Does Romney Live Up to the Culture of Life? Part 1


Obama and Romney are nearly identical on most issues but the one exception may be on life-issues and the Catholic church. Obama has proven himself to be the most pro-abortion President in our country’s history and has opposed the Catholic church at every turn. How does Romney, on the other hand, live up to the Culture of Life?

Unjust War

Iraq

The Vatican strongly opposed the Iraq war as it represented a direct violation of just war doctrine . However, Romney supported the invasion and the troop surge. Per The New York Times, moderator Tim Russert asked Romney during a 2008 presidential debate if the Iraq war was “a good idea worth the cost in blood and treasure we have spent.” Romney answered, “It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time; I support it now.” As New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait explains, Romney’s debate answer came at a time when it was already clear that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction.

Now, with no new information available, Romney states that in hindsight he would not have invaded Iraq knowing that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Romney’s latest comments come only a few days after the U.S. marked the end of the nearly nine year conflict. The Republican contender has not been shy in his criticism of President Obama’s handling of the troop withdrawal. This past Sunday, BBC News reported that Romney said, “I think we’re going to find that this president, by not putting in place a status-of-forces agreement with the Iraqi leadership, has pulled our troops out in a precipitous way and we should have left 10-, 20-, 30,000 personnel there to help transition to the Iraqis’ own military capabilities.”

The pro-life movement is well aware of the horrors of abortion but most are not aware of the staggering cost of this unnecessary and unjust war. Opinion Business Research, estimated that the death toll of Iraqi citizens between March 2003 and August 2007 was 1,033,000. Furthermore, over 4 million people were displaced in one of the largest refugee crises in history and over 140,000 new cancer cases have been reported (depleted uranium being the suspected cause). Finally, the Iraq war has resulted in 4,484 American military casualties and 33,186 wounded. Additionally, the economic hardships and continued adverse health effects inflicted upon the Iraqi populace can be expected to continue for decades to come.

So, Romney was for the Iraq war that violated Christian just war doctrine, even after it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and he was in favor of continued occupation of up to 30,000 personnel 9 years after the initial invasion. When he did finally change his position it was after the war ended and not based on the grounds that the war was immoral but because there were no weapons of mass destruction – an irrelevant point regarding the war’s legitimacy as far as Christian just war doctrine is concerned.

Afghanistan

Romney is opposed to talking to the Taliban despite the fact that the Afghan war began well over a decade ago. This speaks of a fight first, diplomacy last mentality that is the polar opposite of what just war doctrine dictates is necessary for a war to be considered just, stating that a declaration of war or continued hostilities must always be the option of last resort, with diplomacy being the first – not the other way around. Additionally, Romney is opposed to Obama’s timetable to end military involvement in Afghanistan by 2014 despite the facts that Afghanistan wants us out even sooner, such a timetable has the support of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and NATO, and such a timetable would still leave us with a war that lasted 13 years – more than half of my entire life. Contrast that with World War II which lasted only six years, of which the United States was only involved in for four.

Iran

Romney refuses to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Iran in a preemptive strike to prevent them from developing their own nuclear arsenal. In a June 2007 New Hampshire Republican debate, Romney was asked if he agreed “that the use of tactical nuclear weapons, potentially, would be possible if that were the only way to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb?” Governor Romney responded that “You don’t take options off the table, but what you do is stand back and say, ‘What’s going on here?’ You see what’s happening in Sudan and Afghanistan, in Iraq and Iran. All over the world, we’re seeing the same thing happening, and that is people are testing the United States of America.” In 2011, Romney advocated both overt and covert means to get Iran to stop its nuclear weapons development program. He said that “Ultimately, regime change is what’s going to be necessary.” Keep in mind that preemptive nuclear strikes against Iran’s nuclear reactors would result in an estimated 3 million civilian deaths and compromise the well-being of another 71 million people. Even Obama’s own aggressive foreign policy, while still subpar, is more conservative, showing more restraint than Romney’s.

