Tuesday, May 29, 2007

So let me get this straight ...

We need to pull out of Iraq (but not Afghanistan?) because of some general indictment of the United States, yet we should also be concerned over the plight of Christian persecution. This doesn't strike me as a terribly well-thought out or consistent position (say what you will about Buchananite isolationism, and believe me I have, but at least it's consistent). Why Mark's general critique of the United States doesn't apply to Afghanistan, or for that matter any future war imaginable, is completely beyond me. And if one of Mark's primary concern is the plight of oppressed Christians, then he should be praying to God every day that the United States stays in Iraq. Not because the Iraqis are the crude barbarians he appears to regard them as, but because any of the potential victors in the event of a US defeat are unable to think of them fondly.

I could make a lot of points here in reply to Mark's generalized indictment against both the Bush administration and the United States as a whole, but let me make the following statements:

* To once again try and invoke the sacrifice of Andrew Bacevich's son as well as his grieving father's remarks for political points strikes me as every bit as repugnant as what Cindy Sheehan did following the death of her own son Casey. Bacevich's arguments against the war were made long before his son died and I will be more than happy to debate them on their merits. I will not, however, attack a grieving man whose son is not yet one month dead for being angry. Unlike Mark, I'm not willing to resort to that level of base opportunism.

* Invocations of traditional anti-war tropes like what happened at Walter Reed and the issue of body armor are red herrings for Mark's argument, and rather late red herrings at that. If he wants to debate them on their merits, I'm up for it and I probably agree with him on much of it. That said, they're basically filler for the real reason that he is writing this post: to declare the war in Iraq lost and to call for an immediate US withdrawl. Let's not beat around the bush by majoring in minors. He admits as much in the comments and I don't have any problem with that, so long as he removes some of this filler and tells us what's really on his mind. The issue of body armor, for instance, is brought to the fore by intelligent people because they want our soldiers to be equipped to the best of our ability possible so that they can win in Iraq. Mark clearly doesn't want that anymore (as evidenced by his comment about the need to bring the troops home), so his comment about the body armor at least is insulting.

* Infiltration of the Iraqi security forces by the insurgency has been an ongoing problem for the last several years now - I would refer you to the Fallujah Brigade for details. It certainly hasn't been a secret, as the well-documented involvement of some Iraqi police and interior ministry units has illustrated. However, one of the effects of the surge has been that the infiltration issue is gradually being addressed rather than ignored as it had been under Petraeus's predecessor General Casey. As Daveed Gartenstein-Ross writes in an outstanding criticism of how the war in Iraq is understood in the United States:
For example, after my first night on patrol—when the civilians we saw were clearly happy to see U.S. troops and felt comfortable around them—a conservative journalist might write a piece countering the stories about Iraqis hating us and wanting us to leave. Fine—but what about polls indicating that a shockingly high percentage of Iraqis think it’s okay to kill American troops? What about neighborhoods where U.S. troops would encounter a very different reception? On the other hand, a liberal journalist could write a very funny piece about the Iraqi army’s sloth and trigger-happy approach to the world, and conclude that we need to leave immediately because the Iraqi security forces are hopeless and at least a withdrawal will put some fire in their belly. Fine—but what about Iraqi soldiers’ improvements? What about the likelihood that pulling out would guarantee the Iraqi army’s failure?

I think it's pretty clear now that all of Mark's concern about the fate of the Iraqi people in general or the Chaldean Christians in particular doesn't amount to a hill of beans in terms of actually caring about their fate enough to want to do something about it. And given Mark's preference for an isolationist foreign policy, I don't want to hear any complaints about Darfur either. If he wants to inadvertently empower al-Qaeda and its allies, he can't very well complain about their results. Awhile back he criticized Derbyshire's "To Hell With Them Hawks" attitude, but now his position is virtually indistinguishable from it near as I can determine.

* Andrew Sullivan, with whom Mark seems to increasingly identify with these days on matters of foreign policy (both in admiration and apparent support of Ron Paul and in their Ahab-like fixation on the evils of the Bush administration), is quite frankly full of crap when he talks about how Iraq has been a boon to al-Qaeda. While it is certainly true that Pakistan is deteriorating and may well be a nuclear-armed Taliban by the end of the year, the Bush administration is not the sole cause for these events. Pakistan's deterioration is the result of a complex array of social, political, and religious factors that date back to at least the 1980s if not earlier. Moreover, if anyone thinks that a United States defeated in Iraq is going to be in any position to politically or militarily oppose a nuclear Taliban short of anything resembling a nuclear detonation on American soil are beyond delusion. So far, Americans have comforted themselves with the knowledge that maybe India will do the hard work for us, but this approach (much like its Middle Eastern analogue of how maybe Israel will destroy the Iranian nuclear program and spare us all the trouble) is a dangerous one in international affairs. Has it not occurred to anyone that maybe the bright boys in New Delhi harbor similar hopes that a Islamicized Pakistan will attack America first, thus bringing an overwhelming US military response and saving them the trouble?

At any rate, Sullivan's reference to Anbar as an al-Qaeda sanctuary is anachronistic. Assuming that Mark ever cared enough to actually follow rather than criticize the war, he would know that the situation in Anbar has improved dramatically (as acknowledged by Joe Klein, among others) from last year due to resistance by local tribes led by Sheikh Abdul Sattar and his followers. I personally doubt that Mark even follows the news from Iraq closely enough that he knows where Anbar is, but that's neither here nor there.

* Mark brings torture into his rant against the Iraq war, which I think says a lot more about how these issues have become conflated in his mind with his general hatred of Bush than anything else. He also says that torture has become "a legal and everyday part of the American approach to war," though I'm not sure how that jives with his prior claims that the military is untainted by the evils of the Bush administration because they successfully protested a number of the proposed interrogation techniques. To state that torture is an "everyday part of the American approach to war," however, is to horridly overstate the case by the most maximalist views available on the issue. How this statement is all that different from the Vietnam-era trope that all of our soldiers were war criminals is completely beyond me.

* As far as Bush's incompetence goes, this has already been acknowledged and I do not think that I am alone in agreeing with every word that Bottum wrote. This part stands out in particular, though:
The reason is President Bush. His administration has mishandled the logistics of the war and the politics of its perception in nearly equal measure, from Abu Ghraib to the execution of Saddam Hussein. Conservatives voted for George W. Bush in 2000 because they expected him to be the opposite of Bill Clinton--and so, unfortunately, he has proved. Where Mr. Clinton seemed a man of enormous political competence and no principle, Mr. Bush has been a man of principle and very little political competence. The security concerns after the attacks of September 11 and the general tide of American conservatism carried Republicans through the elections of 2002 and 2004. But by 2006 Bush had squandered his party's advantages, until even the specter of Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House was not enough to keep the Republicans in power.

Victor echoed much the same criticisms in his Akagi Bush post, so please don't keep acting as though we are blind to the man's flaws. We simply don't have the borderline hysteria and paranoid fantasies of him preparing to declare a dictatorship that Mark was quite willing to harbor as soon as the opportunity arose. That is a necessary distinction between criticism and hatred, at least in my mind.

Mark invokes a cult of personality as evidence that conservatives are unwilling to accept criticism from Bush. While I do think that the lionization of Rumsfeld by some conservatives (notably talk radio and National Review) due to the fact that he was so hated by the press prevented them from recognizing the folly of his policies in Iraq until it was too late (as can be seen from the fact that the surge strategy we are currently pursuing and enjoying at least some success at is the direct inverse of that which he and General Casey pursued in 2006), the idea that Bush is protected among his supporters by an invincible cult of personality is patently false. If you don't believe me, start talking with most conservatives about Bush's immigration policies and see how much vitriole you receive. If you want anyone who was maintained by a cult of personality among his supporters, it was Rudy Giuliani until the debates intruded and the reality of his positions made them incapable of being ignored. Actually, now that I think of it there is another candidate whose supporters maintain a similar mindset: Ron Paul, and Mark was happy to embrace him despite some still-unsettled racial remarks that I'm absolutely certain he wouldn't be nearly as charitable about were they coming instead from Michael Ledeen.

* Mark ends with a comment about Iraq that is just as applicable to Afghanistan. As a result, I think that it's worth posing the question to him of why, if Bush is so evil and the deaths of our troops are nothing more than a sacrifice to his cult of personality, does he continue (I presume) to support military operations there? And under what circumstances, if any, might he favor extending military operations to say Pakistan, which is universally acknowledged to harbor al-Qaeda.

