Monday, April 28, 2014

Sarah Palin is wrong (updated!)

"Waterboarding is how we'd baptize terrorists" -- Sarah Palin.

Governor Palin is wrong. Terribly wrong. But the flip reference to the sacrament of baptism is the lesser offense. Torture is wrong.

Update (4/28, circa 8 pm):

Here's another problem with Gov. Palin's joke about waterboarding being how "we" "baptize" terrorists...

I can readily see the al Qaeda types using this quote to say, no only does the Great Satan torture our brave warriors, but they also force them to convert to Christianity!

Think about that.


Shouting Thomas said...

Well, yes, torture is wrong, but it is sometimes necessary.

As this war against Jihad continues, we're likely to find ourselves compelled to do a whole lot of things that are wrong, but necessary.

The enemy intends to test our resolve in precisely this way.

Necessity often compels us to get our hands dirty.

Bob said...

How is torture necessary? In what universe? I can be on board with the idea of a just war. But not on this one.

Shouting Thomas said...

Especially in a war where informants may lead to a bomber who intends to kills innocents, extracting info by any possible means seems like it might be necessary.

If the number and extent of suicide bombings were to become unbearable, I guarantee you that the electorate will demand torture to extract info.

Jennifer said...

Torture is wrong. It really is. There must be other options. There are eternal consequences for what we do in this life.

Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

Even if you support water boarding in some cases, you should not make light of it. It is serious business. I recognize it was a throw away line and a joke, but it diminished Sarah Palin.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Here's the problem with the "necessity" justification. It's the exact same argument used by those who defend terrorism.

You have folks who defend terrorism precisely because Israel -- or the USA -- are so powerful, that the only way to balance things is...terrorism.

What are we fighting for? If we're not fighting for some superior values, then it all boils down to, we're on top, and we're gonna stay there. In other words, might makes right. In which case, it's not clear to me why "we" really are entitled to win.

The only real reason we should win, is because we're fighting for something superior. What is that? If it's values, then when we sacrifice those values, we've lost.

Put it another way. If we can save our "way of life" by sacrificing our values, then does it matter which values? I bet Al Qaeda will take that offer: we'll trade some of our values, if they'll leave us alone.

Shouting Thomas said...

So, say that NYC is targeted by Jihadis who've figured out how to smuggle a dirty bomb piece by piece into Manhattan.

The only hope is to torture informants until one spills the beans.

I see this scenario as inevitable. Just a matter of time. This type of attack is precisely what the Jihadis are planning. And, certain mosques in Brooklyn and Jersey City are where this plot is being planned. We know precisely where to find the conspirators.

What's your choice? Torture or accept the millions of casualties and environmental catastrophe?

Fr Martin Fox said...


Since you propose a hypothetical, I get to respond with one too.

Suppose the terrorists send a message:

We won't blow up New York City if the President converts to Islam, and the gov't blows up St. Patrick's Cathedral.

What's your choice? Millions of casualties, or one church, and the President bows down and becomes a Muslim?

Jackie said...

1. There is a legitimate discussion as to whether waterboarding is torture. (Yes, I know Sen McCain said it was - but fellow Hanoi Hilton residents disagreed. If those guys can disagree - we really ought to leave it open as a legitamate discussion)

2. The downside to torture (vs. the threat of torture) is that the information is generally crappy, unreliable and it changes. So you don't know what to follow. There are better means to get information

3. Those means generally aren't fast which, therefore doesn't answer the scenario of 'there's a bomb in the city/school etc.' That's why have multiple forms and sources of intelligence is important - including Human Intelligence.

4. Sarah Palin's line was a joke - not policy. More blogs like this and liberal ones will spend time worrying about it than Islamic Terrorists will.

5. Islamic Terrorists and that part of the world appreciate power and dominance. Their world view - shaped by their religion, and specifically, their understanding of God (Master not Father) is what it is. I don't like it - but I don't pretend it is not what it is. Therefore - they would find it understandable that if we really thought Christianity was right - we would demand 'conversions'

6. Torture is a mortal sin. It ought never be done - you don't do evil to get good.

7. Until you've been in the situation where you are in a life and death situation, are responsible for men and women you love, and the line is fuzzy as to where torture begins - this is an easy conversation. While a necessary conversation - I wouldn't get to glib or forget the real people trying desperately to protect but do the right thing - and live with it for the rest of their lives.

edutcher said...

