GUEST POST: About water boarding and the drowning of souls

In the wake of Sarah Palin’s remarks about water boarding terrorists as a kind of “baptism” (an image I think is at least tasteless and even verges on blasphemy) I received this interesting email:

While Palin’s comments were ill-advised and too cute for comment, let me put them in another context, less spiritual and more military. As a naval aviator (for 20 years), I was tortured and water boarded for my country, as a part of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) School. The purpose was to teach certain skills should they ever be needed. In the past, this training was highly classified but now has been spoken about in open Congressional testimony. Am I grateful for this training? Yes. Because I knew that should the time come I had learned some of the lessons of my fellow naval aviators who had paid a tremendous price when in the hand of our nation’s (and the Church’s) enemies. It was hard training yet necessary. It was hardly comparable to the experiences of the Apostles and St. Paul, or actually being a POW when death could be imminent. A

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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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63 Responses to GUEST POST: About water boarding and the drowning of souls

  1. Magpie says:

    That’s very cruel. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

  2. devthakur says:

    I have a hard time understanding how voluntary military undergoing a certain torture method from their own can really be compared to undergoing the same torture by your declared enemies.

    Also I find the juxtaposition of “our nation’s enemies” and “the Church’s enemies” … disconcerting. Some people (actually terrorists) are enemies of both the US and the Church. But our nation’s leaders have seen it fit to cause harm to many who are not enemies of the Church (just ask Iraqi Catholics about how much better off they are now).

    And many enemies of the Church are just cozy with our national leaders (some of them even *are* our national leaders).

  3. JacobWall says:

    @devthakur

    If I understand this post, I think you’re extrapolating a bit too much. In the simple comment, I don’t see that the writer is saying that enemies of your country and enemies of the Church are one and the same in all cases; it seems to me that the particular aviators to whom he refers were tortured at the hands of those who happen to be both. I think we can all guess who these people are, and they are certainly not Iraqi Christians; nor can I see that this writer is implying that mid eastern Christians whose plight was worsened by American military actions there are enemies of either your country or the Church.

    On the other hand, I have the greatest respect for someone who voluntarily choose to prepare himself to serve his country to such an extreme. If it were my country in question, I would be proud of such a person.

  4. My brother went through this school back in 2003 before he was deployed in one of the wars. He was sent to the Northeast for what turned out to be a torturous experience. When he returned, he had lost weight and had temporary deafness in his left ear from the beatings and torture that he underwent. It was a necessary evil to prepare him if his plane went down in an enemies country. Perhaps it is my family military background.. but I support any means necessary to protect this country. If that means that we water-board enemies to get the truth.. so be it.

  5. Scott W. says:

    Perhaps it is my family military background.. but I support any means necessary to protect this country. If that means that we water-board enemies to get the truth.. so be it.

    Please see the Catechism:

    1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

    and:

    2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.

    and most importantly:

    2312 The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. “The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.”

  6. tzabiega says:

    The officer notes fighting “our nation’s enemies (and our Church’s).” What do we do now when our own nation’s government is our Church’s worse enemy? Waterboarding is torture no doubt. I remember a documentary on Polish underground officers who were tortured under the Soviets after having been previously tortured under the Nazis. The Nazis subjected them to beatings and physical cruelty. The Soviets used sleep deprivation and psychological torture (playing records of the voices of family members, having them repeat the same information a thousand times, etc.). The result was these officers gave nothing away to the Nazis, but said everything to the Soviets because they were going crazy. The psychological and physical mistreatment of other human beings is always a sin and never justified.

  7. AngelGuarded says:

    st.michael.the.archangel,
    I agree with you and I thank God for the many heroes in our country’s history. God bless your brother and please thank him for his service to defend our country. Same goes for other members of your family. Without their sacrifice, we would not be sitting all comfy reading and posting on an internet blog. St Martin of Tours pray for us!

  8. ReginaMarie says:

    Scott W: Thank you for quoting the CCC.
    tzabiega: I agree with the last line of your post. When we deem the ‘enemy’ as sub-human, it becomes too easy to see others (collateral damage?) in the same way. I have no answers. War is a vicious, horrible, & ugly facet of our wounded, sinful human nature.

  9. Scott W. says:

    I agree with you and I thank God for the many heroes in our country’s history.

    I too thank God for the many heroes in our country’s history. Which is precisely why we should all be unequivocally opposed to the mistreatment of prisoners. Torture isn’t just immoral, it’s dishonorable, and any serviceman with his head screwed on right should be zealously on guard against doing anything that dishonors himself or his comrades in arms.

  10. Theodore says:

    I’m just wondering how may Janissaries were heaved overboard after Lepanto.

    “The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
    (Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
    The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
    The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
    He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
    The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
    They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
    They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
    And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
    And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
    Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
    Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
    They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
    The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
    They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
    Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.
    And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
    Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
    And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign–
    (But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
    Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
    Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,
    Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
    Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
    Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
    White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.”

    Lepanto, G.K. Chesterton, 1915

  11. Scott W. says:

    I think you would really enjoy Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World: https://www.amazon.com/Empires-Sea-Battle-Lepanto-Contest/dp/0812977645/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_til?tag=whatdoesthepr-20&linkCode=w00&linkId=XGUEY3ZDJQWYWYDK&creativeASIN=0812977645

    Although I wouldn’t call it overly pro-Western, pro-Christian, it will convey that sense. What any of this has to do with Sarah Palin’s foot-in-mouth exercise I’m not sure, but it is interesting.

  12. Kathleen10 says:

    Waterboarding does not seem to be defined as torture in any unanimous way. It seems a matter of opinion and I have read contradictory opinions here so I’m not convinced. If we took the measures, as nations, that actually protected us, waterboarding would be less important. It is only that we don’t.
    Speaking for the US, we may not have what it takes anymore, to stand up against such unmitigated evil. For whatever reason, some of us seem weak in the knees. Victory goes to the one that wants it most, the one that has the strongest desire and convictions. I get especially queasy when I read statements such as “why should we win?”. If you don’t know why, you are already beaten. Muslims know why, with 100% certainty.
    The majority of Americans of 50 years ago would know why and state it unequivocally. 100 years ago. 200. But not today. How did this happen.

  13. Scott W. says:

    Waterboarding does not seem to be defined as torture in any unanimous way. It seems a matter of opinion and I have read contradictory opinions here so I’m not convinced.

