Saturday, October 13, 2007

A reading from the Book of Shea ...

Like some of the others here, I am not opposed to Mark's idea that he write a book about torture for a lot of the same reasons that Victor and Blackadder laid out in the comments of the previous thread. I would actually be fairly interested to read a book that would involve a serious study of the Catholic approach to interrogation, how the US military has approached the problem, and end with a discussion of which forms of coercion that he believes it is licit to support. Mark's general rhetorical sleight-of-hand under which he claims on one hand not to be an expert in the subject yet is more than happy to determine when someone is right or wrong on the issue something that I think it will be very difficult to sustain once he starts writing beyond a few hundred words. If nothing else, perhaps he'll gain sufficient historical perspective to recognize (as anyone who has ever read Republic of Fear would) that torture would exist in Iraq, like it does in most Third World nations, regardless of whether or not we invaded. He will also may even learn enough about real history to drop his zero-sum mentality in this area and refrain from making comments like this:
The fact is, we *have* done just that in the past with Nazis, Commies and Imperial Japanese and we can do it now--without torture.

Given that American police continued to regularly use to what most people today would likely consider torture ("the third degree") well into the 1930s as a regular tool of ordinary law enforcement, this is simply counter-factual. This is not intended to justify such techniques, but if Mark wants to invoke history and tradition to suit his point then he needs to take off the rose-colored glasses and ditch his zero-sum mentality when discussing these matters.

Similarly, he going to have seriously engage those Catholics who differ with him on his view of Gaudium et Spes. This includes Father Harrison, Jimmy Akin, and Dave Armstrong among others. I am well aware that there are readers here who hold at least two of the three of these individuals in some level of contempt. Because my interest is in points of truth rather than individuals, I care far more about their actual positions than whether or not they prefer me and Victor to Mark. The reasons for these opinions aside, it is my hope that in writing a book Mark is going to feel under an obligation to actually acknowledge a difference of opinion here or explain why he doesn't believe there to be one.

One other thing that should be kept in mind about Mark writing up a book is that the standards of libel are a lot firmer when it goes to print as opposed to what he writes on his blog. If he intends to start claiming that Michael Ledeen and other prominent neocons support torture, the murder of prisoners, has called for our soldiers to commit war crimes, et al. he may well find himself sued. Victor and I have discussed this before after Victor noted that any decent libel lawyer looking at Mark's various comments on Ledeen over the years could probably find ample grist for a lawsuit. Now that probably isn't a priority right now because a lot of people write crazy things about Ledeen online, but if Mark publishes said claims in a book to that effect I could easily see that situation changing. I would note now as I have before that if Mark's claims against Ledeen are as clear-cut and persuasive as he believes them to be, it is an odd thing indeed that the man's manifold political enemies have refrained from employing them to their advantage. It wasn't like the American Conservative had any such compunctions when it came to labeling the man a fascist in his political beliefs several years back.

Of a similar vein, I have noted repeatedly that Mark's lack of willingness to understand his opponents' positions has contributed to one the reasons why so many people find him difficult to stand. This has led him to make some very bizarre arguments, including a conflation of neoconservatism with realism, Machiavellianism with utopian Wilsonianism, and generally a very confused discussion of political ideology in general that leaves one with the same impression that Inigo had of Vizzini in The Princess Bride regarding his frequent use of the word "inconceiveable:"
"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

My primary fear regarding Mark writing a book on this issue is that it will very quickly move beyond the issue of torture into a more general anathema sit against the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, neocons, American conservatism, and the like written in his typically emotional style and lack of understanding about the issues he discusses. In other words, a less eloquent version of the standard Pat Buchanan screed that is lacking only an indictment of illegal immigration. If he does this, he will have quickly moved beyond the realm of a Catholic apologist who comments on politics into the area of a political writer. And if he is going to make those kind of claims in print (something he has generally avoided doing until now), then he can be called to account for them the same way any other political writer might without being able to claim ignorance on matters of politics because he is primarily an apologist.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Mark continues to win friends and influence people ...

As shown both here and here. I could point out the logical fallacies, straw man arguments, and above all his complete lack of charity (all of which have been fixtures for him on this issue), but at this point I think these are pretty clear to anyone who takes the time to read the thread. And while I know Mark regards us here at CFF as nothing more than craven apologists for the Bush administration (we aren't, but that is neither here nor there), I would note that by his own criteria both BenYachov and Jimmy Akin (the latter of whom has made the unforgivable sin of referencing "24," which I don't even watch, when discussing the issue of torture) are part of the "dependable legions of war crimes apologists" who "rite more apologetics for Outrages for the Fatherland and to once again rally the Hannitized realpoliticians to fresh yawps of bloodlust and "24"-induced 'realism'."