Our own intelligence agencies admit that they have zero evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons but as far as just war doctrine is concerned the point is irrelevant. The use of nuclear weapons, because of their indiscriminate destruction, are never morally permissible. Additionally, the US Catholic Bishops point out that any military action against Iran at this point would be immoral:

“In Catholic teaching, the use of force must always be a last resort. Iran’s bellicose statements, its failure to be transparent about its nuclear program and its possible acquisition of nuclear weapons are serious matters, but in themselves they do not justify military action.”

“Discussing or promoting military options at this time is unwise and may be counterproductive. Actual or threatened military strikes are likely to strengthen the regime in power in Iran and would further marginalize those in Iran who want to abide by international norms. And, as the experience in Iraq teaches, the use of force can have many unintended consequences.”

Assassination

Romney is surprisingly silent on this topic but what we do know is that he supports drone strikes in Pakistan. Obama has eagerly expanded the CIA drone campaign: the program has targeted rescuers, funerals and weddings and has killed an estimated 385 – 775 civilians – but the drone campaign has attempted to lower that number by defining all males of military age within a drone strike as “combatants” unless categorically proven otherwise post-mortem. The “kill list” is decided unilaterally by Obama-appointed assassination czar John Brennan and, ultimately, Obama himself. The legal rationale for what can only be referred to as an executive death panel is a secret memo drafted by the office of legal counsel and unavailable for the public to read. Considering that Romney supports drone strikes, supports an interventionist foreign policy more aggressive than Obama’s own, and has in no way condemned the CIA drone campaign, the appointment of an assassination czar, or Obama’s own involvement in the program it seems unlikely that Romney would do much, if anything, to dismantle the CIA drone campaign. In fact, its possible that he may simply replace Obama as the solitary man who says who lives and who dies.

Torture

Romney opposes torture but supports “enhanced interrogation” including waterboarding. The Catholic church and the culture of life are categorically opposed to the use of torture under any circumstance and, unfortunately, “enhanced interrogation” is just a euphemism for torture; such is the case with waterboarding.

Some conservative Catholics argue that because the church does not have a specific stance on a specific torture technique then it cannot be torture, and if it is not torture than it cannot constitute inhumane treatment of prisoners, and therefore if it is not inhumane treatment then it is perfectly compatible with Catholic moral teaching.

However, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” Furthermore, the exact rubric for defining torture is listed below:

The Church defines torture formally (i.e., what makes an action torture):

1. violation of human dignity in the form of
2. intentional mental and/or physical harm in order to
3. use a human person as a means (or instrument) for some producible end
4. against that person’s will.

At low intensity, waterboarding intentionally inflicts mental harm against the prisoner’s will in order to extract information or as punishment, and at even moderate intensities can be lethal. Thus, waterboarding constitutes torture and is an intrinsic evil in violation of Catholic doctrine. For anyone not convinced or who believes that waterboarding is just “splashing prisoners with water – and besides its effective and they deserve it anyway” I recommend that you read this article on waterboarding written by Malcolm W. Nance, a counter-terrorism and terrorism intelligence consultant for the U.S. government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence agencies and a 20-year veteran. Here’s an excerpt describing the same waterboarding used by the CIA and supported by Romney:

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

Death Penalty

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following in regards to the death penalty:

Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

As the most powerful nation on Earth with one of the most secure prison systems I believe that it is safe to say that cases in which execution is absolutely necessary are nonexistent and therefore use of the death penalty in this country cannot be justified. In 1994 Romney supported the death penalty. In 2005 Romney brought forward a death penalty bill in an attempt to bring the death penalty back to Massachusetts. When testifying, “Romney asserted that, rather than serving to put terrible criminals to death, the major benefit of the legislation would be to pressure the accused into accepting guilty pleas for life sentences, rather than risk execution. As then-District Attorney, now-Congressman Bill Keating explained, that is precisely an argument that had recently been made by the state’s top court for the possible unconstitutionality of the death penalty — that the accused, innocent and guilty alike, could be pressured to plead to anything just to avoid it. An unconcerned Romney testified optimistically that the state might end up saving money by avoiding actual trials.”