    Rules for the treatment of prisoners are crystal clear: captors may not deprive prisoners of things necessary for life in order to coerce cooperation. Let me suggest that air to breathe is necessary for life. You will notice that no one has seriously suggested that domestic criminals be waterboarded in order to coerce them into revealing accomplices. If there’s nothing wrong with it, why not?

  14. DisturbedMary says:

    JacobWall, Thank you for defending our naval aviator hero. Will we ever be able to defend our country again without people like him? Warrior treasures.

    Kathleen10, the elected elites and the anti-war anti-violence anti-military crowd made it their business to complain endlessly about Guantanimo — no matter that the treatment, the food, the healthcare, the religious freedoms — all of it was very very very humane. I doubt that when the present administration makes its move to send us to re-education camps, I doubt we will be treated as decently as the muslim terrorists.

  15. ghp95134 says:

    I also underwent USAF SERE training as an aircrew member in Sep-Oct 1974; however, the waterboarding had either been phased out during the POW phase, or not instituted at the time. I had heard then that it was still done by the Army at the Special Forces Qualification Course. As the guest author states, it is a valuable lesson to prepare us — in a way, like drown-proofing done in SCUBA or BUD/S training (near-drowning, then being resucissitated).

    @ tzabiega: … The Soviets used sleep deprivation and psychological torture (playing records of the voices of family members, having them repeat the same information a thousand times, etc.)….
    That was also part of the SERE training; but instead of recordings of our families, it was LOUD music over, and over, and over, and over again. Plus other fun stuff. Good training — I cried like a baby at the end …. but not for reasons you’d imagine! I’ll wager the guest author (and current SERE graduates) cried just as I did, for the same reason. (^__^)

    God Bless America!
    –Guy Power

  16. ghp95134 says:

    Okay … I didn’t cry …. the wind was kicking up some dust and it got in my eyes.

    –Guy

  17. Scott W. says:

    Just for the record, I don’t have an issue with SERE training. It’s only a problem if people use it to construct the fallacious argument that since we do it to trainees, that makes it morally acceptable to do it to prisoners of war or criminals. The two are entirely different species of chosen acts and even the government has admitted the vast difference. In any case, thankfully the Army Field Manual (which the military AND the CIA are now obligated to adhere to) forbids waterboarding.

  18. Stu says:

    As a retired Naval Aviator myself, I share my brother’s sentiment regarding SERE in that it was some of the best training that I have ever received. But, at the end of the day it was just that. Training. It wasn’t torture. Further, the type of waterboarding used in SERE is different than what used on KSM.

    Throughout SERE, the emphasis is on exposing the serviceman to potential tactics that the enemy may use on us. This is based upon past experience that we have had with our POWs in the hands of the Germans, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese (and ostensibly the Chinese and Russians). They are tactics of what I would call the “bad guys” given the times of when we were fighting them. Not exactly the methods that I believe we should be emulating.

    Further, another aspect that SERE emphasized was that torture doesn’t work because it does not produce significant or reliable intelligence. Instead, the victim eventually will say or do anything just to make it stop. Can you “break” someone with torture? Sure. Our experience in Vietnam proves that. But even that demonstrates it’s ineffectiveness because it did not produce any significant intelligence but instead was used to create propaganda statements that consisted of lies.

    What we also learned in SERE was that much more effective was the use of soft methods of interrogation of intelligence gathering. Hans Scharff remains the best example of this that I know of and was talked about extensively during the classroom portion of the training.

    And just for my brother aviator…
    http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/4786/

    :)

  19. tioedong says:

    people who are eager to join the Sarah bashing bandwagon over this should consider:

    a) she was JOKING.

    b) Obama (and Bush) okayed this to be used on terrorists.

    So where is the outburst against those who actually torture?

  20. Uxixu says:

    As noted I found her comments irreverent but in the same sense of usage as “baptism by fire.” Certainly in no way deliberately blasphemous.

    Similarly, I find many people equally… flippant with the word torture. It would be fairly easy to illustrate torture techniques employed by the Hussein brothers whose victims would have begged for a dozen waterboardings at Gitmo instead.

    Scott: Undoubtedly due to the interference of the current administration, who would much prefer to kill the suspects by a drone fired missile regardless of the collateral damage, that such policy is in effect. It’s effectiveness is most debatable. It can be said enough that there should be no effective difference between the circumstances of the actual waterboarding between that of the jihadi & and the officer in training… except of course the giant impetus that the trainee has volunteered for such treatment (however much they might regret it at the moment) AND that the trainee is a lawful combatant versus the alternative in the jihadi, of course. The conduct of the interrogation itself should be such that the interrogator won’t get angry, won’t pour too much and is supervised by both his own superiors as well as medical personnel.

    Stu: the two mechanisms are not mutually exclusive. ;)

  21. DanielKane says:

    To compare waterboarding under training conditions and waterboarding under combat/POW conditions is to commit the fallacy of false equivalence. There is utterly no comparison of being waterboarded in a circumstance of complete safety in the USA and being waterboarded in a foreign land by captors know to behead people with kitchen knives. It is illegal to waterboard criminals, no matter what the crime and it is properly understood to be an authentic war crime.

    We executed Japanese officers for the same offense. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/02/AR2007110201170.html

  22. Scott W. says:

    a) she was JOKING.

    Which demonstrates incredibly poor judgment.

    b) Obama (and Bush) okayed this to be used on terrorists.

    This is an objection based on Catholic principles and not political bias: If both Obama and Bush approved waterboardings, then they were both wrong.

    So where is the outburst against those who actually torture?

    Waterboarding is actually torture whether it is done by the U.S. or done by her enemies. There is no need to outburst against U.S. enemies that torture because no one seriously disputes that they are bad people. And there’s the rub: we are not bad people and should expect better of ourselves.

    It would be fairly easy to illustrate torture techniques employed by the Hussein brothers whose victims would have begged for a dozen waterboardings at Gitmo instead.

    And I’m sure that we could find victims would beg for a dozens of periods of food deprivations instead of a waterboarding. It’s irrelevant because what the Hussien brothers did, waterboarding, and deliberately depriving prisoners of food/water/warmth/sleep etc. are all both immoral and illegal.

    Undoubtedly due to the interference of the current administration

    Even a blind squirrel finds a nut.

    who would much prefer to kill the suspects by a drone fired missile regardless of the collateral damage, that such policy is in effect.

    which I am also opposed to. Don’t take my and the Church’s opposition to torture as somehow carrying water for the most abortionist supporting President in history.

