Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I Dare Him to Call Me a Torture Apologist

There has been much written in the Catholic blogosphere over the last couple of days about Mark Shea's latest foray into calumnious rumor-mongering.

Christopher Blosser, Patrick Archbold, and the Cranky Conservative (as well as others) have all made fine contributions. But it's Red Cardigan's post that I believe distills the issue down to its most basic elements:
... Mark is saying that it doesn't matter if the story is true or not, but that because we know this administration has condoned torture, murder, and the cover-up of murder we can't dismiss this out of hand.

Patrick, and others, are saying, in effect: hold on. We do know the administration has done some bad things ... But knowing that the administration tried to use all sorts of legalistic wiggle-room about how waterboarding really wasn't torture, not really, and cold cells aren't really torture, not really, etc. seems to me to be a far cry from saying that we know for certain that our non-military intelligence officers are routinely shoving forty-plus prisoners out of cargo planes (despite the enormous difficulty in doing any such thing while the plane is in flight--these aren't skydiving planes, after all) as the sort of thing which is All in a Day's Work, so to speak; or at the very least, that we can't say that the story is impossible.

Now, Mark appears to be saying (and I'll be glad to be wrong) that the only way you could object to this story is because you're bound and determined to give the Bush administration a pass when it comes to torture and murder, and you're so blindly partisan that you can't even accept for a moment that things have deteriorated so much that we now must face the possibility that it might be true that we have members of the CIA hiring civilian contractors to fly cargo planes out of which they plan to push three or four dozen prisoners en route. In other words, he appears to be saying that raising objections on the grounds that this story seems highly implausible, could not be kept a secret if it really were occurring, and might not even be physically possible are all a smoke screen for one's determination to bow down to Moloch and ignore torture and murder so long as it's Our Guy doing it.

But that's a bit unkind. I, for one, don't condone torture, and would be outraged at any proof that our government has been committing wholesale murders of people just as I suspect most of us would be. But I don't read this story and think, sadly, "How terrible it is that we can't categorically deny this!" Instead, I read it and think "Sounds like somebody along the line had Way Too Much to drink, and was determined to tell an impressively horrific tale!" And I don't think I'm covering up for Bush in reaching that conclusion; if anything, I'm employing God's gift of reason, and failing to fall for the latest fashion in conspiracy theory.

[Read the whole thing]
My Comments:
Yeah, what Red said! This story is such obvious B.S. that it is not even debatable that Mark had no business posting it and claiming it to be an "entirely believable anecdote."

Yet, Mark persists in calling his post legit and tarring those who object to it either as partisan torture apologists for the Bush Administration or as fixated upon "trivial" matters of secondary importance to the overall objective of his post.

Let's start with the second allegation. I no more view as "trivial" that one might calumniate an entire group of people in order to denounce the intrinsic evil of torture than I view it as "trivial" that one might torture a captive in order to prevent the intrinsic evil of a terror attack. Mark rightly rages against the consequentialism of the latter, but appears oblivious to the consequentialism inherent in the former. But last I checked, calumny was intrinsically evil, too.

And to address the first allegation: I dare Mark Shea to accuse me of being a torture apologist, especially when he has plenty of evidence to the contrary.

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At 12/03/2008 1:20 AM, Blogger Joseph D'Hippolito said...

I have had the misfortune of having crossed swords w/Mark Shea for about six years. The man has a well-deserved reputation for deliberately distorting opposing arguments, constructing rhetorical straw men and, when all else fails, making virulent personal attacks. His behavior is constant and has nothing to do with his position on "torture;" it has everything to do with his own arrogance and fundamental insecurity. He is a bully to those who disagree with him and should be ignored, if not shunned entirely.

At 12/03/2008 2:41 AM, Blogger Tito Edwards said...

I've seen him do the same thing to traditional Catholics. Painting with a wide brush.

He's a great gem in the Catholic blogosphere, but I'd have to disagree with his assesment again.

At 12/03/2008 3:10 AM, Blogger Michael R. Denton said...

Interesting, b/c Minion has a post on VN along the same lines, this time using Gitmo detainees as the witnesses. It's called Modern Hanukah.

At 12/03/2008 1:47 PM, Blogger Mark said...


I have never so much as suggested you are a torture apologist. Why would you think I would now?

At 12/03/2008 2:46 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...


I must confess to having engaged in some hyperbole with the title of this post and in the last paragraph. The truth is, I WOULDN'T expect you to call me an apologist for torture.

Which is why I think it wrongheaded for you to imply - as Red Cardigan noted in the post to which I linked - that those objecting to your posting this rumor are necessarily motivated by a desire to downplay the involvement of the Bush Administration in advocating and engaging in torture.

Clearly, I disagree with your assessment that the story you relayed is an "entirely believable anecdote" and I strongly object to your decision to post it. But equally clearly, I am not in any way interested in providing cover for the Bush Administration's less savory activities, and, indeed, I DON'T believe that you think me likely to do so.

So, then, there is obviously something else motivating my objection (and, by extension, some others' objections) to this story.

At 12/03/2008 2:55 PM, Blogger Mark said...


I don't know if you saw my post this morning, but I make it clear I don't think anybody objecting *necessarily* is motivated by a desire to downplay the Bushie involvement in torture. However, I also note that the vehemence of the response from not a few people, particularly when it is coupled with confident pronouncements of fact that turn out to be false, suggest to me that there's something kinda weird about the vehemence. It looks a lot like majoing in minors to me.

Recall, once again, that there's only one of my and lots of people pounding and yelling. It gets hard to distinguish all the voiced in the swarm of complaints and accusations.

And by the way, when I say "entirely believable" what I mean (and assumed everybody would understand) is that when you already know somebody has committed torture, murder and coverups over here, it's entirely believable that they might do it again over there. I still see no problem with that logic. It does not follow, of course, that I believe they have done so.

Thanks for taking the time to reply civilly, Jay. I appreciate it.

At 12/04/2008 12:26 PM, Blogger Graubo said...

Personally, I fail to see any importance in Mark Shea or his opinions. Sometimes we tend to elevate those among us. I am blessed that we have Mary and the Saints that show us how to do it. I want a real man on that wall to protect the innocents. We could inject truth serum but then the needle would have to puncture the skin. Thanks Jay.

At 12/04/2008 4:02 PM, Blogger Rich Leonardi said...

Recall, once again, that there's only one of my and lots of people pounding and yelling. It gets hard to distinguish all the voiced in the swarm of complaints and accusations.

If the reaction is so predictable, why post the article?

At 12/04/2008 5:12 PM, Anonymous Phillip said...

Here's his current reason:

"But on the whole, I don't think saying, "I'm afraid that liars and murderers might commit more lies and murders" is much beyond a common sense statement and an expression of justifiable emotion."

At 12/05/2008 7:30 PM, Blogger Mark said...

If the reaction is so predictable, why post the article?

Actually, the reaction took me by surprise. I still don't quite get it.

At 12/08/2008 3:23 PM, Anonymous Phillip said...

"I still don't quite get it."

That's true.


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