explicit. That, my friends, is a lie. And very far from Shea's first, as has been copiously documented.

An iconic moment

The pre-literacy of Mark Shea's bleatings are crystallized into chemically-pure form here. In the context of an article about a silly anthropologist-with-tenure griping about the Mayans Mel Gibson's APOCALYPTO, he tries this effort at parody:
Of course, some of the anti-human sacrifice absolutists out there will complain of her eagerness to condemn Gibson and her peculiar quietude about ritually slaughtering human beings. Some of the most arrogant of these Human Sacrifice Pharisees will even charge that she is a "Human Sacrifice Apologist." In fact, however, she is simply "anti-anti-human sacrifice." All she really wants is for us to be open to the rich diversity of religious options in life's colorful pageant. Can anyone fault her for that?
Does one laugh or cry? And thanks for defending me, Mark, and providing more proof of what a twit Shea is; you know the guy has brought tweezers to a gunfight when he's reduced to "all my libel-suit-threatening flake-pal Comerford (or I myself) are doing is saying 'torture bad'."

But ... I digress ... to The Professionally-Aggrieved Lady. She was arguing from cultural relativism.

If you are reading this, Shea, (and I know you do) ... please cite where Torq or I have ever argued from cultural relativism. With a link or a precise citation. Not your telepathic powers about "what I really mean." But a cite.

I speak only for myself (though I'm 99.99% sure that Torq agrees) ... but I don't believe "autre temps, autre moeurs" is much of an argument.¹ Whatever else might be said about what I have argued on torture or other matters, I am very far from a cultural relativist on moral matters and it is simply false for you to imply otherwise (even by sarcastic indirection). I have sometimes argued things about Church teaching from certain historical facts that some dumb sophomores use to argue for cultural relativism ... but I'm certain you understand the difference.
¹ Actually, that requires a bit of unpacking. Like all sane persons, I of course know that societies differ across space and time on many fronts, mores and morals being one. And there are many matters about which we should be indifferent and nothing more need be said than "autre temps, autre moeurs" (to pick an easy one: eating horses or cows or pigs or dogs). What I'm saying is that "autre temps, autre moeurs" is not a principled, foundational argument -- i.e., you see a different more or act, so it must be a matter of indifference. Rather, I think that some things are a matter of indifference, but some are not. "Autre temps, autre moeurs" is meaningless in determining what act or more is in which category.

Ah, the perils of understanding one's actual positions

I'm going to ignore the whole "Richard Comerford threatening to sue us" thing for now, anyone interested in the particulars of that little meltdown can check out the comboxes of the entry on Pinochet two below this one. It'll be interesting to see what response, if any, Mark is going to have over this, given that his previous condemnation of "our star chamber justice" regarding Comerford given that the basic thrust of his response appears to have been to threaten us with a libel suit. (Minor edit in italics by VJM to correct inadvertant mistake created by a time-stamping issue)

Oh and before moving on, Zippy finds it hard to reconcile our own position with Jimmy Akin's. It really isn't that hard, just go back and read the posts where we question Mark's view of Veritas Splendor and compare it Jimmy's own take on the subject. Then go read the answers that both of us gave Dave Armstrong when he asked us point-blank on the subject and I think you'll see where we agree. The only difference, near as I can tell, is that Mark thinks that Jimmy Akin and Dave Armstrong argue from a position that he considers legitimate or at least stemming from good motives whereas we argue from bad motives and slavish adherence to the Bush administration. I think that the latter charge is particularly laughable and has not aged terribly well given what I've written here, but that's me.

Also, as to the issue of "if you don't like Mark Shea, don't read him," I would note that this particular pearl of advice cuts both ways, Zippy. The thrust of the problem is that other people read Mark and apparently respect his opinion despite him advancing positions that I believe contain both theological error as well as exceedingly bad prudential judgements. As such, we think we have an interest in correcting these positions while highlighting some of Mark's loopier leaps in logic. If you don't like it, then you don't have to read it, but for now Mark's called the tune and we're more than happy to pay the piper.

Speaking of which, near as I can tell Mark seems to be of the opinion that the only reason that one could ever oppose his reasoning on torture (other than to defend the Bush administration, of course) is because we want to torture and abuse prisoners. In a word, no. And to make an argument by way of analogy that I think is fair from how he keeps comparing us to abortion supporters, his style of understanding our position is quite similar to the way many supporters of gay marriage argue, not understanding how anyone could possibly oppose their view except due to rank hatred of homosexuals. In both cases, this is a category mistake, though that hasn't stopped Mark or Andrew Sullivan from embracing it fully when it comes to their pet issue. It is quite easy to note that the flaws in Mark or Sullivan's arguments without wanting to torture someone or hating homosexuals.

The relevant post that brought out that revelation was this thread in which he asserts (without actually demonstrating) that Pope Benedict's recent message justifies his position on torture and that only reason that we would disagree with him would be because we seek to justify prisoner abuse. Here again we don't (read our replies to Dave Armstrong or agreements to both his and Jimmy Akin's positions on the matter), and Mark's attempt to caricature us might work a lot better if he actually learned to read and comprehend what is posted here rather than "skim."

Concerning the Pope Benedict's statement, having read the full text of it, I really don't see how it can be understood as referring exclusively to the US, regardless of whatever the Daily Mail's anonymous Vatican sources told them. I think that the Vatican conception of a strong international authority to safeguard both peace and human rights is probably correct, though I would argue that I think the Vatican is extremely wrong-headed to look for it in the impotency United Nations. If a legitimate international order (by which I am referring to in a Pax Romana, Christendom, or a Holy Alliance sense of the term, not the New World Order or an international version of the EU) is to arise that can actually protect and ensure international peace, it is probably going to be from America and its allies rather than from the Davos Crowd. Or maybe Putin is going to pull it all together after he's done assassinating people and it'll come from Russia and be of a more authoritarian vein (international orders can be just as like nasty as nice, as the Soviet Bloc demonstrated) or perhaps the Chinese. I actually have a theory that the UN could have worked had Britain and France stayed relatively strong post-colonialism and China not fallen under Soviet domination, but that's an idea for another time.

