When Chris Blosser acknowledged that the Bush Administration has in fact sanctioned and authorized torture, I thought we might be heading toward a rapprochement on this question with the hard core members of the CfF. The CfF seems to regard Chris, at any rate, as a reasonable soul. But apparently I was wrong to think they'd follow suit.
First of all, there are no "hard core members" of the Coalition for Fog. There are two contributors, myself and Victor, and everyone else posts in the comments. Mark's inability to understand this may be the reason why he keeps attempting to project his feud with Joe D'Hippolito onto us, but that is another matter altogether.
Here is what Chris Blosser said:
In response to #2, in the specific cases that Mark specifically cites ("the murder by hypothermia of torture victims in Afghanistan? The rendition and torture of Maher Arar? The torture and murder of the Ice Man by CIA ops at Abu Ghraib?"), I'd say yes.
I'd also note that with respect to the latter story, there appears to be conflicting testimonies -- Salon.com's account, for example, states that Several Army and Department of Defense investigations found that the CIA presence may have contributed to the abuse committed by military police and that abuse occurred under direct supervision of the CIA. TruthOut's interview with Gen. Janis Karpinski (in charge of Abu Ghraib), on the other hand, counters this impression:
... So as I had discovered in past investigations of this matter, explaining the root causes of Abu Ghraib abuses are rather more complex than "the CIA did it" and, quoting Mark, "Dick Cheney wants more Abu Ghraibs."
Now Blosser is of course able to speak for himself on this, but I certainly didn't see this as an endorsement of Mark's repeated and rather hysterical denunciations of the Bush administration on this subject. If anything, I would say that the last sentence is trying to point that these particular situations are a tad more complicated than Mark's cartoon version.
Today, I discover they are backtracking (and, of course, hurling insults) concerning something I thought they had agreed to yesterday: the fact that Veritatis Splendor 80 teaches torture to be "intrinsically immoral". Yesterday, they were citing Jimmy Akin to the following effect:
Instead of worrying about whether or not something counts as torture, we can start figuring out whether particular acts are or are not moral. If the pain involved in them is disproportionate then they are immoral and therefore torture. If the pain involved in them is not disproportionate then they're not immoral and not torture.
What this argument means is this: "Torture *is* intrinsically immoral, just as John Paul says. However, some forms of pain infliction are "proportional" to the desperation of the situation (i.e. the ticking bomb scenario). Such proportional acts are not torture and therefore not intrinsically immoral."
I won't argue the merits of that argument here. I simply note two things:
First, the CfF approved of that argument yesterday.
Before you get mad at us for hurling insults, we're still waiting over here for a retraction of your claim that we have no intention of providing a definition of torture when we did exactly that back in November. Moreover, I would note that the whole point that we and others have made in setting up our current understanding of torture is note that you determine the desperation of the situation on a case-by-case basis. I'm rather confused by the fact that Mark is unwilling to engage our argument rather than noting that it exists. If it's wrong, then by all means set us correct on where it errors, but I doubt that this will happen because that would mean ending Mark's rhetorical tap dance where he can condemn us as apologists for Satan, equivalent to abortionists, et al. while simultaneously arguing that someone like Jimmy Akin is just a poor naive soul who hasn't thought his positions out in full. At least Zippy, to whom Mark leaves much of his intellectual legwork, has the guts to come out and explain why he believes Akin to be wrong.
Second, that arguement means that the torture which the Bush Administation has, as Chris agrees, sanctioned and authorized is real torture and is therefore "intrinsically immoral", even by the standards given in Jimmy's scenario. We know that prisoners have been subjected to abuse, torture, and even death when there has been, at times, no solid evidence that they were guilty of anything, much less in possession of information of some imminent life-or-death situation. We also know this has happened, not just at the hands of the "few bad apples" at Abu Ghraib, but at prisons in Afghanistan, or due to rendition, or and at the hands of CIA operatives who were authorized by the administration (and previous administrations) to torture.
Here again Mark, you are conflating a whole host of issues here under a single umbrella for rhetorical effect, which is one of the reasons why I continue to note that in many cases you are engaging in crude demagoguery on this issue. The fact that you can't even conceive of a reason for us to disagree with you on this except to defend the Bush administration speaks volumes in and of itself as to how far he is willing to project motives on this one. The issue of what interrogation techniques are moral and what interrogation techniques should be legal are two separate but closely related issues. The framework that we and others have stated explicitly work on a case-by-case basis, ergo your sweeping condemnation is invalid under the criteria that we have lifted. In the specific cases that you are so apt to cite (Maher Arar and the individual in Afghanistan) I am quite ready to acknowledge as Blosser has that torture occurred and that it was immoral. He will forgive me, however, for not then proceeding to adopt all of the premises of an argument that I do not share to rail against the evils of the Bush administration.
At some point, this appears to have dawned on the CfF, because today I find Tom McKenna in my combox trying hard to pretend that we are talking about non-torture coercive methods and not cold cells, strappado, and waterboarding which have, on several ocassions resulted in the death of prisoners. Meanwhile, over at the CfF, talk reverts to the attempt to show that "because Veritatis Splendour doesn't perfectly align with personal interpretations of Church history and previous practices, it cannot mean what it actually says."
First of all, Tom McKenna is not a contributor here and in contrary to whatever paranoid fantasies Mark may indulge, he and I do not coordinate our positions. Also, he's got the situation reversed when it comes to Gaudium et Spes and Veritas Splendor. The Church does not, simply as a practical factual matter, teach that deportation is intrisically immoral. Now Mark can try to argue that because the Church does not hold to this that this refers to something else (forced deportations, perhaps). Because we at the Coalition believe in the indefectability of the Magisterium, we do not believe that you can just carry out a rhetorical slight of hand and dismiss Catholic teaching on very unpleasant topics like torture or slavery because you think that the latest encyclical wins. This is basically what the rad-trads argue concerning Vatican II and I would like to thank Mark for essentially arguing that they are correct. And as I noted in my previous post, it isn't just me but also people like Cardinal Dulles, Jimmy Akin, and Dave Armstrong who hold to this position about topics like torture or slavery. If Mark wants to argue with them, that's fine, but to just dismiss the idea that this isn't a serious position or hold that "the plain meaning" of Veritas Splendor and Gaudium et Spes must lead one to his position when anyone can see that his view is clearly not what the Magisterium teaches (again, see deportation) when confronted with the full text of the passage strikes me as being nothing short of fundamentalist, which is why I will continue to refer to him as such.
So apparently we are back to pretending that Veritatis Splendor does *not* say torture is intrinsically immoral, even though the text is right there for anybody to read. Undoubtedly, this will be billed as saving the Church's indefectibility from the clutches of muddy thinkers like John Paul II, but in actual fact, what we are seeing is the attempt to save George W. Bush's bacon from the fact that he has sanctioned and approved torture. Look for more name-calling at us "fundamentalist proof-texters" for the crime of reading Veritatis Splendor according to what it actually says.
First of all, this whole discussion would go a heck of a lot further if Mark refrained from constantly shifting back and forth between the issue of morality and that of politics. But since Mark can't separate the issue of the morality of torture from that of the Bush administration, I guess we can't either. And as far as "reading Veritatis Splendor according to what it actually says" goes, Mark might want to take note that his resident DNC shill has already set sail on that trip and it is manifestly clear to me that this is not what the Church actually teaches. The whole reason that we have a Magisterium and rejected sola scriptura in the first place is to avoid such attempts at "clear meaning" as being our standard for what a text says in the first place. But I guess the Catholic Church is too far in the tank for the Bush administration to recognize the intrinsic evil that is deportation.