I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for an answer.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Torture update

"Surge-related" American forces capture a de-facto prison of al Qaeda's in Baghdad. Surprise, surprise ... Jihadis torture people:
U.S. forces freed at least 41 kidnapped Iraqis during a raid Sunday on an al-Qaida hide-out northeast of Baghdad, the military said. Some of the victims appeared to have been tortured and suffered broken bones. ...
Some of the captives appeared to be suffering from heat exhaustion. Others gave harrowing accounts of having been hung from the ceiling and tortured, said Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, another military spokesman. Evidence of abuse, including broken limbs, appeared to back up their account.
Some of the captives said they had been held for four months, Garver said. Most were middle-age men, but one said he was 14. The victims were taken to a safe location and were receiving medical treatment, the military said.
Obviously, it was retaliation for Abu Ghraib, where these Arab dearhearts learned of the very concept. Even before the torture manuals I alluded to last week, would anyone really have been surprised by this news? Iraqi media reports say officials have what they think are the bodies of the three captured US soldiers last week and they showed signs of torture (though this article doesn't elaborate so I hesitate; men captured in a fair fight will have violent marks on their body similar to torture, and enemies have a "right" to interrogate too) But they would not be the first such cases.

What this stuff reminds us is that we are the good guys in this conflict. Period.

This doesn't mean everything we do is good. It does mean (1) that whatever we do wrong, they will almost always do it worse, and loyalty can be inferred from rhetorical weight; and (2) our victory will advance the cause of good (even on matters like torture, Abu Ghraib and Gitmo notwithstanding) and our withdrawal and defeat, which the local left pines for, will set it back. Because political defeat is not abstractly moral, but always concrete -- US defeat means defeat to Al Qaeda and Islamism generally. Not to the UN. Not to the Church. Not to some overarching nebula called "decency" (or anything else). But to Islamism.

Fundamental rule of all politics -- whether war or an election. You only get to choose among the alternatives in front of you. Those alternative will always be imperfect, but you must make a choice (including "no choice," which is a de facto choice of the prevalent). Between X and Y, the defeat/victory of X is a victory/defeat for the concrete and immediate alternative Y, regardless of one's private motive or one's preferred alternative of Z. A US withdrawal would be a victory for Islamism, and thus a victory for torture and other forms of brutality.

More rebuttals

Michael Denton takes the Catholic Hatriots to task even harder than I do (and it should be noted that I don't agree with everything he says ... I do think secular flags and patriotic songs are inappropriate at church/Mass), as does Patrick O'Hannigan (both linked at Christopher Blosser's)

But the best part, and the reason I have a separate post, is the three quotes Michael cites from Bishop Fulton Sheen about how patriotism is possible for Catholics in a secular state:
Patriotism is not just a negation of anti-American activities; it is above all the affirmation of a love of country as a reflection of our love of God. When the roof leaks the householder may become so concerned with its repair as to forget the happiness of himself and his family under that roof. So it is with America. Because our national structure has such economic leaks as unemployment and dust storms we are apt to forget the joys of living in the house called America. It is about time we stopped talking about our aches and pains and began to think of the happiness of being Americans. ---Freedom and Peace, 1941

Love of country needs once more to be revived, otherwise we shall perish for no other crime than because we refused to love. Patriotism has a negative aspect and a positive aspect and one cannot be divorced from the other. Negatively, patriotism implies for us strong opposition to all anti-American activities; positively, patriotism requires that we be so grateful to God for the blessings that we enjoy in America that we dedicate our lives to preserve those blessings to the end. (Freedom and Peace, 1941)

It is our solemn duty as Catholics, therefore, to be conscious of our duty to America , and to preserve its freedom by preserving its faith in God against that group which would identify revolution with Americanism...But as we talk about patriotism, it might be well to remind ourselves that in a crisis like this even devotion to the Stars and Stripes is not enough to save us. We must look beyond them to other stars and stripes, namely the stars and stripes of Christ, by whose stars we are illumined and by whose stripes we are healed! ---Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, 20Feb1938

This (me) is a Briton and a Scot speaking; I know what political anti-Catholicism is (and even so, I will not turn against my native country over it). Bishop Sheen says that while Americanism is a heresy; America is not. Therefore, and this is more relevant to the likes of Iafrate, conceptualizing America so as to reduce it to Americanism is, at best, spectacular bad faith.

UPDATE: Read the comments to this post. First of all, "doubting thomas" puts up the question to Thomas's Summa that I was tearing my hair out earlier trying to remember, which definitively put the lie to the notion that love of country is contrary to love of God (in fact, if love of country were contrary to love of God, so would love of family and love of other men, on the very same "logic"). Also, the reply prompted me to remember where in the Catechism that the discussion of patriotism and civic duty occurs (here, from 2234 to 2246).
Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country.
This is not incompatible with pacifism as an act of personal witness or a particular calling (even hard-headed Victor admires it when it is coupled, though it usually isn't today, with acceptance of exile from the political community). But Church teaching IS incompatible with pacifism as a general moral demand upon all or upon the state.

Second, Christopher alludes to more links at his site (get thee there), giving particular mention to one I feel constrained to put up here -- the Catholic Encyclopedia article on civil allegiance, which covers the matters pretty exhaustively.

Catholic hatriotism

As one of his Memorial Day posts, Christopher Blosser linked to a post at VoxNova called "Memorial Day and the Religious Syncretism of the State" by Michael Iafrate, which basically ... well ... Here's the part Chris excerpted, without comment from himself:
Two years ago, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, a visiting priest was celebrating Mass at my parish in West Virginia. Near the end of Mass, before he processed out of the church he wanted, in light of the upcoming holiday, to honor the soldiers who "made the ultimate sacrifice for us." All of this he said in front of a giant crucifix which, last time I checked, represents the "ultimate sacrifice" in which Christians believe and which, indeed, we had just celebrated in the Eucharistic action. As a fitting conclusion to the patriotic Mass, the congregation sang, not to Jesus, but to the country itself in the words of "America the Beautiful."
We get into a really dangerous place when we start confusing our myths and our holidays. Memorial Day honors the memory of those who gave their lives serving the United States in its military, many of them making the "ultimate sacrifice" (in the state's view) in service to the nation. That's fine. The state needs holidays like this to support its grand narrative and mythology, just like any community of persons.[2] The Church, however, has its own "sort" of "Memorial Day." In fact, our celebration of the Christian "Memorial Day" spans two days: All Saints Day and All Souls Day, November 1 and 2, respectively. These are the days that Christians celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us giving their lives specifically as followers of Christ, many of them making the ultimate sacrifice as martyrs on the way of the cross. . . .
Should not Christians at least consider resisting American holidays as a way of resisting the American mythology, the metanarrative that, as Catholic theologian William Cavanaugh says, serves as an "alternative soteriology" to the Church's story of salvation history?[3] Should we not look for opportunites to subvert the holidays of the empire in which we find ourselves, reminding ourselves of and drawing attention to the ways in which these holidays, as part of American mythology, try to shape our loyalties and practices according to the ideals of the nation-state?
When I speak or write this way, I am often asked if I am advocating a Catholic type of separatism or sectarianism. The answer is no; I am not suggesting a withdrawal from the world. Such a suggestion would deny the mission of the Church for the world. On the other hand, I don’t think the careless syncretism of patriotic Christianity is the only alternative to sectarianism. I think we need a healthy, Catholic suspicion of alternative metanaratives to our own, an ability to clearly understand the differences between the two, and the courage to let that test our celebrations and our social ethics as Catholic Christians.
RTWT, because I actually thought highly of the first part of what Chris excerpted before going on to read the whole thing.

Like Mr. Iafrate, I have an "ick" reaction when I notice US flags anywhere in the church though I freely admit that that may just be my inner Brit, where state flags et al ARE absolutely unthinkable for historical reasons. I also don't go to special Masses for secular holidays; I think "The Star-Spangled Banner" completely inappropriate for church ("America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America" are judgment calls, though I'd tend to reject them if I were a priest; the anthem is not); and I don't even care for the Pledge in any context (too much like a prayer, both in itself and in the context it creates).

But reading the piece as a whole (plus the combox here), it's clear that it's motivated not by healthy skepticism toward nationalism and a sense of the two kingdoms but on total rejection if not hatred of any polis ("hatriotism"), and this one most of all. I was simpatico even up through "the state needs holidays like this to support its grand narrative and mythology, just like any community of persons," because ... well ... it's true -- I just don't think anything follows from that.

I mentally checked out at the part about Independence Day, which he says "celebrates foundational acts of violence." Not really; Independence Day celebrates a declaration that may have needed acts of violence to make good on its claims (but all political claims do that), or perhaps the consequences of those acts of violence. But the acts of violence themselves? No. There is a distinction between political realism and bellicism (one that Catholics of Iafrate's ilk are eager to erase, natch), between Macchiavelli and Mussolini, between Carl Schmitt and the Shining Path.