    The conduct of the interrogation itself should be such that the interrogator won’t get angry, won’t pour too much and is supervised by both his own superiors as well as medical personnel.

    Just as abortion is gravely immoral even if you do it in a clean, sterile, well-lit doctors office. So waterboarding is immoral even under careful supervision.

  23. Uxixu says:

    Daniel Kane:

    It’s absurd to compare lawful combatants to guerrillas who aren’t afforded the protection of a nation-state signatory to treaties, but it’s done all the time in false argument against the enhanced interrogations.

    You won’t find a single Imperial Japanese executed for waterboarding alone. They always accompanied it with beatings, kickings, putting out lit cigarettes on the victims. There are also incidents where they DROWNED their victims and also jumped on the victims stomach after forcing water in their nose and/or mouth in significant quantities . That’s not “waterboarding” in the same sense as that which was done to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. As Jules would say, it’s not the same ballpark, it’s not even the same sport.

    Scott:

    The point of the comparison with “real” torture versus the conflation you’re making with CIA implemented waterboarding. If there’s no permanent physical damage you’re left with the false canard of psychological torture, which is far too subjective. “Food/water/warmth/sleep” are likewise false canards. All are quite subjective and vague and I’d argue none apply to any enhanced interrogation techniques. Strawman examples could be taken to extremes that could count as ‘torture.” Restriction to bread & water is not congruent with starvation any more than not giving a prisoner “ice cream.”

  24. johnmann says:

    I had surgery. It was painful but not so bad in the grand scheme of things. Therefore, it’s okay to operate on terrorists in order to gain information. See the error?

    Unfortunately, we don’t have an official definition of torture but I really like one I heard a long time ago; intentional harm for an extrinsic purpose. So beneficial surgery and military training and spanking would not be torture. Doing the same in order to exact revenge or gain information would be.

  25. Stu says:

    Uxixu,

    You seem to want to make the argument that because it’s lawful to torture non-combantant that therefore it must be a moral act.

    Again, abortion is lawful but immoral. Slavery was lawful but immoral. In fact, all throughout history we have examples of things being lawful but immoral.

  26. kay says:

    As someone who is being welcomed into Father z’s living room to express my view I’ll keep it short:

    CCC? I don’t care about CCC when confronted with an enemy that’s willing to kill first before I even say “Hi brother – Christ Loves you”.

    If I’m to be judged? So be it – Let Jesus Christ know my heart, my will, my intentions and my wanting to make Catholicism the rule of the land (which btw – is what Jesus said to do to his followers). That I’m Catholic and living my life which makes others uncomfortable enough they want to kill me, I’m not Peter or Paul. I won’t go willingly to slaughter. I will fight or this planet becomes defacto erased of those who believe in Christ. I believe its God who has the right to take my life at the required time, not someone who I can fight against and live.

    I thank the military for their service and I am saddened to the point my heart breaks that the members of the military who are Catholic and Christian are now viewed as ‘american terrorists’ by TPTB. I think we better have a major discussion on what that says instead of “baptism” which won’t be a word allowed to be said at all by those that are fighting to keep this country free.

  27. Gerard Plourde says:

    Kay,

    I’m saddened to see that you say that you “don’t care about the Catechism of the Catholic Church when confronted with an enemy that’s willing to kill first before I even say ‘Hi brother – Christ Loves you.” It is precisely these types of situations that Satan exploits to tempt us away from the Communion of Saints. Satan is expert in playing on our sense of justice and desire to protect the weak and vulnerable to deny the humanity of our enemies.

    The instruction of the Catechism isn’t pulled out of thin air. It’s a direct corollary of the statement made by Jesus Himself – “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mt 5: 44-48 and mirrored and expanded in Lk 6: 27-36.

    St. Paul understood this and gave further example when he said “Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved do not look for revenge, but leave room for the wrath; for it is written ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.” Rom. 12: 17-21

  28. On March 1st, last year, my son climbed out of his rack for guard duty in Afghanistan. On his left was a team mate, PVT Jones, getting ready for the same duty, and on his right was his squad leader, a man named SSGT Bear, as it happens. It was their first night in the FOB. The Afghan “friendlies” inside chose, by whatever means, to climb into the first tower and kill PFC Jones. My son was in the other one. In the ensuing fight, SSGT Bear rushed out to engage and pull a soldier to safety. He did not wait to put on his body armor, and gave his life. My son survived, prayers to St. Michael on his lips.

    They don’t let me make the policy, and that’s good. Inflicting extreme psychological – physiological terror is bad for everybody, even if it doesn’t cause permanent harm. Shooting people is rough, too: no less deliberate, more lethal in intent and likely far worse in effect. We should pick our wars carefully to avoid these problems without good answers.

    If waterboarding someone could have prevented March 1st, figure out where I stand. (Of course, there were far more important issues like Qur’an’s found in a burn pile somewhere.)

    I would not second guess the use of waterboarding to gain actionable timely intel where lives were at stake.

    The comment was idiotic for linking it to baptism, even if she did not intend disrespect. No one who aspires to high office should be so knuckleheaded.

    SSGT Jordan Bear was a Catholic and died a hero, so please do what Catholics do for their fallen.

  29. SKAY says:

    Thank you for your comment St. Corbinian’s Bear.
    Your son, SSGT Jordan Bear, PVT Jones — and all the brave men and women who have chosen to honorably serve our country will be in my prayers.

    We were a military family for 20 years and I know that the entire family serves in their own way along with the service member. Please thank your son for his service.

    Sarah Palin also has a son that served in Iraq.

  30. Gerard Plourde says:

    St. Corbinain’s Bear,

    Your comment “I would not second guess the use of waterboarding to gain actionable timely intel where lives were at stake” gets precisely to the heart of the matter. The difficulty with waterboarding and the other techniques that are categorized as “Advanced Interrogation Techniques” is that it has been shown that it is very difficult to know whether the information received is accurate or whether it has been given by the individual so that the interrogation will stop. So in effect it only serves to increase the background noise that intelligence practitioners have to sort through. Additionally, the bulk of military personnel have pointed out that the use of these techniques by the U.S. increases the likelihood that captured U.S. service members will be treated in this fashion while concurrently depriving the U.S. of the ability bring moral suasion to prevent it. (The “they all do it so what’s the big deal” effect).

    As has often been said to people confronted with the words of Jesus, sometimes the word is a hard one.