Regarding the substantive issue that he is (badly) trying to draw attention to, you don't have to be Mark Shea to read that New York Times story and come away from it with a bad taste in your mouth. If the administration believes that these types of procedures are necessary, then they should come out and defend them in a public forum instead of all this cloak and dagger crap. Judging from polling data on the issue, it isn't at all clear from a public policy perspective that this would be all that controversial an argument. This is particularly the case when their credibility is at an all-time low and they had to know that something like this was going to come out if they tried to do it quietly. As a result, now they have yet another scandal on their hands and fewer and fewer people willing to defend them.

Going back to Mark for a moment, he has said before that he doesn't favor impeaching Bush. This may be, as Publius suggests, because he is simply ignorant of how impeachment works. I would be interested to know, if he operates on reason rather than emotion (as appears to be the case), why it took this story in particular to push him over the edge.

And lest we forget, he doesn't hate Bush. Not at all.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

As I said before, blogging has become less and less of a priority ...

The further Mark continues to identify himself with the fringe politics of Ron Paul. And while I think he makes a number of very valid points in his criticism of the Giuliani campaign here and here, Mark not surprisingly goes off the rails and declares that the Bush administration "did a fine job of playing on everybody's fear and whipping up the tubthumpers against traitors and cowards who doubted the wisdom of the Iraq War." Um, no they didn't, or one assumes that public support for the war wouldn't be continuing to hover at precipitous levels, though I believe it has increased somewhat of late due to the change in strategy under the superb leadership of General Petraeus. I notice that Mark has been rather silent about these positive trends of late, though he seems to be eagerly following the nuances of Hillary Clinton's position on torture.

In any case, Mark is essentially restating the same criticism that I myself have on occasion about Giuliani, which is that his "vote for me because I was mayor on 9/11" campaign is the equivalent of John Kerry's "vote for me because I served in Vietnam" campaign. This is not to imply moral equivalency between Giuliani and Kerry, but simply to note that a slogan is not the same thing as a campaign. I would also note that the fact that he sends surrogates out to the press in order to make dubious claims at his behest strikes me as indication enough that he doesn't have any indication of filling out his issues at this point.

And while on the subject of Giuliani, while it is certainly true that social conservatives are just as fractious as any other group in the GOP coalition, might I note that both the their overt threat to go third party and do some major damage to the GOP in the process completely discredits the argument that Mark has been pushing for the last several years. In short, he has argued that there aren't any serious social conservatives in the GOP and that the entire party leadership are only concerned with money and power. My guess is that he'll either argue that these are social conservatives who have finally seen the light and need to support Ron Paul or he'll hagiography them and seek to demonize anyone anyone who disagrees with the wisdom of running a third party.

As I read through Mark's blog, I also note that neither his tact nor his grasp on reality has improved. A program to put captured al-Qaeda prisoners through what appears to be the equivalent of cult deprogramming is denounced as a Stalinist reeducation camp. Might I point out that the alternative (and the one that Iraqis would be likely to pursue in our absence) would be to execute them en masse? Odd that he would object to an alternative to that, given that he continues to falsely accuse Michael Ledeen of having advocated just that.

Mark's grasp of history has likewise not improved:
We invaded Iraq because the Administration continually suggested there was some link between Iraq and 9/11 and because the Administration insisted there was a lasting, grave, and certain threat that Iraq would deploy WMDs against us. The link is non-existent and the WMDs weren't there. And recent stories are making it clear that the Administration was determined to attack Iraq whether the WMDs were there or not.

I would love to see him document this, given that he has been called to carpet for repeating this false claim on numerous occasions, including on this blog. Of course, this also occurs in that very thread on the subject of Mark's charge that the US has set a Stalinist reeducation camp in Iraq, not that Mark allows such ritually impure sources as supporters of the Iraq war to taint his views.

Similarly, Mark jumped the gun yet again and assumed that the existence of an abridged transcript is the equivalent of the US setting up a full-blown Ministry of Truth and all the totalitarian information control that goes with it. He probably still thinks that, near as I can determine from what he's posted. As ever at Chez Shea, any charity and honest intellectual examination end where the Bush administration begins. No doubt he still believes we're planning to invade Iran any day now.

This might be a useful exercise for Mark on why Ron Paul is a fringe candidate. When you parrot enough crackpot ideas uncritically, people tend to get the impression that you're more than a little looney. Through his pandering to the 9/11 truth crowd, desire to revive an isolationist foreign policy, reestablish the gold standard, and so on, Paul has had more than his share of crazy ideas for people to justifiably label him as a crackpot and a nut. Giuliani's ideas are evil, but they are unfortunately not regarded as crazy by the general public. Since we are a democracy, we have to respect the positions of the demos. Which is why I think that Giuliani is far more dangerous to the conservative movement long-term than Paul ever will be.