Saturday, March 31, 2007

Absolutely surreal ...

Fresh from declaring the United States a torture state, Mark now seems to endorse the idea that Iran is more civilized than the United States in its treatment of prisoners. In so doing, he like the useful idiot whose commentary he endorses, is so eager to swallow the "And you are lynching negroes" defense of the Iranian regime that he is willing to accept the most tortured rationalizations at this point.

Frank Sales pretty much summarized my own reaction:
yeah, true. The Brits are allowed to write letters home, says the article, saying they are all right. I read one of those letters, and it made me ill to think of the coercion that went in to it. If you cannot tell the difference between the situation of these prisoners and those of the imprisoned terrorists, with respect to the basis of their detention, and their treatment, you are simply not a serious person.

Mark, you should have been blogging 40 years ago, you would have made a perfect companion to Jane Fonda visiting our POW's at the Hanoi Hilton. No problems here!

To which Mark responded here and here:
Frank Sales, the man who doesn't think waterboarding is torture, is all of a sudden concerned about coercion and is slinging around charges of *treason* and giving aid and comfort to the enemy?

You make me sick.

I pray for the safety of these men and women. But it is torture whores like you, Frank, that made an article like this possible. You're the one who has given aid and comfort to the enemy by helping to cheer for the US as it sank to the level--no, *below* the level of the enemy, as the article so cruelly and accurately has pointed out. I hope you can sleep at night. Get off my blog.

... Yes, yes, the Iranians are being very nice, parading the Brits about and showing the world how nice they treat people that they ****had no right nor reason to take hostage in the first place.

You mean like Maher Arar?

It's rather late for supporters of Administration to suddenly develop a conscience about kidnapping innocent people and torturing them.

... Which again pretty much brings us back to Mark's use of tu quoque argumentation at its finest. And since he apparently now regards most if not all news critical of Iran as a smokescreen to justify another immoral war, one wonders how long it will take him to start arguing if Iran does release these sailors that Iranian detention policies are morally superior and preferable to those of the United States. Maybe he can take a cue from Germany on this one.

As to Mark's claim that individuals like Frank Sales made articles like that which Mark endorsed possible, color me skeptical. The argument that the United States and its allies deserve what they get because of our policies has been a staple of anti-American rhetoric since at least the 1960s (as I think my quoting of Soviet-era propaganda helps to demonstrate) if not earlier. If he wants to talk about things that are appalling, how does essentially praying for the destruction of both Western civilization and radical Islam on the eve of what he believes in his paranoid delusions to be a major international conflict go? I don't think that he seriously believes that for a moment and was just going off emotion and/or rhetorical effect, but there you go. To say nothing of his exploiting this incident involving the UK and Iran so he can use it as a soapbox to rail against US detention policies?

Which brings me to his latest paranoid fear of a US military strike on Iran on the basis of a statement by the vice president of an obscure Russian think tank? If that is his standard for truth and he doesn't trust American sources, I'm not sure why he isn't more eager to trust other Russian information from considerably further up the food chain. Oh wait, that would involve support for something he has already decided from the onset to oppose, just as he remains a functional pacifist on all matters relating to Iran.

Again, I would throw down the gauntlet and ask him what Iran would specifically have to do for him to consider the military option a valid one on this issue? Since it remains logistically impossible at this point (not to mention completely contrary to the strategy of General Petraeus, to whom the Iraq war has been subcontracted to for all practical purposes), I think it is at best an abstract question to anyone with any serious knowledge of military affairs. If Mark wants to present evidence rather than poorly-sourced conspiracy theories to the contrary, I would like to hear it.

UPDATE: K of C captures my frustration with Mark's increasingly conspiracy-ladden worldview masterfully in a reply to another commenter:
The test for conspiracy theory nuttery is whether there could exist any evidence that would convince the proponent of the theory that he is incorrect.

If Americans were captured, it would be an obvious Bush plot. But he knew that, so he arranged to have Brits captured. But that's still too obvious, don't you think? What nationality would the captured sailors have to be before you wouldn't think Bush had a hand in it?

And what about the timing? You think because this situation "magically appears" *now* it has Bush's fingerprints all over it. Would it look less suspicious a month ago, or a month from now?

