I am relieved and impressed to see – finally! – a serious debate on the right about torture and abuse of military detainees. One thing I’ll notice. We have gone almost without a momentary pause from a debate on the right which consisted of “We do not torture!” to “Torture works!” The months of painstaking factual accumulation of evidence for widespread, legally sanctioned torture and abuse can indeed eventually get through to people, which gives one more faith in democratic discourse. Jonah deserves kudos for posting this email, which represents the vast majority of input I have received from professionals in the field, who find the process demeaning and ineffective. Ramesh has not abandoned his moral sense. Even Richard John Neuhaus, who has wobbled on this in the past, writes a stirring and clear condemnation of torture in all circumstances for all the right reasons. This does seem to me to be a moment of truth for the Christian right. If they refuse to give up the most basic Christian position on one of the most fundamental moral issues, even when their own administration is against them, they will deserve a new respect from their opponents.

NOW USURY?? Benedict XVI’s latest enthusiasm is, apparently, the “infamy of usury“. The original formal condemnation of usury – i.e. interest-bearing loans – emerged at roughly the time the Church also created the formal doctrines condemning Jews and “sodomites” in the early medieval era, so it is not surprising Benedict would seek to re-emphasize it. He recently honored the National Anti-Usury Consultancy, and described interest-bearing accounts as a “social plague,” and all financial interest as something that “annihilates the life of the poor.” If you are versed in the ancient anti-Semitic tropes of the medieval Church, you will be unsurprised by this language. Just so all you Catholics with 401ks and interest-bearing bank accounts: according to this pope, you are enmeshed in evil. Welcome to the club. By the way, does the Vatican earn interest?

McCAIN AND TORTURE: An emailer makes a point about the most recent Newsmax obscenity, noted previously here:

As I’m sure you noticed, the most interesting thing about that article was it actually demonstrates that torture doesn’t work: on the first occasion that McCain “broke”, he gave his interrogators information that “was of no real use to the Vietnamese, but the Code of Conduct for American Prisoners of War orders us to refrain from providing any information beyond our names, rank and serial number.” On the second occasion, the “breaking” consisted of signing a document in Vietnamese, “confessing to war crimes. “I signed it,” he recalled. “It was in their language, and spoke about black crimes, and other generalities.” Presumably, McCain did not believe that he had committed war crimes, so this story demonstrates only that, under torture, people will sign just about anything!
Great… so the right’s point is that if we torture suspects sufficiently, they’ll give up trivial information and sign documents in English confessing to war crimes they didn’t commit. Duh…

Ah, yes, But then you don’t get to launch another vicious personal attack on a war hero, do you? That’s what today’s GOP specializes in, and it’s partly how George W. Bush got the nomination in 2000 and won the election in 2004.


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