  31. Scott W. — The Church understands and supports natural law and thereby gives that responsibility of life/death over to the local govt to choose what is best to protect the people. Any person with their heads screwed on (as you put it) would do whatever it takes to protect their loved ones. War is ugly, war is violent, but as long as we are living in a sinful world, we are going to have to deal with people that want to murder us and to protect the people, we are going to have to do things that we do not agree with at all times. Let’s analyze this scenario, the govt has captured a terrorist who has vital information about a nuclear blast that is going off in a major city in 10 hrs from the time that he was captured. Are you really advocating that we sit down with coffee and try to have a conversation with the terrorist when the lives of millions of people are at stake? You find out that your wife, children, and extended family are in the blast zone… what will you do to protect them? I think in that situation.. it is likely that you will dismount from the high horse you’ve been riding to do what is necessary to protect your loved ones. No one wants to torture other people.. and those that do, should not be anywhere near a torture device. There is a reason for it’s use and just like the death penalty, the Church has understood the gravity of it and it’s use.

  32. Stu says:

    “Let’s analyze this scenario, the govt has captured a terrorist who has vital information about a nuclear blast that is going off in a major city in 10 hrs from the time that he was captured.”
    ——–
    He could hold out, obfuscate and lie for ten hours.

  33. Stu says:

    “If waterboarding someone could have prevented March 1st, figure out where I stand.”
    ———
    But this is saying that the ends justify the means. If we are going to adopt the practices of our enemy in warfare, then I’m not so sure what we are really fighting about. Seems like that if such is the case that we essentially agree with them and the issue is simply about who is in power.

  34. Stu – “He could hold out, obfuscate and lie for ten hours.”

    Yes.. he could. But chances are and history has shown that it would take a very strong person to withstand those 10 hrs without telling where the bomb is.
    ——-
    To quote a few Catholics on necessary means:

    Pope Innocent III required disciples of Peter Waldo seeking reconciliation with the Church to accept the proposition: “The secular power can, without mortal sin, exercise judgment of blood, provided that it punishes with justice, not out of hatred, with prudence, not precipitation.”
    (In the same light.. the secular power can do what needs to be done justly to protect the people)

    Let’s take a quick look at a quote by Pius XII regarding the death penalty.. the below quote I believe has a direct emphasis on which we are currently discussing:

    — Pius XII, holds that when the State, acting by its ministerial power, uses the death penalty, it does not exercise dominion over human life but only recognizes that the criminal, by a kind of moral suicide, has deprived himself of the right to life. In the Pope’s words, Even when there is question of the execution of a condemned man, the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. In this case it is reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned person of the enjoyment of life in expiation of his crime when, by his crime, he has already dispossessed himself of his right to life.
    (That last sentence, by the persons crime they have dispossessed of their right to life and thereby that constitutes the govt to choose for that person how they live out their remaining days. Since their right to life has been forfeited by their free will, it can be argued that the state has the right to do what is necessary to protect it’s citizens from any further harm from the individual and/or any enemies that are tied to the particular individual.

  35. Stu says:

    “Yes.. he could. But chances are and history has shown that it would take a very strong person to withstand those 10 hrs without telling where the bomb is.”
    ———-
    Nope. You have years of men being subjected to torture without giving usable intelligence. Because not only torture immoral, it doesn’t work. Unless you are going to claim that what we are taught in SERE school is wrong.

  36. Stu – “Nope. You have years of men being subjected to torture without giving usable intelligence. Because not only torture immoral, it doesn’t work. Unless you are going to claim that what we are taught in SERE school is wrong.”

    I disagree… enhanced methods of interrogation do work and that is why they are used. For example: ” In response to a direct question about the role of enhanced interrogation in the bin Laden operation, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta confirmed that, “Obviously there was, there was some valuable intelligence that was derived through those kind of interrogations.” His immediate predecessor, Mike Hayden, was even more explicit, declaring, “Let the record show that when I was first briefed in 2007 about the brightening prospect of pursuing bin Laden through his courier network, a crucial component of the briefing was information provided by three CIA detainees, all of whom had been subjected to some form of enhanced interrogation.”

    “The Post writes that enhanced interrogation “leads to unreliable admissions by victims who are desperate to stop the mistreatment.” Again, this is incorrect. Enhanced techniques were never used to gain intelligence. They were used to gain cooperation. They were used to move terrorists like KSM from a state of resistance to a state of compliance. To gauge whether terrorists had made decision to stop resisting and start cooperating, interrogators asked the terrorists questions to which they already knew the answers. In other words, there is no way a terrorist can lie to get the techniques to stop. The only way to stop the techniques is to tell the truth” — http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/on-waterboarding-lets-stick-to-the-facts/2011/11/15/gIQAHHiiON_blog.html

  37. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Any person with their heads screwed on (as you put it) would do whatever it takes to protect their loved ones.”

    Deny God? Step on a consecrated Host?

    What we have, here, is a misunderstanding of the hierarchy of life. The most specific responsibility one has it towards the preservation of ones immortal soul, not ones temporal life, which will be lost at some point, anyways. Yes, all things bring equal, temporal life is a great good, but one should never use such absolute language as, “whatever it takes,” with regards to what one is willing to do to preserve it. On the other hand, one might, arguably, use exactly that language in seeking a valid confession or baptism, since these preserve eternal life.

    Our values in this age are exactly backwards from what they should be. People claw, scratch, and kill to hold onto this mortal coil. They refuse to acknowledge aging, so they have to invest in the latest beauty products or athletic gear. They hardly think about their souls or sin.

    Should we, then, sin to save our souls? Do you see how odd that notion is? If waterboarding is a sin (and, after careful thought, I think it likely is), then we are simply winning the world, but losing our souls by using it.

    The ticking clock scenario is a standard scare tactic to goad someone into doing something they, otherwise, would find to be reprehensible. At the heart of the matter and why life in 2014 A. D. is so different than heroic ages of the past is because we are too fixated on this life (ages past had the fear of God in greater abundance). If you are prepared to meet your Maker, then how death comes is not really your concern. Yes, we should save the people in the city that is about to be exploded, but which would be the better salvation: finding and defusing the bomb or calling the bishop and having him give general absolution, just in case? Normally, this is not an either/or problem, but, if push comes to shove, I would keep the bishop on speed-dial. This situation actually happened during the events of 3 Mile Island, where the bishop authorized priests to give general absolution. This is exactly like the ticking time-bomb scenario without the evil terrorist. Sometimes, in analyzing a problem, it helps to remove a variable to see the situation more clearly.