As with drone strikes and other issues like the NDAA not addressed here Romney seems more concerned with streamlining serious life-and-death issues by “avoiding actual trials” to save time and money at the expense of due process, the constitution and, most horrifying of all, innocent human lives. Mitt Romney still supports the death penalty today.

Conclusion:

Up to this point, presidential candidate Mitt Romney has failed to live up to the culture of life in his public capacity as a politician on every single issue. On the death penalty and torture I rate him just as bad as Obama while on the issue of assassination I rate him slightly better – but only for a lack of a firm stance. On the issue of unjust war Romney has made it clear that he endorses a foreign policy even more aggressive than Obama’s own and therefore actually rates worse than Obama.

There will be a second part to this article published within the next couple days which will cover euthanasia, abortion, contraception and gay marriage.

Read part 2 here

Advertisements

Combating the Death Mentality: More than just Abortion


The purpose of this post is to address a hypocrisy engaged in by many self-described pro-lifers. I previously wrote about the culture of life here and I highly recommend reading that post before proceeding with this one.

Pope John Paul II was the first to use the phrase the “culture of life” in a World Youth Day tour of the United States in 1993. The Pope stated that “The culture of life means respect for nature and protection of God’s work of creation. In a special way, it means respect for human life from the first moment of conception until its natural end.” He wrote extensively on the culture of life, including in his encyclical Evangelium vitae or “the Gospel of Life.”

In the minds of many, the American pro-life movement and the culture of life are synonymous and, while they do share much in common they are not one and the same. “Pro-life” in its decades long use has historically been much narrower in its definition than what is referred to by the culture of life, referring predominantly to opposition to abortion while the culture of life addresses a wide range of issues (additionally, the culture of life is more than a mere political movement but a way of life meant for all of society). Many self-described “pro-lifers,” while adamant in their defense of the unborn, are willing to compromise on, or even emphatically embrace, issues like our aggressive military interventionism abroad, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the death penalty. However, all of these issues, and others, are contrary to the culture of life. Many liberals have been quick to point out this hypocrisy among the pro-life movement and they are absolutely right in doing so – in fact, it is the number one complaint I hear from liberals regarding the pro-life movement and one of the few legitimate ones. To support any politician or policy that would sacrifice the human dignity and lives of others in the name of combating abortion is to support a culture compromised. While we can distinguish between life-issues, they have one universal root: the real issue, which is our culture’s disregard for life. Abortion is a symptom, a devastating consequence of our twisted perception of humanity and only by defending every life-issue and having the courage to stand as an advocate for all of the weak, born and unborn, can we expect to effect change. In Evangelium vitae Blessed John Paul II affirms the need to be unconditional in our defense of human life and dignity and support a culture of life. Never did he suggest a need to fight abortion at all costs, but instead calls us to defend all life-issues:

This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.

Additionally, to understand what the culture of life is and to recognize when pro-lifers stray from that culture  we must know what it is not. Monsignor Charles Pope. summarizes what the antithesis of the culture of life, the culture of death, looks like:

We have discussed the “culture of death” numerous times before on this blog. This description of Western Culture was used by Pope John Paul II. Fundamentally it refers to the fact that in the modern, western world, especially America death is increasingly seen as a “solution” to problems. Has a child come along at an inconvenient time? Perhaps the baby has been diagnosed with defects perhaps there is some other wrenching problem regarding the pregnancy such as the poverty of the mother. The solution? Abort the baby. Has a criminal committed heinous acts? Kill him through capital punishment. Is an elderly or sick person suffering from a reduced quality of life? Perhaps they are bedridden or experiencing the pains of the dying process. Solution? Euthanize them. Does raising children and dealing with a larger family cause hardships: economic and emotional? Do children cause stress? Simple, contracept so that they don’t exist in the first place. So you see, the death or non-existence of human beings is increasingly the “solution” to problems and this is what is meant by the “culture of death.”

