War on Terrorism

Rick Santorum: “I Do Not Believe [Enhanced Interrogation] is Torture”

Former Senator Rick Santorum, a Catholic, has formed an exploratory committee to see if he can generate support to run for President.

Apparently there is a big flap between Rick Santorum and John McCain on the issue of waterboarding (enhanced interrogation) which was used to gain the cooperation of Khalid Sheik Mohammed — cooperation that led to his giving information which enabled our forces to find Osama Bin Laden.

Read “The Waterboarding Trail to Bin Laden: Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said that as late as 2006 fully half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from harsh interrogations”

I have been back and forth on the waterboarding issue, but I have come to the conclusion that this whole thing is being blown out of proportion due to a lack of understanding of what waterboarding is. Today, Mark Shea, who I love and respect, is engaging in some brutal ad hominem against Rick Santorum. So who is right and who is wrong here? Let’s take a step back, a deep breath, and consider the facts.

Is waterboarding “torture”? I would agree with these remarks below from Fr. Brian Harrison at Catholic Culture:

Even deciding what exactly we mean by torture is not easy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as “physical or moral violence” (CCC 2297); the definition given by the 1984 United Nations Convention on Torture is “the intentional infliction of severe pain.” The words violence and severe are themselves somewhat vague. Who draws the line — and where? — as to which specific practices are harsh enough to correspond to those words? What has become clear in the contemporary debate is that while many shudder-evoking practices (which needn’t be spelled out here) are recognized by everyone as meriting the name torture, there is no consensus about whether other less extreme interrogation techniques really count as torture: for instance, sleep deprivation, being kept under harsh temperatures or in uncomfortable positions, or “waterboarding” (which causes a brief, panic-inducing sensation of being about to drown but no pain or injury). Since no Catholic magisterial intervention so far offers any real guidance for resolving this controversy, the only methods we can be sure are included under “torture,” when that word appears in Church documents, are those in the former group.

“Inducing panic”, such as we find in waterboarding, is not “torture”. Considering that it is not torture in the first place, all other points appear to be moot.

Rick Santorum responded on the Mark Levin Show yesterday to the false claims that he endorses the use of torture. (CLICK HERE to watch video at The Right Scoop to hear his remarks.)

Again, I’ve been back and forth on the issue, because I did not understand fully what waterboarding is and how the Church defines “torture”. Now, I know. It’s not torture and it did gain information necessary to capture Osama Bin Laden. It was not used to force anyone to confess a crime but to gain information. The intent was to defend life and the action was not torture. Case closed.

Related at Catholic Online: Silence on Santorum is Deafening: Republican Establishment Sends Signals

Related at WMUR, New Hampshire: Conversation with the Candidate, Rick Santorum

Buchanan: Right Moving Away From Bush II Foreign Policy

Pat Buchanan seems to think the political right is shifting away from Bush II foreign policy. This seems, at best, politically delusional. He rests much of his presumption on the victory of Ron Paul in the pre-2012 GOP presidential nomination straw poll. The poll itself has already been dismissed by the pundits as a non-indicator of the future of the Republican Party.

But what of Buchanan’s other points? How do the so-called budget hawk fiscal conservatives justify budget-busting spending on their foreign policy views? Secondly, how and why is this growing American imperialism good for our country? Continue reading

Conservative Catholicism And Liberal Islam

I just finished reading Thomas F. Madden’s Empires of Trust: How Rome Built–and America Is Building–a New World, and I’m planning to write a couple posts shortly reviewing the book and the ideas it presents. As a prelude of sorts, however, I’d like to revisit some thinking I did a while back:

A month or so ago I finally had the chance to read Steven Vincent’s account of life outside the green zone in post-war Iraq: In The Red Zone. It’s a very fair book, and worth a read whether you support the war in Iraq or not. The author, since then killed in Iraq by militants, was a New York art reporter who watched the attacks on 9-11 and supported the Iraq war. Having supported the war, he felt like he should go over and see what was really happening over there. The book has the advantage of being writing from a culture writer’s point of view rather than a political writer’s. And although Vincent starts out as an enthusiastic supporter of the project, he ends unsure whether it’s possible for democracy to flourish in Iraq. (I’d be curious to read later work by him and see what he thought of the elections and the provisional constitution, both of which post date his book.)

This reminded me of my long held intention to read more about Islam, so I pull off the shelf the copy of Living Islam(now apparently out of print) by Ahbar S Ahmed which I’d bought on remainder some nine years ago and had been meaning to read ever since. Living Islam is half cultural history, half apologia (think a very, very light weight version of Letters To A Young Catholic with lots of pictures and basic intro information.)

Continue reading

Obama Broken Promises, A Continuing Series

crying-jackass

Shazam, as Gomer Pyle used to say in the Sixties!  The Iraqi government claims that Senator Obama has reassured them that he will not precipitously withdraw troops from Iraq, and it appears that the end of 2011 might be a target date.  To my anti-war friends on the Left I suggest that if I were in your shoes I would not hold my breath about US troops being removed from Iraq even before the 2012 election.  You were useful to Obama to win this election, but you will be of little use to him now that he is President.

Which "unjust war"?

There was considerable debate among Catholics leading up to the war in Iraq in 2002-2003.

With respect to the election, however, I find myself continually puzzled by references to this or that candidate’s “support for an unjust war” or the existence of U.S. forces in Iraq in terms of an illegal occupation.

Continue reading

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