Moving back to Mark Shea, Christopher Blosser and others noted that perhaps, just perhaps, the entire conservative movement doesn't want to torture and abuse prisoners. In response, Mark first linked to to a reprinted article from the American Conservative that contains the most alarmist interpretation possible of the Military Commissions Act, implies that the administration is actively ordering detainees to be tortured to death, claims that the administration is keeping the information from the public (though you can apparently read all about it in The New Yorker and the American Conservative) and hopes for a Nixon-like fate for the Bush administration. The latter may well occur depending on just how crazy the Democrats are willing to go, but I wasn't aware that Mark was actively hoping for such an outcome. Judging from my own "skimming" of the blog, the author has also bought into the Kool Aid that our media outlets and think tanks are all controlled by evil corporate money and I guess they also support torture for whatever reason.*

* I am aware that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but the author's interpretation of the Military Commissions Act didn't exactly do much for me to regard him as a calm, rational individual on the topic. And if Mark believes what it said and Democrats support the relevant law (or do not attempt to repeal it), doesn't that make both parties supporters of torture rather than just the GOP? If nothing else, this would strongly suggest that there is a more complex rationale for such support rather than loyalty to President Bush.

Professor Bainbridge, Torture Apologist™

Well not really, but that's exactly the point.

Stephen Bainbridge takes issue with the warmed-over piety that US forces conducted themselves in a pristine way before September 11, especially in The Good War Against Hitler. He's responding to this claim from another, but which may sound familiar to readers of the Torture Pharisee:
Allied propaganda made clear that torture marked our adversaries, but not us. The Greatest Generation upheld our nation's ideals when it went to war. It understood the value of those ideals as weapons. It won the war. And then it did some real magic. By treating our adversaries as human beings, by showing them dignity and respect, our grandfathers' generation created a new world in the rubble of the Second World War. The nations which were our bitterest adversaries - Germany, Italy and Japan - emerged in the briefest time as our committed friends and allies.
Professor Bainbridge goes to town ...
Anybody who's read anything about how the so-called "Greatest Generation" waged war knows that Horton is wrong or, at least, exaggerating.
And he cites a host of historians concluding that various atrocities (or what we today would call "atrocities") were committed against Axis soldiers and civilians. Never on the same scale as the Axis powers, sure, but as we're constantly reminded, that does not affect the moral issue. Nor the historical facts.

I wouldn't harp on this except that it speaks to a couple of Shea memes and The One Thing He Knows about me (namely that I am a shill for Satan). You have to unpack the arguments though, to understand why this stuff was ever relevant or cited in the first place. It's not a "prima facie" argument, rather a rebuttal argument. To rehearse:

Shea constantly insists that the moral world didn't change on September 11 (true) and that the military already regulated interrogation techniques and "torture" was illegal then under US law (true) and so therefore the only reason to want to have new rules post-September-11 would be to gain the right to torture (false ... but that's not really my point). Shea will claim, in support of this position about the how the desire to torture is being pushed by Bush, that the US was able to win World War Two and the Cold War without "torture" -- an example of his making this claim via sarcastic rant (does he have any other mode?) is here, under some of "The Photos" from Abu Ghraib:
Remember, what you see here is not wrong and it's certainly not torture. It's just... ahead of its time. First we need to massage Geneva 3. Then we need to get people used to euphemisms like "aggressive information gathering techniques." Also, of course, is the vital work of agitprop masters whose perfected blend of fear, patriotic bombast, and alleged "realism" helps to get people used to saying things like we need "the clarity and the courage to go all-out in self-defense against those who are going all-out to destroy us." By this means, you can even get lots of Christians to plead for "all of our supporters and affiliated churches to contact their elected representatives and let them know we support President Bush's efforts to update our methods of interrogating terrorist detainees."
Yessirree, what worked during our face off with the two greatest totalitarian systems in history no longer works. Treating prisoners humanely and refusing to adopt the methods of the KGB have suddenly been rendered out of date.
(My rebuttal at the time.)
So ... in that specific context and as a rebuttal argument, not a prima-facie argument (that we be "we tortured during World War 2, therefore we should now"), what sort of practices the US actually did engage in during World War II become relevant (to me at least) for that purpose.

But not to Shea. Because he doesn't understand that other people, whatever his personal style might be, might argue from intellectual curiosity or dissatisfaction (rather than some nefarious "agenda" that he has divined from his charism of being able to read others' minds and know them better than the person know them themselves). And Lord knows, he doesn't have the patience to do more than skim people's posts and see what they are actually arguing. So to substitute for thinking things through, he puts people in boxes ("Akin = good; Victor = bad") and interprets their words accordingly. There is no other way to understand his you-have-to-understand-there-is-a-history-here claims when he tries to distinguish us (actually, me personally, to judge from the links) from Mr. Akin, Dave Armstrong and (apparently) Professor Bainbridge.

So now that Professor Bainbridge is ... how does Shea put it ...
... saying that Army regs on interrogation and just treatment of prisoners were just for show, and that George Marshall's insistence that where US forces went, US standards of civilization and human dignity were to be upheld was just naive hogwash. It appears that [Professor Bainbridge] is saying that what really got the job done was America's can-do willingness to dispense with quibbles about mortal sin when need be. I am, of course, aware of our various war crimes, schemes, plots, assassination adventures, and so forth. Up till now, I had always thought such things were "wrong" in my simplistic, moralizing way. I still do. I even thought the people who did such things knew, down deep, they were wrong, which was why Patton, for instance, covered up the massacre of German guards at Dachau and did not broadcast it to the world as a triumph of Allied justice.
In contrast, I'm not sure what [Professor Bainbridge] is trying to say. He sends very mixed messages. First, he tells us "[I oppose the use of torture or other violations of the Geneva Convention]." But then he reverts to those reliable scare quotes to refer to "[the Greatest Generation]" and distance [as "misleading white wash"] [a war fought "without niceties"] from what that tiresome moralistic proof text Gaudium et Spes defines as torture. ...
In sum, as far as I can tell, he is saying that doing evil that good may come of it is okay, as long as you are professional about it and don't take pictures.