Hate to be a pain, but waterboarding only became "torture" when the Lefties needed a political club to beat Dubya, who was in the 90s in the polls at that point (Pelosi et al happily signed on to it earlier when they thought they might be next).

As for Miss Sarah's rimshot, that's mild gruel compared to the British answer to the Sepoy Mutiny - burying mutineers in pig skins (or cowhides depending on religion), Moslems "blown from guns" (so they won't have a proper burial and their remains would be eaten by the scavengers of the field).

Frankly, if there's a valid objection to what she said, it would be on the Establishment of Religion grounds in the First Amendment

Fr Martin Fox said...

Jackie, Edutcher:

My understanding was that waterboarding was considered torture when the Vietcong used it against our guys during the Vietnam War, and that the technique, or some variant of it, has a long history, back to the middle ages.

Also, I agree we ought not be glib about it, but there has to be a line; and the line means, we don't do this, because that's not who we are.

As far as Mrs. Palin's intentions. Of course she meant it as a joke. But that doesn't mean it was acceptable, or a good idea.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Also, the argument that so-and-so did far worse is entirely unconvincing. My goal for my country is a lot higher than, we're not as bad as these folks were.

edutcher said...

My point is that the Democrats, and the Lefties in general, didn't consider it "torture" until it was politically feasible, which is where the whole debate (I use the term loosely, as it was a cynical ploy for partisan political purposes) originated.

Also, cynical as it may sound, torture can be in the eye of the beholder. Didn't the psyops people play ABBA and a lot of disco in front of the Papal Nuncio in Panama city until Noriega came out?

Fr Martin Fox said...


OK; so they're hypocrites. That is usually an argument that you can prove, namely, that the other side is hypocritical about what it claims is either necessary, or intolerable. And it cuts both ways; the liberals will accuse conservatives of hypocrisy, and they are often right.

Which is why y'all should listen to me on this subject!

I'm arguing for sound principles, based on sound morality, regardless of the usual reactivity of politics. By that I mean what you can see in this debate -- if not here, then elsewhere online: people will rally to Gov. Palin's defense with lots of hoo-rahing and you go girl, not because of the substance of her argument, but because they don't like her opposition; or else, they like other things Mrs. Palin stands for, so they give her a pass here.

The temptation to sacrifice eternal truth for the sake of purported "necessity" is an ancient one, and it is always a trail of tears. Always.

Stop and think. It's this simple:

Is there a line we never cross? Never? Because it's...wrong?

Yes? Or no?

If yes, then we can talk about just where the line ought to be.

If no, then why not torture the children of terrorists, in order to get them to tell us where the bomb is hidden in New York?

Why not just drop a bunch of nukes on all the countries with lots of Muslims in them, since we know that's where most of the terrorists come from?

And if you say, oh no, I'd never go there, I point out you've already said there's NO "there" you will rule out going. So why should anyone believe you -- including you?

You might not go Or tomorrow. But the next day?

That's how moral compromise works.

edutcher said...

Padre, survival is a pretty strong response.

And, yes, as the British used to say, there's a line in war a man dare not cross, but I submit what she said is a long way from it.

For good or ill, the object in war is to win.

Sherman understood it. MacArthur understood it. The last half of the last century shows those who forget it tend to have to repeat the lesson.

As for nukes, there's even a time to use those. Had we invaded Japan, it would have been a lot worse than most of the material released up until the last decade or so (when a lot of material was declassified) ever suggested.

You have a choice - go in and lost a couple of million men and do to Japan what MacArthur did to the garrisons on Rabaul and a lot of bypassed islands or drop 2 bombs which cause heavy casualties and be done with it.

Tough choice.

cavalier said...

Fr. Fox, are you still the head of the diocesan priests' continuing education program? If so, you ought to include that position in your intro, dontcha think? Although, you probably really don't want to be connected with that peace and justice crowd at hqs?

Fr Martin Fox said...


About the same time I took this post at Holy Cross-Immaculata Parish, I also gave up my responsibilities downtown.

Fr Martin Fox said...


If you lose your soul, what survives?

fedupwithhypocrisy said...

Thank you, Father, for stating this. Many of those appalled by Palin's cavalier remarks continue to defend the Bush administration's torture policies.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Thanks for visiting.

FYI, I was critical of Bush for his torture policies (among other things).

fedupwithhypocrisy said...

As a former constituent of Congressman Cheney, I was not surprised by the war crimes of Bushco.