    In war, things are much more helter-skelter and the actions of people and events may be unpredictable to such a degree that it is hard to keep a handle on what is an intrinsic evil and what is merely an extrinsic one (one whose seriousness is determined by environment and intention). That seems to be the case with waterboarding. One may not have the intention of killing someone by giving them cyanide, but the outcome is possible. Likewise, one may not have the intention of killing someone by waterboarding, but, realistically, the possibility exists. The doctors who are standing by at Gitmo are not there to tell the interrogators when to stop because they are about to kill they terrorist, as that sort of instantaneous medical information is not easy to obtain by mere observation on-the-fly. They are there to revive the person should they actually kill him. Having a doctor present does not make waterboarding any more moral than having a doctor present with an antidote ready once you give the terrorist cyanide (yes, there is an antidote). The possibility to kill, even for a short time, amazingly, is not a situation man has had to face in the past, so we are in uncharted territory, to some extent, but because the possibility exists that the antidote might not work or defibrillation might not work, so that temporarily dead becomes dead dead, we ought to exercise the same caution that we do in abortion, just in case that lump of cells is really a person. Once dead is dead, there is no going back.

    Which raises the question: is it alright to break you neighbor’s window if you intend to pay for it? Is it alright to run the risk of killing someone if you intend to revive him? The doctrine of Double Effect does not apply, because the intended act is neither good nor neutral (consequences do not count in the calculus). Even if only a small percent of people die from waterboarding, the possibility of death directly caused by the intentional act, in my opinion, creeps it into the category of intrinsic evil.

    I cannot say what our enemies might do. I know what we must not do. The SERE training, in itself, is not morally wrong, since there is only a mitigated version of waterboarding involved. If the intent were to keep it up, indefinitely, until they were sure that they had wrung every last secret from you, then, that would be vicious waterboarding and, I think, impermissible. Unfortunately, that is exactly what may have been done to some of our detainees. We will never know.

    I wish we had a truth field where one could only speak the truth. Until such a device is developed, we will live in an imperfect world where hard decisions have to be made. I do not pity those who have make these decisions. In the short run, both the three young men thrown in the furnace in Daniel 3 and the early Christians refused to compromise their lives for the sake of expediency and they died or should have, but the whole purpose of the Resurrection was as an antidote to expediency. Christ died and rose to show us that there are more important things than saving ourselves. Yes, the Natural Law enjoins those in authority to save others, but not at the expense of the Divine Law, otherwise, Good Friday means nothing.

    Wow, what a back-handed Easter meditation Mrs. Palin has given us…

    I just read a comment, above, that waterboarding is used to gain compliance, not information, but if that is not a really sick way to rationalize getting someone to do your bidding (which could include telling you the truth), then I don’t know what is. That it is called, “enhanced,” interrogation is a term invented by someone intent on deception, I think or someone who is pathological, because one must asked, enhanced compared to what? Who set a standard, a universal standard, on interrogation. What they really mean is, “interrogation-beyond-what-we-would-ordinarily-be -able-to-get-away-with. Probably invented by a lawyer. Certainly, Washington double-speak. Code-words for anything goes. Compliance and interrogation are two different parts of the same region of human behavior – getting someone to do something they might not, otherwise, do.

    The Chicken

  38. Blaine says:

    I too am a Naval Aviator and went through SERE School. I wasn’t myself waterboarded but saw it. I was “tortured” in other ways as training. It wasn’t pleasant and I wouldn’t want to go through it again. It was the best non-flight training I’ve had in the 14 years I’ve been in the Navy.

    Just because we train people to endure this if it were to happen to them, and I got a ton out of it, doesn’t mean I excuse our use of it.

  39. I said I wouldn’t second guess anyone, that’s all. I am a criminal defense
    lawyer and acutely aware of the problems we used to have here with torturing suspects. (In Chicago, “used to be” wasn’t that long ago.) Interrogation is necessarily on a continuum of coercion, from the modern psychological pressure of the Reid Technique, through the Third Degree, Waterboarding, and cruder methods of inflicting pain and injury. At some point, you call it torture. While it is undoubtedly unpleasant (!) I’m still not 100% sure that argument has been resolved. What about putting a gun to someone’s head then firing it to miss?

    For the sake of argument, let’s say WB is torture. Sitting safe with our fingers on our keyboards it’s easy to pontificate. And that is not a bad thing. Hard questions should be answered in advance by cool heads. When defending some child killer, I have often heard “What if it was *your* daughter. ” Fair enough, I might kill the man; I would certainly feel like it. Which is exactly why we have disinterested juries decide. Clearly, I am not disinterested in this issue.

    Nonetheless, my interests, and the interests of other parents are a valid consideration. Rules of warfare deal with enemy soldiers, not “brigands” who forfeit protection as the enemy of all. (The French Resistance called for some soul-searching after WWII; they didn’t always play nice, and the occasional personal grudge got settled.) Don’t delude yourself, Hadji doesn’t play nice, either, and renouncing WB is not going to induce him to. Our rules are just something to game — shoot at our guys, miss, then throw down your weapon and run away, confident the ROE won’t allow return fire.

    Life of my son vs temporary panic of a brigand? Easy. Life of generic GI vs same? Harder question in the abstract, but there is no such thing as an abstract person, so back to my — somebody’s — son. Now life of my son Joe vs temporary panic of Mohammed son of Jameel? (Abstraction works both ways.) Still have to go with enhanced interrogation under exceptional circumstances.

    There are good arguments on both sides. I would hate to have my son do it to someone. I don’t like to have an official policy, no. Things happen in war, which is why we shouldn’t do it unless we have no choice. My son came back with a greater respect for human life than anyone I’ve ever met. He thought Palin’s statement was “such a stupid redneck remark I can’t even be upset by it.”

    We should certainly be against torture. We should also recognize war is Hell, and sometimes men and women are placed in nearly impossible situations and don’t have their Summa handy. I cant muster the… self-satisfied certainty i have seen elsewhere (not here). Sorry to be equivocal, but that’s the best I can do on this topic.

    Thanks for comments and prayers for my wounded warrior and his fallen comrades in arms.

  40. JuliB says:

    I skipped commenting on the first post since this is a rather explosive topic. I defer to the Church in that torture is wrong. But the Church leaves us to decide what torture is, exactly. I defer to the Church that Just War is the only ‘right’ war. But the Church leaves us to decide whether to start a war.