UPDATE: Then some of his combox prags will reliably chime in: "The other sad part is that [Professor Bainbridge] essentially implicated everyone who participated in interrogations on the US's behalf for the past 65 years as war criminal, but it's probably Mark who will stand accused of hating our soldiers.
After all, the evidence for Professor Bainbridge saying that is exactly the same as Shea has for me saying that. As I say ... Shea simply shows himself incapable of thinking with an organ other than his patella reflex.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006)

That poster says what was great about Augusto Pinochet and why he was so hated by the International Left ... that he was a warrior against Marxism. His great crime wasn't simply overthrowing the Castro-loving Salvador Allende (about whom you only need to know one thing ... the gun he used to commit suicide in the 1973 coup was a gift from Fidel Castro).

It was that Pinochet was Latin America's first successful "contrarevolucionario." Even before Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher held their nations' political reins and before Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul (though obviously, all hail them too) -- Pinochet refuted the claim that socialism or communism were The Future. That their gains were irreversible. There was no Brezhnev Doctrine. That a gaggle of Che Guevara posters did not produce an irresistable force. In other words, he stiffened the spine of free men everywhere.

Don't believe that the decade-plus hounding of Pinochet from one overreaching internatiuonal court to another bullying Marxoid tribunal has anything to do with human-rights abuses (though there is no doubt Pinochet committed some). But the Usual Suspects will find any and every excuse for such abuses when they are committed (and usually on a greater scale) by leftist or anti-American regimes. Whether it's Castro or Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein or -- liberals become cultural relativists fully worthy of Franz Boas or Margaret Mead. But when bad shit is done (and it is bad shit, no question about it) by a rightist regime, pull out "the court of mankind," "human nature" references, and an imperialism about political cultures worthy of Theodore Roosevelt.

As I write, another Latin American dictator is on his death bed. He was in power almost 15 years before Pinochet and has been in power for 15 years since the Chilean stepped down. And Fidel Castro has turned Cuba into a hellhole. Had Pinochet (with the US's backing, natch) not acted to overthrow the Marxist crackpot Allende, Chile probably would look like Cuba today. The Andes would shield Argentina and the world's driest desert buffers Peru, but Cuba is surrounded by water, and still anyone who can flee does.

But Pinochet, like his model Francisco Franco, stepped down in 1990, leaving Chile with a strong economy and a political culture that had grown up, cleansed of its radical elements. Today, Chile has a secure democracy of unquestioned legitimacy and even a socialist president (who denied this great man a state funeral, but that's her democratic privilege), though of a kind closer to Western European social democrats than the Castro-loving Allende and the 60s Marxists who lionized him.

Even at the end, Pinochet was fighting the good fight, against foreign courts claiming universal jurisdiction (i.e., the end of sovereignty) and trying to criminalize politics and cancel the kinds of "settlements" necessary to end tyrannical regimes without a massive bloodbath. he even helped Britain in the Falklands War against Argentina, something for which Thatcher was grateful to the end, when he was a powerless old man trying to get medical care abroad.

It's especially ironic that Pinochet's death should have so close to that of Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who almost could have been writing about Pinochet specifically in "Dictatorships and Double Standards." That affinity was noted in a favorable piece on the editorial page of the Washington Post. Yes ... the Washington Post. Not the Times. The Post. It was even similarly titled ("A Dictator's Double Standard"). When I read it, I asked myself -- who put crack or LSD in the Post's water supply? What caused this sudden outbreak of sanity, which is for them insanity. Here is the last two grafs, a fitting epitaph for the two who have already left us, and the one who can't leave us soon enough.
By way of contrast, Fidel Castro -- Mr. Pinochet's nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond -- will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands. But even when it became obvious that his communist economic system had impoverished his country, he refused to abandon that system: He spent the last years of his rule reversing a partial liberalization. To the end he also imprisoned or persecuted anyone who suggested Cubans could benefit from freedom of speech or the right to vote.
The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.

Tell us how you really feel ...

Mark's latest when pressed for his specific views on what to do in Iraq:
I have no answers to the colossal catastrophe of Iraq. I don't think there are any good options. What *this* post was about was simply to note that the people who got us into this mess are all public-spirited individuals who are now fixing to find somebody else to blame. The most contemptible of them, I think, are the neocon think tank types who assured us that they were the Vanguard of History and are now using their Big Brains to make sure that everybody else gets stuck holding the bag. But there's plenty of cowardice and mendacity to go around.

In the end, the lesson I draw from it, "Perhaps it's not Just War Doctrine that need to be "rethought" to accomodate hyperventilating politicos. Perhaps its our insistence on telling the Church to get with the times that needs to be rethought."

... Jesus has plenty to say about people who tie up heavy loads for others and don't lift a finger to help them (Matthew 23). The End to Evil types have been great at egging America on to this war. They haven't been so great about taking responsibility for their cheerleading when it's all gone south. Instead they blame Bush, the Iraqis, the American people--anybody but themselves. And they even get mad when Vanity Fair publishes their blame-shifting.

Yeah. I'd call that contemptible.

Sydney Carton has his own reply here (which I am reposting in case Mark deletes it):
I don't think you're really interested in the details of these sort of things, Mark. You seem much, much more interested in basically pointing at people you disagree with, and labeling them with a standard cliche. I point this out only because I was initially going to respond to your post over the assumptions you make about the "End to Evil" types, but I figured it was hopeless to debate a straw man based on false assumptions. And I'm not so certain that even if they "accepted responsibility" for the War, it would make any difference at all in what that means for American foreign policy in the future, assuming that things HAVE gone all south directly as a result of them and not from OTHER PEOPLE. Indeed, perhaps they would say, "sorry, we should've carped bombed the place entirely and forgotten about implanting democracy. We should've blown them to hell, that way, there'd be no pieces to bother to pick up." Had you considered that? And what is this obsession with the "end to evil types" anyway? As if their foreign policy proposals could foresee all things to come? Do the peaceniks ever get smeared with basically enabling terrorists, dictators, and genocidal maniacs? Of course not.

I suppose it shouldn't go without saying that linking to an anti-war column by Buchannan hardly does you favors. This is a man, after all, who didn't think we should've fought World War 2. And amazingly, he seems to view the ISG not as a way for moving forward, but for re-hashing the endless debate over whether we should've gone into Iraq in the first place. I don't recall if you think the ISG conclusions are a surrender, a great idea, or a political charade, but I have a feeling you'll never really think clearly about it until you abandon your sterotypical, categorical labeling of people you disagree with.