In that same segment, through the favorably-cited excerpt from "Catholic Peace Fellowship," Iafrate blithely conflates multiple different senses of "set free." Christ's sacrifice sets our souls free from sin generally and eternally (though sin and its effects obviously still exist, so the Cross is not unconditioned). An act of political violence can set us free from the effects of certain particular sins in the world. The two things are not remotely equal or equivalent, and only a man either blind to the difference between the world and heaven, or one who has decided to completely and unconditionally reject the created fallen world as inconsequential (which is a heresy BTW), could think otherwise.

The same quote also states an outright falsehood: "As the ultimate sacrifice has already been completed, we do not need to trump it. We do not need to come up with a better one." What Christian patriot in their right mind has ever said that? That the Founding (or Memorial Day or Independence Day) "trumps" Easter. Or that the blood of Iwo Jima is "better" than the Blood of Calvary? I want cites. And quotes. Not assertions from hostile witnesses. Not disagreements with pacifists. Cites and quotes. And no, Cavanaugh talking about "alternative soteriology" or similar cites doesn't count -- that's HIS gloss on the thoughts of others. It's the thoughts of those others I want, lui-meme. (This imagined nonsense is a kissing cousin to Mark Shea's constant lies about "Salvation Through Leviathan" -- no backer of Leviathan thinks it salvific.)

Further, you cannot say that the state requires a mythology and then say that said mythology should be subverted or undermined, without declaring oneself at war with that state. That's what a "requirement" is -- the mythos has to be accepted, at some level. I don't care how Iafrate and his ilk try to characterize themselves, they are truly America-haters and a threat to any conception of any (necessarily imperfect) polity¹ because their one-track thinking presupposes and forces an absolute radical choice between Caesar and Christ according to a monistic conception of good (i.e., there are no goods). This would make nonsense (1) of Our Lord and the coin, since there's nothing to render unto Caesar on this "logic"; and (2) of the vast majority of Christian political thought and all of its magisterial content, not just JWT, since at least St. Augustine, which has always held a place for a secular state as a thing other than the Church.² Further, the more true it is that all states are founded in violence and maintain themselves based on it (I think it is true, simply), then the details of one particular polity become irrelevant -- no polity could ever deserve any level of loyalty.

But that the particulars of anti-American left-wing hatriotism is the driving force simpliciter is clear from when the discussion of certain holidays (forget the of-course-denied-while-committing-it Godwin Violation we get here):

Thanksgiving, about which he says "it is important to reflect on the content of our thankfulness, and a closer look at the national holiday, with its connections to genocide and imperialism, should give Christian residents of the empire pause." He later says in the Combox that the holiday should be "subverted" on among other grounds, the fact that sneer quotes are required around "discovery" and "New World." Quite apart from the historical issues, what kind of a "holiday" or "celebration" is about how awful one's country's past is?

Martin Luther King Day is supposedly good, which is absolutely baffling since King, although a minister, was a figure whose notable achievements were entirely political. He only "set [anybody] free" in the political sense, i.e., "civil rights," "civil" = "of or related to the civitas." So is Memphis the new Calvary? Why isn't honoring King at all proof his blood is "better" than the Lord's? (I don't believe it is at all or MLK Day implies anything of the sort, but I'm not the one spouting the daffy thoughts on patriotism and nationalism.)

Columbus Day, which "needs to be rejected for the lie that it is." Of course, Columbus's discovery of America was kinduvva precondition for the US existing at all, so if celebrating it is a lie, the US can be little short of satanic ("father of lies" and all that).

Earlier this month, Father Martin Fox wrote about National Day of Prayer (with some criticism from yours truly, actually coming from "the other side" than I do here). Father expressed appropriately healthy skepticism about the American civic religion without collapsing into a hatriotic rejection per se of America and of politics in the name of an exaggerated and phobic conception of "violence."
¹ A self-respecting society would strip such people of their citizenship and civil rights, if not declare them outlaws.
² The details obviously have changed over time and will be haggled over until the Parousia, but that the basic framework involves some kind of church-state distinction is not disputable.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

He's apologized ...

At least sort of, since I gather he got more than a little irate and started deleting comments when the point started to be made that perhaps, just perhaps, he might hold some level of hatred towards Bush (which he still denies he possesses, his recent Daily Kos-like behavior to the contrary). I generally think that Dave Armstrong did the best summary of the situation with the following remarks:
Case study of the foolishness of focusing on politics (and extreme opinions therein) when one's vocation and gift lies in apologetics.

Also, proof that brilliance in one field has absolutely no relation to even basic competence in another . . .

There are people also (no names, of course) who do decently in the area of political analysis, but are out to sea in understanding theology and/or apologetics: its importance, biblical necessity, or what motivates it.

Folks need to concentrate mostly (in the public sphere, especially) on the gift that God has given them (1 Corinthians 12:11; cf. 3:5-9). Mark was not put here on this earth to rail against and frequently misrepresent fellow Catholics and George Bush, but to share and defend Catholic truths and to build up the faithful.

Emphasis mine, because I think that there's a lot of truth in this. Mark's books and tapes, as I understand them, are very helpful at what they do in terms of apologetics. This is one of the reasons, incidentally, why I have stated that I don't think that some kind of organized boycott effort against him is a good idea, let alone my skepticism of the feasibility of such a venture. Whenever Mark is in his element, he handles himself rather well - I would cite his reply to the guy who attempted to argue higher criticism against Christianity an example of that par excellence.

It is when he gets outside his element (and I would include torture in that category since it seems to me that he regarded it first as political and later as a moral issue due to the nature of how his position hardened on the subject) that he tends to resort most often to hyperbole, demonization, and straw man arguments. In that I do not believe that he is alone, but right now it seems to me that he is currently moving back and forth between being a Catholic apologist and being some kind of socio-political commentator. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you look at Dave Armstrong, Jimmy Akin, or Christopher Blosser, you will note that they go to great lengths to distinguish between their own political views that people can accept or reject on their own merits and those of the Church. Rod Dreher, who has expressed views every bit as nutty as Mark's on occasion, makes no claims that his views represent the deposit of faith for the Catholic (now Orthodox) Church. In other words, they generally recognize the distinction between the sacred and the secular. It is not altogether apparent to me that Mark does this, and his repeated snears that those who disagree with him politically with him harbor are more loyal to their political party than to the Church or are less faithful to the Magisterium than he (as occurred recently in the case of Chris Blosser regarding Brownback's views on torture) do everything to reinforce this view.

Now to be fair, Mark didn't assert any of his ultramontane-esque elements into his call for the impeachment of Bush on the word of a crank over at WorldNetDaily. However, to have an individual who is quick to do so offering that kind of "serious" socio-political commentary on a regular basis is something that I don't think is terribly healthy for the Catholic community. Somehow mentioned the possibility of getting in touch with Father Neuhaus and while I still remain adamantly opposed to any kind of boycott against Mark Shea, I think someone might want to let him know the kind of sentiments he regularly expresses on his blog for Father Neuhaus's own professional reputation. If anyone is able to contact him, I would ask that you keep your comments limited to my stated concern (not seeing his reputation come under attack) rather than some kind of anathema sit against Mark Shea.

I bet we won't be seeing these pictures

... at Chez Shea. From the Smoking Gun (there's lots more there):

As I've said, I simply have no patience with arguing from ugly-looking photos -- they're a demagogic device intended to invite to knee-jerk visceral unthought, and it makes me more suspicious of the user ("weak point, holler louder," basically).

But these photos remind us of the selectivity of the outrage among what I will take advice and call, in the spirit of their careful intellectual discernment, the "Better That New York Be Nuked Than One Jihadi Be Made Uncomfortable" Crowd. There is no objective standard by which our interrogation practices are worse than theirs.

The Pharisees dismiss this as "if they do it, we can too." But that's not why I insist on noting this. My point, rather, to make more-empirical points about the war debate and the secular effects of the war than to make purely moral points of what should be done.

For example, if other nations and/or a significant segment of the US population say they hate us because we torture, but they don't hate more those who torture more, then something else than torture must be motivating their hate. Thus, (1) they can be dismissed as not speaking in good faith; and (2) not-torturing won't help us with them in any way.

Also, their torture makes it absurd to view this or any other war as some sort of divine "vote of confidence" or an instrument of specific divine judgment over the matter of torture. If we lose in Iraq, then Al Qaeda and the Islamists will have won; and if they torture more or worse than we do (which is an empirical fact) or if they commit more, more-deliberate and more-gruesome war crimes than we do (ditto), then God will have rewarded their torture and war crimes. Only a notion that ONLY the US or the West are under divine judgment, admittedly a not-uncommon bit of ethnocentrism among Americans, could argue otherwise.

I also hereby make a prediction. If it turns out that the three captured US soldiers were or are being tortured like this (and if I were a betting man, I'd bet on it; God comfort them) ...

... that Shea will blame Abu Ghraib, the Bush-Cheney torture regime, et al (as if torture were unprecedented or unknown in Arab culture, or Al Qaeda were such saints they would never have done so without our egging them on).

