While I certainly agree with those who suggest that the moral education of those who abused prisoners must have been deficient, I can't believe that the problem is that the perpetrators didn't go to nice prep schools.

(N.B.: This is by no means a plea for leniency for those who made the wrong moral decision.)

The Cardinals and Mrs. Kennedy


In an op-ed headlined "The Altar Is Not a Battlefield" in Sunday's Washington Post, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the Washington lawyer who is married to pro-choice Senator Edward M. Kennedy, takes on the Roman Catholic prelates who are threatening to deny Communion to pro-choice Catholic pols. Mrs. Kennedy outlines the usual arguments, including the complaint that there has "been no talk of withholding Communion from pr-death-penalty Catholics."

She makes one blooper I can't let pass.

"Where is the logic or moral justice in punishing those who allow a person to make a private moral decision," she writes, "while remaining silent about those who authorize the government to take a life and thereby deprive a human being of his God-given right of salvation?"

Capital punishment deprives nobody of the chance of salvation. In fact, I would argue, based on having interviewed two strikingly non-repentant death row inmates years ago, that a man who knows he is going to die is more likely to prepare to meet his maker than one who busies himself writing Amnesty International every time a guard looks at him crossways.

A Big Fat Sermon on Gluttony


Is nothing sacred? First, the Big Mac gets blamed. Now a headline in the San Diego Union-Tribune asks, "Isn't It Time for Religion to Examine Its Role in Expanding Waistlines?" According to the story, "Jewish holidays can be summed up with: They've attacked us, we won, let's eat," says Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Carlos. "Food is considered to be an integral part of every single celebration. Breaking bread is also big in Christianity."

I'm struggling to drop some pounds, but things could be worse: What if I were a Baptist? According to the story, Baptists are the fattest denomination. Jews, Muslims and Buddhists are the least overweight.

E-pistles


Loose Canon wants to reply to a couple of posts on the message boards.

Beliefnet member fromoz is glad that I expressed horror over the abuses at Abu Ghraib: "I'm moved that Charlotte also seems to have some feelings," fromoz says, adding, "However I cannot fathom how she distinguishes--how she can write about the prison system in Iraq being a horror while she's seemingly able to shut herself off from images of innocent civilians being mutilated and humiliated outside the prison."

Well, with the caveat that war is not about our feelings, I have a question for fromoz: Were you able to shut yourself off from knowledge (there were few images available for the public) of the humiliation and mutilation that went on under Saddam?

It was worse, and it held no hope of anything better.

"As for Charlotte Hays, the 'Onward Christian Soldier' bit suggests that she would like a Muslim Christian War as well," writes another Beliefnet member. "You will notice in this scandal that all of the officers involved have been transferred, discharged or hidden away in the confetti leaving the enlisted personnel to suck up the blame. We want George W. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld charged with Crimes Against Humanity in the World Court of Law."

Even though I do want to win the war on terror, a "Muslim Christian War"--whatever that might be in this day and age--is the last thing I want. The next to last thing I want is to try American officials in an international court, an institution beloved of the politically correct.

Before condemning the Bush administration for "crimes against humanity," shouldn't we get all the evidence about the crimes against human beings at Abu Ghraib?

The Horror


As we head into the weekend, it's time for me to eat crow. I am embarrassed to have been one of those who believed that the treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib most likely fell far short of torture. The new information about what went on in Abu Ghraib in this morning's Washington Post changes everything. It was a chamber of horrors, an embarrassment to a civilized nation that went to Iraq for the right reasons.

The cruelty and sexual perversion are sickening. The videos reportedly include images of guards "forcing detainees to masturbate, and standing over a naked prisoner while holding a shotgun." One hooded prisoner, apparently distraught at being forced to engage in this activity, "repeatedly slams his head into the green metal, leaving streaks of blood before he ultimately collapses at the feet of a cameraman."

It is of Joseph Conrad's novel "The Heart of Darkness," about the brutality of one man in the face of the utter breakdown of civilized norms, that I'm thinking this morning. For the record, I support the war, and like Mort Kondracke, writing in Roll Call, hope that the media and others won't lose it for us.

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