Saturday, February 27, 2010


A New York Times religion writer notes today that a number of Catholics have harshly criticized fellow Catholic Marc Thiessen, a former Bush speechwriter and current Washington Post op-ed columnist, for his defense of waterboarding. Here's one of his arguments:

"There's a standard of torture in civil law," he said, "which is severe mental pain and suffering. I also have a common-sense definition, which is, 'If you’re willing to try it, it's not torture.'"

Thousands of American soldiers have been willing to undergo waterboarding as part of their resistance training, Mr. Thiessen notes; therefore, it stands to reason that it is not torture.

For the moment, let's ignore the fact that many of those who've volunteered to be waterboarded -- Jesse Ventura, Christopher Hitchens -- absolutely insist that it is torture. Let's also ignore the fact that no one, as far as I know, has ever volunteered to be waterboarded 183 times, the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was subjected to the procedure. Let's just pursue Thiessen's argument to its logical conclusion.

We know that thousands of anorexics in this society refuse to eat more than a tiny amount of food every day. Thiessen, I presume, would argue that since some people choose not to eat a diet that's adequate for self-sustenance, therefore there was nothing immoral about the food rations at Auschwitz.

Right, Marc?

Or, because some people choose to compete in ultra-marathons, Iron Man triathlons, and other extreme sports, it stands to reason that there was nothing immoral about the Bataan Death March. Right?

Or, because men pay dominatrixes to lead them around on leashes and otherwise enforce obedience, therefore slavery was just okey-dokey. Correct?

Just trying to make sure I understand the principle, Marc.

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