Still, I will remember Iran's act of war against Britain and the captured sailors were (as I predicted returned without having been tortured or otherwise mistreated). Shea said the Iranians didn't torture because we did (in order to win the moral high ground, doncha know; here are numerous cites)

In other words, when captured Westerners are tortured by Al Qaeda, that will be because the US tortured. When captured Westerners are not tortured by Iran, that was because the US tortured. Al Qaeda will torture because we gave them permission to torture; Iran did not torture because we made it to their advantage not to torture. As if Abu Ghraib wouldn't have given Iran permission to torture or hasn't made it to Al Qaeda's advantage not to torture.

A cause that explains everything explains nothing. I detect an a-priori obsession, searching for a reason excuse.

Ron Paul's words

Ron Paul engaged in a publicity stunt to defend his words in the Republican presidential debate, sending a reading list to Rudy Giuliani to pack up his claim in the debate that US foreign policy was responsible for September 11.
"I'm giving Mr. Giuliani a reading assignment," the nine-term Texas congressman said as he stood behind a stack of books that included the report by the commission that examined the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
"I don't think he's qualified to be president," Paul said of Giuliani. "If he was to read the book and report back to me and say, 'I've changed my mind,' I would reconsider."
The movie fan in me loves this kind of theatrical gesture and I can't say I have no sympathy for Paul's words in the debate. His whole spiel is here, but this summed it up:
(The end of) non-intervention was a major contributing factor (to 9-11). Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we've been over there; we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East ... What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. ... I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we're over there.
It's obviously indisputable that the Jihadis and their mass of enablers in Islam worldwide complain about US policies in the Middle East. So in the sense that it motivated those who executed the attacks, US policies led to September 11, as one factor among others. (Though I wouldn't underestimate the extent to which some of this Arab and Muslim complaining is for the ears of gullible Westerners -- their bid to win the war of hearts and minds and all that).

Paul was saying something unexceptional in the facts, but where I violently disagree with him, and where Giuliani and any other candidate would be right to dress him down, is what follows from that -- not much I would say, and certainly not the isolationist foreign policy that Paul backs.

"Alter our foreign policy as our enemies want it altered so that they will no longer be our enemies" (and peacefully trade with them, Paul burbled, apparently thinking capitalism is the free-from-original-sin cure-all for the whole world) is not merely the logic of appeasement. It's the chemically-pure distillation of it.

Even if that very word no longer anathematizes, appeasement cannot work in this case either. You cannot appease politicized Islam because the will of Allah is absolute -- a worldwide Caliphate is Allah's demanded way and anything short of that can be nothing more than a temporary truce, a hudna until Islam is strong enough to advance again, Allah willing.

Understand that whatever might be said about US support for this or that Israeli action, they will never matter -- the Jihadis want Israel wiped off the map. Heck, Osama is still complaining about Lepanto and the loss of Al-Andalus (that's Spain, for those of you in Rio Linda). Whatever might be said about current US social decadence, the father of modern jihad, Sayid Qutb, was appalled by the decadence of 1940s US culture, the restoration of (most of) which most religious/social conservatives would consider nirvana. As long as oil and Israel are in the Middle East, and worldwide communication and transportation are what they are, there is nothing that the US, the West or Christendom could give the Islamists that would satisfy them. Nothing.

Even beyond that ... on principle, enemies should not be appeased simply because appeasement is the path of the weak. The Athenians (however one says that in Arabic) told the Melians that the weak "suffer what they must" according to the demands of the strong. And to an honor-based culture like the Arabs, weakness earns contempt, not love, and serves as confirmation that Allah is pushing the "correlation of forces" toward conquest by Islam.

The audience that applauded Giuliani rebuking Paul was applauding a man who thought as a man with honor and not as a calculating bourgeois appeaser or as a schoolmarm in "conflict-resolution" class. They were reacting to someone slap down the "blame America" narrative, which holds that whenever others hate us or others attack us, it must be because of something we have done and the onus is on us to correct these perceived wrongs, to be all things to all men. Even that Rubber-Hose-Rightist Todd Gitlin complained after September 11 that "contextualization," "blowback" and all the rest eventually becoming just an excuse to nurture a prejudice and a double standard.
[The anti-war Left] point out that the actions of various mass murderers (the Khmer Rouge, bin Laden) must be "contextualized," yet refuse to consider any context or reason for the actions of Americans. ...
In this purist insistence on reducing America and Americans to a wicked stereotype, we encounter a soft anti-Americanism that, whatever takes place in the world, wheels automatically to blame America first. ...
Soft anti-Americans, by contrast, sincerely want U.S. policies to change—though by their lights, such turnabouts are well-nigh unimaginable—but they commit the grave moral error of viewing the mass murderer (if not the mass murder) as nothing more than an outgrowth of U.S. policy. They not only note but gloat that the United States built up Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan as a counterfoil to the Russians. In this thinking, Al Qaeda is an effect, not a cause; a symptom, not a disease. The initiative, the power to cause, is always American.
But here moral reasoning runs off the rails. Who can hold a symptom accountable? To the left-wing fundamentalist, the only interesting or important brutality is at least indirectly the United States' doing. Thus, sanctions against Iraq are denounced, but the cynical mass murderer Saddam Hussein, who permits his people to die, remains an afterthought. Were America to vanish, so, presumably, would the miseries of Iraq and Egypt.
The audience that applauded Giuliani was expressing an eternal truth -- once war is joined, you have no choice but to fight, and whatever underlying grievances may have led to the war are off the table. That a self-respecting people will not blame ourselves for others' hatred of us. And that an enemy's grievance against us is a thing to be proud of and uphold, not be ashamed of and appease.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More Shea illiteracy

It's old news that Mark continues his descent into complete BDS, the latest symptom being his calling for impeachment while plainly not even bothering to read (it came out in the comboxes here and here) what he claims is the basis for the impeachable offense.

But Mark ignorantly ranted away, relying on WorldNetDaily paraphrasing. NSPD 51 does nothing at all remarkable, as a careful read would show. Admittedly, it's densely opaque to people who can't read legalese (and Shea is a complete illiterate therein), but it's plainly not "legislation," i.e., new powers, but "implementation," i.e., the nuts and bolts of how to execute an existing law. The latter is exactly what an executive branch is supposed to do. This is an order to plan for the Emergency Situation and some details about what the executive will do in such a case. That's it.

WorldNetDaily complains in the news article that "emergency situation" is defined loosely, but that's of necessity in this sort of thing. The whole point of emergency powers clauses is to cover the exceptional case that cannot be foreseen rather than the ordinary case which can.

This may be news to some people, but the US already has an "emergency" law that gives the president the right to dictatorial powers. Here WorldNetDaily is miles ahead of Shea in at least acknowledging countervailing facts. The law is called the National Emergency Act, which, as columnist Jerome Corsi writes,
allows that the president may declare a national emergency but requires that such proclamation "shall immediately be transmitted to the Congress and published in the Federal Register."
A Congressional Research Service study notes that under the National Emergency Act, the president "may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens."
So these sorts of powers already exist, albeit with a check that Corsi claims the new directive doesn't acknowledge -- that's the only possible basis for claiming that this is a "Bush ... power grab" [WND] or "Hail Caesar" and "giving this man (much less all his successors in perpetuity) the power to make themselves dictator solely on their own discretion" [the characteristically hysterical, in both senses, Shea].

Since the directive is basically an order to executive agencies to plan, it doesn't need congressional approval in itself. Further, enabling regulations for how to use certain powers do not need to make reference to congressional approval because they assume the power already exists and has been granted.

Further, commenter Donatarius actually took the trouble to read the whole thing and makes it quite clear, citing chapter and verse (a wonderful practice; Shea should try it) that it is both a means to ensure the continuity of constitutional government and quite explicitly says that "This directive shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and the authorities of agencies, or heads of agencies, vested by law, and subject to the availability of appropriations" (i.e. Congress's purse strings).

But Corsi indicates here that he's more interested in cheap shots (and he's a model of sanity and sobriety comparable to the hysterical shrieks from CAEI) than in serious consideration:
Ironically, the directive sees no contradiction in the assumption of dictatorial powers by the president with the goal of maintaining constitutional continuity through an emergency.
There is no contradiction. An emergency situation (set aside whether any particular situation is in fact an emergncy -- that's a distraction) requires a powerful executive ruling without little or no legislative power, to keep government going until the ordinary situation can be restored; both checks and balances and the plurality of the legislature are for the ordinary situation. That's Political Philosophy 101 (which I'll go into in another post).

The fact that powers exist simply doesn't mean either that their use is imminent or that their use might be just or unjust according to circumstance rather than intrinsically. You know how the president and vice president are almost always kept apart? You know how when there's a State of the Union address that requires Potus, the Veep, most of the Cabinet and the rest of presidential line of succession are required by custom to be in the same room, there's always one not-prenamed Cabinet member far away. Those are things done to guard against unlikely situations. You know when you get on a plane, the stewardess demonstrates the oxygen mask and does the whole song-and-dance? That's another such thing. You know how every large building has fire extinguishers behind glass you have to break. That's another.