Is there anything that would convince you that Bush wasn't behind this?

Better pull your fillings out now. That's how they're controlling you.

UPDATE 2 (and by VJM): K of C's post reminds of the intellectual vapidity of the Truly Convinced and their waterproof theories, arguing that "of course, the fact they're Brits PROVES Bush was behind it all as he couldn't have taken Americans." But here is the definitive exchange on the point -- the poison-drink challenge from THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Imagine Shea's thought process IS Wallace Shawn's Vizzini:

Man in Black: The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right, and who is dead.
Vizzini: But it's so simple! All I have to do is divine from what I know of you. Are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet, or his enemy's? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I'm not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool; you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
Man in Black: You've made your decision then?
Vizzini: Not remotely. Because iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows. And Australia is entirely peopled with criminals. And criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me. So I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.
Man in Black: Truly you have a dizzying intellect.
Vizzini: Wait 'til I get going... where was I?
Man in Black: Australia.
Vizzini: Yes, Australia, and you must have suspected I would have known the powder's origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
Man in Black: You're just stalling now.
Vizzini: You'd like to think that wouldn't you? You've beaten my giant, which means you're exceptionally strong. So, you could have put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you. So I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you've also bested my Spaniard which means you must have studied. And in studying, you must have learned that man is mortal so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
Man in Black: You're trying to trick me into giving away something — it won't work.
Vizzini: It has worked! You've given everything away! I know where the poison is!
Man in Black: Then make your choice.
Vizzini: I will. And I choose... [points beyond Wesley's shoulder] What in the world can that be?
Man in Black: [Turns to look while Vizzini switches the goblets] What? Where? I don't see anything.
Vizzini: Oh, well, I-I could have sworn I saw something. No matter. [Chuckles]
Man in Black: What's so funny?
Vizzini: I'll tell you in a minute, but first, let's drink. Me from my glass, and you from yours.
[They drink, Vizzini continues to chuckle]
Man in Black: You guessed wrong.
Vizzini: You only think I did, that's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned. You fool. You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is "Never get involved in a land war in Asia." But only slightly less well known is this: "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line." Ah ha ha ha! Ah ha ha ha! Ah ha ha ha!


Roger H. said...

So basically Mark makes no distinction whatsoever between terrorists hell bent on destroying the West through murder and members of the Western (i.e. U.S. and British) military who are out there protecting his wide load ass. Very good to know.

I wonder when Mark will make a wholly justified condemnation of Iran for violating the Geneva Convention by making one of the captured British sailors (a female) wear a headscarf and white robe, while making an obvious coerced apology on television.

Frank Sales said...

Banned by Mark. Can anyone relate?

He just doesn't get it. My comments about waterboarding in certain rare circumstances, in order to save life, have nothing to do with kidnapping, and then forcing prisoners to appear on camera for propaganda. Maher Arar, Abu Ghraib were mistakes and prosecuted crimes, respectively. What is going on with these Brits is direct policy of a rogue terrorist government.

Mark is so concerned about "cheerleading for the USA" that he can't tell the good guys from the bad guys. Hence Jane Fonda, hence an idiot who is useful for the enemy.

Anonymous said...

Let me ask the ultimate question:

Is Mark Shea nuts?

I mean the sort of nutso nuts that, for example, gets on Art Bell late at night explaining why the Bushies are planning their secret escape in spaceships (with secret UFO technology) to their underground cities on Mars while the Earth's entire environment collapses and billions of humans perish?

Anonymous said...

As I've made clear many times, I think the essence of our clash of civilizations is between those who want to remake the world in the image of Foaming Bronze Age fanaticism and those who want to indulge in the secular messianism fantasy of a humanity that will be saved by some amalgam of Self-Esteem, Technology, pagan spirituality (including the worship of Pleasure and her consort Pride, {expressed by countries as Nationalism), militarism, money, and Machiavelli. Neither of these visions has the least room at all for the Church, except insofar as Christianity is useful. At present, Christianity is still quite useful here in the West. And the West retains enough of the Christian heritage and enough real believers in Christ that the secular messianic spirit of antichrist that animates the dreams of our Manufacturers of Culture cannot do to the Church all it would like to do . . .

Chomsky would be proud.

Anonymous said...