To which I would add my own:

First of all, the Vatican now holds that the reconstruction of Iraq should be supported, so if Mark wants to exercise even a hint of consistency in his ultramontane view of foreign policy that he adopts when using it as a rhetorical club against pro-war Catholics should be the end of it.

Secondly, let me address these two statements:
hat *this* post was about was simply to note that the people who got us into this mess are all public-spirited individuals who are now fixing to find somebody else to blame. The most contemptible of them, I think, are the neocon think tank types who assured us that they were the Vanguard of History and are now using their Big Brains to make sure that everybody else gets stuck holding the bag ... The End to Evil types have been great at egging America on to this war. They haven't been so great about taking responsibility for their cheerleading when it's all gone south. Instead they blame Bush, the Iraqis, the American people--anybody but themselves. And they even get mad when Vanity Fair publishes their blame-shifting.

First of all, I doubt that any apology offered by any neocons at this point would be sufficient for Mark or his new buddies Daniel Larison and Pat Buchanan, the latter of whom seems quite content to let the US withdraw and the Iraqi Christian population that Mark claims he cares so much about be wiped out by al Qaeda (yet remember everyone, the neocons are the most contemptible) so long as those dirty stupid Jews neocons are put in their place. Secondly, if Mark even bothered to read rather than "skim" stuff like this column by Michael Rubin he might see stuff like this:
There will be plenty of blame to go around. Policymaking is organic. No memo rises through a department or agency without a dozen officials approving. Sometimes, their edits change happy-to-glad; there was a quip in the Pentagon about one official who would edit a stop sign if he had the opportunity. More often, alterations would reflect debates, compromises, and insertions by those at a higher level who had information or directives about which more juniors staffers were unaware. Such a bureaucracy is why so many foreign-service officers dislike their Washington postings and why Pentagon officers and Langley’s analysts grow frustrated.

Policy proposals from different buildings get hashed out at interagency working groups, coordination committees, and meetings. Principles decide big issues at the National Security Council. Sometimes bureaucracies would win debates, and sometimes they would lose. While many critics of Iraq policy bestow blame, they often practice anachronism, removing policy arguments from context and failing to recognize how nodal decisions outside any single individual’s control changed situations.

In the real world, though, when a decision is made, policymakers at all levels have no choice but to accept it and fight the next battle with an eye toward pushing subsequent policy choices to the best possible outcome, unless of course they wish to reverse decisions or sway debate by leak. The indices of Bob Woodward’s books are a pretty good compilation of these A-list leakers. While bloggers and armchair quarterbacks can ignore trails of decisions and their aftermath, policymakers do not have such luxury.

Planning was poor. Emphasis on prewar diplomacy delayed preparation. In a diplomatic world where image trumps reality, senior officials felt substantive planning could undercut diplomatic optics.

Planning which did occur had insufficient coordination. Had working-level officials all operated under the same roof, coordination, which took weeks, could take days. Personality matters. Proximity can ameliorate otherwise festering interpersonal suspicions and bureaucratic rivalry.

The Future of Iraq Project was valuable as an idea forum in which all relevant offices within government participated, although it did not produce action plans.

There was also reliance upon bad advice. Many retired diplomats — like Baker-Hamilton report drafter Edward Djerejian — and a host of officials across the U.S. government felt that Iraq could be rehabilitated in 60-90 days. While some papers subsequently leaked contradict such claim, often such documents contained mutually contradictory statements, as bureaucrats avoided risk.

Implementation also undercut planning. It is all well and good to have Phase III and Phase IV plans, but if no official makes the call as to when one phase ends and the other begins, confusion reigns, and chaos — and looting — fills the vacuum.

What were the nodal decisions that changed the course of Iraq’s postwar development? First was the decision to occupy the country. In December 2002, I argued for Iraq's liberation and suggested Iraqis would welcome us (they did) unless we became overbearing (we did) and stayed too long (once committed, we have no better choice short of completion).

Incumbent in this decision was delayed restoration of Iraqi sovereignty. There was an active debate at the time about whether Washington would have more leverage over Iraqi politicians if there was an established political decision before liberation, or whether boots on the ground would augment leverage. In the end, the State Department and some of the National Security Council officials triumphed. Subsequent events show they were wrong. Their mistake created a new reality. What would the Iraqi government have looked like if the Pentagon had won that debate? It will take declassification of Pentagon and National Security Council documents to show, but suffice to say the canard of handing Iraq over to Ahmad Chalabi was not among them. That myth was the result of intelligence officers ten years into retirement seeking limelight by claiming falsely to have current information, bureaucratic warfare, and the imaginative mind of some journalists and bloggers.

Another nodal decision involved federalism. Before Iraq’s liberation, it was clear that federalism would be a priority for Iraqis. Here, U.S. policymakers lost an important opportunity to influence. While the Iraqis should have determined the final shape of their government within clear parameters, Washington could have better influenced the process by creating the right template. For example, when compiling Iraq’s fiscal year 2004 budget, the Coalition Provisional Authority could choose between determining the budget in coordination with the governing council, or fixing the budget by compiling requests from municipalities and districts through the governorate to the central government to adjudicate, negotiate, and then decide. The former was quicker, but the latter would establish a process which could institute administrative, rather than ethnic or sectarian federalism. For the sake of easing the Madrid Donors’ Conference, the Coalition Provisional Authority’s chief of staff decided to go by the former route.

Another error was to miscatagorize Iraqis. The Coalition did this in two ways. Some diplomats and officials became obsessed by the dichotomy between “externals” — those Iraqis who had fled into exile or lived in Iraqi Kurdistan, outside Baghdad’s control — and “internals,” those who remained and, presumably, had greater legitimacy. Others — myself included — paid too much heed to balancing ethnic and sectarian representation.

The external-internal split turned out to be a canard. One-in-six Iraqis fled under Saddam. But, many retained family ties. There was not a division akin to China and Taiwan. Before the war, it was clear that exiles — the Iraqi National Congress coalition including Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the Iraq National Accord, Constitutional Monarchy Movement, and the two main Kurdish parties would play key roles. They have, with the exception of the Constitutional Monarchy movement. Had U.S. policymakers maintained a consistent template rather than changing the rules whenever exiles emerged as leaders, liberals would have had more opportunity to develop strategy. There also would have been less animosity toward American diplomats and policymakers.

