From the bulging "Mark Shea Outbursts" file....


Mark Shea is accusing Michael Ledeen of National Review Online of encouraging "murder." As many commenters point out, this is a complete misreading of Ledeen's words. Essentially, Ledeen is agreeing with a Ralph Peters article, which argues that terrorist thugs in Afghanistan and Iraq should be killed in almost all circumstances.

On Catholic Light, I've consistently argued for this position, more or less. There is nothing wrong, legally or morally, with killing illegal combatants. There should be a just mechanism for determining whether they are illegal combatants, if there is a doubt in particular cases. But they should be killed to deter others, and because justice demands it.

Morally, there is nothing wrong with killing terrorists who wield lethal force with the intent to overthrow a legtimate state. The reservations expressed about the death penalty in the Catechism are not really applicable outside the West and other settled, civilized countries. In Iraq and Afghanistan, truly there are no alternatives to killing those who would destroy any possibility of a just society.

Legally, there is absolutely no reason to respect anything other than the basic human rights of terrorists. That includes treating these thugs like adults, i.e., rational human beings capable of choosing their vocation of murder and mayhem. The Geneva Conventions have never been construed to include people who blow up marketplaces, mosques, and commuter buses. Yet we see the spectacle of well-educated, seemingly reasonable people arguing that terrorists should be treated like forger apprehended by the FBI.

The people arguing this, almost exclusively, are members of the New Class -- they will not enter military service themselves, nor will their children, nor will hardly any of their relatives. Terrorists in the Middle East and Central Asia will not threaten their upscale lives. Their sentiments are the secular equivalent of "cheap grace" -- it costs them nothing to shed tears over the fates of detainees, but it gives them that frisson of moral superiority they crave.

Yet Mark Shea is not a member of the New Class. I've given up trying to analyze his motivations when he uncorks a bottle of fresh malice and pours it out on his blog. You all are welcome to speculate as you wish. I do think it's ironic that Shea is fond of hurling wild accusations of malefaction while misrepresenting what other people say.


Amen Eric. I think Mark has a bad case of Arrogant Apologist Syndrome. It's most common symptom is the belief on the part of the subject that he is able to authoritatively pontificate on issues he knows nothing about.

As far as the Catechism's reservation about the use of the death penalty in the West is concerned, I think it is ill-informed. But that's another issue for another time.

You may be interested to know that there's a leaked copy of the new Army field manual (FM) on COIN floating around on the left side of the blogosphere. The FM urges capture over killing and surrender over capture. It's very Sun Tzu. Mark Shea is still an arrogant apologist because he obviously hasn't seen the thing and is not using the most effective tool to put down Ledeen's meme. But it's worse than that in that he doesn't seem to care about bringing Ledeen in from the cold.

Mark Shea's Ledeen is on the other side, a force for evil which must be destroyed. There's no chance of him making a mistake. There's no point in trying to pull him back to the light. Humiliation and destruction are the tools to be used. That's a *very* unfortunate tactic and, to my mind, not quite catholic. I wonder if my comment saying that will be deleted, again.

If the jihadis were to see Mark Shea's board, I think they would smile.

I appreciate the sane post, Eric, and your effort, in distinction from Shea's, to accurately describe what Ledeen is saying.

However, I can't agree that based on Ledeen's post that Essentially, Ledeen is agreeing with a Ralph Peters article, which argues that terrorist thugs in Afghanistan and Iraq should be killed in almost all circumstances. Ledeen does say it's a "strong" piece, but then adds his own post is

A long way of saying I don't know what I would order my soldiers to do.

Mark's rage-filled multiple deletions of commenters who have pointed this out speaks for itself.

"Terrorist in the Middle East and Central Asia will not threaten their upscale lives." Huh? What happened to the "flypaper theory?" I thought proponents of the Iraq war claimed a benefit of the war was that the terrorists who attacked our troops there would instead be plotting to attack the U.S. homefront. We are (with much greater justification) in Afghanistan for much the same reason. I have a vague recollection that Al-Qaeda attacked our two most New Class-dominated cities (counting Arlington as part of Washington), but if, as Johnson seems to assert, the terrorists intend to never leave the Middle East again, all the more reason for us to pull our troops away from there.