    I defer to Gov Palin to decide what image to use in her politically leaning speech about terrorists intent on harming our country and civilization ALL of whom happen to be Muslims who are attacking both the Western World, Jews and Christians. We might prefer not to see a dimension of a religious war in it, but I think those who wage this war DO.

    She was speaking to her base (and I consider myself part of it) using shared language, touching on the shared religious language because there is a dimension of holy war being waged on us.

    I defer to our good priests commenting on the blog (and our good host) t0 present, argue and defend what they saw as a horrific religious imagery being used. But I’m in line with Sarah’s speech.

  41. Saint Michael the Archangel found some quotes from popes in the past that are offered, it seems, to defend or justify torture or other extreme means.

    Two responses.

    First, the Magisterium has in recent years very plainly acknowledged that Church teaching has not been as emphatic on this subject in the past as it is now.

    Second, and much more to the point: the Magisterium, being the teaching office, is the sure guide to how to interpret and understand past magisterial statements on these subjects. Not you, not me.

    So this business of finding quotes that will justify what we want to justify is a dead end. In any question of who knows better what Pope X meant when he said Y, when the choices are anyone v. the Magisterium, guess who wins?

  42. Gerard Plourde says:

    St. Cobinian’s Bear

    First, hello to a fellow lawyer (my practice is primarily in the area of probate and has also included representing veterans seeking compensation for in-service injuries before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims but I have a small amount of experience in criminal court).

    “Hadji doesn’t play nice, either, and renouncing WB is not going to induce him to.” I agree that this point is true. My issue is not that we seek our enemy to be converted (it would be nice but the centurion at the foot of the Cross was certainly the exception). My concern is what our use of these techniques does to the soul of the soldier or intelligence officer to whom we give the task. I would contend that the message of the Gospel is directed to us so that we do not jeopardize the souls of those we ask to defend us.

  43. Also, I just want to highlight something that needs to be said aloud, and deeply reflected upon.

    Any number of people who wade into this will, with great emotion, point to our courageous men and women in harms’ way, to those who have paid the ultimate price, or who are facing huge decisions under terrific stress — all while they stand on the wall and defend the rest of us.

    These true and compelling facts do not answer the question. If the Successor to Peter were giving his view on this subject, would this be the rebuttal? You never served in combat, Pope Francis, so leave this to those who did!

    No, I didn’t serve either. But I’m doing my very best to lay out what the Church says.

    And it is shocking — yet, in it’s own way, somewhat refreshing — to have someone say, up-thread, I don’t care what the Catechism says. That’s actually what a lot of Catholics actually hold, yet they aren’t so bold as to say it out loud.

    There are lots of ways we can go wrong in our moral decisions. But one that especially frightens me is embracing the consequentialism of saying, let us do something evil that good may come of it. Which is precisely what happens when people say, I don’t care whether it’s torture, do it, because (choose: they’re evil people, they deserve it, we’ll get intel, we’ll save lives, etc.).

    Once you accept the notion that a little evil is worth it because of the good that you foresee, how precisely do you hold the line on that? What about another bit of evil after that? And more? And more?

    I understand not everyone is convinced waterboarding is torture — i.e., evil.

    My point is, there’s no avoiding this question. And all the other discussion — about the unique circumstances of the battlefield, the bravery of our fighting men and women, the unique evil of the enemy, and the “necessity” that compels you… those are different questions; they don’t answer this question: is this a “Thou shalt not”…or not?

  44. Stu says:

    Let’s look at everything Panetta said.

    ““The real story was that in order to put the puzzle of intelligence together that led us to Bin Laden, there were a lot of pieces out there that were a part of that puzzle. Yes, some of it came from some of the tactics that were used at that time, interrogation tactics that were used. But the fact is we put together most of that intelligence without having to resort to that.”

    Not exactly the stellar endorsement from Panetta that we are led to believe when we just see a small snippet of his entire viewpoint. As for Hayden, he isn’t exactly an objective observer in this given there is question as to whether he engaged in illegal activity with his actions. So, sure one can get bits and pieces using water boarding or torture. But it’s simply not effective.

    And as to the assertion that water boarding was used to gain cooperation and not useful intelligence, that’s just semantics. Further, if I know that by simply being “cooperative” that the interrogator will back of then it’s even easier to mislead him and throttle back my pain at the same time. Additionally, that also doesn’t play well for the ticking time bomb scenario as it would be a very long and drawn out process.

    It’s not effective at gaining usable intelligence. Rather, it’s a detour in actually getting a captive to open up. Jack Bauer might be fun to watch on TV, but it isn’t reality.

  45. Stu says:

    Father Fox,

    Love your last comment. As a combat veteran myself, and someone who was at the Pentagon and lost some very dear shipmates on 911, I don’t want my country to fall to the level of our enemies. We are supposed to be better than that. We are supposed to be the guys wearing the white hats in this drama. And that means that when we take someone prisoner, we are called to treat them with the dignity they deserve as a human being. That doesn’t mean you mollycoddle them or feed them steak and lobster every meal but it does mean that you don’t torture them.

    I am thankful for all of the well wishes that I have gotten over the years for my service but it will never be a justification for torture or euphemisms like “enhanced interrogation.”

    And thank you Father Fox (and Father Z whom I also hold very dear) for your service. Father Z once told me in a conversation of a quote (form someone that I can’t remember) that old priests and military officers (or military in general) make the best companions in old age. I do believe there is some truth to that. Give me another 30 years or so and I’ll confirm it. :)

  46. Gerard Plourde says:

    Stu,

    Thank you for your wisdom-filled comments and your service. In every era the vast majority of the members of our armed forces have answered the call nobly. We who have not served cannot begin to comprehend what you and your compatriots have experienced and miss the mark by either lionizing or condemning you for obeying the orders that you have faithfully carried out. Then, more often than we’d like to admit, we expect you to transition smoothly into civilian life without adequate support from us, conveniently forgetting what we have asked you to do on our behalf. We shouldn’t ask you to compromise your humanity in the process in the name of expediency.

  47. acardnal says:

    Fr. Fox,
    you missed an even better discuss ion last year – or maybe two – on whether it was always wrong to lie.

  48. Stu:

    Thank you for your kind words, and your service to our country.

  49. Gerard Plourde says:

    Fr. Fox,

    Thank you for cogently unpacking the rationale that underlies the statement, “A licit end cannot be achieved by an illicit means.” As sinners tainted by the effects of the sin of our first parents we are always tempted by the lure of self-justification of our dubious actions. Our Lord and His Church call us to raise our vision above that, even if it means that we look foolish or weak by the world’s standards. (We might ask ourselves who set the world’s standards but if we’re truthful we already know the sad answer.)