Unfortunately, many conservatives cannot bring themselves to let go of the notion that the death, non-existence or suffering of certain human beings is the “solution” to their problems. Instead, they argue until they’re blue in the face that the lives of hundreds of thousands are expendable if America is threatened (they’re not), preemptive strikes are not unjust (they are), that waterboarding isn’t really torture (hint, it is) and that assassination of unarmed men via car-bombs constitutes “self-defense”. These issues are inseparable from abortion because they all stem form the same mentality: that human life is expendable, that killing and inflicting more pain and suffering is the answer to all our problems. The only way to promote a culture of life, and therefore to be truly pro-life, is not to “just focus on abortion” so as to not “divide our attention” but to stop the culture of death at its root: the mentality of death that underlies each and every one of these issues.

Many pro-lifers don’t fervently defend these immoral actions, however. Many haven’t really given it a lot of thought. But that too has its own dangers. Many pro-lifers have spent years educating themselves on abortion and passionately fighting against it but they have been intellectually lazy when it comes to other life-issues. They are sickened by their own government which, to date, has endorsed the murder of over 52 million unborn Americans but think it improbable that our government would torture or ever be the villain in a war; we’re the good guys and we don’t do that. Besides, those issues aren’t as “important” so why bother finding out? In response to the lukewarm pro-lifer (though fervent on abortion they may be) I ask one simple question: if our government is so corrupt and evil that it freely endorses the murder of defenseless, unborn children by the millions, at the will of their own mothers, and you recognize this, then is not such a government also capable of committing other heinous acts like unjust invasion and occupation of other countries, assassinations, torture and more? In fact, isn’t it probable that such atrocities are happening – right now? We already recognize other areas where our government bows to the culture of death in euthanasia and the death penalty and, while we blame the Democrats on the left for abortion and euthanasia we must also recognize the culture of death present on the right: unjust war, assassination, torture and the death penalty. The Culture of Life is not partisan; these are not Democrat issues or Republican issues, these are American issues – but even on a grander scale, these are global issues and Catholic issues and we must act and vote first as Catholics and as a part of the same Body of Christ and, only following that, as Americans.

Coalition for Clarity


“…I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances…”” Pope Benedict XVI

For a clear-cut Catholic take on torture and related issues the Coalition for Clarity has some very useful, regularly updated information. Description for the Coalition for Clarity below:

In the political climate in which we find ourselves at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Catholics are grappling with confusing messages as to the morality of torture. Lost in political and often partisan debates is the clear voice of the Church, who has called torture evil, and who teaches with conviction the truth that a captured enemy combatant, political prisoner, or other opponent does not lose his human dignity or his right to humane treatment.

The contributors and members of the Coalition for Clarity believe with the Church that torture is intrinsically evil, a violation of our Christian duty to treat all men as our neighbors and of their right to be treated humanely and with dignity regardless of their status. We hope by discussing this issue and providing links to resources supporting Church teaching that this blog will help to bring clarity to the issue of torture and to our duty as members of God’s family to oppose its use in all circumstances.

Because we seek the clarity of Church teaching on all issues, we also hope to discuss and reflect on any issue pertaining to human life and dignity, but especially those issues where the possibility that the Church’s teaching is not being presented clearly exists.

Torture Apologists Outraged by Sensory Deprivation Techniques


Neoconservatives are outraged because freedom fighter Amir Fakhravar was detained and subjected to sensory-deprivation via whiteout techniques, representing despicable use of torture by Iran. Yet, the same political ideology lauds use of re-created drowning by our own CIA as an “advanced interrogation” technique and a necessary tool in fighting terrorism. Some conservative Catholics have taken up this same line of thinking, arguing that because the church does not have a specific stance on a specific torture technique then it cannot be torture, and if it is not torture than it cannot constitute inhumane treatment of prisoners, and therefore if it is not inhumane treatment then it is perfectly compatible with Catholic moral teaching.

However, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” Furthermore, the exact rubric for defining torture is listed below:

The Church defines torture formally (i.e., what makes an action torture):

1. violation of human dignity in the form of
2. intentional mental and/or physical harm in order to
3. use a human person as a means (or instrument) for some producible end
4. against that person’s will.