I guarantee any reader, soup to nuts, that there is a plan somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon for an invasion of Canada. That doesn't mean the US is, in any serious sense, planning to invade Canada. Corsi has the equivalent of an update or an addendum to the Canadian invasion plan and writes about it as a serious possibility (and Shea shrieks about it as if it were imminent).

So if Bush has the ambition to make himself dictator and is just looking for a legal excuse, which this directive supposedly is, he or any other president already can. In which case as the brilliant KtheC cites Kathy Shaidle: "If Bush is Hitler, why aren't you a lampshade?" If the law and Bush are as described, why haven't the black helicopters descended on Seattle to swoop up the brave critic upholding The True Faith™? But don't worry, Mark. They don't even need to tunnel under your house. The black helicopters carrying the Secret Ninja Assassin Teams are so silent that they seize you before you hear them.

Well, that didn't take long ...

Mark now supports the impeachment of George Bush after reading an article by Jerome Corsi over at WorldNetDaily. I'm not terribly surprised by this given his complete and utter willingness to believe Russian conspiracy theories about the US planning a massive attack on Iran to coincide with Good Friday. It is also clear to me upon reading his completely hysterical rant that he has little to know understanding whatsoever as to what "martial law" as viewed by the original Founding Fathers actually meant. Mark's argument that Bush should not have martial law power as a result of the decision to go to war in Iraq likewise displays an appauling ignorance of the Constitution.

Also, whatever Corsi's political leanings his source of venue doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the veracity of the story. As anyone with a critical reading of the news is likely already aware, WorldNetDaily has a well-established history for being one of the most alarmist websites on the conservative internet. Most of its original reporting, such as claims that al-Qaeda has planted nuclear devices inside the United States and is ready to detonate them any day now, do not exactly inspire confidence. But given that the proximate source of this hysteria is coming from a guy who has repeatedly assured us that no sir, he doesn't hate George Bush one bit and only offers the bare minimum of criticism towards him, I would again note that his claims of an absence of animus are once again looking less and less credible.

As I noted to Dave Armstrong some time ago, it is crackpot stuff like this (Bush preparing to declare himself dictator with what, his 30% approval ratings?) that leads me to continue blogging here. The Catholic Church deserves better social and political commentary than this kind of black helicopter conspiracism.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

So much idiocy, so little time ...

Is sort of my reaction to Mark's latest anathema sits of the day against both VDH and the Bush administration. I don't have time to dwell on them in the depth that I usually prefer to, so let me instead make the following points:

- He never really addressed Ron Paul's racial issues, he just dismissed them as the product of the GOP smear machine. Given that even some of Paul's self-professed supporters found his explanation a lame one given the nature of the material in question, I think it's worth throwing out there. Certainly he doesn't seem inclined to grant the same benefit of a doubt when it comes to clarifying such statements to Victor Davis Hanson. So once again I'll follow the Biblical example and call him a hypocrite who is straining a gnat by attacking Hanson while swallowing a camel as he goes to great lengths to rationalize every word that comes from the mouth of Ron Paul.

- As Victor noted, if there is any candidate who seriously believes that the free market is the answer to all ills, it is Ron Paul. Glad to see what Mark is actually serious about cricizing versus just blowing smoke for effect.

- What the hell are "Fox News implants" supposed to be? For a man who does not watch television news, it is bad form if nothing else for him to discuss a matter of which he has no first-hand knowledge. Or has his conspiracism now advanced to the point where he believes that only Fox News is the reason why most Americans tend to support what he regards as torture.*

- His continual blaming Bush for turning America into a "torture state" (his words, not mine) and destroying the conservative movement once again make his repeated claims that he doesn't hate the man somewhat less than persuasive.

- I don't see why Mark finds it so hard or so controversial that a non-Christian like VDH regards war as the natural state of man. One of the points that any number of Catholic intellectuals have made over the century is that while the classical Greek intellectuals got a lot of stuff right, they still endorsed horrific practices because they lacked the benefit of revelation. I fail to see why he finds it so surprising or alarming that a contemporary figure has reached much the same conclusions. I would also note that the view he ascribes to the Bush administration that war is the natural state of man is wildly at odds with his other charges that they are secular messianists who delusionally seek to impose Wilsonian democracy everywhere. Which is it, exactly?

- Highlighting personal tragedies from Iraq is a little less than convincing come from a man who used the death of one of our soldiers to score a cheap shot at Norman Podhoretz. Same goes with someone who is blithely ready to accept a great many personal tragedies by calling for our troops to withdraw. No doubt the souls of the Chaldean community will praise him to heaven as they are slaughtered by the Islamic Emirate of Iraq.

- If he seriously believes that the war on terrorism is now a war on western civilization, I would once again thank God that he was not alive during World War 2.

- Opposition to what Mark considers torture is not a position held solely by Ron Paul within the GOP candidates. As he grudgingly admits, even by his standards it is also held by McCain. Given that McCain is actually a serious contender for the nomination, he might want to reconsider his view that the GOP is running anyone who opposes them on this issue out of town. McCain's current problems, for instance, have little to do with torture but everything to do with immigration. I think it's fair to say that McCain has a far better established animosity among GOP activists than does Ron Paul (Hugh Hewitt, if memory serves, blamed him for the 2006 mid-term election massacre) yet no one has made any effort that I am aware of to bar him from the GOP debates. Near as I can determine, only one actual GOP figure has seriously suggested that Paul be barred from the debates and his rationale for doing so has nothing to do with torture and everything to do with his embrace of what is widely perceived among many conservatives as an isolationist and blame America first mentality. Given that the issue of torture has become Mark's white whale, I can understand his emphasis in focusing on it, but if he has any evidence that the people seriously suggesting I would ask that he put up or shut up.

* I'm not trying to be wishy-washy on definitions of torture, but Akin and Armstrong (among many others, including yours truly) have both made a number of arguments on this issue that Mark has yet to address in any substantive fashion other than to (selectively) accuse anyone who repeats either argument directly to him of ill faith and being in league with the Bush administration. Not exactly the most persuasive case, as I think anyone who examines Mark's arguments fairly would note regardless of their view on torture.

So it's been quite a day, near as I can tell.

Visionary, total nutcase or unintentional comedian?

My cinephile friend Adam alerted me to this video of a campaign speech by a Japanese nihilist-anarchist candidate for governor of Tokyo. It is completely awesome. Both in the lyrics and in the music. To some extent, Adam's description reminded me of Tammy's campaign speech in the great 1999 movie ELECTION, which capped off the best scene in any movie that year.

But then it dawned on me what it really is -- this is Mark Shea as a Japanese political candidate. Endless hilarity ensues for those who click:

BTW: something being disgusting to look at is not an argument against it morally, nor an argument for it being "torture."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Stringing up Nero's Violin ...

So how exactly do I read this other than as gloating that it doesn't matter if the country goes to hell so long as Mark can continue to feel self-righteous:
Every so-called Faithful Conservative Catholic who has labored to justify the wicked policies of torture and prisoner abuse of this Administration and to do everything in their power to ignore the Church's clear teaching on consequentialism in the name of "realism", every alleged Serious Catholic who has labeled critics of the Administration's policies a "Torture Pharisee", every chin-puller who has pretended to be unable to tell if waterboarding is torture and who has decried as "extremist" and "fundamentalist proof texters" those who point out the bleedin' obvious about their fake bafflement--all such Catholics richly deserve Catholic Rudy Giuliani for President. Sleep well.

So long as you willing to include Jimmy Akin, Dave Armstrong, and Father Neuhaus (all of whom have dared to take issue with Mark on torture) on that list, Mark. Maybe Mark can start drawing up proscription so that you can publicly identify and denounce these enemies of the faith for all to see. I won't be holding my breath for that to take place though.*

I'm honestly not seeing the connection between the issue of torture and support for Rudy Giuliani. I've been one of Mark's most vehement opponents on this issue and I'm supporting McCain, for instance. As I think the poll conducted during the debate made clear, support for what Mark would regard as torture is pretty widespread among the declared GOP candidates. If he cared a whit about actually stopping it, he would support a viable candidate who opposed it. But it seems that progress on an issue he claims to care so much about means nothing compared to the benefit of continuing to feel self-righteous on the matter. One might even draw on Our Lord's parable of the Pharisee and tax collector, the former of whom was all too happy to praise God all day in order to thank him that he was not like the other man.