I think he has a new name: "Tehran Mark."

torquemada05 said...

Roger H:

I'm the first one to condemn Mark's behavior, but I would prefer not to make comments about his weight. As to the substance of the matter, at present his primary concern over the sailors apart from calls for their release is that it will serve as the pretext for war against Iran. He is apparently seriously worried enough about this that he is no longer all that sanguine about dismissing the idea that Bush would revive the draft to trump up support for a war against Iran.

Frank Sales:

At this point, I'm pretty sure that your actual position on waterboarding is irrelevant as far as Mark is concerned. The fact that he appears to regard you as morally culpable after reading an article that credulously swallows Iranian propaganda hook, line, and sinker is somewhat indicative in and of itself. Despite his earlier protestations, I'm honestly not seeing all that much of a difference (save some even nuttier conspiracy theories) between the Mark's "America is a torture state" and the standard leftist trope about America as some kind of totalitarian state under Bush.

As far as why Mark is so concerned about supporting the United States, as I think Victor and I have noted repeatedly of late, he apparently sees absolutely nothing of value in Western civilization. This is not, incidentally, the view of the Vatican if Pope Benedict's policies towards the European Union are anything to judge by.


I dunno about Art Bell, but he is rapidly approaching Larouche territory with some of this conspiracy stuff. Nor does it all appear to be foreign policy oriented - as I noted, he has made comments of late in which he has argued that the United States is ruled by a conspiracy of millionnaires that want to kill off the lower classes. If anyone has another explanation for what he wrote, I am open to hearing it. It was simply bizarre, and when combined with his assertions about how American democracy is basically little more than puppet theater by this same conspiracy of millionnaires it is rapidly becoming a parody of itself. While he says that he doesn't believe in any 9/11 conspiracy theories, the type of extreme skepticism he appears to have adopted on the current situation with the British sailors really doesn't strike me as being all that far removed from that line of thought.

One of the things that I think will be interesting to see is whether or not Mark returns to some semblance of sanity on this stuff once Bush leaves office. Judging from his increasingly nutty comments on the 2008 election, my guess is that this is increasingly unlikely to occur.

Donald R. McClarey said...

Mark's appalling comments about the Brit sailors and Iran come as absolutely no surprise to me. He apparently could care less that Iran has partially funded the insurgent campaign that has been murdering American soldiers in Iran, or that hundreds of Iranian agents have been captured by our troops in Iraq. If this doesn't disturb him, why should the holding of some Brits? To Mark, like his newfound soulmates on the Chomsky left, the US is the great force for evil in this world and to be opposed while our adversaries such as Iran get a pass from him. I think Mark is on a trajectory that will take him to very dark places indeed.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"murdering American soldiers in Iran", should have been "murdering American soldiers in Iraq".

torquemada05 said...

I either think that he isn't aware of those developments or he believes that they are all just some kind of smokescreen or manipulated intel to drum up a pretext for war against Iran. The idea that the Iranians actually could be doing bad things in Iraq has apparently never occurred to him as a serious possibility.

Alas, he is far from alone in that regard.

I see he is now arguing in the combox that he doesn't think that Bush is evil. I sort of missed that when he accused the man of transforming American society into a torture state.

Roger H. said...

Well, ok, I guess I could have refrained from using "wide load" in my comment.

Speaking of the Princess Bride scene you reference, why did Vizzini bother to distract Wesley/The Pirate Roberts and switch around the goblets? He was a given a choice of which one to drink from. Or maybe that's what Rob Reiner wanted the audience to think, which is precisely why he directed the Vizzini character to do what he did. Clever, but easily deduced. Then again...

Andy Nowicki said...

You forgot the detail that Wallace Shawn collapes, dead, after laughing hysterically about haiving outsmarted the man in black. A very important detail in the scene!

Anonymous said...

Ix-nay on oiler-spay, Yanday

Anonymous said...

Victor: Not to nitpick, but quoting an extended (albeit well-known and widely applicable) dialogue exchange from said film does not qualify as oiler-spay? :)

Anonymous said...

Well, sure ... but I deliberately stopped short of the two moments that I think the whole thing really builds to, both of which rely on unexpectedness -- both the action described happens (which is incredibly funny; HOW Shawn does it) and then the capper line from Wesley (which I cant even quote without busting a gut).

