Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Must read piece from Andrew Sullivan today on torture. Seems that Marc Thiessen, now a columnist for the Washington Post, formerly an advisor to Dick Cheney, who recently freely admitted to authorizing and supporting waterboarding of US detainees, and, like Sullivan, a Catholic, gave an interview on Catholic cable channel EWTN, where he said that --
-- the torture-victims in the Cheney program he supported were grateful for being tortured, because when they were forced beyond what they could endure - which, of course, is Thiessen's unwitting admission that what he was doing was definitionally torture - they were grateful. They were grateful because their duty to Allah had been fulfilled and they were then free to spill their guts. They had done their religious duty and had been brought to a spiritual epiphany that allowed them to tell us so much.

This is about the vilest thing I have read about the mind-set of torture supporters. Because it is Ash Wednesday today, Sullivan looked at the history of torture within the Catholic church themselves:
It was done, according to the Inquisitors, as a way to free the souls of the tortured, to bring them to a religious epiphany in which they abandoned heresy and saved themselves from eternal damnation. It is hard for modern people to understand this, but as a student in college of the years in which my own homeland used torture to procure religious conversion, it is important to remember that the torturers sincerely believed that what they were doing was in the best interests of the tortured. In fact, it was a sacred duty to torture rather than allow the victims to die and live in hell for eternity, a fate even worse than the agonies of stress positions or even burning at the stake. Why? Because the torture they would endure in hell would be eternal, while the torture on earth would not last that long.

Sullivan's money quote:
But the meme that it somehow relieved the victims, that it liberated them, that it helped them to embrace giving information without conflict with their religious faith is horribly, frighteningly close to this ancient evil. For a Catholic to use this argument on a Catholic television program and to invoke the Magisterium of the Church in its defense is simply breath-taking in its moral obtuseness.

I'm reminded of the torture scene at the end of Braveheart, where William Wallace is brutally tortured in full view of the public by a Catholic bishop to extract a confession of his "sins." I'm not equating any detainee with Wallace, particularly those who actually committed crimes, but the idea that a Christian church can employ the same torture techniques employed against their savior as a means to find spiritual purity turns my stomach. The Vatican has repudiated all forms of torture as "intrinsically evil" and that which "can never be justified."

The level of moral depravity to which the previous administration sank in trying to protect Americans' trips to the mall and the seashore, and to be able to turn on their lights just makes a mockery of the very freedom we so cherish. Either we are all free or we are all slaves. There can be no middle ground.

Civilian court trials with full access to legal counsel for all detainees!

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