One thing that I think is becoming clear here is that while Mark likes to go on and on about how he and his paleocon friends are the only ones who are Truly Faithful Catholics opposed to torture, he still has yet to grasp that if he actually cared about doing anything to change US policy in this regard rather than feeling self-righteous he would be supporting McCain under a simple cost-benefit analysis. But neither he or his buddies Sullivan or Larison apparently care enough about actually stopping something they regard as an intrinsic evil (torture) to give any ground on a matter explicitly stated in Catholicism as a matter of prudential judgement (war and peace). I am not making a pitch for McCain on this one, just calling Mark's self-righteous drivel for what it is. Politics is the art of the possible and if Mark was actually interested in stopping torture he would be supporting McCain, but he refuses to do so out of nothing more than fear of sullying his paleocon self-righteousness with ritually impure neoconservatism. To suggest otherwise is to confuse the sacred with the secular, something that more than a few readers have noted that Mark has been doing a lot lately.

* This is not a criticism of Mark's fellow apologists but rather one of his inability to grapple with the intellectual implications of his condemnations (much like his reading of Gaudium et Spes, actually). On one hand he uses language to denounce supporters of the war in Iraq with the same as that used in the Catechism to refer to the Antichrist and with the other he seeks the aid and recommendation of Father Neuhaus on matters of theology. Hypocrite indeed!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

He's in the tank, folks ...

As noted by his reader, isn't it amazing that the GOP was able to rig up a time machine back to 1996 in order to hatch a plot against Ron Paul for use in 2007. Mark, however, will hear none of it, probably because it plays into his crackpot notions that there is some evil conspiracy of the rich elites afoot to ruin Ron Paul, support torture and the war in Iraq, and kill off the poor.*

As even some of Paul's erstwhile supporters are noting, his explanation doesn't exactly pass muster:
As I say in my first comment below, though, his explanation really doesn’t fly for me. His explanation is at least as goofy as the quotes he’s responding to. Well, I’ll leave it for you readers to decide for yourselves.

What will really be the only way to squash this is to point to verifiable quotes from him on the record that repudiate these quotes. Anything he says now will sound like, well, the sound those sandals make when you walk; like he’s not racist now because that would ruin his chances in a national presidential election.

Others are less sanguine:
I don’t know about you but that sounds pretty lame. It wasn’t me but I could never say that…because, what, no one would believe that some opposition plant had done it and you fired his butt and are now correcting the record? So instead of immediately admitting that they came from his office but disavowing those words and ideas was too complex for the voters?…So better to just live with it?

You buy this explanation? I’d like to but it just defies all logic. Let’s look at it this way: assume that his explanation is completely, 100% true; what does this say about his judgment?

"It seems, in retrospect, that it would have been far, far easier to have told the truth at the time.”

Gee, do ya think? It certainly would be easier to believe. Even Kerry eventually came out against the Swift-Boat Veterans’ accusations. What could this man have been thinking? “Gee, I guess its better to be known as an outspoken racist bigot than to repudiate the crap someone else wrote and scurrilously put my name to? Well, I guess if you’re running for office in an area of the country where many people think those things, it may just be better. Better for your chances of winning, that is.

I would ask readers to wonder if Mark would be nearly as willing to embrace this kind of "clarification" if it came from Ralph Peters, Michael Ledeen, or any administration official who outspokenly supported the Iraq war. Like I said, it seems to make all the difference in the world about whose axe is getting gored. For someone who screams at the top of his lungs for anyone he with his telepathic charism believes to be "entering to evil," it seems like there's a world of nuance to be held for those whose heart he believes is in the right place.

* I am going to keep knocking Mark on that one as long as he keeps repeating to it. As someone who cares more about the pro-life movement than being self-righteous, let me just say that I think it is extremely important to actually engage the arguments of abortion supporters instead of attributing their actions to conspiracies or straw men. Abortion can be quite easily explained in the United States without invoking a Marxist-esque conspiracy of the rich to murder the poor.

Let me clarify ...

Since Mark has by admitting that he thinks Ron Paul is doomed. At the same time, I think that you can certainly see how one might take away the opposite view given his comments the other day that the reason Paul was banned from LGF poll was evidence that some kind of populist uprising was at hand and that the moneyed and the influential were out to get him.

As to the issue of banning Paul from future debates, I think that Jonah Goldberg is dead-on here. I for one would love to see him go full-blown Buchananite at a debate and explain how the war in Iraq was masterminded by cabal of neoconservatives solely for the benefit of Israel or the need to revive the gold standard. The same goes with his apparent views that the United States was wrong to support the Cold War and that Osama bin Laden and his acolytes should have (Daniel Larison's impressive intellectual gymnastics to the contrary) a de facto veto on US foreign policy.

Furthermore, the fact that Mark apparently sees little difference between Ross Douthat and Ron Paul says more about Mark's ignorance (I'm assuming he wasn't seeking to insult Ross) than it does anything else. Also, his alleged "proof" that Paul was going to be banned from the next debate was hardly that (and none of them from neocons, near as I can tell), just people wishing that he would not appear. Given the similarities between the views of Paul and those of Larouche, I can certainly understand why they might have a similar opinion on Paul as many Democrats do about their own crazed lunatic and I'm not sure that I understand the problem.

I would also note that Mark is once again shifting the goalposts when he says:
But his kookiness is far less of a problem to me then the Enforcers of Newthink in the End to Evil Crowd who would ban his voice in the public arena because it shows up the Salvation Through Leviathan By Any Means Necessary guys as the brutal incompetents they are. We've already had one bull of excommunication from them when they shouted down critics of their disastrous adventurism. We don't need more.

Yesterday, the "Rubber Hose Right" (symbolized somehow by LGF) was against Ron Paul because he opposed torture. Today it's the "End to Evil Crowd" crowd (though Hewitt, Barnett, and Bennett aren't generally thought of as premier neocons) and for a very different set of reasons. One wonders how big the conspiracy to silence Ron Paul will grow tomorrow.

This, by the way, is just hilarious:
If Paul is a racist, then I have no use for him. However, I'd still be interested in letting him in the debates to see what he has to say about the quotes attributed to him rather than simply settling for a nice quick Crucifixion-by-Media followed by a noiseless disposal of the body without any questions or comments.

That's both big and rather self-righteous talk from a man who had no compunctions whatsoever about seeking to do the same (regardless of the justification) to Michael Ledeen, Michael Novak, Dean Barnett, to say nothing of what he has hurled against myself and Victor. I guess it makes all the difference in the world as to whose oxe is getting gored (or perhaps Mark is able to divine the truth of an individual's position through his apparent charism of telepathy) as to whether an individual should be given time to clarify his remarks or a Mark Shea anathema sit rendered against them.

Self-righteousness Trumps Torture ...

So speaketh Shea, at least. Following his bizarre claim that there was a "burst of interest" in blogosphere for Ron Paul after the debate and that the Rubber Hose Right was "frightened" because of it (if we are, it's because he's a nut far more than anything to do with torture), he appears to have backed down from his initial rhetoric that seems to indicate that Paul stands a snowball's chance in hell of actually winning the election.

As such, Mark writes:
Who said anything about Paul winning the nomination. I'm simply happy to see that there is one candidate who is not foursquare in favor of Strength Through Evil. Given that both parties are now committed to intrinsic moral evil, I don't give a shit who wins, because they don't give a shit what I think. They are about power and money. I'll vote for the candidate who will not use my vote for intrinsic moral evil. The best causes are lost causes.

First of all, I don't think that this is true because it sounds far more like an after-the-fact realization once the cold, hard truth sunk in to Shea that Paul didn't stand a serious chance of winning the White House. Yet in his post explaining why he supports Paul over McCain, Mark appears to be seriously considering the geopolitical benefits from his perspective of a Paul presidency vs. a McCain presidency. While acknowledging that McCain is against torture, Mark cannot bring himself to support him because he continues to support a strong American foreign policy rather than Mark's favored isolationism.

I don't necessarily have a problem with that, but war, even the war in Iraq, is not an intrinsic evil. It is a prudential judgement and both the Catechism makes that clear. If Mark wants to argue that support from the war in Iraq or neoconservative foreign policy is now an intrinsic evil, then he has crossed the line from rhetoric into active dissent from the teachings of the Church. If nothing else, if he seriously believes that he may want to rethink asking Father Neuhaus to write the forward to his next book. Mark can criticize the Iraq war from now to Kingdom Come if he likes, but if his rhetoric is going to start reaching for these type of declarative doctrinal statements I think it is worth asking him by what authority he does so.

Anyone care to guess how long it is before Mark starts explicitly arguing that support for any GOP candidate other than Paul is to be complicit in an intrinsic evil? If he does, I'd love to see him weigh in on this one.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Of Crackpots and Catholics ...

