I should not be getting in the middle of this. Plain and simple.
But here goes.
Mark Shea relates a story wherein a friend of a friend of a friend alleges that American interrogators have been pushing detainees out of cargo planes (which, according to the story, were being flown by a civilian contractor; also, the "intelligence agents" were non-military).
Patrick Archbold says that relating this story is stooping to rumor mongering.
Mark is saying that it doesn't matter if the story is true or not, but that because we know this administration has condoned torture, murder, and the cover-up of murder we can't dismiss this out of hand.
Patrick, and others, are saying, in effect: hold on. We do know the administration has done some bad things (although speaking for myself how can we know about murder and cover-ups if the cover-ups were successful? I'm probably being dense, here, but I missed the news proving that the Bush administration is guilty of the murder of Iraqi prisoners, so I'd be grateful for further information about that before I say anything specific). But knowing that the administration tried to use all sorts of legalistic wiggle-room about how waterboarding really wasn't torture, not really, and cold cells aren't really torture, not really, etc. seems to me to be a far cry from saying that we know for certain that our non-military intelligence officers are routinely shoving forty-plus prisoners out of cargo planes (despite the enormous difficulty in doing any such thing while the plane is in flight--these aren't skydiving planes, after all) as the sort of thing which is All in a Day's Work, so to speak; or at the very least, that we can't say that the story is impossible.
Now, Mark appears to be saying (and I'll be glad to be wrong) that the only way you could object to this story is because you're bound and determined to give the Bush administration a pass when it comes to torture and murder, and you're so blindly partisan that you can't even accept for a moment that things have deteriorated so much that we now must face the possibility that it might be true that we have members of the CIA hiring civilian contractors to fly cargo planes out of which they plan to push three or four dozen prisoners en route. In other words, he appears to be saying that raising objections on the grounds that this story seems highly implausible, could not be kept a secret if it really were occurring, and might not even be physically possible are all a smoke screen for one's determination to bow down to Moloch and ignore torture and murder so long as it's Our Guy doing it.
But that's a bit unkind. I, for one, don't condone torture, and would be outraged at any proof that our government has been committing wholesale murders of people just as I suspect most of us would be. But I don't read this story and think, sadly, "How terrible it is that we can't categorically deny this!" Instead, I read it and think "Sounds like somebody along the line had Way Too Much to drink, and was determined to tell an impressively horrific tale!" And I don't think I'm covering up for Bush in reaching that conclusion; if anything, I'm employing God's gift of reason, and failing to fall for the latest fashion in conspiracy theory.
Now, none of this means that atrocities don't occur in this as in every administration (bombing of an aspirin factory, anyone?). We can't claim for a moment that the American Government has, prior to Bush, had completely clean hands any time it was even remotely involved in the prosecution of a war. It is sad to realize that it has never been possible to say that our government couldn't act in complete opposition to the Law of God; it has never been possible to say that of any government that has ever existed on the face of the earth. That the Bush administration has been guilty of serious wrongdoing is a sad reality, one that should keep us as Catholics from becoming too caught up in the quest for temporal power, which as a corrupting agent knows no equal.
But I'm a bit worried, because Mark and some others like him seem to be in the grip of a powerful anger directed against this past administration--the anger of betrayal, and of repudiation. I'm not saying that this isn't righteous anger, or that it didn't at least begin as righteous anger. But as I wrote last year, even righteous anger can be turned by Satan into the sin of wrath; we are never more in danger of condemning our neighbor as when we are angry with him, however justified that anger is at its inception.
There is nothing wrong with being angry at the Bush administration for the many evils it allowed to flourish. But there is everything wrong with feeding that anger, and coming to hatred for the people themselves, such that we would be outraged if we learned that God had let any of them enter Heaven. The anger that begins righteously can so easily be warped into an anger that blinds our intellect and calcifies our hearts, leading us to reject God's image in the people we find worthy of our anger and contempt.
None of this is to say that Mark, or anyone else, has reached that point--I'm not in a position to know. But what I do know is that people in the past have reached that point. Perhaps they were angry with the Church over the Scandal, and ended up leaving the Church; perhaps they were angry with their bishop for allowing liturgical abuse, and ended up hating the Novus Ordo Mass and all who attend it; perhaps they were angry at our involvement in unjust war, and ended up hating America, and those who love her in spite of her many flaws. Being angry with the soon-to-be defunct Bush administration may be perfectly justified, but when that anger sees in a very dubious tale something that might even possibly be true, the willingness this implies to believe that one's fellow countrymen are so depraved, so wicked, as to be capable in significant numbers of committing these acts of murder and mayhem gives me pause; surely as Christians we ought not be so willing to so condemn our fellow men as to accept, without strong corroborating evidence, as even remotely plausible a story like this one, regardless of our political leanings or our hatred for the evils of the present administration.