Here is what I wrote in Mark's combox yesterday that sort of summarizes my problem with the situation and I stand by every word of it:


Maybe you can show me in the text where he says that. The actual text, not your interpretation of it informed by your lasting, grave, and certain knowledge of Ledeen's inner thoughts and intentions.

And while we're at it, this about the most egregious case of misrepresentation of Ledeen that I've seen here from you and that's saying quite a lot right there. Whether you agree with his positions or not, you at least owe both him and your readers the intellectual respect to present his arguments accurately. The fact that you eschew doing so in favor of these straw man positions and caricatures just goes to show that you aren't intellectually capable of putting aside either your caricature of his position or your own self-righteousness. This is pretty much the same way that Sullivan treats Ponnuru and it's just repugnant no matter what the topic is.

Please take my link off your site. Now. As your own Sullivanization proceeds apace (and by that I mean not a shift in your positions but rather your ridiculous caricatures and slippery slope arguments of those you disagree with combined with your manifest self-righteousness when confronted with such), I neither want nor desire to be associated you. The blog is going down in any case, but I just thought I'd let you know that I don't want respect from someone whose reading skills are either so elementary or so subordinate to his dislike of individuals based on their positions (which, near as I can tell, you aren't all that familiar with, but that's okay because you have the cliff notes from CounterPunch and The American Conservative) that you end up sounding a lot more like Sullivan or Cindy Sheehan than you do like St. Paul. The fact that you find the views of Michael Novak, Linda Chavez, Dennis Praeger, Ledeen, et al. to be so completely beyond the pale while being quite willing to excuse the rampant anti-Semitism of Pat Buchanan and his acolytes.

Just so we're clear, this has nothing to do with Ledeen's actual point anymore than it does with torture, interrogation policies, the war in Iraq, or a host of other topics that you and I have butted heads on. Nor am I accusing you of being an anti-Semite, though I do think that your personalization of the Palestinian conflict leaves you more excusing of those attitudes then not. In any case, I have had it with the combination of caricaturing your opponents combined with your false desire to triangulate your position between two extremes (whether or not they exist in fact or reality, hence your adoption of a "Rome vs. Carthage" view of the war on terrorism) at all costs. You keep making the argument that Ledeen and other paid writers are fully aware of the implications of their arguments and should therefore be held accountable for them (I actually agree with this, I simply believe that you have to understand what someone arguing in order to refute it - clearly you differ here). But you are a paid writer and regularly solicit requests here for the purposes of obtaining such so that you might continue to do so, so what's your excuse? Pardon me for being uncharitable, but isn't what's good for the goose is good for the gander?

Now I recognize that the combox is basically your living room and that you wouldn't want to continue to chat with someone who said what I just did. So if you'll excuse me I'll be on way out and I don't plan on coming back. Enjoy all your new friends, at least until your caricatures happens to touch on one of their sacred cows.

Mark Shea has now posted a famous photo from the Vietnam war and, to keep Shea's record intact, it does not say what Mark thinks it does--at least not unless he believes enemy soldiers and guerillas should be immune from death on the battlefield.

From Wikipedia, an account that jibes with what I've read elsewhere:

Nguyen Ngoc Loan was a former brigadier general of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.

Nguyen summarily executed Nguyen Van Lem, a Viet Cong prisoner, in front of an NBC cameraman and an Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams on February 1, 1968. The photo (captioned "General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon") and film would become two of the most famous images in journalism and started to change the American public's views on their involvement in the Vietnam War.

Nguyen Van Lem was captured, his hands bound and was brought in front of the journalists. General Nguyen pulled out his revolver and calmly executed the prisoner with a single shot to the right temple. It was captured on film (the most famous image is, in fact, a single frame). Nguyen claimed that this was justified because the prisoner had been the captain of an NLF platoon that (reportedly) had just executed the wives, children and relatives of several South Vietnamese police officers. Thirty-four bound and murdered civilians were found in one ditch.

During the fall of Saigon, Nguyen left Vietnam in 1975. He moved to Virginia and opened a pizza restaurant, but he had to give it up after his past had been disclosed to the public in 1991, with one patron writing "we know who you are" on a door in his restaurant. He died of cancer on July 14, 1998 in Burke, Virginia, a Washington, D.C. suburb.

He was married to Chinh Mai, with whom he had five children.

And more:

General Nguyen Ngoc Loan Executing a Viet Cong Prisoner in Saigon is a photograph taken by Eddie Adams on February 1, 1968 showing South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem in Saigon during the Tet Offensive. The event was also captured by NBC News film cameras, but Adams' photograph remains the defining image.

Though military lawyers have yet to definitively decide whether Nguyen's action violated the Geneva Conventions for treatment of prisoners of war (Nguyen had not been wearing a uniform nor fighting enemy soldiers in the alleged commission of war crimes), the rights of POW status were accorded to Viet Cong only if seized during military operations. Those designated as guerrillas were subject only to the laws of the South Vietnamese government, which was often less willing to protect the human rights of its enemy when compared to the United States....

The photo won Adams the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography, though he was later said to have regretted the impact it had. The image became an anti-war icon. Concerning General Nguyen and his famous photograph, Eddie Adams later wrote in Time:

"The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths...What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?'"

"How do you know you wouldn't have pulled the trigger yourself?" Adams asked.

Eddie Adams later apologized in person to General Nguyen and his family for the damage it did to his reputation. When General Nguyen died, Adams praised him as a hero of a just cause:

"The guy was a hero. America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him."

I've gona after Shea's lying on a new blog I created, so as not to be at the mercy of his Combox Bans. (See link below).

I gave up, a long time ago, even doing much reading of Mark Shea's anti-torture, etc. postings. When a person gets up down, severely, for merely trying to pinpoint what is torture and what is not, that is WAY too much for me.

I do think that we should do whatever is necessary to contain radical Islam, and at the same time teach those caught under its hell how to be decent people. I just don't know how to do it, and I'm glad that I'm not in a place to make any decisions.

What I want to know is how can a guy who is on Catholic Answers on EWTN be as bad as all these entries seem to say.

I still think some who visit this blog are more Republican than Catholic.

thelrd in TEXAS

But not you, Larry. You are pure.

"I thank thee, Lord, that I am not like other men...."

The trackback was not working so here is the post I wrote a few days ago and just blogged on these subjets:

Eric Johnson vs. Mark Shea

In a nutshell: I concur with Eric.


I have not read Shea's books (and now I wouldn't buy one on principle), but his columns and TV appearances show a very different persona from his blog.

When people talk about subjects they understand and know about, they're very different persons from when talking about subjects on which they are ignorant. When one is secure in his knowledge, he can seriously engage others, because he knows what concessions and nuances are necessary and which are unnecessary.

But one thing some people, Shea being one, do in the other situation is turn to blustering, posturing and pounding on the desk with the "proof text." Particularly fundamantalists who "jes' know what the Bible sez." If all you know about military tactics, military history and diplomacy is two sentences from an encyclical, it's natural to keep pounding the desk with that shoe, like Nikita Khrushchev. And you'll get intellectually lost real quick. (For example, someone who doesn't know that the Japanese had conscripted their entire adult population, and does not take that fact explicitly into account, is not entitled to an opinion on the morality of the A-bombings, no matter how loudly he yells "GS80!!!")

Shea is just another of the many Catholic Pimps, running around the country giving seminars and selling books and tapes

Thanks for the backup, Shawn. For the record, I don't have anything personal against Mark Shea -- he's always treated me personally with respect, though he has not always extended the same respect to others who share my views.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric Johnson published on July 12, 2006 9:53 PM.

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