I'm not terribly surprised that Mark has taken the plunge gone into the tank for Ron Paul, but given his stated rationale for doing so I am once again going to label him as a paleocon. I'll also take the opportunity to note once again that it is the fact that Mark airs these types of social and political views that I remain so vehemently opposed to him. To his credit, he has yet to claim that any Catholic who supports a viable Republican candidate (I expect that both John McCain and Fred Thompson are beyond the pale to him because they continue to support the war in Iraq, which I gather he now regards as both completely lost and immoral) is now just as immoral as those who support the Democrats. It's the kind of sick moral equivalence rhetorical game that allows him to right to feel smuggly self-righteous while not actually doing anything to actually address the ills that he is allegedly so concerned. If you want an example of this, I would present the cases of the Chaldean and Pakistani Christians, both of whom Mark is more than willing to use a rhetorical club against the evils of neoconservatism. But as his explanation for why he opposes a McCain candidacy makes clear, he will fight tooth and nail to stop anyone from actually doing anything to keep either community safe from al-Qaeda.

As I noted before, if we succeed in Iraq the Chaldean Christians are going to get their own province and autonomy status comparable to the Iraqi Kurds. If someone wants to offer a better option for them, I would like to hear it. If Mark truly held their fate above all else as his other posts on this topic have indicated (certainly he holds their lives above those of the Iraqi Muslim population), he would hope for the surge to succeed rather than his cavalier dismissal of everything that General Petraeus has done to date. In fact, I suspect that if he were asked to explain anything Petraeus has done to date that he would be extremely hard-pressed to do so.

Mark's argument that isolationism is the traditional conservative or Republican position is one that I don't think can be supported by the available historical evidence. At best, it is a highly debateable point depending on one's definition of either category. Certainly none of the individuals that one thinks of as Republican stalwarts were isolationists and even his buddy Pat Buchanan supported the Cold War. As I think John J. Reilly explains quite eloquently, American foreign policy must be hegemonic in the absence of the Cold War. The alternative was for Soviet foreign policy to be hegemonic and I think that anyone remotely sane would recognize that this wouldn't be a good idea. We tried to revert back to as isolationist a foreign policy as the modern economy would allow during the 1990s and I think that the alternative was 9/11.

Finally, Mark appears completely oblivious to the fact that seemingly everyone else is aware: Ron Paul's supporters (a number of whom appear to have a strange resemblance, both rhetorical and ideological, to the LaRouches) have been routinely spamming online polls since the first GOP debate. Any and all reliable data (including the ones showing Giuliani in decline following his comments on abortion) suggests that Paul is a fringe candidate and is likely to remain one. That Mark has to appeal to WorldNetDaily as a beacon of a candidate's popularity among the general population is revealing in and of itself as to his disconnect. As to the substance of Paul's remarks, I think that Jonah did a good job of discussing them here. For all Mark's self-righteous denial that he is a fevered conspiracy theorist, he sure seems to be doing just that by assuming that the only reason anyone could possibly oppose Ron Paul is due to his views on torture.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Speaking of which ...

In Mark's bizarre condemnation of Norman Podhoretz, he makes this very interesting claim about the rationale for the Iraq war:
However, due to the influence of people like Podhoretz, that war got derailed into a Grand End to Evil scheme in which men were sent to die for a delusional vision of a democratic capitalist Iraq animated by a postmodern secular vision of the human person as a fornicating multicultural consumer who sees religion in pagan Roman terms: as a form of crowd control.

I would like to respond by first asking the question of who "people like Podhoretz" are supposed to be. If it is neocons to whom he is referring, then this simply is demonstrably untrue unless Mark wants to assert that Father Neuhaus, Michael Novak, and George Wiegel only view religion in terms of crowd control. It is far more likely that he is referring to Jewish neocons (though why they should be singled out more than anyone else is beyond me), in which case I think again some citations would be in order from somewhere other than the American Conservative before he takes off on one of these sweeping indictments.

If anything, it seems to me that Mark is referring to the pro-war libertarians best embodied by Instapundit or (at the time) Andrew Sullivan and those atheists who hate Islam more than they do Christianity, i.e. Christopher Hitchens. Anyone who believes that either class of people were more instrumental at to getting the US into Iraq rather than far more serious actors like Ken Pollack or Kanan Makiya needs to get their head examined. In this case, that apparently includes Mark Shea. But since he is making the insinuation that this was Podhoretz's view, it might be nice for him to include some actual evidence to back up his charges. The same might also be said for his assertion that Podhoretz is somehow supposed to be more morally responsible for the death of Andrew Bacevich's son than all the other pundits who supported the war in Iraq. The relevant quote he cited from Pope John Paul II was a reference to political leaders, not pundits, but if we're going down that road then it is important to note that Mark himself reluctantly supported the war in Iraq. By the same standard he applies to Podhoretz, would that not make he himself equally responsible for the death of Andrew Bacevich's son? I certainly don't think so, but if he wants to call the tune on that one then I am more than willing to pay the piper under the Scriptural standard of Matthew 7:1-2.

Moreover, Mark's moral theology is incredibly muddled here. The United States government, including General Petraeus, have stated that Iran is helping to murder American troops:
The Iranian involvement has really become much clearer to us and brought into much more focus during the interrogation of the members -- the heads of the Qazali network and some of the key members of that network that have been in detention now for a month or more.

This is the head of the secret cell network, the extremist secret cells. They were provided substantial funding, training on Iranian soil, advanced explosive munitions and technologies as well as run of the mill arms and ammunition, in some cases advice and in some cases even a degree of direction.

When we captured these individuals -- the initial capture, and then there have been a number of others since then -- we discovered, for example, a 22-page memorandum on a computer that detailed the planning, preparation, approval process and conduct of the operation that resulted in five of our soldiers being killed in Karbala.

It also detailed -- there are numerous documents which detailed a number of different attacks on coalition forces, and our sense is that these records were kept so that they could be handed in to whoever it is that is financing them. And there's no question, again, that Iranian financing is taking place through the Quds force of the Iranian Republican Guards Corps.

As you know, there are seven Quds Force members in detention as well. This involvement, again, we learned more about with the detention of an individual named Sheibani, who is one of the heads of the Sheibani network, which brings explosively formed projectiles into Iraq from Iran. His brother is the Iranian connection. He is -- was in Iraq. And that has been the conduit that then distributes these among the extremist elements again of these secret cells and so forth.

Those munitions, as you know, have been particularly lethal against some of our armored vehicles and responsible for some of the casualties, the more tragic casualties in attacks on our vehicles.

Now Mark has previously characterized Petraeus as a brave truth-teller willing to defy the evils of the Bush administration on torture. Does he now call him a liar? If so, on what basis other than that he doesn't want any action taken against Iran? And if Iran is engaging in these types of activities that have led to the murder of American soldiers, would not the United States be justified in taking part in some kind of reciprocal action? If not, then perhaps Mark can use his knowledge of Catholic Just War Doctrine explain why without foaming at the mouth against the Bush administration. I doubt it, but it would be interesting to see.

Mark is also continued his journey to being a functional pacifist (at least when it comes to Iran) as more than one commenter noted here. I would also note that he was more than willing to exploit the death of Andrew Bacevich's son in order to slip in an anti-war message. I assume the latter because given his position that the war is lost, I can only assume that he like Rod now favors withdrawl as the only viable option. If this is in fact the case, then here again he needs to come out and say so rather than tap-dancing around it and crying crocodile tears about the sufferings of the Chaldean Christian community. Because on a day when he has accused Podhoretz of wanting to sacrifice the lives of other Americans, it seems entirely fair to me to return the favor and say that he has (likely unwittingly) placed himself in a position of apathy at best on the fate of the Chaldean Christian community so he can have the satisfaction of defeating domestic political opponents and some short-term peace. Like I said, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Why I call Shea a liar

Posts like this, where he says stuff like this:
Ralph Peters, who spends his time calling for torture and shooting surrendering combatants
Peters never said the latter and this was pointed out to him at the time. This post here, my first ever here to be devoted to Shea, is mostly concerned with Michael Ledeen, to whom Shea illiterately attributed Peters' words, but much of it applies to Peters' too.

The distinction between "execute" and "murder" is glossed over; there is no understanding of what "rules of engagement" are and how moral ones can have different goals; and the nature of the "kill or capture" issue that Peters is talking about is something Shea quite simply never grasps, tries to, or even indicates he sees. Anybody who knows anything about military strategy and military history knows what Peters means by "kill-or-capture." It is, analogous to any other "game plan" type issue, whether you use tactics designed to kill terrorists (like, say, bombing a building) or tactics designed to capture them (like, say, flooding the same building with tear gas or other asphyxiating agent). Peters isn't writing mostly about the "moment of surrender" issues.

It isn't Shea simply that doesn't realize all this (even Zippy seemed to realize, in his first paragraph here, that Shea was miscomprehending) because of his ignorance of military tactics and history. But also that he's too arrogant, petulant, sarcastic and blustering to acknowledge it. But very quickly Shea got it into his head that Peters did call for cold-blooded murder and that anybody who disagreed was making excuses for torture and so could be ignored or vilified.