While Sharif Ali bungled his political ambitions from the start, there remains in Iraq nostalgia for the past. Recently, some commentators have written about Saddam revisionism which ironically has more traction among U.S. progressives and anti-war activists than it does among Iraqis. Among an older generation, there is also nostalgia for some prominent military leaders from the Republican period, and also for the Hashemite monarchy. Even today, former military officers, tribal leaders across the sectarian divide, and al-Anbar notables suggest, more than the United Nation or regional governments, prominent Hashemite figures not involved in the Jordanian government would be welcome mediators and interlocutors.

What other policy decisions had significant impact on Iraq’s development? Again, the prewar debate about whether to train a free Iraqi officer corps is, in retrospect, very important. The decision to train in advance a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian fighting force not affiliated with any political party was slowed by a desire to emphasize diplomacy, questions as to how best to marshal, vetting, and interagency filibusters. Delayed by months, the conflict began before the bulk of volunteers could be cleared through a cumbersome vetting process. And so, the opportunity to both liberate and provide security fell by the wayside.

... An auto-da-fe is developing that demands mea culpas. While some conspiracy theorists believe so-called neocons to have had immense power and influence, the idea that three or four people within the U.S. government — to a man excluded from implementation and decision-making — could control hundreds of others is absurd. Still, everyone played a role in Iraq. As is the case in government service, individual jobs were less than glorious, even if they were satisfying.

I was a reporting officer rather than an action officer. Decisions were taken by those living in the Green Zone, and the eight or nine people surrounding Bremer who are apparent from the index of his memoirs. Nevertheless, like all involved, I made mistakes of analysis along the way. I also should have given more credence to tribalism, although this revived with time and insecurity. While my private reports focused alarm at the spread of the militias, I wish I had emphasized the problem far earlier in my public writing once I left government.

As an outside analyst, I botched predictions on the last election. I thought Ahmad Chalabi could get five percent; but officially, he did not win a seat. In reality, I suspect he got one or two percent, although was sidelined after both he and Ayad Allawi lost a number of ballots by having their ballots spoiled by dual votes on the same ballot paper for the United Iraqi Alliance, apparently after the vote was cast. Can Chalabi make a comeback? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But he certainly has the connections and expertise to remain relevant in one capacity or another. His potential remains as a coalition builder. That he has become a lightening rod in Washington is irrelevant.

I was also wrong but pleasantly surprised to see Mithal al-Alusi do well. More seriously, I regret not recognizing Hazen al-Shaalan’s corruption earlier. Nevertheless, should there be declassifications of documents, I'll have no reason to hide my face. Indeed, the one issue which should unify supporters of the war and their critics is the demand that the U.S. government declassify all U.S. documents relating to policy and planning immediately, and release the material seized from Saddam. The latter may contain embarrassing material such as the names of those not only in Europe and in Arab media, but also in the United States who accepted gratuities from Saddam’s government. Avoiding embarrassment is not reason to withhold documents.

Despite all the problems, do I still stand by the decision to liberate Iraq? Yes. Like U.S. diplomats and servicemen who have spent time in Iraq post-liberation, I have met too many Iraqis and seen too much good to regret my decision. Do I believe we need to press on? Yes. Do I believe U.S. foreign policy should look toward the long-term and push for democracy? Yes.

Many commentators focus only on mistakes. Every mistake permanently altered the path of history and the outcome possible to achieve. But, as bad as is the current situation, there might still be strategies to maximize results, improve stability and the strength of democracy, and gain the best possible outcome for U.S. national security. Among possible prescriptions would be improving police training and oversight and, if need be, the dissolution and reconstitution of the force.

I post it all because given Mark's tendency to "skim" stuff I wanted to make sure that all the relevant material is available for him to read with as little effort as possible. After all, he tends to get most of his primary source material on what the neocons think and believe from Pat Buchanan, Daniel Larison, and The American Conservative these days.

As far as the neocon desire to "blame" the Iraqi people, I would ask that Mark please get it through his head that neoconservatism is not synonymous with National Review and that individuals like John Derbyshire or Andrew McCarthy who make arguments to that effect are not representative of that particularly strain of conservatism. They are now critical of the Bush administration (and the Weekly Standard has been calling for Rumsfeld's head since at least the fall of 2004 if not earlier) because while they advocated the policy, the administration was the one that carried it out. If they feel that the latter isn't being done well, don't they have a right to make an issue of it? Or does supporting a hypothetical policy mean that you have to just shut up and accept whatever evils may result from the implementation of that policy? I certainly don't think so, and one would think that Mark and his paleocon buddies would be happy that so many of the neocons are now onboard with their dislike of the manner in which Rumsfeld has implented their preferred policies.

Their dislike of Vanity Fair I agree with completely, by the way. It was a transparent effort to influence the upcoming Congressional elections and I find it somewhat ironic that Mark with his love of triangulation can't understand how one might dislike the actions of the current administration but nevertheless find the Democrats far, far worse. As for the actual content of the article (no doubt another thing that Mark "skimmed"), it appears that many of the leading neocons now repudiate the idea of going into Iraq, which is just as well given that we are now setting ourselves up to surrender there with the pressure provided by the ISG. Given that Mark was himself a tepid supporter of the war in the beginning, one would think him happy to see that so many have come around in his current view.

My offer of a free copy of Neoconservatism and all the other books I had previously mentioned if he actually wants to learn more about what these evil neocons actually believe still stands, by the way. Just in time for the holidays!

Oh, and one more than. I am aware that it is pledge week over at Mark's. I am equally aware that a lot of people here don't like him and don't plan to contribute. I don't have a problem with that (not that I could do anything if I did), but I would prefer that the comboxes not turn into a constant expression of those sentiments, recalling our earlier point that Victor and I want Mark to mind his manners, not lose his income.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I know I've been away for a little while ...

And I would like to start by seconding everything Victor said about the late Ambassador Kirkpatrick.