  50. Scott W. says:

    The point of the comparison with “real” torture versus the conflation you’re making with CIA implemented waterboarding.

    Denying someone air to breathe is torture.

    If there’s no permanent physical damage you’re left with the false canard of psychological torture, which is far too subjective.

    Not at all. Like the CCC reminds us, “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” You will notice there is nothing there to the effect of “Well, as long as there’s no permanent physical damage, it’s all fair game.” For instance, sexual humiliation of prisoners, even when there is no physical penetration, is wildly immoral as well.

    “Food/water/warmth/sleep” are likewise false canards. All are quite subjective and vague and I’d argue none apply to any enhanced interrogation techniques. Strawman examples could be taken to extremes that could count as ‘torture.” Restriction to bread & water is not congruent with starvation any more than not giving a prisoner “ice cream.”

    There’s nothing vague about it because the captors know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. There is nothing vague about someone choosing as an act, “I’m going to cut your food off until you tell us what we want to know.” Nothing vague about, “Let’s cut off his oxygen with waterboarding until he spills his guts.” Both of these are immoral acts in and of themselves.

  51. Scott W. says:

    If the Successor to Peter were giving his view on this subject, would this be the rebuttal? You never served in combat, Pope Francis, so leave this to those who did!

    I would just war anyone tempted to use the “You didn’t serve, so shut up!” non-argument, that it is not one whit different logically from when Leftists tell us “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament!”

  52. torch621 says:

    Are there people on this website seriously defending torture? I never thought I would see the day, and it saddens me that I have.

    America and her enemies are now two sides of the same coin because of this. NO different whatsoever. It’s things like this that make me unable to look at the stars and stripes and not see oppression and evil. And yes I’m being serious when I say that.

    God have mercy on this nation.

  53. Kathleen10 says:

    torch621, your comment is simply stunning. There is no possible way to equate the United States of America with what has been committed in the name of Islam, and I am too shocked right now to consider if you are likely exceedingly young, or were just poorly educated. I’ve typed twenty things and deleted them. I’m going to shut up now.
    Thanks to all for the commentary. It is good to read various opinions and it just doesn’t seem like there are opportunities anymore for the free exchange of opinions and ideas. Lest I mislead, I am not at all for waterboarding, what I know of it, but I am for the United States of America and our allies, and bitterly opposed to anyone who would try to harm us, our people, and our allies. I hope we can arrive at other “common sense” approaches to protecting our nations from the increasing threat from Islam, that will arrive via more shootings, bombings, and quiet infiltration.

  54. kay says:

    I find it sad that those who commented on my post took the first sentence and skewered me but did not deign to comment on the totality of the entire post.

    I would politely suggest confession for nitpicking and ascribing to me what you do not know as well as judging me when its not your place to do so from your mount on high. In all my postings (this thread and the prior one) I have not once addressed “waterboarding” so your reactionary response says more about you than it does about me.

    I’ll say this: The Pharisees also had “law” on their side. Look where that got them. Jesus is my savior and my judge. Man is fallible. The CCC is made from man. If this makes me “protestant” that’s not for you to tell me because I do believe in the church of Rome, was raised in it for 40 years – I just don’t believe that I have to be the sacrificial lamb and as God has said – He helps those who help themselves. I’d also point out that rules have changed over the centuries so what was once within the CCC might now not be included. What happens to your rules then? Am I before my time? This is a slippery slope problem when rules made by man constantly change and if it wasn’t said by JC but said by St. Peter or Paul instead, there’s room for interpretation. Heck, there have been wars fought over what JC has said and the meaning. Being human means we don’t know the answers, living a long life gives one the time to figure out various aspects of of the situation. If you don’t live long because of a threat that wants to kill you for your beliefs, instead of God who has measured your life, this is a PROBLEM.

    I’m in agreement with Kathleen10.
    I wish you all well in your thoughts and your lives.
    I’m done.

  55. Kathleen10 says:

    One last post on this for me please. I have a great deal of trepidation about this topic. My understanding of my faith is colliding with my understanding of a real and dangerous threat to our lives and country. Peace is our goal, we are a peaceful people, and I’m sure no one here cherishes violence or conflict. Of course we follow Mother Church, and I pray with all heart and soul that I would always follow the teaching of my faith. But I don’t want to be hypocritical, and say, this would be bad for me to do but is ok for our military. Where does that leave our military, as evil sinners on their way to Hell because they did what they thought they should in battle or as determined by a commander? That is convenient for me, but not for our military, and we should consider where our talk leaves them, in terms of morale and trauma after a conflict.
    It should be pressing on every single Christian that this is a holy war, can there be any doubt about that? And that America is the most Christian nation on earth, as far as I know. We are predominantly Christian, far beyond Europe’s numbers, and the great majority, something like 85%, of Americans, self-identify as Christians. This is one reason we are a focus for Islamic terrorism. If we do not survive, or we fall apart, we will surely suffer, as yes, will our families and neighbors, but it is Christianity that will also suffer. While we are not the source of missions around the world anymore, sad to say, we often spread sin, we are still a Christian nation. Keeping Christianity going is God’s business, but we can’t evangelize if we are taken over, or not here. Defending Christianity is not a job for the martyrs, some lofty thing that only “they” did a long time ago. We, are now the Church Militant, with all the responsibilities that reality entails.
    What we should consider doing is make changes to immigration law by limiting immigrants from specific nations, and trying to return to our Founder’s understanding of America as a nation under God. This may turn out to be the least that is required. Right now, this looks terribly unlikely in the US, for many reasons.

  56. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Fr Martin Fox ends one comment above, “is this a ‘Thou shalt not’…or not?”

    I have, so far as I know, read every comment on both these ‘waterboarding’-related posts. I wonder if any commenter is simply defending evil means in the pursuit of good ends. I wonder if many, if not all, who might seem to be doing so, have implicitly answered that question, and related questions, to the effect that thay are only concerned with affirming the possible use of things that are not ‘Thou shalt nots’, however extraordinary, extreme, dangerous to impliment conscientiously, and so on.

    I think of this in the context of conventions of war, and so on, too: is anyone arguing it is proper to treat “brigands”, etc., immorally, or, rather, that it s not improper to agree to treat uniformed enemy soldiers differently, without the implication that to fail to treat everyone exactly the same is to treat some immorally?