But no big deal, generally.

JohnA said...

Mark seems to be forgetting an article that I presented to him and which ultimately got me banned. To present the orginal article again:

"In June 2004, six British marines and two sailors were captured by Iran and paraded blindfolded on Iranian television. They admitted they had entered Iranian waters illegally but were released unharmed after three days.

Scott Fallon, an ex-marine and one of the eight held in 2004, said his captors staged mock executions and accused him of espionage. "They just wanted to know our mission — why we were there, why we were in Iran," Fallon told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "I suppose the same thing will be going on with these guys."

Note that the marine from the first episode expects that mock executions are part of what the current group of marines are undergoing. Mark has generously conceded that mock executions are torture so either he doubts the former captive's story or he has conveniently forgotten what was pointed out to him a couple of days ago. Either these options or, as Mark likes to call others, he is a liar.

Now he might reject the Marine's story as hearsay or speculation though this seems a bit dishonest given his ready acceptance of terrorists' reports of their being tortured. But I believe he is being biased in his increasingly disordered thoughts.

I have not given consideration to a boycott of Mark or his business. That is for others. But if it came up in my parish that he was being considered as a speaker, I would quietly work to discourage it.

Chris-2-4 said...

How can it be that nobody has pointed out the batshit crazy notion that it is even remotely possible that we are going to strike Iran on Good Friday?

I guess if it happened, I'd just about be on the "Impeach Bush" bandwagon, but how deranged to you have to be to believe that he would do that?

Anonymous said...

Well ... Russian intelligence sources cited in the Russian media say so. And we certainly can't give any credibility to Bush or Blair.

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder says:

IMHO, anyone who is reading this blog who hasn't seen The Princess Bride deserves to have it spoiled for them. It would be like getting upset because someone told you that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's Dad.

Joe M said...

Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's dad? That's what that scene in Tommy Boy was about?

Andy Nowicki said...

I thought including the ending of the scene was important because you were making the point that Shea's arguments are convoluted and ultimately wrong, like Wallace Shawn's character's arguments, and without including the detail of the scene in which Wallace Shawn drops dead, you haven't really driven that point home. Sorry if I spoiled the scene for anybody. It's still worth seeing. He dies very funnily.

Anonymous said...


The Der Spiegel piece includes this excerpt:

We've known just what they're like for a long time. The 19th-century German author Karl May taught us about the American Wild West...

Karl May was one of Hitler's favorite authors. In fact, Hitler boasted that May gave him quite an insight into the United States.

Roger H. said...

Well, it's official. Mr. Snotty Catholic and Enjoying It! basically doesn't think there's a difference between uniformed members of the British Navy and members of al Qaeda.

Mark is right about one thing, though. Sin does make you stupid, as illustrated by his pride induced moral self-righteousness.

Donald R. McClarey said...

As far as Mark is concerned, the crisis over the Brit sailors is simply another opportunity to lambaste "the rubberhose right". The threat from Iran is much ado about nothing and Bush is the menace and not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mark is rapidly becoming indistinguishable on foreign policy issues from the "dhimmi left". As to the Geneva conventions, I seriously doubt if Mark has ever read them all the way through. Certainly his comments over the years pertaining to them indicate a clear lack of understanding of their contents.

Phillip said...

I think it is an extension of functional pacifism. In theory one can go to war but the conditions for a just war are never met.

In this case one must treat another person with the dignity bearing to a human person. As a human person, a terrorist is entitled to the same rights as a person who is a lawful combatant. Any attempt to treat a terrorist differently is a violation of their dignity as a person and thus a violation of moral law.

In here is the lack of a distincition where we punish (inflict pain in some measure) upon persons routinely. We also apply differing degrees of pain on individuals depending on the crime. One reason for the distinction is war is to identify combatants and reduce civilian casualties. But claiming such distinctions will only result in sophomoric comments from Mark.

Frank Sales said...

Roger H.,

Read Andrew C. McCarthy's article replying to Andrew Sullivan in today's NRO. Sullivan makes exactly the same points, and errors, as Mark Shea. He has no understanding of the legal effect of the Geneva Convention, and seeks to characterize anyone who appreciates distinctions as a torture apologist.

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