I've been traveling (and wouldn't you like to know where) and I come back to read the following. Once again quoting Buchanan (apparently opposition to the war gives him a pass on this as Tom Connelly noted) and Larison, Mark sees it as yet a reason to agree with the following comment:
Everybody in the whole world (except the Anglophone centre and right) predicted disaster, more-or-less of the kind that occurred. Hippies did. Gaullists did. Andean peasants, Buchananite reactionaries, John Paul II, Al Gore, the career US military, pulp novelists, realist IR professors and pissy arts students all saw this one coming. I know it’s kind of embarrassing for the English-speaking right to admit that they didn’t have the foreign policy chops of the Berkeley Women Studies’ department, but them’s the facts.

That may be a nice theory, but it's also counterfactual. As Niall Ferguson has noted on more than one occasion, even if the neocons were completely wrong in all their works that doesn't make the anti-war crowd right. Now I know that Mark is aware of this because he linked approvingly to a Ross Douthat blog on First Things in which he writes the following:
It was critiqued, of course, but mainly by left-wing shouters like the “poets against the war,” and, what seem in hindsight like the best arguments against the invasion—the conservative arguments against it—were often conspicuous in their absence. One of the great virtues of the conservative movement has been its willingness to encourage debate within its own ranks, and on the question of invading Iraq—the most momentous question, so far, of the post–September 11 era—I think the movement didn’t live up to those standards, and we’re all the worse for it.

So much for consistency, I guess. Either everybody was for the war or everybody was against it (a far better characterization would be that most of America was for the war and most of Western Europe and the Davos crowd was against it), take your pick on this one. As to his quotation from the Catechism, I would note that the Vatican whose recommendations he is now castigating anyone who still supports the invasion now holds that the reconstruction of Iraq holds that religious and political leaders should support Iraq's reconstruction, an event that will most assuredly not be served by reverting to the isolationism so enjoyed by his paleocon and anti-war buddies. I'm going to keep pointing out the Vatican's current view on the subject as long as he keeps using its stance from 2003 as a convenient rhetorical club.

He then tries in a very bad attempt at parody to mimic our views on torture with regard to human sacrifice, which given that our views are identical to those of Jimmy Akin and Dave Armstrong (as he would learn if he ever read what we wrote here for content) once again illustrates that while all animals may be equal, but some are more equal than others.

As a way of explanation in the combox, he explains his behavior in the following terms:
I could take the tender feelings of the Coalition more seriously if the blog were not filled to bursting with personal insults and profanity directed my way (though I'm happy to report that they draw the line at fat jokes and dogmatic declarations of my Nazi sympathies), as well as Star Chamber investigations of guys like Mr. Comerford. If the parallel between the Maya scholar and the linguistic acrobatics of the Coalition causes discomfort, don't blame me for pointing it out.

First of all, I really don't think you want to cry outrage at personal insults being injected into the debate at this point given the number you sent our way long before this site was set up. Not that we really mind, but you called the tune and now it's time to pay the piper. I understand that Jimmy Akin wants the insults removed from the debate and I'm okay with that, but we're more than happy to dance as soon as Mark names the tune. Additionally, both the fat jokes and the claims that Mark would have been a Nazi came out in the comments and were promptly dealt with as soon as myself or Victor expressed our disapproval. Judging from some of the loonies that have popped up at CAEI over the last several years, one would think Mark would sympathize.

As for the Richard Comerford thing, Mark characterizes it as:
Ah well. If it's *only* Mr. Comerford, then I guess a Combox Star Chamber is just fine. Pay no attention to Mr. Connelly, who was rightly repulsed by this little conclave of character assassins digging for whatever dirt they could find. Keep defending it. Nothing disturbing about that at all. Comerford is clearly an Enemy of the State and must be destroyed. The Coalition is a force for righteousness.

... See. The thing is Mr. Comerford isn't, like, guilty of doing anything except saying "Torture is a bad thing" in some comboxes So I'm unclear as to what necessity there is in self-appointed Inquisitors like the Coalition to be searching for dirt on him. I'm sure the Coalition would all love to have their histories equally well-researched, gossiped and speculated about, but for some reason, they've neglected to do this service for themselves.

But do keep pettifogging and making excuses for this repellent behavior. It just makes my point about the Coalition all the more clear.

First of all, I understand Mark's point about this "investigation," as I don't like cyber-stalking on general principles for a variety of reasons. And if Comerford were making the same types of arguments that Mark or Zippy do, that would be fine. While I am extremely leery of anyone engaging in digging up personal dirt online, I am even more leery of buying into appeals to authority on as complicated as those that Mark has raised and he has repeatedly invoked Comerford as such in these debates. The ironic thing is that he then proceeds to get furious when we dare to question his view of Veritas Splendor.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Jeane Kirkpatrick 1926-2006

The greatest US ambassador to the UN died earlier today. Jeane Kirkpatrick was 80. Only Daniel Patrick Moynihan is even close to her league (John Bolton being an aborted case of what-might-have-been but for the Sedition Party).

Catholic blogger Peter Sean Bradley has a strong remembrance up, with several links, including the one to the most important thing she ever wrote -- the Commentary article "Dictatorships and Double Standards." Reading through it again just now, it hasn't aged a bit. Several passages strike me as more relevant than ever before.

In each of these countries (Iran, Nicaragua, China, Cuba and others), the American effort to impose liberalization and democratization on a government confronted with violent internal opposition not only failed, but actually assisted the coming to power of new regimes in which ordinary people enjoy fewer freedoms and less personal security than under the previous autocracy--regimes, moreover, hostile to American interests and policies.

Thus, in the hope of strengthening a government, U.S. policymakers are led, mistake after mistake, to impose measures almost certain to weaken its authority. Hurried efforts to force complex and unfamiliar political practices on societies lacking the requisite political culture, tradition, and social structures not only fail to produce desired outcomes; if they are undertaken at a time when the traditional regime is under attack, they actually facilitate the job of the insurgents.
Vietnam presumably taught us that the United States could not serve as the world's policeman; it should also have taught us the dangers of trying to be the world's midwife to democracy when the birth is scheduled to take place under conditions of guerrilla war.

There are echoes in those passages and throughout the essay of such different figures as Machiavelli, Lenin and Arendt. But it's not only its brilliance, but the current context that makes "Dictatorships and Double Standards" remarkable and so worth reading still and anew. The habits of mind that Kirkpatrick decries in Jimmy Carter are just as present in the current administration, and its rhetoric, actions and (most important) intellectual assumptions in Iraq are based on the same (mis)understandings of history and politics.¹ Whether from Bush's incuriosity (not the same thing as stupidity) or from the limits on what a well-consciousness-raised American populace and media elite will listen to -- that cannot be known.

