Those who remember the Bush years–when dutiful Catholic servants of the Administration labored for *years* to offer ever more tortured defenses of torture–will recall that one of the favorite rationalizations was “Hey! We waterboard our own troops! So that makes it OK.”
Ahem: According to the invaluable Zippy Catholic: “our own government’s memoranda on the subject concludes (page 43, footnote 51) that ‘the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant.’”
In other words, as was said here all along, the equation of SERE training with the torture of prisoners is invalid because what happens in SERE training is fundamentally different than what happens to a helpless prisoner. The core element–psychological terror and fear of death–is not there because the troops undergoing the exercise not only know their trainers are not going to kill them, but they are even socially reinforced by their peers with the sense that they are enduring hardship manfully. The point of the training, in other words, is to build them up and it actually makes them feel like stronger men ready to heroically endure suffering. The point of the torture, inflicted on helpless prisoners who do not know their captors, is to dehumanize and destroy the prisoner with terror–to tear them apart, not build them up.
The irony, of course, is that in the years long campaign to try to square the use of torture with the obvious teaching of the Church, apologists for torture often wound up contradicting themselves and each other. On the one hand, we were to believe waterboarding (which was, remember but *one* form of torture–we murdered prisoners with other forms) was “just a splash of water” and not torture at all since we did it to our troops. On the other hand, we were to believe it was so terrifyingly effective that it unhinged the reason of victims to the degree that they no longer felt themselves morally responsible for confessing under torture and were thus grateful to their torturers for relieving them of a sense of guilt. No, really:
That Marc Thiessen–a Catholic–could offer this absolutely disgusting rationale for torture as a sort of blasphemous parody of baptism (drowning somebody in order to relieve them of a sense of sin) is one of the most memorable moment in this long and obscene campaign by “faithful conservative Catholics” to rationalize this grave and intrinsic evil.
Meanwhile, any Catholic who is actually listening to the Church–the Church that teaches that “the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances” would be swift to both look for and figure out the blazingly obvious distinction between SERE training building people up and torture tearing people down and would be able to do so in about 10 seconds. He would see the blasphemy of trying to argue that torture taketh away sin. However, Catholics who have sold their souls to justify their tribe’s favorite form of grave intrinsic evil can and have taken eight years to make elaborate rationalizations for it. And not just this one, but many others, all lousy. The only reason the argument stopped was because the GOP lost. And when they have had the chance, the GOP has attempted to proudly assert their noble legacy of torture in order to, for instance, try to take credit for finding Osama bin Laden (a lie, as well as a further attempt to justify stupid counter-productive mortal sin).
And when Caesar finally feels safe to use “enhanced interrogation” against his own citizens (as he already feels safe to indefinitely detain and murder them without due process) it will be a bit late for Catholics who resist Caesar’s iron will to say, “I never thought the state would use torture against us!” Dude, you had 2000 years of precedent. How could you have been so blind?
Do not do evil that good may come of it. It’s not just a good idea. It’s the moral law.