  57. Gerard Plourde says:

    Kathleen,

    I think that in talking about the actions of our military we have to be guided by the long history of Catholic teaching regarding the Just War tradition. Catholics recognize that there are situations in which war is necessary to counter aggression or to protect rights. What the Church also teaches is that not every tactic available to a military commander is morally licit. For example, massacre of entire populations of enemy villages, while undeniably effective in ensuring that there will be no resistance, is unquestionably wrong. While it may appear that our adhering to civilized rules of conduct hampers us in countering an enemy who may not follow them, it is what we are called to do. The example of the fate of ancient Israel is instructive. When the people turned from reliance upon God’s grace and sought to be like other nations, the nation was first divided into two and eventually conquered and its inhabitants sent into exile.

    How this relates to our situation is that God does not favor any specific way that secular society is organized. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are not on the level of Sacred Scripture. God’s measure is “by their fruits you will know them”. A society that feeds the hungry, gives drink to the thirsty, clothes the naked, cares for prisoners and the sick and it appears that our system of government is an extremely effective way of bearing that fruit so long as we recognize that we are all sinners and providing for these needs contains no means test, i.e. there is no such thing as the “deserving poor” vs. the “undeserving poor”. God’s favor is based on how faithful we are to Him in the midst of our sinfulness by doing what he has commanded. Likewise, our treatment of the enemy is clearly set forth. We are always to remember his humanity, that he, like us is made in God’s Image and Likeness. We are to treat him as we would have others treat us. That rules out interrogation techniques that inflict pain, deprive food and sleep, or otherwise contradict the command. “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”

  58. Kathleen:

    I want my country to do thrive — but you know what? God doesn’t need the United States of America.

    But the United States of America will never had a day, an hour, a second, when we won’t need God.

    So I think we would do better to put our hopes in God, and his ways, rather than say, hey God, we’ll do what you command when it’s easy; but when we think it’s an emergency, we’ll do what we think is best.

  59. Stu says:

    Torch,

    Is anyone really defending torture? Or are some of us taking issue with what exactly torture is and is not?

    One of the more harmful aspects of this debate in the Catholic blogosphere has been the tendency of some to absolutely vilify and tribalize anyone who doesn’t necessarily see waterboarding as torture. I think this has been damaging to the conversation. Things can start to look gray when discussing issue of morality and it can take some time to sort it all out. The topic of torture and waterboarding is no different and perhaps even more difficult because it is seemingly done as a means of self-defense.

    I think we should keep in mind that those who support waterboarding, who I believe are completely wrong and unjustified in doing so, do have a greater interest at heart and that is defense of our land. Indeed, the ends don’t justify the means but I think we should remember their motivation when having this discussion and continue to gently show them the ramifications of their position and that it is outside of Church teaching. We should encourage this discussion and through that we will all find the truth.

  60. Stu says:

    “Don’t delude yourself, Hadji doesn’t play nice, either, and renouncing WB is not going to induce him to. ”
    ———–
    So what? My concern isn’t trying to live down to his standards. After all, that’s why we are in conflict. I’d rather see Western Civilization (and admittedly we are but a shadow of what we were in terms of morality) bring him up to a higher level. Further, from a practical standpoint. things like WB aren’t going to really improve our ability to fight the enemy.

    Scripture certainly tells us that there is a time for all things and that does include war. But I think we are beyond that as a solution right now. Indeed, let’s always keep our guard up and use force when warranted. But at this point, we need to convert these people to the one, true Faith and make them Catholics. Not the other way around.

  61. Stu says:

    “Where does that leave our military, as evil sinners on their way to Hell because they did what they thought they should in battle or as determined by a commander? That is convenient for me, but not for our military, and we should consider where our talk leaves them, in terms of morale and trauma after a conflict.”
    ———
    I appreciate you concerns, but I don’t believe that is a big concern. Most of us have never been in a situation in uniform that was a moral conflict with respect to following orders. Even in the many ops, I took part in that did result in the loss of life the enemy, I always felt justified that these were some really bad men that we were fighting.

    But let me tell you about one of my more memorable ops. As an aviator, I provided support from the air to ground forces going in to either extricate or eliminate some key individual who was part of the terrorist network. One op saw us setting up for the action when nearby a group of children began playing soccer. I was very vocal about this on the radio and based upon that, we canceled the op and quietly left the area. It wasn’t worth putting the lives of children, in this case Iraqi children, at risk. And no one second-guessed our decision.

    And BTW, we got the bad guy the next day.

  62. Kathleen says:

    Where does that leave our military, as evil sinners on their way to Hell because they did what they thought they should in battle or as determined by a commander? That is convenient for me, but not for our military, and we should consider where our talk leaves them, in terms of morale and trauma after a conflict.

    Well, I’m not in the military, but — I would imagine the assumption that our military personnel are incapable of winning our wars without setting aside what’s good and right…

    Is mighty demoralizing.

  63. To any who seized upon my remark, “Hadji doesn’t play nice,” and construed it as an excuse to descend to his level, I think a more careful reading might be in order. That was a rebuttal to a specific point made above, that WB might cause Moslems to treat prisoners more harshly. They don’t need an excuse, so I think that is a bad argument. Similarly, the reference to traditional law of war was not to grant a 007 license to kill, but to put in perspective the arguments based on law. It has always been the fate of spies to be hanged. I do not believe that someone with no skin in the game is barred from having an opinion on what degree of discomfort an enemy spy may be subjected to when lives are at stake. However, my son is a second-generation veteran of the anti-Jihad. (Wow, what a family tradition.) I am an interested party, as I pointed out. This is not a mere intellectual exercise for me. I plainly stated that rules should be made in safety, far from the battlefield, by disinterested parties.

    By the same token, I’m not going to pick up the first stone. I hope my son never felt compelled to engage in morally ambiguous or outright immoral behavior. I can acknowledge the Church’s rule and still love the sinner, or does that only apply to certain favored sins nowadays? The problem is that civilized nations are trying to learn how to fight guerillas while adhering to legal and moral rules developed for conventional warfare. When someone can jump out, spray your team with machine gun fire, miss, then drop his weapon and smirk, secure in the knowledge your ROE will not let you shoot him, it is hard to say why we’re even there. Meanwhile we’re all soooo certain that the Church, in its historical consensus, has infallibly ruled WB is torture. Whether it is or isn’t is a question of legitimate casuistry, in my opinion.

    I have tried not to mischaracterize the comments of others, and request a similar courtesy.