But there's also a political point to be made. If anyone was a neocon hero because of foreign policy particularly, it was Jeane Kirkpatrick. Bolton was an admirer of hers who called for a moment of silence at the American UN mission and held an emotional press conference. In the last few years, we've heard all kinds of ignorant ranting (from people who know no better and others who should) about how neocons are democracy-idolators looking to "End Evil" through secular messianism and the Purity Of Essence of our precious bodily fluids and all that. But yet, Jeane Kirkpatrick is the figure in recent American intellectual life most associated with the idea of supporting friendly but repressive regimes. She scorned "winning hearts and minds" and all the rest of it.

The rest of the President's statement graphically illustrates the blinding power of ideology on his interpretation of events. When he says that "the Somoza regime, lost the confidence of the people," the President implies that the regime had previously rested on the confidence of "the people," but that the situation had now changed. In fact, the Somoza regime had never rested on popular will (but instead on manipulation, force, and habit), and was not being ousted by it. It was instead succumbing to arms and soldiers. However, the assumption that the armed conflict of Sandinistas and Somozistas was the military equivalent of a national referendum enabled the President to imagine that it could be, and should be, settled by the people of Nicaragua.

To know Kirkpatrick (and others) is to know how silly and just-plain-ignorant-of-what-they-say are so many of the criticisms of "The Neocons." And the walk off is as brilliant an eff-you by a woman who had spine and who understood the nature of authority and credibility, which our high-minded humanists and leftist clerics do not.

If, moreover, revolutionary leaders describe the United States as the scourge of the 20th century, the enemy of freedom-loving people, the perpetrator of imperialism, racism, colonialism, genocide, war, then they are not authentic democrats or, to put it mildly, friends. Groups which define themselves as enemies should be treated as enemies. The United States is not in fact a racist, colonial power, it does not practice genocide, it does not threaten world peace with expansionist activities. In the last decade especially we have practiced remarkable forbearance everywhere and undertaken the "unilateral restraints on defense spending" recommended by Brzezinski as appropriate for the technetronic era. We have also moved further, faster, in eliminating domestic racism than any multiracial society in the world or in history.
For these reasons and more, a posture of continuous self-abasement and apology vis-a-vis the Third World is neither morally necessary nor politically appropriate. No more is it necessary or appropriate to support vocal enemies of the United States because they invoke the rhetoric of popular liberation. It is not even necessary or appropriate for our leaders to forswear unilaterally the use of military force to counter military force. Liberal idealism need not be identical with masochism, and need not be incompatible with the defense of freedom and the national interest.


If only the Iraq Study Group had been composed of people like Kirkpatrick, it might actually have said something valuable. On the day she died, she is already missed.

UPDATE: Here is Norman Podhoretz's tribute to Kirkpatrick in the Weekly Standard. And woe unto me for not mentioning yesterday the other great contribution (besides "Dictatorships and Double Standards") she made to American discourse. Two of the greatest and most-accurate soundbytes:

Yet even before she had formally switched parties, she was chosen to speak at the Republican National Convention in 1984, where she stole the show by denouncing the "San Francisco Democrats"--their convention that year had been in San Francisco--who "always blame America first."

So maybe that's what killed La Jeane. The thought of a San Francisco Democrat from the blame-America-first crowd as House speaker was too much for her to bear.

Podhoretz also confirms something I suspected while rereading "Dictatorships" last night and alluded to, but never outright said -- that Kirkpatrick had strong doubts about the War on Terror:

Nor did the outbreak on 9/11 of what I persist in calling World War IV tempt her back into battle. She had serious reservations about the prudence of the Bush Doctrine, which she evidently saw neither as an analogue of the Truman Doctrine nor as a revival of the Reaganite spirit in foreign policy. Even so, she was clearly reluctant to join in the clamor against it, which for all practical purposes meant relegating herself to the sidelines.

¹ It should go without saying that however feckless and flawed the Bush administration is on this count, the Democrats are 10 times worse and 100 times more self-righteous.
² The Financial Times obit says Kirkpatrick and Alexander Haig were pro-Argentina during the Falklands War. Izzat so? That was certainly true of her, I remember, but my memory also says Haig was pro-Britain from his time as NATO commander and that he won out.

What he said ...

I really can't disagree with much of Victor's analysis below, though I would note that I have been warning of what Baker and Co. were going to churn out for some time now. The worst part of it all is that the Iraq Surrender Group appears to be the second coming of the 9/11 commission judging from the PR firm, the book, and all of the accompanying press buzz.

For better or worse, they are here to stay for the immediate future and no doubt "implement the recommendations of the Iraq Survey Group" are going to be the Democrat and media mantra from this point forward. And, as I alluded to in my last post, most of the American political establishment is going to cave and a lot of people are going to die as a result.

So far, the GOP spin appears to be that the ISG calls for doing "more of the same." That is factually untrue, to put it candidly, and I expect that many of the people so eager to say that are either doing so from ignorance or as a desire to spin this debacle in the favor of the White House. While I applaud the effort, I would much prefer that one expose this idiocy for the fraud that it is. The fact that they went considerably beyond their mandate to try and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in favor of the latter goes to show what a transparent foreign policy power grab the report was. We could solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tomorrow and it wouldn't make a dime's worth of difference for the violence now occurring in Anbar or Baghdad. Then there is the inherent contradiction between using special ops to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq (where they are far more numerous) and using conventional forces from Iraq to fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan (where are far less so unless Baker plans on using them to invade Pakistan). These and other apparent contradictions within the report help to answer the question of why Sandra Day O'Connor was included: they needed someone skilled at writing BS to serve as the primary author.

Victor very astutely notes the following:
Rod Dreher wrote the following at Beliefnet yesterday (before the ellipse, Rod is quoting someone else):

We separationists affirm the following:
1. Islam is a mortal threat to our civilization.
2. But we cannot destroy Islam.
3. Nor can we democratize Islam.
4. Nor can we assimilate Islam.
5. Therefore the only way to make ourselves safe from Islam is to separate ourselves from Islam.

