Crossing Protective Lines
During President George W. Bush’s time in office, Mark Shea was perhaps the blogosphere’s leading politically conservative Roman Catholic speaking out against enhanced interrogation and other practices. Frankly, I ceased my daily visits to his site because he drew a stark line across which he saw questionable intentions and evil rhetoric, and even a desire to discuss whether the disagreement was more a matter of degree and interpretation quickly led to a commenter’s association with some of the worst regimes in the world’s history. In religious, military, and civic terms, there’s a great deal of intellectual meat to be found in the torture debates, and it’s difficult to get at it when even its pursuit is purported to reveal a desire to torture for fun.
That assessment is why I’m not as enthusiastic as I might otherwise have been now that Mark has turned the same weapons on the Obama administration, in reaction to its authorization of the CIA to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen:
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords of these United States no longer requires things like trials, sentences, the rule of law or all that other crap that slows things down with stuff like “arrests” and “gathering evidence” and “actually knowing whether the intended victim is guilty of something”. If the President thinks you are guilty or wills you to be guilty of somehow being a threat to the US in the Great and Unending War on Terror, that’s all it takes: you, an American citizen, can now be murdered in cold blood by the state. Of course, the Lord Most High Who Dwelleth in DC naturally assures us that this power to… what’s the word? murder… will only be used against The Really Bad Guys and you can take that to the bank. I mean, since *when* has a man with unchecked and unquestioned power to kill anybody he likes without trial or appeal and with the full cooperation of a supine media *ever* misused such power? And surely, no future President will ever allow such power to be corrupted as a tool for terrorizing his enemies and accruing despotic power for himself. Just as Bush’s accrual of power for the Executive is not being misused by Obama, so no future President will misuse the brand new Presidential Power to Murder People He’s Pretty Sure are Guilty of Threats Against National Security. All is well.
Judging by their public statements, just about all supporters of enhanced interrogation not only saw distinctions for American citizens, but also kept techniques that caused permanent physical damage well beyond the unapproachable line of illegal and immoral torture. Clearly assassination represents a shift not just of degree, but of kind, inasmuch as death must be treated as pretty decisively permanent physical damage for the purposes of a secular government.