By now he's just repeating a knee-jerk unthought like a broken record, as if repeating something often enough makes it true. And then takes offense when people call him a liar over it. Shea is now so marinated in his lies that he repeats them without even seeing them. His lies are his reality. He lies every time he broad-brushedly attributes, e.g., "secular messianism" or "salvation through Leviathan" and "End to Evil" to anyone and everyone who disagrees with him.

UPDATE: Like here. If Norman Podhoretz has ever called for an "End to Evil" ("End to Evil Types such as Podhoretz") I want the cite. The cite. We know that it cannot be based on a deep understanding of Podhoretz's ideas as mapping onto those of Frum and Perle's book for any number of reasons, one of which being that Shea hasn't read Frum and Perle's book beyond the colon separator in the title (his statements on "end to evil" in other words, are 200 proof ignorant).

It is merely amusing, of course, that Shea ends this deranged rant by chastizing someone else for "putting words in my mouth."


Two miraculous things to point out.
First of all, I'm in substantial agreement with Shea on this post about getting a joint email from Jonathan Carpenter accusing him and me (and a couple of mutual friends) of being some sort of blogospheric oligarchy. In fact I already had sent a reply email to Carpenter (but not cc'd to Shea), which read in part:
(2) The notion that I am part of "the clique [Dom] shares with Rod, Mark Shea..." Tis to laugh. I am facetime friends with Rod, and cyberfriends with Dom ... but ....
I won't embarrass Carpenter by reprinting some of his earlier correspondence with me, where he makes some insinuations (actually they weren't insinuations) in re my praise for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Nor will I go into Rod's act of schism, beyond saying that I consider Carpenter's "outing" him the blogospheric equivalent of a capital offense, an act so despicable that it cancels out the underlying issue. I will never be interested in anything Carpenter says about anything.

And then the second miraculous event, at Shea's blog. The post itself was fine; he does nothing more than note my dislike for him -- a manifest undeniable fact. But then he says something quite amazing in his combox.
For what it's worth, I disagree with Victor profoundly, but I don't consider him an enemy, except in the sense that he considers me one. I'd be happy to see some reconciliation with him and the other Fogsters, but unfortunately I don't think that will happen, though I do pray for it.
I am genuinely curious -- nay, floored at -- how anybody can publicly spread serial lies, misrepresentations, smears, moral libels and groundless imputations for years against someone -- without considering him an enemy. I mean, if these years have been how Shea acts toward someone whom he DOESN'T consider an enemy (regardless of the rights and wrongs on the underlying issues themselves), then what is left, short of physical violence, for those he DOES consider enemies. And if one were to say on pietistic or pacifistic grounds "I have no enemies, I luv everyone," etc., etc. -- then saying "Person X is not my enemy" is meaningless, a classification that doesn't classify.

I should note that whatever I may have done on the same front (and I won't pretend to have never hit below the belt, though there ARE some things I would never do, like ... lie) is not relevant to that narrow question -- how can Shea act like this toward a non-enemy. I quite openly say that I consider Shea a detestable enemy.¹

And what can "except to the extent he considers me one" mean? One either does or does not consider another his enemy. The reasons for this consideration or lack of it are a separate issue.

As for the "reconciliation" that Shea says he would like and says he prays for -- well, to repeat myself: Tis to laugh.

First of all, I have it on good authority that Shea doesn't think he has committed any sins of misrepresentation against me or anyone else (this post in this combox alone commits at least four forensic sins). On that grounds alone, I'm confident that I have nothing to say to him or him to me.

Second, he has asked before "what can I do here ... I'm not used to having enemies." But in the combox, the minute anybody suggested that he might be at fault, at least in part -- well ... it wasn't pretty (though it was funny, in a sick way). As Andy said:
You wring your hands about why you have enemies, and then you instantly get nasty, defensive, and sarcastic when someone asks if you may be contributing something to the animosity others feel toward you. Possibly there is a lesson to be learned in that.
On that grounds alone (as well), I'm confident that I have nothing to say to Shea or him to me.
¹ His very accurate, for a change, words about my regard for him: I "feel[] cold contempt fill [my] viscera at the sound of [Shea's] name"

Monday, May 14, 2007

Christians in Pakistan

Actually, this is not terribly surprising ...

Anyone reading Bill Roggio's site has been aware of this for more than six months. Not surprisingly, the Northwest Frontier Province that the Times story references just happens to border Waziristan, the region that the Pakistani government has openly surrendered to Taliban/al-Qaeda control.

Now Mark can pooh-pooh the decision to invade Iraq all he wants, but let us pose the question to him of whether or not he would favor an invasion of Pakistan to thwart the threat to the United States, let alone the Pakistani Christian community? Moreover, if he is so concerned about the plight of the Pakistani Christians, maybe he can explain why pulling out of Iraq and allowing the exact same thing to happen there would be a good thing. I'm not going to even get into his morally grotesque view that the Ba'ath Party and Saddam Hussein's security apparatus are to be regarded only by the extent to which they preserved a museum exhibit of the Iraqi Christian community.

For all his anathema sits about those who take issue with him when it comes to torture, I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the idea that Christian blood is thicker than Muslim is most assuredly not in line with the teaching of Jesus Christ. If Mark wants to argue that we should determine our Middle East policy solely on the basis of how the thugs of the region treat their Christian population, that's fine, but don't pretend to claim the high moral ground while doing so.

Friday, May 11, 2007

So answer me this, Mark ...

Given that you now regard Petraeus as credible, are you going to listen to him when he talks about progress in Iraq or Iran's complicity in the murder of American soldiers there?

My guess would be no, but we'll just have to wait and see ...

Reading articles beyond the headline is generally a good thing, Mark ...

So if you're going to throw the Chicago Tribune story at us, you may want to read the whole thing:
Among those who fled is Ayleen Georges, 40, whose husband was kidnapped in early April by Sunni insurgents. They later apologized, told him they had abducted the wrong man, and let him go. Ten days later, after the edict appeared, they kidnapped him again.

He is too shaken to talk about being abducted, but she described how the gunmen repeatedly told him he would be killed unless he converted to Islam or left his home within 24 hours.

"They said to him, 'Why haven't you become a Muslim?' He told them, 'We have faith in the Virgin Mary.' And then they cursed the Virgin Mary," she said, breaking down in tears. "They told him to leave within 24 hours and they said we had to leave all our property and possessions behind, or we would be killed."

... Abdullah al-Noufali, head of the Christian Endowment, a state body that oversees Iraq's churches, said he had heard of many instances in which local Sunni residents had offered to help or protect their threatened Christian neighbors. He blames outsiders -- the Al Qaeda-affiliated insurgents who have converged on Dora over the past three years, turning it into one of Baghdad's most violent extremist strongholds.

"The problem isn't religious, it's economic. The Christians are soft targets. They don't react with violence
. They will pay or leave," al-Noufali said. "Families are leaving every day, and by this summer, there won't be one Christian left in Dora."

According to Kanna, the pressure on Christians in Dora has intensified since the arrival in recent months of a fresh influx of Al Qaeda-affiliated insurgents squeezed out of their stronghold in western Anbar province by a U.S.-backed tribal alliance. Gunmen began visiting churches in the area and ordered them to take down the cross, and since then, all the area's clergymen have fled and the district's nine churches have closed.

The reason I highlighted the first part is because the views of the Sunni gunmen towards Our Blessed Lady indicate that they were almost certainly followers of Wahhabism, the barbaric Saudi sect that produced Osama bin Laden. As those who have encountered actual Muslims will tell you, many of them hold the Virgin Mary in reverence to the point where cursing her would be unthinkable. Wahhabis reject most of that and many other Islamic traditions, meaning as a result that they would think nothing of behaving in a manner.

Moreover, Mark also seems to be ignoring that Anbar, which is pretty much Sunni central these days, is actually doing pretty well, hence the influx of al-Qaeda fighters to softer targets like the Christians of the Doura neighborhood (a point that the article itself makes). So Mark can pooh-pooh Bush's second inaugural address all he wants, but by all accounts it sure looks like a lot of the Sunnis in Anbar and other provinces are starting to get with the program at a time when he, Rod, and so many others are ready to so cavalierly abandon them to be slaughtered despite their incredible courage. And I have to say that his concern for Sanharib Benuel and his family might be a heck of a lot more convincing were its ultimate point on the fallacy of the Iraq war not going to result in the death or enslavement of Sanharib and every other Iraqi Christian were it taken to its logical conclusion. He can call that secular messianism if he wants, but I think it's easy enough to support on the Christian principle that we should not abandon our friends to certain death. Rod, to his credit, recognizes this and has stated that he wants to grant visas to every Iraqi that helped the US and their families. Mark, near as I can tell, never has.