Hmm. I believe 1, 2, 3 and 4, with caveats. ... But I can't affirm No. 5, though I freely admit that I don't know whether the premises don't support the conclusion, or whether it's because I don't want it to be true. Which, if it's the latter, is pathetic.

As I told him in the Combox ... 5 does follow, if 1-4 are true (and I affirm them all, as he does). The Iraq war was, among other things, an attempt to rebut 3. But really important things like bringing down Chimpy McHallibush have taken that off the table for the foreseeable future.

I once told Rod that in the long run, we really only have three options; turning the Middle East into a glass pancake; accepting September 11th's as annual events; or re-forming the political culture of Islam, which the war was (supposed to be) one step among many. And so we had to fight the Iraq war because only the last was morally acceptable and the process had to start, under our suzerainty, if need me (I acknowledge I didn't think of deporting all Muslims and cutting the Middle East off from Christendom). Our Iraq defeat means we've now acknowledged that we can't change them by force -- for a variety of reasons, of which their own recondite culture is just one among several.

I think that at this point the kind of situation that Tony Blankley describes in The West's Last Chance is far more likely than the bright future described by Richard Perle and David Frum in An End to Evil. And while this argument isn't likely to be terribly popular, I think that blaming the now-impending defeat of the US in Iraq solely on Arab/Muslim inability to handle democracy lets entirely too many people on this side of the Atlantic off the hook.

Cliff May described the mentality of the foreign policy experts who made up the ISG's advisors in the following terms:
The Foreign Policy Establishment types who dominate the Iraq Study Group had opposed the war from the start and, in my view, mostly wanted to send Bush this message: “Idiot! We told you so!”

They were unconvinced by the case that I and a few others were making: That if the U.S. mission in Iraq sinks, it won’t just be Captain Bush and his neo-con crew that will drown. America will have a lost a key battle in a serious global conflict.

I think the following quote from one unnamed commission member who was a source for the NYT story today, confirms what I’ve said above: “We had to move the national debate from whether to stay the course to how do we start down the path out.”

Michael Rubin described a similar mentality here;
Baker and Hamilton gerrymandered these advisory panels to ratify predetermined recommendations. While bipartisan, the groups are anything but representative of the policy debate. I personally withdrew from an expert working group after concluding that I was meant to contribute token diversity rather than my substantive views.

Many appointees appeared to be selected less for expertise than for their hostility to President Bush's war on terrorism and emphasis on democracy. Raad Alkadiri, for example, has repeatedly defined U.S. motivation for Iraq's liberation as a grab for oil. Raymond Close, listed on the Iraq Study Group's website as a "freelance analyst," is actually a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, which, in July 2003, called for Vice President Dick Cheney's resignation for an alleged conspiracy to distort intelligence, which they said had been uncovered by none other than Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. The following summer, Close posited that "Bush and the neocons" had fabricated the charge "that the evil Iranian mullahs inspired and instigated the radical Shia Islamist insurgency." To Close, the problem was not Iranian training and supply of money and sophisticated explosives to terrorists, but rather neoconservatism.

It is precisely because of events like this that have dominated the last several years that I find it exceedingly hard to blame Islam, the Iraqi government, or even the brutal nature of our enemies for the current situation. Like I said, such claims let entirely too many people off the hook.

The good news is that our enemies have a tendency to overreach and al-Qaeda is every bit as eager to get caught up in its own triumphalism as any other revolutionary movement in history. Their apparent consolidation of a de facto Islamist bloc in Sudan, Somalia, and now Chad, their creation of a united African command, carving up most of the Pakistani tribal areas, and now the likely establishment of an Islamist theocracy in the Sunni regions of Iraq has to strike them as looking pretty good right now, especially given that most of these gains have taken place in the last year. Sure, they appear to have lost Chechnya, but Anbar's nice enough compensation prize. When one compares this to the successes enjoyed by their allies Syria (now moving closer and closer to reversing the Cedar Revolution), Iran (stalled nuclear issue, using its proxy al-Sadr to paralyze the Iraqi government), and Hezbollah (a de facto victor over Israel due, again, to international pressure), I think that it is no exaggeration to regard everything that has happened over the last 5 years as the opening prelude to a long and very bloody war. 2006 has been an exceedingly bad year for us, and if any Democrat actually gave a damn about the war on terrorism they might raise these issues, but they're too busy trying to figure out a way for us to surrender. If Victor likes, maybe we can start a pool on how long until Pakistan falls to al-Qaeda and Iran gets the bomb. Because right now, both strike me as only being a matter of time.

Victor writes:
The real hell to pay though is in what this does to the image of the US and the West, and what this means for the clash of civilizations. As Osama bin Laden has said, people naturally gravitate toward the strong horse. By pulling out of Iraq, we'll have confirmed his diagnosis from the Black Hawk Down fight in Somalia, that the US is a paper tiger, and that Islam's jihadists (of whatever particular variety -- and I'm aware there are many, some of whom can't stand each other) can even defeat the mightiest armies of the great superpower, Insha'allah. He has shown that the polytheist infidels are weak and decadent, and need only to be pushed and fall over before they crack.

I agree, which is why I think they'll overreach. Al-Qaeda has never seen much of an understanding for US, just look at their description of the Washington Times in Mohammed al-Hakaymah's Myth of Delusion (the full text is available here). I think at least part of this lies in the fact that their top advisor on US affairs, Sheikh Haw Haw (Adam Gadahn) spent most of his life trying to escape American culture and as such doesn't have a damned clue on how we think as a result.

Bush, as I quoted John J. Reilly on several occasions, wanted to have Winston Churchill's foreign policy and Calvin Coolidge's domestic policy. He also wanted to do it with probably the most incompetent political management (in the sense of maintaining public support for the war rather than elections in general) that I have ever encountered. As a result, we may well get a real Churchill in 2008 (and no, even I'm not that much of a McCain fan to make that comparison, though his stance on the ISG report was spot-on) but until then we are in for two very long and bloody years that are likely to result in a lot of dead people so that the chattering classes can continue to (falsely) feel morally superior to the evil Bushitleretardespotheocrat. Hope they're happy when we lose a city or two and maybe we'll do better next time as we're digging through the rubble.