At low intensity, waterboarding intentionally inflicts mental harm against the prisoner’s will in order to extract information or as punishment, and at even moderate intensities can be lethal. Thus, waterboarding constitutes torture and is an intrinsic evil in violation of Catholic doctrine. Americans who support “advanced interrogation” techniques need to reevaluate their beliefs and ask themselves who are they really loyal to? Do their Christian morals come first or are they merely an accessory to the neoconservative cause? Both sensory deprivation techniques like “white” torture and waterboarding constitute an intrinsic evil to be categorically opposed – regardless of whether the offender is the American CIA or our enemies abroad; for individuals to condemn one and protect the other constitutes an unprecedented duplicitousness that devalues human life in favor of trivial party loyalties.

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Malcolm W. Nance, a counter-terrorism and terrorism intelligence consultant for the U.S. government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence agencies and a 20-year veteran. If you believe that waterboarding is a viable tool or are undecided then I recommend that you read the full article.

1. Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

Call it “Chinese Water Torture,” “the Barrel,” or “the Waterfall,” it is all the same. Whether the victim is allowed to comply or not is usually left up to the interrogator. Many waterboard team members, even in training, enjoy the sadistic power of making the victim suffer and often ask questions as an after thought. These people are dangerous and predictable and when left unshackled, unsupervised or undetected they bring us the murderous abuses seen at Abu Ghraieb, Baghram and Guantanamo. No doubt, to avoid human factors like fear and guilt someone has created a one-button version that probably looks like an MRI machine with high intensity waterjets.

3. If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives. The Small Wars Council had a spirited discussionabout this earlier in the year, especially when former Marine Generals Krulak and Hoar rejected all arguments for torture.

Torture in captivity simulation training reveals there are ways an enemy can inflict punishment which will render the subject wholly helpless and which will generally overcome his willpower. The torturer will trigger within the subject a survival instinct, in this case the ability to breathe, which makes the victim instantly pliable and ready to comply. It is purely and simply a tool by which to deprive a human being of his ability to resist through physical humiliation. The very concept of an American Torturer is an anathema to our values.

I concur strongly with the opinions of professional interrogators like Colonel Stewart Herrington, and victims of torture like Senator John McCain. If you want consistent, accurate and reliable intelligence, be inquisitive, analytical, patient but most of all professional, amiable and compassionate.

Who will complain about the new world-wide embrace of torture? America has justified it legally at the highest levels of government. Even worse, the administration has selectively leaked supposed successes of the water board such as the alleged Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessions. However, in the same breath the CIA sources for the Washington Post noted that in Mohammed’s case they got information but “not all of it reliable.” Of course, when you waterboard you get all the magic answers you want -because remember, the subject will talk. They all talk! Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work.

According to the President, this is not a torture, so future torturers in other countries now have an American legal basis to perform the acts. Every hostile intelligence agency and terrorist in the world will consider it a viable tool, which can be used with impunity. It has been turned into perfectly acceptable behavior for information finding.

A torture victim can be made to say anything by an evil nation that does not abide by humanity, morality, treaties or rule of law. Today we are on the verge of becoming that nation. Is it possible that September 11 hurt us so much that we have decided to gladly adopt the tools of KGB, the Khmer Rouge, the Nazi Gestapo, the North Vietnamese, the North Koreans and the Burmese Junta?

What next if the waterboarding on a critical the captive doesn’t work and you have a timetable to stop the “ticking bomb” scenario? Electric shock to the genitals? Taking a pregnant woman and electrocuting the fetus inside her? Executing a captive’s children in front of him? Dropping live people from an airplane over the ocean? It has all been done by governments seeking information. All claimed the same need to stop the ticking bomb. It is not a far leap from torture to murder, especially if the subject is defiant. Are we —to trade our nation’s soul for tactical intelligence?

I’ll end with a quote from the Second Vatican Council, in discussing the respect due to the human person:

“Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator