Mandeville, LA – “This government does not torture people” said then President Bush on 05/10/2007 from his throne in the oval office. Bush was responding to news reports that two previously secret memos, released in 2005, ordered the detention and that “extreme interrogation techniques” be used to extract ANY “useful information” that could “help protect America.” With the release of the Senate’s report on the CIA’s program Bush authorized, now made public, we know that is not true but to far too many “conservatives” and even worse, far too many “Christian conservatives”, the report is a sham and even if it is true, a “I don’t give a s**t about how those savages were treated” meme and self-righteous support campaign has ensued. And all this is happening on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I’ll explain why that matters but let me give you the punch line now: Tens of millions of Aztecs were converted by Our Lady to peacefully practicing Catholicism from performing torture ceremonies and lethal “sacrifices” on their captured “enemies”; today, the CIA and their “conservative” cheerleaders have shown the world that the Aztecs were rookies and Americans can’t wait for the rest of our “enemies” to get “the same”. How we got from Washington’s letter to Lt Colonel Samuel Blachley Webb of 08 January, 1777 to today’s CIA and its cheerleaders is an exploration worthy of our time.
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Sir you are to take charge of [ ] privates of the Brittish Army & to Conduct them by the shortest and best rout from this place to Peekskill in the State of Newyork—Treat them with humanity, and Let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the Brittish Army in their Treatment of our unfortunate bretheren who have fallen into their hands, provide every thing necessary for them on the Road. – Given at Headquarters Morristown 8th January 1777. – Go: Washington
Then again, the America recently unshackled from the moorings of its religious, moral-order could do unto others as they have done unto you. Witness this gem from little Jimmy Madison (this never took effect). Madison was practicing to be the role model for armchair war-hawks like Bill Kristol. In the Continental Congress, reports had been offered that told of the British’s treatment of American prisoners of war and civilians. In response, Madison offered the following “Manifesto” on 01 October, 1781. You could call this Madison’s CIA like attempt at a retaliation policy.
The United States in Congress assembled taking into their serious consideration the various scenes of barbarity by which the present war has from its beginning been characterized on the part of the British arms, and the perseverance of the British Commanders in carrying into execution the sanguinary and vindictive denunciations of the Commissioners of their King in their manifesto of — the day of — by a redoubled licentiousness in burning our towns and villages, desolating our Country, and sporting with the lives of our captive citizens, notwithstanding the multiplied warnings and the humane example which have been placed before them, and judging it inconsistent with the dignity of the United States with the just expectations of the people thereof, and with the respect due to the benevolent rules by which civilized nations have tempered the severities and evils of war, any longer to suffer these rules to be outrageously violated with impunity, have resolved and do hereby order that the Commander in Chief, and the Commanding officers of separate Departments, cause exemplary retaliation to be executed on the enemy for all acts of cruelty committed by them against the citizens and inhabitants of these States And whereas it is essentially and particularly necessary that the barbarous and savage practice of destroying by fire the towns and villages of these United States, should be restrained fetal by means more immediately within our power, than a specific retaliation on the towns and villages belonging to the enemy, and it is even more consonant to the spirit of justice and humanity that such as have made themselves instruments for these incendiary purposes should be the objects of vengeance than the remote and unoffending inhabitants of such towns and villages. The United States in Congress assembled have further Resolved, and do hereby declare, that British officers now prisoners to the American arms, or which may hereafter be made prisoners shall answer with their lives, for every further destruction by fire of any town or village, within any one of the U. States which shall be made by the enemy contrary to the laws of war observed among civilized nations, and the Department of War is hereby ordered to cause all the officers in the service of the King of G. B. now in their custody to be duly secured, and on the first authentic notice of the burning of any town or village in any one of the U. States unauthorized by the laws of war to cause such and so many of the said officers as they shall judge expedient to be put to instant death.
“[I]nstant death”! Bush’s CIA didn’t even think of that one (that we know of) Madison’s motion was never adopted in part because Washington did not approve of it, writing to Nathaniel Greene on 15 December, 1781, Washington noted “humanity” wouldn’t approve either.
“I really know not what to say on the subject of retaliation—Congress have it under Consideration; and we must await their determinations. Of this I am convinced, that of all Laws it is the most difficult to execute, where you have not the transgressor himself in your possession. Humanity will ever interfere and plead strongly against the sacrifice of an innocent person for the guilt of another—And as to destruction of property within the Enemy’s lines, it is in fact destroying our own.”
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While it is true that there were capital punishments meted out in Washington’s army, he never stopped writing Congress and asking them to soften the policy. By the time he had been President for 7 years, had seen the “Whiskey Rebellion” nearly turn to civil war that saw the imprisonment of hundreds of farmers and lay people, some of them condemned to die at the hands of their new “Government of the People” Washington felt compelled to issue pardons.
“It is a valuable ingredient in the general estimate of our welfare that the part of our country which was lately the scene of disorder and insurrection now enjoys the blessings of quiet and order. The misled have abandoned their errors, and pay the respect to our Constitution and laws which is due from good citizens to the public authorities of the society. These circumstances have induced me to pardon generally the offenders here referred to, and to extend forgiveness to those who had been adjudged to capital punishment. For though I shall always think it a sacred duty to exercise with firmness and energy the constitutional powers with which I am vested, yet it appears to me no less consistent with the public good than it is with my personal feelings to mingle in the operations of Government every degree of moderation and tenderness which the national justice, dignity, and safety may permit.”
Now to Our lady of Guadalupe and the subject of torture. It is well documented that when the Spaniards came to Mexico they recoiled in horror at what they saw the Aztecs doing to the humans they captured and sacrificed to their pagan gods. For years, Cortes and his army were given no choice but to wage war to try and stop the killing and, having brought hundreds of missionary priests over, trying to get the Aztecs to convert to Catholicism. This yielded very few conversions and the outlook looked bleak for avoiding an all out war. Then, Our Lady (the BVM) appeared, to St Juan Diego and instructed him to and visit the bishop of Mexico, Bishop Zumarraga, with a message. I won’t recount the whole story, you can read it here but the point is that after St Juan’s Talma (cloak) was revealed with the image of Our Lady that she asked to be called “of Guadalupe”, Aztecs lay down their knives and spears, rejected their torture rituals and came down from their pagan temples, converting to Catholicism by the millions. Torture was thus banished from North America from c. 1531 until October, 2001 (yes, I know the CIA sites were in Europe mostly) and the CIA. Does the Church of St Peter have a teaching on the use of torture we can take a look at? As a matter of fact they do and they have had one since Christ was scourged at the temple and did nothing to exact retribution. As recently as 1965, a Pope Paul VI issued the following Encyclical called GAUDIUM ET SPES.
“In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, “As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40).
Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.”
That torture in any form is an evil that is an anathema to Christianity is something you’d think Christians would go in search of but nay, instead the search is for Old Testament epochs that can be used to justify the pain and suffering. Rome had her gladiator shows and never-ending wars and the modern successor to Rome has its. The Romans used their pagan gods to justify their horrors we use the psychology of “eye for an eye” without any of the moderation Christ applied to it.
What is even more disturbing about the torture revelations is that the faithful followers of the American Civil Religion defend their inhumane, illegal and unconstitutional practices with a religious devotion that is as devout as any you’ll find in most churches in the U.S. The same people who mock the Pope and whine incessantly about the flaws of “Papal infallibility” don’t even question their military or “intelligence community’s” infallibility and have chosen the 50 stars on a blue field over the 12 stars encircling Our Lord. That both can exist simultaneously is not my point, my point is, we have them in the wrong order and no election of Republican majorities will change that.